How to Study for the CPA Exam

By Carol Wiley, Accountingedu contributing writer
Updated April 2013

In deciding how to study for the CPA exam, candidates need to take a number of factors into account, especially their strengths and weaknesses and how they learn best.

Start by making a plan. In what order will you take the parts of the exam? Review the content specification outlines (CSOs) from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) for each part of the exam, both to know what’s on the exam and to determine in which areas you need to spend the most study time.

Decide how you want to approach your study. The main options are to take a review class at a local university or other location, take an online class, or do self study, using either a self-study course or preparation books and study guides.

CPA Exam Study Tips

Divide the topics of study into small, manageable chunks. If you are taking a CPA review course, chances are the course material is already organized.

Make sure to use only up-to-date study materials. College textbooks are probably out-of-date and aren’t focused on CPA exam material.

Develop study strategies that work for you. Options include to write down the material as you learn it (good for visual learners), say the material aloud (good for auditory learners), or draw the material (good for abstract learners). Other options include preparing your own flash cards or linking concepts to real-life situations.

Another CPA exam preparation option is study groups, getting together either online or in-person with one or more other people who are studying for the exam.

Get enough sleep while you’re studying; lack of sleep negatively affects learning retention.

Make sure you understand the mechanics of taking the exam by reading the Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin, which contains official information from AICPA, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and Prometric Testing Centers.

Preparation Books, Study Guides and Practice Exams

The AICPA has a free CPA Examination Tutorial and Sample Tests and also maintains a a page for Exam Prep Course Reviews with reviews written by people who have taken the courses. However, the AICPA doesn’t recommend or endorse any particular review courses or other study materials.

Another free resource with lots of information is CPA Review for Free. For a blog and forum for those taking the CPA exam, see Another 71: The CPA Exam Community.

Here are a few sources that offer a range of paid materials to study for the CPA exam:

  1. Becker CPA Exam Review
  2. Bisk CPA Review
  3. Black CPA Review
  4. Gleim Accounting
  5. HOCK CPA Study Materials
  6. Kaplan CPA Review
  7. Lambers CPA Review
  8. Roger CPA Review
  9. Wiley CPAexcel Exam Review
  10. Yaeger CPA Review
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