How to Make Your CPA Study Sessions More Effective

how to make cpa study sessions more effective

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In this video we’ll show you how to make your cpa study sessions more effective with 6 easy tips… and in less time than you’re spending now. We’ll cover a CPA motivation tip, several CPA study productivity tips, how to block out distractions, and how when you put these 6 tips together you can easily double or triple the effectiveness of your CPA study sessions.

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Episode Timestamps

  • 00:00 Make Your Study Sessions More Effective
  • 00:58 Tip #1: Be Fully Committed
  • 02:42 Tip #2: Shorter Main Study Session
  • 03:26 Tip #3: 50-minute Study, 10-minute Break
  • 04:21 Tip #4: Eliminate All Distractions
  • 06:28 Tip #5: Study in the Mornings
  • 08:31 Tip #6: Use Active Study Methods

How to Make Your CPA Study Sessions More Effective

So if you’re gonna spend hours every day for the next few months trying to pass your CPA exams, you want to be absolutely sure that every hour that you spend studying is actually leading you closer to a passing score. That it’s effective, that you’re actually accomplishing something. The worst thing that can happen is that you spend four to five hours every day for the next few months, maybe even years.

And you keep going in and taking sections and you keep getting failing scores. Even though you feel like you’re working really hard and you’re sacrificing your free time, your hobbies, your social life, that needs to pay off. So in this video, I’m gonna give you several tips about how to make your daily study sessions much more effective and efficient so that you know, you are getting closer to a passing score every day that you sit down to study.

Tip #1: Be Fully Committed

So tip number one is to be fully committed. This is one of those things that it’s not necessarily a strategic tip but this is crucial. If you sit down each day and you don’t have a deep sense of commitment or almost a sense of urgency that, the next two hours, this really matters.

So one of the best ways to get a natural sense of urgency to pull your mind into this sense of commitment so that you feel like every single day matters is to have a test date set that you have paid for. This is something that I get asked all the time in emails. Someone will ask me “Should I just study until I feel ready?”

and that answer is obvious. You should never just arbitrarily study until you are ready. You need to have a test date set that you’ve paid for. It’s on the calendar and it should also be close enough that you feel a sense of urgency so that within yourself you know that every single day of studying matters. If you set your test date six months away, it’s very easy to feel tired one morning and think, you know, even, if I take the next couple days off, I still have essentially six months left.

Even three months in my mind is too far away. If you’ve been on one of our free study training webinars, then you know that I typically recommend for FAR and REG, the bigger CPA sections. I recommend somewhere between a six to eight week study timeline. And then for BEC and Audit, something more like four to six weeks. Now, going along with tip number one, which is to have a set test date so that you feel a sense of pressure that you feel the urgency.

Tip #2: Shorter Main Study Session

Going along with your daily main study session, tip number two would be to have a shorter main study session. Instead of trying to study for four to six hours a day, we teach our clients and customers to just have a two hour main study session with your review course. Now that’s on weekdays assuming you’re working full time.

It is twice as easy to fit in a two hour study session than it is to fit in a four hour study session. And also it is twice as easy to stay focused and hit it hard, stay on task for two hours than it is for four hours. Especially if you’re trying to do this after work when your brain is already pretty much fried from working 10 hours that day.

Tip #3: 50-minute Study, 10-minute Break

So tip number three within your main study session, you wanna study in 50 minute chunks. So 50 minutes on then take a 10 minute break, a complete mental break where you step away from your computer or your study desk. You get a drink of water, use the bathroom, whatever, use some of your favorite time waste or websites, check ESPN, check the news.

But you limit that to 10 minutes. 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off. So of course, you should literally set a timer of some sort. Don’t use your phone because that’s gonna come in with our next tip. One of the best things you can use is a kitchen timer where that’s its only function. An actual old school kitchen timer that you set for 50 minutes and you set it on your desk so that you can see it counting down.

Okay. So you’re doing a two hour main study session. You are studying in 50 minute chunks so that would be two 50 minute chunks in that two hour session.

