How to Pass the CPA Exam

how to study for the cp e

We know that with other CPA exam review courses, you're given login credentials to a site, and with some CPA review courses, you're even sent a box in the mail. You have all these study materials and resources which you in many cases have spent thousands of dollars on.

Great. Now, what do you look for the instructions on how you're actually supposed to study for the exam with all the materials. What order, how much and how often, which resources most important MC cues notes flashcards.

And of course, you find nothing, no instructions anywhere. This is why we have developed the NINJA study framework, and this video will answer all those questions and more you didn't know you had. You can use this framework with any CPA review course, but for illustrative purposes (and because we own a review course), we will use NINJA CPA review as an example. And … we're fond of Ninjas in general.

Many people don't realize that in our case, N.I.N.J.A. is an acronym. The five letters, each individually represent a piece to the N.I.N.J.A. framework.


(Click here and I'll send you the NINJA Study Planner, Free Study Notes, and other Free Downloads).


N – Nail the Concepts.

I – Intense Notes. As in, you will need to take intense notes.

N – Non stop MCQ, which of course, is where you begin diving into your review course and MCQ.

J – Just rewrite it. And then rewriting your notes.

A – All Comes Together. We'll explain these all in detail throughout this video. Let's start with the first N, which again stands for Nail the Concepts.

You do this by reading your NINJA Book before doing any MCQ to also begin reading the NINJA Notes and listening to the NINJA Audio.

Even if you haven't covered a particular subject in the NINJA Book. One key to success is to listen to the NINJA Audio and read the NINJA Notes as many times as possible and the weeks leading up to the exam.

Let's reiterate this again. It's important you do this before the MCQ, so that you are retaining what you've learned in the MCQ leading up to the exam. If you do MCQ eight weeks out before the CPA Exam, you will not retain them.

Last, but definitely not least, as you'll see in the next section, while you're nailing the concepts, you should simultaneously be taking intense notes. As you are nailing the concepts by reading the NINJA Book and NINJA Notes and listening to the NINJA Audio take intense notes.

The goal is to never have to go back and reread the book, because you've written down the key concepts, however. As for the actual notes. We recommend using the Cornell Method for note taking, which is another preferred by universities and other learning centers. The basic idea is that the left side of your page will contain keywords or key concepts or questions.

Well the right side of your page will contain general notes that correspond to the keywords and concepts on the left, the bottom of the page is reserved for you to write a summary of what is contained on that page. Your downloadable NINJA Study Framework will have multiple blank pages set up, or this note taking style, but you can copy and use for all your notes. We come to the second end, which stands for non-stop MCQ, you've read your NINJA Book, and the NINJA Notes. Listen to the NINJA Audio.

You've taken intense notes and have a killer stack of keywords and notes going. Now it's time to dive into the NINJA MCQ. If you miss a CPA Exam question, write down the keywords and notes but the question is testing you on and add it to your stack of notes. If you get a question correct, but think you forgot the concept later on. Write it down. The NINJA MCQ software is broken into three modes.

First is the assessment mode. This is the first 35% of the material which figures out what you know and what you don't. Based on what you knew and didn't know in the assessment mode, the adaptive learning software tailors the questions to help you improve in the areas where you are weakest. The final phase is the review load, you reach this phase when you have answered each question successfully, at least twice.

Now onto the J, which represents Just Rewrite It. It's tedious. It's awful. It works. The process will take about a week so plan accordingly. Two weeks out from your CPA Exam section sounds about right. Take your stack of notes and rewrite them into the keywords and notes area of this study planner. You'll need to make multiple copies of this template. The easy road is to skip this step. Don't take the easy road. It will pay dividends on exam day.

Finally, we reached the last stage of the process andt it's going to put you on the path to passing the CPA exam.

A – which signifies it all comes together.

You've nailed the concepts.

You've taken intense notes.

You've worked MCQ until you hate life.

You even hate the word “NINJA” at this point.
You've rewritten your keywords and notes. This is where it all comes together.
One – carry your stack of keywords and notes everywhere you go.

Two – watch the NINJA Blitz CRAM videos.

Three – watch NINJA Plus over weak topics.

Four – Listen to MCQ audio.

Five – Read through a NINJA flashcards

Six – Make a list of your weakest MCQ topics and work backwards.

Seven – Start with your weakest MCQ topic and do 20 question mini testlets until your score is in the 70s and move on to your next-weakest topic.

Eight – Finish your CPA review and then go give the CPA Exam a reverse roundhouse kick in the face. HIYA!

Now on to the question of the exact order and timing of when the various NINJA tools should be used. We're going with a seven week plan where you'll need to study 20 to 25 hours a week.

