Your choice of CPA prep course largely depends on your educational background and your work experience. In addition, every student has different learning styles. For example, some students focus on MCQ’s while others prefer learning from textbooks.

Before  you choose a CPA prep course, you need to ask yourself is what is your targeted completion date. Most often students have an ambition to pass the CPA exam in either 3, 6, or 9 months.  You first need to determine your anticipated level of self-study.

Your CPA prep course will give you daily schedule that you should monitor. You want to include all of your daily tasks. After I started monitoring all of my daily tasks, I discovered that I was spending approximately 20 hours on housework, grocery shopping, running errands etc. If I didn’t track my time before starting my CPA prep program, I would have greatly overestimated my available study time. Since there are only 110 waking hours in a week, you have to make sure that you are aware of how you are spending your time.

CPA Prep Course Study Plan

Once you have an idea of your weekly time available, you want to create a study schedule as part of your CPA prep course. If you were looking to pass all four sections in 6 months you would probably plan to study 4 days per week + one day on the weekend. Subsequently, you write out each section that you will study on a calendar.

For example, if you were studying for the BEC exam, you would notice that Operations Management is between 15-25% of the exam.  Let’s assume that you need 100 hours to study for the exam. You would most likely allocate 20 hours to Operations Management. You would then break down each subsection into a further time block. For example, you might allocate 5 hours to study Variance analysis. Thus, you would write “Variance analysis” on the calendar. The next day might be Process management.  Create a one hundred hour study program with twenty five hour slots.

You can use an app for Android or Apple which will easily enable you to create a customized study calendar.  The app that I’m familiar with is My Study Plan. 

Monitor Your Progress

After you have created a CPA Exam self study plan that matches your time availability, you want to make sure that you monitor your progress. You want to monitor you studying of content and your use of practice questions.

One of the things that I always recommend is that you take a sample test after the first week of studying to get a benchmark of where you stand. You can then have hard evidence of your incremental improvement over the CPA study plan. By carefully monitoring your progress, you will also be able to determine when your sample scores start to plateau.  This means that each additional hour of study time is yielding fewer results. It happens to every student and it is usually an indication that you are ready to take the exam.

You should also create a study tracker to monitor your progress. As Peter Drucker once said, “what gets measured gets managed.”

Most CPA candidates have no idea whether or not they are actually making any improvements because they do not keep any record of their completed tasks.

For example, in our CPA study guides we create a chart where you can measure your progress. For example, let’s say you are studying for the BEC exam, you would fill in your completed tasks to keep your exam studying on track. You would have a list of about 50 different topics that will be covered on the exam (we’ve only included 10 on this sample chart).

You want to be able to look at a sheet of paper and know which areas you have yet to study. Since the CPA exam is voluminous many people actually forget to study certain topics.  Or rather only learn that they need to study a topic a day or two before the exam….and then they cram.

Sample CPA Exam Study Plan

This is a simple example of what your CPA study plan should look like.

Read materials Lectures Notes Flashcards Rewrite Notes
Demand Supply and Equilibrium
Govt Intervention in Mkt
Profit and Costs
Marginal Analysis
Market Structures
Resource Markets
Labor as an input
Domestic Output
Business Cycles
Fiscal Policy

For the most part, I find that students make two mistakes when creating a CPA exam study plan. They overestimate how much time they have.  They don’t pare down hobbies, family or leisure time. The second mistake is to underestimate how much time you will need to study. I’ve met lots of students that think that they only need 55 hours to pass the BEC exam only to find that they had to watch several video lectures twice which ate into 30 hours of their time.  This is most common with students who come from schools where they may have over-inflated grades. You may have graduated with 3.8 GPA from Podunk University but it won’t help you much when you’re competing against some elite students from elite universities.

Create a realistic CPA Exam Study Plan and try to follow through on the plan that has worked for thousands of other CPA’s.

CPA candidates are always looking for new CPA exam questions to help them study for their actual CPA exam.  CPA prep programs such as Becker, Gleim, Bisk, Kaplan, have software that will help you study and take practice exam questions.


Wiley is a solid choice for CPA prep course.  Wiley software has 3-4,000 practice test questions.  Most CPA candidates use Wiley as a supplemental program.  Their book and CPA prep course is somewhat confusing and can be difficult to get through.  Their test-prep software is great for the practice questions.

CPA Review For Free is a site that is a great resource for affordable CPA prep materials.  On their site, you can take exams for each of the four CPA exam sections.

CPA Army

The CPA prep materials from CPA Army are generally focused on practice exams. You can find a study guide that highlights the most important material of each section.

CPA Exam After Failing

Let’s face it passing the CPA exam is basically a 50/50 proposition. However, it still feels like a devastating, crushing, soul sucking defeat when you log on and discover that your score was not up to snuff. The dread of having to study the same material all over again is mixed with the fear that since you failed one exam, you might fail the next exam too.

This is my step by step process to restore your confidence and prepare for the next exam.

First of all, you have to do a post-mortem analysis. Why did you fail the exam? By what extent did you fail the exam? A lot of times, I see students decided to skip studying a section. With some bad luck the section featured prominently in a simulation and they got rattled.

The most likely reason people fail the exam is cramming. You can get away with cramming in college. As a matter of fact, you can even achieve A’s just with cramming a night or two before the exam. Students use the same approach for the CPA exam and get slaughtered. There is simply too much material. If you have failed the CPA exam, you have to honestly answer this question – “did you cram for the exam?” If the answer is yes, you have to create a study schedule and stick to it. Spread out the studying based on your own personal work and family situation. If you have six weeks, create a six week plan. If you can only study on weekends, create a weekend plan. There is no cookie cutter schedule. However, you have to ensuer that you do not cram for the exam on the second go round.

The second part of your post mortem should examine the CPA exam prep that you used. Did you try to use outdated materials? Did you balk at spending money on a CPA Review course? Did you study unnecessary topics?  I know it is painful to fail the exam and then determine that you need to pony up for a CPA review course but sometimes you simply didn’t study with the right tools. Most successful students use a CPA Review Course and purchase some supplemental material. If the simulation questions threw you for a loop you may need to practice more SIMs. Usually, what I see is that students get bogged down with the volume of material. They study things that are not necessary. You should make condensed notes or borrow/purchase condensed notes. As you approach the exam, you have to reduce the volume of material you are dealing with.

Finally, you have to determine if your own psychology tripped you up on exam day. Not to sound like Donald Trump, but did you choke on exam day?

It is fairly common for some test takers to get rattled on exam day. The stakes are high and the failure is a little bit more high profile. However, out of all the failure stories that I have heard over the years, I would estimate 15-20% involve some form of meltdown. The student knew the material but couldn’t sleep the night before. Or the student hit a section of the exam that they didn’t study for and started to psyche themselves out thinking that they are bombing the exam. Self doubt can sabotage a CPA exam. If you think that you failed the exam due to stress you need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. The best way is to over prepare for the exam.