5 Tips for Effective CPA Exam Preparation

Proper CPA exam preparation is important because this test is very difficult to prepare for and pass. However, following the tips below will help anyone successfully pass the CPA exam.

Take the Most Difficult CPA Exams First

Most successful test takers follow a specific order for the four-part exam. First, the first one to take is the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) exam because the candidate’s CPA exam passing time doesn’t start until this part of the exam is passed. Those who leave this exam part for later will lose valuable time from their designated CPA exam passing time deadline. Keep in mind that this part of the exam is the longest and most difficult. Next, the Regulation (REG) exam contains the most difficult concepts related to U.S. tax law, but many of the questions focus on business law in real world scenarios.

Take the Easier CPA Exams Next

After the two difficult exams are completed, consider taking the Auditing and Attestation (AUD) test next because there are still some difficult concepts to remember. Finally, the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) can be last because it is the easiest exam. There will be a few somewhat challenging calculation questions on the Cost Accounting and Inventory Valuation section. One of the biggest mistake exam takers make is scheduling the AUD and BEC together. Even though they are easier, it’s too hard to simultaneously concentrate on both subjects. Taking one exam subject at a time will make the experience less stressful and easier to handle.

Avoid Major Mistakes

The biggest mistake exam candidates make is underestimating the amount of time needed to pass the test. The CPA exam is very comprehensive and requires a full-time commitment. One must devote all of their free time studying for the exam, which includes weeknights, weekends and lunch breaks at work, in order to be successful. Exam preparation should be prioritized over minor personal, family and social needs. When studying for the exam, take enough time to fully understand the content and questions. Using self-study materials provides students with useful tips and specific guidelines.

Use an Prep Classes or Software

There are many online resources and companies that offer comprehensive exam classes. There are very expensive options, such as the Becker program that costs over $3,000, but there are an inexpensive print and video self-help books available from local libraries. Regardless of the resource, it should offer concise lectures with many questions reiterating the key learning goals. Be aware that expensive options like the Becker software are only available for 18 months from the date of purchase. The time allowed for passing all four tests is also 18 months, so a significant investment should be carefully planned.


The CPA exam is one of the most challenging professional exams in the country. Many lawyers even say that their state’s law board exams were easier than the CPA exam. The CPA exam is usually easier for those who are already in school and on a set study routine. Those who are working full time jobs must recreate the studying mindset required for successful preparation. Every night, dedicate at least one to two hours of time to study, read, practice and prepare. Avoiding marathon studying sessions because they only lead to physical burnout and cognitive fatigue. Instead, block off a few hours in the morning when the mind is fresh.

As a final note for CPA exam preparation, studying too early can be detrimental. Two months before the exam date is sufficient time to comfortably study without feeling rushed or stressed.