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A Working Mother’s Guide to Surviving the CPA Exam

Working mothers are in a category all their own when it comes to passing the CPA exam. We not only strive to balance work and family, but when you throw the CPA Exam in the mix, you're going down a road only few can fathom.

We are the rock of the family. We provide financial support, comfort, nutrition, stability, refereeing, homework checks, matching socks, boo-boo kisses, clean toilets, chauffeur service, etc.

We give everything our absolute all and no one notices when we skip a beat because we are that good. That's why it was so difficult for me to accept I could not reach my unattainable level of perfection while I tried to pass the CPA exam.

Something had to give. For instance, I had a semi-decorated house at Christmas and at another time, I was 3 points shy of passing this exam. Being successful at it all is not realistic, but rejoice in the small triumphs. Your children are absorbing your every reaction.

Jeff's site has wonderful tips for studying the material but here are some things I've learned in the last 2 years to help along the way:

1. This exam is a temporary situation.

It may be miserable now but suck it up, study, and get it done as quickly as possible. Prioritize studying. My house is not as spotless as I like, but it's livable.

2. Make a study schedule and stick to it.

Keep in mind you will need extra days for emergencies. If you think AUD will take you 5 weeks to prepare, schedule 6. When Junior gets head lice and can't go to school, you know YOU are the one who will stay home with him collecting those lice eggs and sterilizing the bed sheets. Jeff has a free CPA Exam study planner.

3. Learn to say “No”.

When you are asked to be the Cub Scout treasurer, or tutor some college kid in accounting, or your in-laws want to visit the weekend before your exam, say “No. I'd love to, but I have to study for a very important exam”. I'll miss the excuse when I'm done. Unfortunately, I've had to decline fun stuff too. Remember #1, this is not forever.

4. Take full advantage of kid-free time.

Study when they are at school or asleep. If someone offers to keep your kids, let them. Make deals. For example, offer up an agreement to take your sister's kids to the zoo after your exam if she'll take yours right now.

5. Flashcards or portable notes are a must.

Those unexpected times when you are stuck at the pediatrician's office, car line or some lame birthday party. For BEC and AUD, I had cheat sheets that I made copies of and left in the car, my purse, and on the mantle so I could always look at the topics that were pure memorization. Just looking at it a few minutes a day helps.

6. If you love to shop like me, use the Internet.

Nothing beats a study break where I can go online and buy tiger-printed, platform wedge heels and then go right back to my review. Now where will I wear them? To Prometric, of course.

7. Don't stress about dark roots and/or gray hair.

Embrace a ponytail. Focus on comfort and convenience and not so much appearance. Put the People StyleWatch down for now.

8. Find support from someone who knows what it is like to take the CPA exam.

I don't know anyone I can talk to about the exam except my cyber friends at Another71. If it weren't for all of you, I'd be alone in this and would have given up a long time ago. There is an incredible amount of support here.

I'm halfway through the REG material and staying on top of my study schedule. Going back to the books now. More mama advice coming next week. Happy studying!


See also:
A Working Mother's Guide to Surviving the CPA Exam: Part 2

Free NINJA CPA Review Materials

Olga Timirgalieva, Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner (and NINJA)

NINJA MCQ – A must! Solving through all of the MCQ, understanding solutions, and adding new information nuggets to your notes — absolutely critical.

With the NINJA Notes, I printed out the notes and used as a knowledge check closer to the exam. Information is high-level, so you can quickly run through and get a comfort level on what you should go back to review in detail.

NINJA Audio is nice to use during the commute or if you are an auditory learner. The Audio MCQ are nice to keep you engaged.”
– Olga Timirgalieva, Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner*

* Disclaimer – Not a typical result … Only 1 out of every 1,000 CPA Candidates win the EWS Award each year.


Want to Study Less & Get Higher CPA Exam Scores?

Can I send you Free Downloads that will help you…

  1. Study Less
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Andria - Another71



14 comments on “A Working Mother’s Guide to Surviving the CPA Exam”

  • Thanks for this post. This morning has been incredibly hard. I am a working mom of a 2 year old and it is almost impossible to do anything much less study for the CPA. My mornings start at 4am and I try to get in between 2 to 3 hours of studying each day whether it is at home, at the office during lunch or when i’m not super busy in the evenings. I have a long commute so I listen to the ninja audio when I’m in the car. Praying I will pass FAR when i take it in November!!! I just want to get this over with!

  • Thank you for posting this article. I read a lot about people who are studying for this exam but majority of them are people who are not married women trying to juggle a family. Don’t get my wrong, I’m not saying that it is easy for men to set aside 3-4 hours a day. I just feel like there are extra stressors involved when you’re a full time employee, mom, wife….and the several other hats that we wear before finally sitting down to study an entire weekend and about 2-3 hours for a few nights out of the week. Thank you for the encouragement to push through. I told my husband before walking out the door that “we sacrifice now to gain later”! And that’s what I believe. The life that I can help provide for my kids….when I think about it, it pushes me to keep going, along with an inner drive that won’t let me give up.

  • Whew!! Thanks so much for sharing Allyson from a working Mom. Taking Audit next month. Struggling with study hours but your story is very encouraging.

  • WOW! You are brave to look under your bed. I can’t bring myself to look under stuff or above my eye level.

    My son lost his DS. I looked everywhere and saw some scary stuff, but also about $5 in change. We STILL haven’t found the DS.

  • Everything you said is 100% true, but if you’ve named the dust bunnies under the bed how do you ever get rid of them? They are like family after all of this time. LOL

  • Love it, Allyson!! You hit it right on the head!! If it wasn’t for you guys I would have given up by now too!!

  • I needed this today Allyson! It’s so hard to balance everything and I feel like I’m failing at everything. You are an inspiration!

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