A lot of CPA exam candidates struggle with studying during beautiful summer months. It is especially hard on the weekends. Go to the beach or do MCQ’s all afternoon? It takes a lot of discipline to study in the summer months.

Is it possible to study outside? Or are you just fooling yourself when you bring your AUD textbook to the beach?

Here are 3 tips from recent neuroscience research about how to maximize your CPA study time.

  1. Vary Your Location

In a recent NYT article, psychologists refuted a lot of common myths about studying.

For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.

The common thinking is that students should always study in one uncluttered space. However, there is evidence that this is actually not true.

In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics.

2. Take Practice Tests in the smart way.

In recent experiments, scientists also discovered the proper way to take practices tests.

In one of his own experiments, Dr. Roediger and Jeffrey Karpicke, who is now at Purdue University, had college students study science passages from a reading comprehension test, in short study periods. When students studied the same material twice, in back-to-back sessions, they did very well on a test given immediately afterward, then began to forget the material.

But if they studied the passage just once and did a practice test in the second session, they did very well on one test two days later, and another given a week later.

Your long term retention is best if you study and then do a practice test. If you simply study the same material twice in cram sessions the material is not being retained as effectively.

3. No long cram sessions.

It is also best to space out your studying in short bursts rather than long cram sessions.  According to a professor of neuroscience:

“The literature has shown that the brain is more effective at absorbing and retaining information if you have multiple, shorter study sessions than if you cram everything in all at once.”