Not to sound like a pessimist, but that title is sadly true. There’s a lot of common, frequently repeated mistakes that CPA students make while taking the big exam, and there’s few feelings worse than seeing someone fail their exam by making the same mistakes again and again – especially if it only causes them to fail by a few points. Nobody wants it to happen, and the solutions for preventing this are easier than you might expect!
By now you’re probably asking “what can I do to avoid this lowly fate?” It’s not hard, and it starts with these five tips to bear in mind:
Letting yourself get distracted. We know, it’s kind of galling that we’re giving this advice on a blog, but there’s a time and a place for the internet just like there is for everything in life. Don’t think that you suddenly have to take six months off from hanging out with your friends and enjoying life to better your studies, but do try to keep a good balance between the two. There’s a time for work and a time for play, and if you can maintain a good focus on what you need to get done you’ll really thank yourself come test time. (And please, whatever you do, try not to post Instagram pictures of the test itself – not that we’ve seen that happen or anything…)
Not sticking to a firm schedule. Sure, there’s all those stereotypes about accountants being organized, regimented sticks-in-the-mud, but we’re people just like everyone else, and that means sometimes we need a little help with time management. It’s not just enough to remember you have to devote time to your studies, you really have to get organized and stick with a schedule and a regimen. Set aside the same amount of time every day for your studies, at the same time every day (when able), and work through your material in order to both broaden your understanding and prevent the need to cram at the last second. It didn’t work for high school, and it wouldn’t work now!
Using incorrect or outdated study material. The CPA is fairly unique among a lot of other tests you’ve probably taken in your life in that the material changes from year to year and there’s always something new to learn and study. Try to stick with the most up-to-date CPA review courses and make sure you’re reviewing the best, most relevant information possible to stay ahead of the (grade) curve.
Not setting deadlines or personal goals. It doesn’t work for every studying style, but a lot of people (us included) really work a lot better with firm deadlines. During your study, especially when test time gets nearer, try to set goals for yourself – having X amount of the material reviewed by a certain date, for example, or whatever works best for you. (Just refer to tip #2 and remember to stick with them!)
Stressing out too much. This does sort of fly in the face of some of our previous advice, but trust us – it isn’t going to do anyone any good if you start getting overly stressed out about everything. Take time for yourself to recharge, and don’t push yourself too hard – otherwise you’re just going to find yourself burned out, not studying anything, and doomed to fail. Give yourself a little breather every now and then, you’ll find yourself much better off in the long run.