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Tips & Tricks to get the Most out of Your CPA Exam Study Time

Posted by Guest Blogger on Jan 26, 2019 8:05:00 AM

Can you believe that January is almost over? It seems like every time I blink it's a new month. Time moves so quickly these days, and with so many demands on our time, it’s often hard to carve out the necessary time to GTD, whether that be work or school or studying for the CPA exam. A common complaint amongst candidates is that they just don’t know where they’re going to find that 12-15 hours a week that Yaeger recommends a working professional find to study for the exam. And while we can’t go in and personally adjust the schedule for everyone (unless you call Phil - he will tell you what you need to do… but you may not like his answer), we can give you some guidance on how best to use the time that you have set aside to study. Here are our top tips & tricks to maximize productivity when studying (you’ll notice a theme real quick).

  1. tiredDon’t trade sleep for studying. Studies have shown that moderate amounts of sleep deprivation - that means being awake for 17-19 hours straight - has many of the same effects as having a BAC of 0.05%, with significantly poorer accuracy on tests and up to a 50% slower response time. When sleep deprivation was increased, performance levels decreased, reaching levels equivalent or above a BAC of 0.1%. If you wouldn’t study drunk, then maybe don’t study sleep deprived.
    Note: none of the studies I read allowed stimulants (i.e. caffeine).

  2. The Marathon Man should not be your inspiration. Studying for long, uninterrupted periods of time is not as effective as you think. And while everyone has a friend who “passed because I stayed up all night and studied straight through” that’s not a great idea for several reasons (go back and read #1 again), most people will “gas out” around the 6-8 hour mark. And that’s if you’re following some / all of the other suggestions in this article.

  3. Regular Breaks matter. Going back the the marathon study session mentioned in #2, what that friend probably didn’t tell you is that they probably took regular breaks to refresh. And if they didn’t? I want to meet them. Your brain can usually only handle 3-4 new pieces of information at any one time (though studies have shown that by using mnemonics and other strategies you can temporarily increase that number)**, so by having regular breaks your mind has a chance to refresh.

    1. We’ve covered techniques such as Pomodoro, drills, “Just 5 more”, and others on our blog and social media, so finding the one that works for you is often a matter of preference, but they each have the same theme - focused studying followed by regular breaks.

  4. pizzaMOVE around during breaks. You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you go outside for a quick walk, but that’s not always feasible. If you have crummy weather or can’t go outside, walk around the room. Do a little stretch. Go to the bathroom. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get up and MOVE. Not only will your brain (and booty) get some additional blood flow, but that brief period of exercise helps with the conversion of short-term memory to long-term retention. While up and moving, refill that water bottle, get more snacks, and get back to it.

  5. Switch up your location every now and again. While having a well-stocked home study area is key, variety can help you break those "I've been studying for months and it's never going to end" doldrums. Try coffee shops, libraries, parks, or even just moving to the kitchen table for a brief period.

  6. Talk it out when you’re stuck. Everyone has that subject they just. don’t. get. When you find one of those topics, find a significant other, relative, Yaeger instructor ;), or patient friend and explain it to them. If no one is available, talk out loud to yourself (maybe wait until later if you’re studying in a public place). Talking it out will identify any pain points as well as help clarify the topic in your mind.

It's really easy to get sucked into the black hole that is studying for the CPA exam and forget that when you don't strive for some sort of work-life balance, productivity drops and you can end up doing inferior work in all aspects of your life. While in an ideal world you’ll be able to commit to that 15 hours of study time every week, this is the real world, and it’s not always possible. If you have the choice of studying for 10 hours (or 8, or 5) where you are completely focused on the task at hand and have no distractions, or that 12-15 hours of distracted studying, go for that 10 (or 8, or 5) hours. Phil says this all the time, and it's as true now as it was when he started telling candidates forty years ago - quality, not quantity.  

Tags: CPA Productivity, Studying

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