You're right now wondering how you'll fit 20 to 25 hours into your already busy week. Don't worry. We've got you. We'll get to that in a minute, though.

For now, we'll get back to the order in which you should consume the various NINJA tools and will break this down by weeks.

Weeks 1-4: These four weeks will essentially be the same. You'll be nailing the CPA Exam concepts and taking intense notes.

Each of the first four weeks you’ll read 25% of the NINJA Book so that by the end of week four, you'll have completed the entire book for each of these first four weeks.

(Note: If you can get through more of the Book, even better. This allows you to jump into the MCQ earlier, as two weeks for the MCQ is ideal. When it comes down to it, it’s ok to punt the book in favor of the MCQ).

You'll read the NINJA Notes once.

You will listen to the NINJA Audio twice per week for the first four weeks.

Listen to NINJA Audio 24/7 in the car, at the gym, etc.

During these four weeks you will be taking intense notes from the NINJA Book, Notes, and Audio.

Week 5: This is where your MCQ starts, but not before now.

Again, Nail the concepts before moving on to the MCQ.

During this week you should listen to NINJA Audio two times – during your commute, at your desk, etc. And, of course, continue to take notes on what you're learning. We're getting down to the wire now.

Week 6: This is where you take that massive stack of keywords and notes you've been compiling over the last five weeks and write them out again. Yes, all of them. This works. Do not think you are the one who is smart enough to skip this step. This is an enormously important step in the process and should not be missed. Continue with your MCQ as well, non-stop. The homestretch your last week before the big day.

Week 7: This is the week it all comes together for you during your seventh week, and you should be in the RECON mode of the MCQ.

Find your weakest section, based on your scores and start there with drilling down into those questions until you are at 70% proficiency or higher, then move on to your second-weakest topic.

3 days before your exam: Read your NINJA Flashcards, over and over again. Watch NINJA Blitz.

1 day before your exam: Read NINJA Notes and read your keywords and notes

Exam Day: The big day has arrived.

You think it's over and only have to take the exam. No more studying.


More studying to do.

Try to schedule your exam for around 1pm. That's the optimal time.

On the day of the exam: 1) Work the MCQ of your weakest topic 2) Read the NINJA Notes. Read your keywords and notes. 3) En route to the exam, Listen to the NINJA Audio topic that is your weakest section at the testing center in your car, review the NINJA Notes on your weakest topic. The only thing left to do after this point is, give your exam a reverse roundhouse kick to the face. HIYA!.

ELL Plan: We didn't forgot to tell you how to find the time to study for the CPA exam. Introducing the Early Lunch Late plan. This plan is tailored for almost anyone, including those of you working a full time job with a family. The ELL plan will exceed the recommended 130 study hours in seven weeks.

You will incorporate 25 hours of studying into each week, using the Early Lunch Late method. The Early Lunch Lunch plan is simple. The sacrifice is not. The idea is that you set a schedule, make a habit of it over the course of the seven weeks necessary to pull this off early.

EARLY: Get up one and a half hours earlier than normal. If you are already getting up at four in the morning, don't shake your head and discuss this plan isn't for you.

For those who normally get up at 6:00am or 6:30am start getting up at 4:30am or 5:00.

The coffee pot that you loaded the night before: Hit the “Go” button. While the coffee is brewing, go take a quick shower and wake up, head back to the coffee, grab a cup and sit down at your computer and NINJA Book, which you also set up the night before.

Study for an hour.

Notice that checking your email, social media, news or sports sites was nowhere in this sequence.

LUNCH: Say “no” to the co workers heading down the street to grab lunch and talk about how dumb their bosses are for an hour.

Take your lunch to your desk, (which you also packed to the night before) start eating, and hit play on your NINJA Audio or work NINJA MCQ. Your legal pad and pen will get food smears on it while you take notes as well your mouse, but who cares, the same rule applies as the morning. No email or internet! Study for an hour.

LATE: This is where it will differ greatly based on your home situation, based on whether you are single with no children, married with no children, single with children, or married with children. Somewhere between the hours of 7pm to 11pm set aside the time to study.

Study at a coffee shop, the library, stay late at work, do it at home – whatever works for your situation.

Study two hours.

Do this four days a week.

Have lunch out on Friday and take Friday night off.

On the weekends, study four hours on Saturday and Sunday both, and set aside the time.

Early, Lunch, Late and repeat for seven weeks.

You now how to study for the CPA Exam, in what order to use the materials, and finally, how to find the time to study. You've got this.

