Take A Moment to Study How You Study
In our last post we highlighted how it is important to keep re-visiting your study habits and adapting to become the most efficient studier possible. Now we will move on to what that might look like as you prepare to study for the CPA exam. Remember “Study Efficiently” is better advice than “Study Hard” and stepping into this new time in your education is a great a time as ever to adapt. We’d like to challenge you to take a break from thinking about what to study and focus on how to study. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, analyzing how you are going to go about this next phase of academia will change how you approach studying.
That being said, this will look differently for each and every one of you. So let’s take a look at some scenarios to help stir your imagination as to what effective studying might look like for you.
Find Your Rhythm
When it comes to what your study schedule looks like there is much more than simply not cramming, being free of distractions, and going over the material. The truth is you have a lot going on in life and sometimes you will have the time to space out studying, while other times you will have 10 hour study marathons. Let’s take a look at how to make this rhythm as effective as possible in the areas of time, atmosphere, and content.
Time - This is one area which everyone differs and you really have to think about what works best for you. What is your attention span? The truth is everyone is going to have to put in the time, but can you do that for 8 hours straight, or would breaking it up work better for you? The biggest trick is to look back to see what has worked vs what has made you miserable. Are big rewards at the end of a long day of studying what work for you, or would smaller breaks/rewards every two hours what is best for you? There is no right answer here, but looking back at what you have done, analyzing yourself, and moving forward intelligently is something most of us do not spend enough time doing. Get curious about it and try new ways of studying out. There is no need to haphazardly guess what would work best when people are out there studying it for you! There are plenty of studies done on effective studying, so do a little research and read up on what science says about your study time (such as this study http://thesciencenetwork.org/docs/BrainsRUs/Increasing%20Retention_Pashler.pdf on how to practically and meaningfully space out your studying)
Atmosphere - Most people turn into creatures of routine when it comes to the place they study. It is good to find a place where you can focus, but the problem is this consistency might be too consistent. Testing environments are not always the greatest and things can go wrong even when you prepare your best. There will be a kid who keeps sniffing, a pencil tapper, a wobbly table, or an overly alert proctor breathing down your throat. The more ways you can find to practice keeping calm and attentive by exposing yourself to different situations the better. On top of different stimulus being great for getting over the distractions, switching up study spots once or even twice through a study session is a great way to reset and refresh. Getting up and moving to a new spot is not wasted time, it is a break. It is like cross-training for your brain. When you think you are sick of studying you might actually just be sick of sitting in that quiet white room, and going to the busy coffee shop might be just what you need to feel like you haven’t been studying all day.
Content - What you study is clearly one of the biggest cut and dry factors, but how you study it is just as important to retaining it. The goal is to have a deep understanding of the material. Think about how you have studied up until this point. Are you interweaving subject and concepts to see how they relate to each other and thus how they can be applied, or have you spent your time focusing on retention of one thing at a time. Studying this way might be harder. It will consist of coming up with essay questions, testing yourself, balancing flash cards with application, and challenging your testing weaknesses, but in the long run it will be worth it. This is what separates those who study hard from those who study efficiently.
Again, this is ultimately going to be you analyzing what works for you. Chase after the best approach you can take to set yourself up for success. Every day is practice and it only makes sense to keep growing by gleaning out the bad and implementing the good.