Balancing Work, Life, and the CPA Exam

12 Nov 2010

Guest Posts

Jennifer was a long-time member of Club 75 and is here to help and encourage candidates PASS the CPA Exam.

Studying for the CPA Exam may seem like something you have to do on your own since it’s just you, your memory, the exam and the computer at the testing center but it truly is a commitment from your family, friends and coworkers too.

You will spend money from your family’s budget and time together on weekend trips or vacations may be sacrificed to spend the time studying. You may also need to study at work or take days off to study and take the exam.

I would say you are the exception and not the rule if you don’t ask yourself “Is it really worth it?” at least once.

My answer is Yes, it is worth it!!

Once you pass you may not be immediately flooded with job offers with raises 20% over your current salary but it can open so many more doors in the future.

I recently read an article on five steps to achieving work-life balance from WebMD and I feel it fits perfect into CPA Exam study-life balance.

The steps are:


  • 1. Figure out What Really Matters to You in Life
  • 2. Drop Unnecessary Activities
  • 3. Protect Your Private Time
  • 4. Accept Help to Balance Your Life
  • 5. Plan Fun and Relaxation



  • 1. Figure out What Really Matters to You in LifeEvaluate your schedule both at home and work to ensure that you can devote the amount of time for studying to get a passing score. Jeff mentions in his book “50 things…” that if you aren’t studying 20 hours a week then you aren’t really studying. So take a good look at your schedule and evaluate if this is a good month to start studying. Would it be better to wait 2 months before starting this next section? Just be wary of taking breaks if your 18 month clock is running as having scores expire is not fun (I lost both BEC and REG due to struggling with Audit).I studied from July 07-Aug 2010 and took at least one exam every window except for April/May 09. I got married at the end of May 2009 and when I failed FAR in Feb 09 and had a tough tax season ahead. So I decided that it was more important to me to be committed to work and have fun planning my wedding after busy season was over than to crank out another exam which I probably wouldn’t have been ready for. Did it extend my time working on the exam? Probably. Do I regret it? Not for a million bucks! I had a tough tax season but it taught me so much and a perfect wedding. I will always cherish the time I spent with my mom and best friend planning and how perfect our wedding was that day.
  • 2. Drop Unnecessary ActivitiesThis applies to you and your family, do you really need to volunteer at 5 organizations or your kids to play on 2 sports teams every season? What if you cut out 1 team or volunteer project just for 6 months? This will help your schedule open up so you can find the time to study. It’s only temporary so don’t panic, I’m not telling you to give this up forever, just until you are a CPA. Studying is also a great excuse to get out of family reunions that your grandmother tries to guilt you into. ?Yes this also means you have to cut out the Friday night happy hours with friends. I know that my friends used to tease me “When are you going to pass this test so you can be a REAL adult and not have to study anymore?” but they were also the first ones who wanted to celebrate my accomplishment when I got that final passing score!
  • 3. Protect your private time
    You may feel like you are always alone and have private time so if you aren’t studying then you should feel guilty if you aren’t with your family. Sometimes you need your quiet time from both your family/friends and from whoever is your choice of CPA review professor (Phil Yaeger and Cindy, Peter Olinto and Tim Gerty or Roger). You need time to reset your brain so everything you just studied will sink in before you start making the school lunches and the grocery list.I used time at the gym to clear my head. “Sweat out my stupidity” as I told a coworker. It was my time and made me feel physically better about sitting for hours on my tush listening to lectures and doing MCQs over and over.
  • 4. Accept Help to Balance your life
    This one was my fun one! I convinced my hubby that I needed help with house cleaning during tax season and studying-it was either he helped more or I was going to hire help. Hiring it done was his choice and I didn’t care as long as it was done, I didn’t have to do it so I could focus on my exam. But this can apply to carpools to/from school for the kids so that the days it’s not your turn, you can use the time to get a quick hour of studying in before work. Or an offer from friends/parents/spouse to watch the kids and get them out of the house so it’s quiet to study.I don’t have kids but we do have 2 yellow labs that didn’t understand why I couldn’t play fetch with them all the time. Dogs don’t know what it means when you say “Mommy needs to study” as older kids can. I used my study breaks to get outside and play fetch with them-just as much for me as for them. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand the thought of going in our office and shutting the door so I’d sit on the deck just for a change of scenery.
  • 5. Plan Fun and Relaxation
    Plan 1 day each week that you don’t study at all. Schedule these when you are working out your study plan-you will do them no matter what so having them scheduled will help the panic “I’m behind schedule” feeling. This will help your information sink in and you can keep your sanity. Our bodies and minds aren’t built to studying 16 hours/day, 7 days/week for weeks on end. You need a break. So take studying breaks, 10 minutes for every 60-90 minutes of studying and 1 night/week off totally. This will help with your guilt of not spending time with family and friends but still gets the job done.I’ve spent this whole article writing about how to schedule breaks and keep your sanity. But if you are battling with having too many breaks, then ignore this article and get back to studying! ?


Leave a Reply


Rachel 13 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I accepted help (paid or not) in balancing the housework, cooking supper, etc especially during tax season and my last FAR prep time!

Rachel 13 years ago

Don't know why it added "your comment is awaiting moderation" Sorry

Jeff - 13 years ago

For some reason, I can't get it to stop moderating me - it wasn't anything your post did.

Rachel 13 years ago

@Jeff: No prob. It's gone now!

DILIP 13 years ago

I got 74 marks in AUD in Oct.10 testing. I think it is less . It should have been more than 75. What should I do , I reappear or apply for re-checking. Regards