My CPA Exam Strategy: Study Better + Enjoy Life

Haley is a NINJA CPA Blogger.

The thought of making sacrifices in the name of hard work is nothing new. It’s fairly common knowledge that students, professionals, and most working adults in general often forgo opportunities to eat, sleep, enjoy time with loved ones, or do other things for leisure in order to finish a project or get some extra work done.

As determined CPA candidates, we tend to take this to the nth degree, however, and eliminate these activities from our life almost completely.

Of course, our society has developed us—nay, programmed—us to act like this, and we have convinced ourselves that this is what we need to do to be successful.

Success is about working hard and doing nothing else that might get in the way—right?

Well, no. In fact, I couldn't find this to be more untrue.

I can tell you from my personal experience that when I gave up exercising, cooking, and seeing friends—things I normally love to do—the week before FAR back in August, I was miserable. All I did for 7 straight days was study, study, and study some more.

Sure, I would take a few mental breaks to surf the internet or lay down, but I made sure that I did nothing in the way of personal enjoyment. After all, I had my first CPA test coming up, and allegedly the “hardest” one at that. Switching gears to anything else, I assumed, would be a preposterous waste of time.

I ended up passing FAR, but even with all that preparation and one-track mind-ness, I still felt woefully underprepared for it. Heck, I hate to say it, but I probably got lucky with my score, because I left that test feeling horrible—I’m talking devastated, bawling-my-eyes-out status.

I made a promise to myself that I would have some semblance of a life while studying for my next tests. I even made a plan for myself, and stuck with it. My study plan for AUD and REG included 2-3 hours spread throughout the week, 6-8 hour study sessions on weekends, and:

Exercising at least 30 minutes, 4 days a week (I never did less than this and often did more)

Sleeping 7-8 hours a night (this one was mostly successful)

Seeing friends outside of school once a week

Playing video games for 30 minutes a night (yes, almost every night!)

Watching a movie or TV show a couple nights a week for one hour

Cooking a new, uncharted recipe once a week

With this plan, as well as NINJA and my study course by my side, I scored a 90 on AUD and an 87 on REG. Moreover, I felt FAR (no pun intended) more prepared and motivated about these sections than FAR.

I am also in a one-year Master’s program, so I had school and running a business fraternity on top of this. I am not at all saying that this was super easy or that it is what you need to do to be successful.

The message here is simply that taking time to enjoy yourself can actually help reset your brain and keep you motivated to study better and score higher. No matter how busy you are, with proper planning and organization, it can be done.

So go play tennis, go to that museum you’ve been dying to go to, or go make some crafts with your kids! Your study materials will be right here waiting for you when you get back—and could probably use a little break from you anyway. ?

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