There's no doubt life as a CPA student entails going through some of the most rigorous testings around. To get through it, you'll need all the motivation you can get ahold of, advice from those who came before you, and a lot of confidence. Along the way, though, you should keep some rules for yourself according to what you should expect. Without these, it could be easy to give up when the going gets tough.
1) You want knowledge you can apply and grow out from. When you finally get a job, sit down for your first day, your mind needs to recall all the information you learned and apply it. Your goal should not be to merely pass the exam. You need to be learning the content, not just memorizing it.
2) It's really about learning for life. The exam proves you've got what it takes to do the job, but you've got a whole career ahead of you. The exam looks different now than it did fifteen years ago and it'll look different again in another fifteen. The point is to learn everything you need to know up until the most current information, but even after you pass the test, you'll need to bring your A-game.
3) Base a lot of how you study on how you feel. Many students burn out using the more-is-more approach. Constant studying can be beneficial, but you can also hit your max and then the information is simply going out as quick as it went in. Make sure to listen to your body and mind, take ample breaks, and don't beat yourself up. That being said, be real and listen to your body when it's ready to go back to work, not just when you feel like it.
4) Weekends are a good time to get into a good routine. We see many students who make a deal with themselves to work hard all week and take the time to rest on the weekends or avoid studying because they need a break and while you should listen to your body as stated above, the weekends are a great time to get your study habits in order. Waking up early enough to study before work during the week can be daunting, but if you do it on the weekend and train your body and mind to accept it then you'll still have the rest of your Saturday and Sunday to relax, but it won't seem like such an extra activity to do as part of your routine Monday-Friday.
5) It's about rhythm more than rest. Think of the CPA Exam like a season of baseball. Players who do well over the 162 games are not the ones who have the most time off but rather are the ones who can get into a streak and stay hot. While they need recovery days, too much time off often results in a slump due to a lack of consistency for a player. You need to make a habit out of performing well and be careful not to take too much time off because that “day of rest” where you didn't study at all turns into a week really quick. Wait too long and you'll not be able to link what you're learning together as well as you should be.
6) If it's pizza and fries in, don't expect to be performing at your best. You should be attempting to take care of your physical body for the best mental results. A little exercise and a healthy diet may seem like more work than it's worth initially, but in the long run, it'll save you a lot of stress, anxiety, and keep you energized.
7) You need to fail. What we mean is, you need to try hard, often, and in ways you aren't comfortable with. Yes, this means you will fail, but we encourage you to do it fast, learn from it quickly, adapt, and move on. This is a life lesson you may have missed out on. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable enough to try and fall flat on your face. Just make sure you don't stay there for too long.
8) Sleep like your life depends on it. Why? Because it does. A few late nights here and there are acceptable, but if you're deciding the part of your schedule that has to be cut is some sleep you're in for trouble. Physical health, retention, happiness, and productivity will all take a hit if you're giving up your 6-8 for 4-6 hours of sleep a night. For your overall life, you have to get your rest.
9) We love coffee. It's good stuff. Simple treasures go a long way when you're attempting to pass the CPA Exam so it's good to have little things to look forward to.
10) Fear is a great motivator. Imagine yourself getting test score after test score back and receiving below the 75 you need to pass. This should scare you a little bit but should not scare you off. Use the fear of failing to ask yourself if you've done all you can. Studying how you should once, even if you end up doing a little overkill, is still less than studying and having to study again when you reattempt the section.
11) Treat your study life like a big tough tool box. You'll need to keep things organized, but it's got to be tough enough to get tossed around. You can't worry when you throw a wrench into it or drop it on the ground. It's got to hold everything together even when things get rough. We've seen people preparing who are more like a teapot where things need to go smoothly, or they will shatter into a million pieces. Sure, we all want things to go as smooth as possible, but you can't meltdown if something comes up and you miss your hour of studying in the morning or if your study partner gets sick last minute and cancels on you. No one likes a surprise, but if you become too high strung you'll develop too great a sensitivity towards the unexpected in life.
12) As long as you're still trying you're doing it. You're going to finish the CPA Exam.