17 Proven CPA Exam Study Strategies While Working Full Time
That You Can Implement Right Now And Will Help You Find 1-3 Study Hours Every Day


If you are struggling to find time to study while working full time then you are absolutely in the right place.

You will learn 17 proven study strategies that you can implement starting today that will help you find 1-3 hours of study time per day no matter how many hours you are working.

Disclaimer: These tactics do work during busy season… that being said studying during busy season is difficult and is typically not recommended for your sanity.

However. If you are up against the wall and NEED to take a section immediately after busy season than these tips are for you.

Please understand that in order for these strategies to work you are going to need lots of dedication, caffeine and communication with your team.

Let’s get started!





Strategy #1
Busy Season Efficiency System


Avoiding busy work and focusing on efficiency during busy season so that you will have time to study in the evenings.


0.5-1 hour per night


According to Live Science distractions not only kill time but work quality.

As someone working full time and trying to find time to study for the CPA exam, your only goal during busy season is to eliminate distractions so that you can be as efficient as possible.

If you are serious about not wasting ANY time during the day then you need to implement the Busy Season Efficiency System and remove as many distractions as possible from your work day.

Step #1: To Avoid Distractions Kill Your Instant Messenger

Avoid Instant Messenger and text messages at all costs!

It’s okay to silence your phone and leave your status as busy all day long, because that’s exactly what you are!

Nothing kills your efficiency more than getting a chat notification or a text message buzz while you were in the zone knocking out work papers or tax returns.

Make it a point to check all your messages once every hour or so to ensure you aren’t missing anything urgent, but be sure to batch process and not check them as they pop up.

Handling 5 messages at a time is much more efficent that one.

Step #2: Be More Productive By Breaking Up With Your Inbox

This is a fact. Reading and answering emails are busy work.

Having an empty inbox makes you feel extremely accomplished but the reality is that email prevents you from getting REAL work done.

In order to get real work done during the day we need to eliminate as much email management as possible.

To minimize the time spent with email complete the following:

1) Create calendar reminders to check your email 3-4 times per day (example: 10:00 am, 1 pm, 4 pm and 8 pm)

Pro-Tip: Turn off your email notification on your cell phone!

2) Now that you only check email 4 times per day it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend reading and responding.

I recommend spending no more than 30-45 minutes managing your inbox at a time.

How do you maximize your 30-45 minutes?

I recommend using Derek Halpern of Social Triggers method of creating 4 email folders to manage your email:

a) Email from newsletters that you like to read
b) Needs response from you
c) Needs response but not from you
d) No response needed

Once you have organized your inbox then it’s very clear what emails require your immediate attention.

Here is exactly how Derek answers 3x as many emails in half as much time

SOURCE: http://socialtriggers.com/dealing-with-email-overload/


Step #3: Set The Tone Of Your Day To Be Productive

Prioritize your to do list first thing and start your day completing the MOST important task.

IMPORTANT: This is before you even open your email application!

Email is an expert at derailing your to-do list so don’t give it an opportunity to get you sidetracked first thing in the morning.


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Strategy #2
Essential Energy Boosters For Busy Season


Preventing work and travel fatigue from destroying your motivation to study.


1-2 hours per day


An unfortunate side effect of constantly working and/or traveling for busy season is fatigue.

Fatigue can kill your motivation to study and can hurt your efficiency at work.

So how do we beat fatigue?

Here are what the experts say about how to boost your energy and improve your focus while working:


1) 10 Ways To Super Charge Your Energy At Work
2) 5 Steps to Maximize Efficiency by Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time
3) 10 Practical Ways To Boost Your Energy Level


For you traveling auditors, here are what the experts say about how to boost your energy and improve your focus while traveling:


1) 10 Tips For Dealing With Travel Fatigue
2) Ways To Naturally Improve Your Focus From Morning To Night
3) Healthy (And Tasty) Alternatives to Coffee and Soda


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Strategy #3
Sky High Study Technique


Travel as efficiently as possible to maximize the amount of time you have to study while traveling.


Varies by travel time

Travel days don’t have to be missed CPA exam study days.

If you follow the Sky High Study Technique you will be able to get at least 2-3 solid hours of studying accomplished.