Tip #4: Eliminate All Distractions

And that brings us to tip number four which is eliminate all distractions during these 50 minute chunks. So that means on your computer, you close every other tab or application.

You close everything except your review course window and then any tabs that are necessary for you to work through practice problems or write out digital flashcards. Again, if you’ve seen one of our study training webinars or if you are a PRO course customer then you know of course that you’ll typically be studying with your review course tabs open and then a tab for you to make flashcards in your own words.

So again, for an in-depth overview of our exact study strategies and what those two hour morning study sessions should consist of, you will want to sign up for one of our free study training webinars. The link to that will be down in the description of this video or if you’re listening to this on the podcast, it will be in the description of the podcast episode.

The other big thing to eliminate all distractions is to physically take your phone and put it in another room or across the room. You want to silence it, and then put it under a blanket or a pillow so that even if it buzzes, you don’t hear it. Anything can wait for 50 minutes. That’s what you have to tell yourself.

Anything can wait for 50 minutes so that when you start a 50 minute study session or a chunk, you are completely distraction free. There is nothing even crossing your mind, there’s nothing that you’re trying to physically ignore. You’re not just trying to use sheer willpower to ignore notifications that pop up.

You’ve closed your email client, your phone is across the room, no other tabs on your computer are open, it’s just that one set of tabs that is strictly based on your study session. When you completely eliminate distractions in this way, especially putting your phone across the room where you just you’re literally unaware of any notifications or texts that you’re getting,

you’ll be amazed how much you can get done in a 50 minute chunk just by doing this one thing, regardless of what study strategies you’re using.

Tip #5: Study in the Mornings

Now, to take this idea of eliminating all distractions to the next level or to make this much easier, study in the mornings. So tip number five is to do this two hour main study session in the mornings.

Now studying in the mornings, it has endless benefits, there are endless reasons why studying in the morning and getting it done for the day before you go to work or do work from home. There are endless reasons why this is way better, much more effective, much more efficient than saving your study time for the evenings.

I’ve ranted about this endlessly on pretty much every interview I’ve done, or other podcasts, other videos on our YouTube channel. I talk about this all the time. Study in the mornings. And if you only have to study two hours on weekdays, it’s very easy to do this in the mornings. When you get up at 4:00 or 5:00 AM to study, your boss isn’t emailing you or calling you, your friends aren’t texting you. You’re not getting notifications from social media. You’re not getting email notifications. Your kids aren’t harassing you to get them a snack. Whatever is going on, you are probably the only person awake in your house or your apartment.

It is so much easier to instantly get to work and not to mention, the biggest benefit is that your brain is fresh. Like I mentioned just earlier, if you save your studying for after work, you’re working at about 10 or 20% of your peak brain capacity if you’re lucky, if you have anything left after a 10 hour work day.

So when I said you’ll be shocked at how much you can get done in a 50 minute chunk of studying when you eliminate all distractions, that compounds even further if you’re doing these study sessions in the morning when your brain is fresh and there are literally no distractions to throw you off your plan.

So all these little strategies compound and add to each other, and you end up with very efficient, very effective study sessions when you have set all these things up that work together.

Tip #6: Use Active Study Methods

Now, tip number six for how to have highly efficient study sessions, is to use active study methods instead of passive study methods.

So what do I mean by that? So almost every CPA candidate when they start the study process, the first thing that they do when they sit down to study each day is they open their review course, they open the lesson, they press play on the video lecture. Then they sit back, you kind of have this fault sense of productivity.

You pat yourself on the back and think, you know, this isn’t so bad, I’m being productive, I’m watching the video, I’m studying right now. So five or 10 minutes goes by then you zone out, maybe you try to highlight key parts of the chapter to keep your mind focused but you get through this 20 or 30 minute video lecture and maybe you’ve had to restart it several times.

Maybe you get to the end and realize, I can’t remember a single thing that was covered in this video. But the big realization will hit when you try to do practice problems from that lesson. And you’ll realize that the one hour that you messed around with that video lecture, equaled essentially nothing getting into your head as far as the practical ability to answer the practice questions from that lesson.

