Beginning your Big 4 career is a huge accomplishment, but comes with new challenges. My advice: Pass the CPA exam before your start date. This will be a major life saver when you delve into the world that is adulthood.
The transition from student to full-time employee tends to be a very difficult transition as it requires a new kind of energy to make it through a full work day while you’re learning an entirely new job. An easy way to make the transition slightly easier is to pass the CPA exam before your start date. This guide is meant to help you do just that.
My three-step process will help you through the highs and the lows that is studying for the CPA. This is not an all-knowing guide ensured to get you a 75 on all four exams, but I do hope these tips will help you pass the CPA exam the first time.
1. Set a schedule and keep to it
a. Some universities/programs will create a suggested study schedule, if it doesn’t fit your study habits or your other commitments, don’t use it! Studying is not a one-size-fits-all.
Plus, the suggested schedules rarely have days built in for spending time with friends and family, let alone, a day to binge watch Netflix and reset your brain. Burning out in the beginning will only make the four-five months seem that much longer. Take breaks, you will be grateful you did.
b. Choose a test date towards the beginning of the testing window, this will allow for a longer break after you finish one exam and before you start studying for the next. Once you have your test date set, then create your study schedule. If you start with one schedule and decide it’s not working, change it! Don’t burden yourself with unrealistic expectations.
2. Eliminate distractions
a. If you get distracted by social media/cell phone/television, study in a place that is far away from them. Don’t give yourself reason to not focus on the course materials, and build in breaks to check your phone, catch your favorite show, etc.
b. Get your errands done on one of your break days or find delivery solutions. When I was studying, I signed up for delivered groceries and Nakedwines.com which delivered wine directly to my door – it was a great way to get through the long days of studying to think I had a tasty, unique wine to try after I completed the materials for the day.
Fun fact: I loved Nakedwines.com so much that I took a job with them after I left the Big 4!
Follow this link for a $50 voucher off your first wine purchase.
3. Know your strengths and ask for help
a. You know yourself best, choose your study habits based on what you know works for you, not for anyone else. I preferred to study alone so that I could talk out loud the complex problems I was struggling with. Also, this allowed me to pause playbacks when I wasn’t understanding a concept fully and needed to take extra time to process the information.
I also found success in rewriting the questions I missed on the practice exams, tedious but very helpful!
b. If you’re someone who prefers to study in a group setting so you can toss ideas around and use more brain power to understand and solve problems, find like-minded people that benefit your study habits. Don’t feel obligated to study with anyone who is holding you back from your schedule. Remember that this is your exam and it is your goal to pass the exam before you start. Do what you need to do and know when it’s the right time to start asking for help.
Keep reminding yourself that this test is doable and that as soon as it’s over, the hardest part is DONE.
You can pass the CPA before starting your full-time job: stay focused, ask for help when you need it, and when you feel like you can’t possibly wake up and study again tomorrow. Pour a glass of wine. Watch your favorite tv show. Get up the next day ready to ace those practice simulations. You can do this!
About the author
Bailey Proctor, CPA, was a Senior Associate at KPMG before taking an accounting role with Nakedwines.com in Napa Valley, California perfectly blending her love of wine & accounting.