Step #1: The Less Time Your Spend In Security The More Time You Have To Study

Your 1st goal for audit travel is to spend the least amount of time going through airport security and baggage check.

I cover this topic in detail how to accomplish this in my Auditors Ultimate Guide To Airport Travel And Packing The Essentials but for right now here is a summary of how to accomplish this:

1) Sign up for pre-TSA to avoid long security check lines
2) Never check luggage, if possible.
3) Pack only the essentials, you can always purchase non-essential items at the client or hotel and do laundry at the hotel if necessary.

Step #2: Come To The Airport With A Study Plan

Once inside the airport and waiting for your flight have a specific study game plan for what you are going to accomplish.

Example Study Plan:
1) 20 minutes of flashcards
2) Use airport wifi or tether your phones internet (if you have that ability) and either watch a lecture or complete some multiple choice
3) Review your electronic textbooks
4) Listen to MP3 Audio Lecture (if your course gives you that option)

Pro Tip: Most review courses today require an internet connection. This makes it difficult to study while traveling so think ahead.

If possible download your electronic text or audio lectures or bring your physical flashcards with you to be available at all times.

Step #3: Instead Of Sleeping On The Plane, Do This Instead

Studying on an airplane can be accomplished if done properly.

Hopefully your flight will have in-flight wifi which will make it much easier to study, but if not there are study steps you can still complete.

Your goal on the flight is to have a specific plan of what needs to be completed.

Example Study Plan w/in-flight wifi
1) If you are feeling focused try to complete one whole section of your review course
2) If you are in a review stage, put your headphones on and try to take a short practice exam focusing on blocking out distractions

Example Study Plan without wifi
1) Review your electronic text
2) Review flashcards
3) Listen to audio lectures and take written notes

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Strategy #4
Back Seat Study Method


Utilize the morning commute to knock out some studying


Varies by commute time


Serious CPA candidates will utilize any spare moments they find during the day.

The Back Seat Study Method is designed to help you maximize your morning commute with your audit team.

Step #1: Start The Day Off Organized

Grab your morning coffee, computer bag and your CPA review flashcards

Step #2: Flashcard Flipping Time

Sit in the backseat and start flipping through the flashcards (or have one of your audit team members quiz you)

Step #3: Begin The Morning Drinking Game!

For every flashcard you get correct the audit team gets to take a drink of coffee or bite of the morning bagel and cream cheese


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Strategy #5
Power Lunch Study System


Complete quality study time during lunch


15-20 minutes


The lunch hour is a gold mine for CPA study time, but is often wasted by going out to restaurants.

By using the Power Lunch Study System you can find at least 15-20 minutes of quality study time while the rest of your team is in their lunch coma.

Step #1: Save Time And Money By Bringing Your Own Lunch

If at all possible find a way to bring your own lunch to the client.

If you can’t bring your flashcards with you to the restaurant or use your mobile apps to try and get some studying done.

Step #2: You Don’t Have To Join Your Team For Lunch

It’s okay to be anti-social during lunch.

Don’t be awkward about it, but remember that passing the CPA exam is your priority #1 right now.

Step #3: Here Is What To Study During Lunch

Use your lunch hour to take a practice quiz, watch lecture to prepare for study back at the hotel or flip through flashcards while you eat.

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Strategy #6
Communication With Your Team


Make it clear to your senior and manager that you will be studying during busy season but that it will not affect the quality of your work.


Managing studying and working at the same time during busy season is no easy task and if you aren’t careful it can affect your work quality.

You NEED to make sure your team knows what you are doing.

Your senior and manager understand exactly what you are going through because they were CPA candidates at one time as well.

Be upfront and honest with your study plan because all they care about is that you complete your work and that it is high quality.

If you can show them that you can achieve both quality work and implement your study plan then they will be fine with you focusing on studying during busy season.

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Strategy #7
CPA Exam Study Mobile Apps


If your CPA review course has a mobile app it is the best tool to use to study while on an audit.


1-2 hours per day


CPA Review Courses like Roger CPA Review, Wiley CPAexcel and Becker CPA Review all have mobile study apps available for use on your mobile device.

