How to Study for the CPA Exam During Busy Season
It starts out so quiet, so innocent.
It's Monday January 6th and you settle into your chair. Tax season eh?
Maybe this year won't be so bad after all.
But you're wrong.
January … then February … then March … 6 days a week … and then 7 days a week …
… and then finally 8 days a week as it crescendos into a three-hole-punched-sign-here-sticker-zombie-utopia where you're willing to slam day-old Folgers just to stay awake.
Every Day is the Same.
Every Day Sucks.
At least you're getting
But wait – there's more.
You wanted to start the year off with a bang, so you back in December, you scheduled Financial Accounting and Reporting for April 21.
No Rest for the Weary.
How to Study for the CPA Exam 20 Hours a Week During Busy Season.
To fit it in work, family/friends, sanity, and studying 20 hours a week, you're going to have to plan.
Plan or Die.
The first thing you need is the NINJA CPA Exam Study Planner (Just click the link and I'll send it to you right away).
From there, follow the ELL (Early Lunch Late) Plan.
The plan is simple.
The sacrifice is not.
Most people will not implement it, but the payoff is huge if your family (and your sanity) suffers less from you being missing in action because of it.
How it works:
Get up 1.5 hours earlier than normal. If you are already getting up at 4, don't shake your head in disgust. This plan isn't for you. For those who normally get up at 6 or 6:30 am, start getting up at 4:30 or 5. Stumble to the coffee pot (which you loaded the night before) and 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 books (which you also set up the night before).
Study for an hour.
Notice that checking your e-mail, Facebook, sports sites, or news was nowhere in this sequence.
Did you really sacrifice an hour and a half of sleep to check celebrity gossip? No you didn't.
Don't even fire up the Internet browser. Not even once.
Say no to the co-workers heading down the street to grab lunch and talk about how dumb their boss is for an hour. While that sounds fun, you're here to study so that instead of hanging out with people that you otherwise wouldn't outside of work, you can spend more time with loved ones.
You take your lunch to your desk (which you also packed the night before). Start eating and hit play on your CPA Review course.
Your legal pad and pen will get food smears on it while you take notes, as will your mouse, but who cares. Same rule applies as the morning: no e-mail or Internet.
Study for an hour.
If your boss frowns on one-hour lunch breaks, consider asking for permission because you are trying to study. Unless there are pressing deadlines or they are just a jerk, they will likely have no problem with it.
This is where it will differ greatly based on your home situation. If you are single with no children, married with no children, or married with children but your spouse is at home, then this could possibly work for you.
If none of these apply to you and you need to get home after work, then you will need to defer your study time until later in the evening from 9-11 pm.
At 7 pm – or as soon as culturally-permitted in the workplace during Tax Season, either start studying at your desk or bolt the office and head to a coffee shop or library.
Study 2 hours.
Do this four days a week, staying late 2 of those days.
Take Friday night off.
Monday: ELL 4 hours (Study late @ work)
Tuesday: EL 2 hours
Wednesday: ELL (Study late @ work) 4 hours
Thursday: EL 2 hours
Friday: EL 2 hours
Sunday: All Day 6 hours
Total: 20 hours
If your family is feeling left in the dark from you studying all of the time, mark this schedule on the calendar and let everyone know your plans.
When you study, study.
When you're with your family, leave the laptop and study books away.
If you're reading this and shaking your head because you struggle just to find 5 hours to sleep and eat during busy season, then this plan isn't for you and you probably shouldn't study for the CPA Exam during this time.
I realize that this isn't a perfect system that will fit everyone's schedule exactly, but if you want to make a “go” of it during Tax Season, then hopefully this will give you some sort of game plan to follow.
Adjust accordingly to your life circumstances.
Jeff Elliott is a Licensed CPA (KS), who worked two tax seasons before he escaped through the emergency exit door and then got lost and couldn't find the building again.
You can download his CPA Exam Survival Guide free.