To Your Success,


Jeff Elliott, CPA (KS) & NINJA CPA Review

P.S. – Take advantage of our NINJA Free Trial. HIYA!

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Leave a Reply


Anonymous 2 years ago

I got the FAR homestudy a few weeks ago, your post is a roadmap to the passing score!!

Anonymous 2 years ago

Anonymous - I used BISK and am 2/2 so far (AUD&FAR)... The videos were great and I followed along w/ "Bob"... I did tons of the online multiple choice questions which I feel is a great way to learn the styles of the test and only read a few chapters out of the book that I was struggling with after watching the videos and doing some of the MC ?s. Basically if you get a study program that allows you to take MC quizzes to check your knowledge as you go along it will help direct your study time...

Baba 2 years ago

Jeff, you are very correct about making your own notes as it forces you to re-read and comprehend the material on your own level. I made notes in AUD and was comfortable with the material.

However, I am currently studying for BEC and I have to admit that making notes is a bia*ch!! An essential bia*ch if one wants to pass.

Anonymous 2 years ago

I more or less did the same thing with REG and Yaeger. I had a rush mentality to get them done as quick as i could. I took good notes on each lecture (2 per night). About half way through I made huge notecards on the must know topics. Then with 2 weeks to go I just started pounding out questions, reviewing my notes, and going through my flash cards before each round of questions. Learned a lot and the test was a joke for me since I was over prepared. I finished the first 3 testlets in an hour. Finished the first sim in about 25 minutes, used the research tab to figure out questions I wasn't sure of (since I had so much time). Then did the same for Sim 2. And still had too much time.

Yaeger and Wiley really prepare you well. If you do all the questions over and over you shouldn't have a problem with these tests.

Baba 2 years ago

What's the possibility of NASBA uploading AUD scores tomorrow March 20? Per Jeff's twit, it's likely going to come out on Monday even though AICPA has released it.... this weekend will be pure agony!

Anonymous 2 years ago

I have taken BEC twice. The first time I received a 67 and the second time a 69. I purchased the Cram set from Yaeger. My question is, when you used Cram for BEC, how long did you prepare for before you took it and passed it that time? How much time should I give myself with the Cram?

thegreenestcpa 2 years ago

I am sitting for REG in one month from yesterday. The panic is starting to creep in! I have passed the other three parts, so now there is this expectation from people that I will be fine, and no one will listen to my fears. Why is the last one also the scariest? Anyway, what has helped me so far (I use Becker) is to go through the lectures and then do all mcqs for each section. That is my "learning phase", and I try to do that quickly. The real work comes in the review. I spend every night going through 100 randomly chosen questions for 1 - 2 weeks. Also, sims, which really just help you understand different topics. Finally, Becker has two final exams. I take them one week apart. As I do all of this review, I keep a note pad handy, and write down everything: the stuff I got wrong, and the stuff I happened to guess correctly. I just keep this running list. I often make the same mistakes twice (or thrice!) without knowing it!! But, between doing questions and writting things out, stuff starts to stick, and I get that true understanding of the material, instead of just memorziation. A couple days before the exam, I rewrite all of those notes - just like you said! I get rid of duplicate notes and stuff that I know I already have memorized. I try to write it nice and neat. Then, I read that thing over and over - even in the car in the parking lot waiting for my exam! It's an exercise to calm my nerves. Although, so far I swear none of that stuff that I read a 100 times ever shows up on the exams! Also, remember to read all of your notes. I passed FAR, but was upset with myself when I had a question that I thought I had never seen before, guessed on the answer, only to come home and see that I once wrote it out in my notes, and I had guessed the WRONG answer after all. In the end, I passed like I said, so it was okay, but during the 2 month wait for my score, I was beating myself up the whole time. Okay, sorry for the novel. I'm just super nervous and writing about it all calms my nerves. Good luck to everyone!!

2 years ago

thegreenestcpa: thanks for sharing, i really enjoyed reading it. same here, i took my REG couple weeks ago, keep thinking on one mc question i got wrong and just can't let go of this particular question...

TXwannaB 1 year ago

I just took BEC (using Becker) and I got a 74. I love your idea of watching the lectures and taking notes instead of just highlighting the book. I think this will work well in all of the sections except the IT section, the MCQ's for IT covered some big gaps in the lecture that were covered in the book. So, IMHO, for the IT section of BEC, you must read EVERYTHING, and highlight as you work the questions. BUT, I haven't actually passed this section yet so that is just my opinion.

Anonymous 1 year ago

I have about 8 weeks till I take the FAR exam, just wanted to know how long or how many weeks you spent on watching those videos and taking notes? I'm doing it now and it took me a very long time to finish these videos.