They offer electronic flashcards and the ability to take multiple choice quizzes.

While no mobile app will ever replace your full CPA review course, they can be a lifesaver when you are traveling on an audit, have a few minutes to study at lunch or need to study during travel.

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Strategy #8
CPA Exam Study Flashcards


Determine whether you should use pre-made flashcards or create your own
Flashcards are one of the best study methods for memorizing definitions, journal entries and anything else you are struggling to understand.


There are two lines of thinking when it comes to using flashcards, should you create your own or purchase pre-made cards.

Let’s review the pros and cons of making your own flashcards vs using pre-made flashcards like the ones offered by Roger CPA Review, Wiley CPAexcel and Yaeger CPA Review.

Pros and Cons of creating your own:

PRO: You will create targeted cards based on what you are struggling to understand.
PRO: You will memorize cards better just by writing down the information
CON: It takes a lot of time and creates busy work
CON: You might make a card on a topic that isn’t important


Pros and Cons of purchasing pre-made flashcards:

PRO: Affordable
PRO: Saves you dozens of hours of work
PRO: Provides you with targeted topics that are highly tested
CON: May include topics you already understand
CON: Won’t get the learning value from writing down topics


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Strategy #9
Designated Driver Strategy


Avoid more than one adult beverage at dinner and try to eat light to avoid the post dinner coma


1-2 hours


It’s a fact. Auditing can be stressful and one of the perks of being out of town is that you can go out for a nice dinner every night and enjoy some adult beverages.

Unfortunately this can be detrimental to the post-dinner study session for CPA candidates.

To avoid the post-dinner coma follow the Designated Driver Strategy Steps below:

Step #1:

Eat snacks throughout the day so that you aren’t starving at dinner

Step #2:

Offer to be the designated driver for dinner.

Step #3:

Since you have snacked all afternoon, avoid ordering any heavy entrées and only have one adult beverage if at all.

Step #4:

Drive the team home and hit the books with plenty of energy!

PRO TIP: Dinner is one of the perks of being an auditor, so for you to give up adult beverages and the rich tasty foods is going to be difficult to do IF passing the CPA exam is not your #1 priority.

Be sure you are mentally prepared and understand exactly what you are willing to sacrifice in order to pass the CPA exam.


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Strategy #10
Nightly Motivation Formula


Set a daily study goal and once you complete your goal go do something fun to reward yourself!


You are not a robot. It is literally impossible to only be studying and working day in and day out for weeks on end.

This is why the Nightly Motivation Formula is so crucial for your success (and sanity)!

Step #1:Identify a list of activities that you would enjoy doing while traveling for an audit

Examples: watching a sporting event, Netflix TV Show, calling family and friends, or going out with coworkers etc…

Step #2:

Set your daily study goal. This goal needs to be quantitative, not an “x # of hours.”

Step #3:

Once you have hit your quantitative goal whether it’s at noon or 10 pm, shut off your computer and put away your study materials and go have some fun!


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Strategy #11
HR Scheduling


Work with HR and your audit team to ensure you are in town the week or two before your exam.


Let’s face it. No matter how efficient you are while traveling, you will not be able to accomplish the same quality of studying as you would while being home.

When scheduling your exams be sure to communicate with your audit team around deadlines to ensure that HR scheduling can keep you in town during the week or two prior to your next exam.

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Strategy #12
Study Vacation Technique


Take your precious PTO and use it to study AND PASS the CPA exam. It’s worth it.


40-60 hours


You work hard to accrue vacation time and as public accountants scheduling vacations far in advance are a great way of motivating us to get through our next deadline.

However. When passing the CPA exam is your #1 goal then you NEED to take study vacations to ensure you truly have the best chance of passing the CPA exam on your 1st try.

Follow these steps to maximize your Study Vacation Technique:

Step #1:

Schedule your exams on Monday mornings (or Tuesday mornings if there is a Monday holiday)

Step #2:

Take at least the 3-4 previous business days off and ONLY spend those days studying for the CPA exam

Step #3:

Take your exam with no stress of worrying about work and deadlines!