That is because these passive study methods are very low impact on your brain. The content from these lessons is very dense and technical, and when a lot of this information is brand new to you, your brain’s default behavior, it’s like when you hear a language that you don’t understand. It just doesn’t mean anything.

It doesn’t hook into your brain ’cause it’s not interesting. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t have context. That is why it’s so easy or it’s the default that your brain, you just zone out instantly. Or you can be staring at the screen thinking you’re paying attention and after a half hour of watching this video, you realize you got nothing out of it.

So the way that you can actively study is to jump straight into the practice questions for that lesson. Now, of course, and I hear this all the time when I tell people this, they kind of freak out and say, “Oh, wait a second, what if I’m scoring really low because I don’t know this topic?”. Okay. You’re in your basement or you’re in your home office, wherever you’re at.

You’re on your couch. You’re just using your review course. What you score on these practice questions doesn’t matter. It does not matter. What you’re doing is you are reverse engineering the lessons in question format, which is how you need to know the information on test day, by the way. You’re reverse engineering the lessons in question format.

So you’re gathering context as to, okay, here’s this question. Here’s question two, here’s the solution. I’ve gone through five, 10 questions. And three or four of the questions were about this one thing. Okay. Apparently that’s really important from this lesson. I need to know how to use this formula or, you know, there’s the cost method for treasury stock.

That must mean there’s another method. So what is that? So you’re gathering context. You’re kind of creating this template in your head where if you then go and watch the video lecture, it will magically make sense the first time because you have all these things, these questions in your mind now about, I need to know how to do this.

How do I do that? Or what’s the explanation behind this, uh, concept or this framework and the video lectures will magically make much more sense the first time if you have gathered context from the actual practice questions. The other reason this works to keep you engaged and keep your mind focused is because you’re actually being active.

You know, you have to be moving your hand on your mouse to be clicking through questions instead of just sitting back, you know, pressing play on the video and then you sit back for the next half hour and don’t move or do anything. You are actively engaging your brain in these different ways.

You’re clicking through, you’re reading a question, clicking it to submit it, seeing the answer revealed, and it’s just much more engaging and impactful on your brain to actively study instead of pressing play and just sitting back for the first half hour. And like I said, you’ll most likely have to watch that video lecture several times.

And even then, it doesn’t give you the ability to answer the practice questions. So you’re much better off, to jump straight into the practice questions, gather context, and you will find out that for a lot of lessons, going through the practice questions in this way and, uh, dissecting them or reverse engineering them, whatever you want to call that, you will get what you need to know from the practice questions alone.

And you won’t even need to mess with the video lecture at all. So with those six tips, you can make your study sessions much more effective and much more efficient. Now, obviously we didn’t even discuss specific study strategies such as what do you actually do for those two hours. That is what we discuss in detail or walk you through in detail on our free study training webinars.

So if you have never watched one of those, sign up for one of those, you can do that at our website at superfastcpa.com. It’s the main thing at the top of the homepage or just find the link down in the description of this YouTube video or the podcast episode if you’re listening to this on the podcast. And of course, if you are a PRO course customer and you don’t intimately know the different steps of our study process, then this is your sign to go back and rewatch the PRO course videos, specifically the ones on the study process and the study framework itself. Because everything about our study process layers onto the other strategies and aspects of the study process which creates this ultra effective, ultra efficient series of study techniques

and daily routine, weekly routine, they all layer on each other in a positive way and you get much better results from all these little things put together, so that you have a cohesive process to follow day by day, week by week that will lead you to passing scores.

So if you found these tips helpful, send this video or this podcast episode to someone you know who’s also working on their CPA exams so that they can hear these tips. And most of all, check out our past interviews with some of our customers. We have almost a hundred episodes recorded and published on the podcast.

Those interviews are the most helpful free resource available anywhere for people trying to figure out their own study process. So thanks for watching or listening and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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