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Strategy #13
Outsourcing Your Workload


Start improving your management skills immediately and outsource whenever you can.


15-30 minutes per day


As auditors we are sending more and more work overseas to outsourcers.

This is an amazing opportunity for you to begin fine tuning your delegation skills and improving your efficiency at work so that you will have more time to spend studying back at the hotel.

In addition to outsourcing to shared service centers, you can also delegate more urgent tasks to interns.

NOTE: Common tasks to be outsourced are any task that doesn’t require judgement.


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Strategy #14
Hotel Gym Study Technique


Relieve stress every day and multi-task by listening to MP3 lectures while working out.


30-45 minutes


If you aren’t utilizing the workout room in your hotel, you are missing out on an opportunity to relieve stress and to knock out some studying.

Here is the step by step Hotel Gym Study Technique:

Step #1:

Determine if you are a morning person or a night owl and plan your work out accordingly.

Step #2:

Devote a minimum of 30 minutes to working out at least 2-4 times per week.

The goal of this work out is to elevate your heart rate which will help you relieve stress and reverse all the damage done by sitting for hours on end in the audit room!

Step #3:

If your CPA Review Course comes with audio lectures then multi-task during your work out by listening to a lecture. Here are some courses that offer audio lectures that I recommend

Roger CPA Review
Gleim CPA Review


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Strategy #15
Healthy Eating During Busy Season


Eating healthy on an out of town audit client or in the office.


1-2 hours in the evening


Eating health on the road or at the office can feel almost impossible.

Unfortunately what we eat dictates how we feel, how focused we can be and our overall health.

So as public accountants trying to work + study during busy season how do we manage to be healthy when we eat out for every meal?

Let’s hear what the experts have to say:


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Strategy #16
Morning Study Sprint


Utilize the time before work to get some quality studying done


20-30 minutes


Instead of checking your email first thing when you wake up, why not knock out 20-30 minutes of studying before meeting your team in the hotel lobby or heading into the office?

Here is the step by step guide to the Morning Study Sprint

Step #1: Wake Up Early!

Set alarm 45 minutes earlier than you need to wake up – yes this is painful… but remember passing the CPA exam is your #1 priority right now!

Step #2: Get Ready For Work Before You Start Studying

Do everything you need to do to get ready for work. This includes getting dressed, get your computer bag ready to go, and head down to the lobby to grab breakfast and then find a secluded area where you can eat distraction free.

Pro Tip: If you are out of town and think your audit team might distract you, grab your breakfast and head back to your room until it’s time to leave.

Step #3: Do This Instead Of Reading The News

While you eat breakfast instead of catching up on the news or social media knock out some multiple choice or watch a video lecture.

Step #4: More Now, Less Later!

Remember that the more you get done in the morning and during lunch means less time you need to study at night!

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Strategy #17:
Spoken Word Study Method


Create your own audio study materials so that you can take them anywhere with you.


15-20 minutes


For all you in-town audit folks or tax accountants here is how you can maximize your CPA exam studying during your morning commute to work.

Option #1: Invest In Audio Lectures

Invest in MP3 audio lectures and listen to your next lecture on your way to work.

CPA Review Course Companies such as Roger CPA Review and Gleim CPA Review offer excellent audio lectures to help you accomplish this time saving strategy.

Option #2: Create Your Own Audio

This takes a bit to get used to, but record yourself answering flashcards out loud.

Test it out right now by taking out your phone and finding a audio recording app

iPhone Free App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voice-recorder-free/id685310398?mt=8
Android Free App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.andrwq.recorder&hl=en

Step #1: Pull Out Your Phone And Find An Audio Recording App And Do This…

Hit record and read the front of the flashcard. Wait a few seconds answering the question in your head and flip the card over and read the answer out loud.

Repeat for as many flashcards as you need

Step #2: What To Do With Your Audio Recording

Save your recording and add it to your music player for listening during your commute.

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Key Takeaway

Studying during busy season is not going to be easy.

But the rewards of becoming a CPA make the struggle absolutely worth it.

Focus on communication with your team and eliminating unnecessary distractions during your work day and you will have won half the battle.

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you did please pass them along to your fell busy season accountants by sharing below 🙂