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How to study for CPA?

A common question asked by students is how do i actually study for the CPA exam?

This is completely understandable as most students have just completed their university studies and are embedded in a certain type of learning or studying style (which at university is very much about reading the lecture slides and referring back to notes from your lectures.


First, let's start off by saying - throw out your preconception of how to study from your university days. This won't help you to studying for the CPA exam.

Let's start off with a youtube video to summarise the keypoints.

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What does the CPA program look like?


Let's start off with the basics as most people asking the question have not studied their first course. If you are already 1 completed subject in, you will already have a good understanding of what the CPA program looks like, what the scoring criteria is, how to study and how to improve on your weak areas. For many 1st time students, getting through the first module will help calm your uncertainties.


The CPA program is comprised of 4 compulsory modules and 2 electives. Your final marks will come from the final exam. The benefits of this structure is that even if you haven't been keeping up to date the entire semester, if you ace your final exam, you will still do very well in your CPA course. All of our CPA notes, courses are designed to help you do well in this final exam.


So how do I study and do well in my final exam?


Obviously the best possible approach is for you to stick to the official CPA timeline, read the textbook in detail every week, stay ahead of schedule, practice the example questions, prepare your own notes and templates and practice MCQ in the weeks prior to your final exam. However, this would take a full-time focus and we appreciate the majority of candidates are working at the same time and only have a few hours of study each week to focus on CPA. Our website and programs are tailored to this assumption, which is to maximise your final exam score and your understanding with minimal input, by cutting out the unnecessary parts.


Our general approach and recommendations to the time constrained CPA student is as follows:

  • Start reading the textbook several weeks before the official start date of your course. The study guide is an enormous document and has masses of information. If you are only staring reading the textbook at the start or midway through your CPA subject, you will not have enough time to get through all of the document, retain and understand the information whilst also finding time to do the most time-effective learning process of all - doing practice exams.

  • As soon as the course has started or is at most 4-5 weeks in, you should be transitioning away from the study guide (otherwise you will run out of time to focus on the key value add learning activities i.e. practicing questions / exams) and focusing on learning the content via reading the notes. The notes are a far more condensed and summarised version of the study guide. You can get through this in a week or less, vs the guide taking several weeks.

  • Once you have completed a single read through of the notes. We recommend re-reading the notes again. You can do a skim read this time and get through it in 2-3 days. Then do it one more time at a very high level in 1 day. Why? Studies have shown that re-reading whilst learning is the most effective type of reading, because it offers learners the opportunity to re-think messages and see features they have not noticed in initial reading (source). Make a list of all the key concepts you don't quite understand and do a deep dive back in the study guide, watch some Youtube videos (or our exam prep course) to get a complementary understanding of those difficult topics.

Studies have shown that re-reading whilst learning is the most effective type of reading, because it offers learners the opportunity to re-think messages and see features they have not noticed in initial reading.

  • The rest of the subject study period should be spent focusing on practice MCQ . Even if you are months our from your final exam. It is an unfortunate truth but the reality is that someone who doesn't understand the content but understands how to answer exam questions will do significantly better than someone who understands the content but doesn't understand how to answer exam questions. The best way to learn how to answer exam questions really well (which includes knowing how to identify trick questions, learning how to quickly answer, use your resources (i.e. your notes, templates etc). efficiently and effectively, knowing how to manage your time, identify questions into categories (e.g. common sense/technical/refer to template question etc.), know what the question is asking, know how the marks are allocated and to allocate your time exactly proportional to this marking allocation. A student who can do all of the above in the exam will perform exceptionally well relative to a student who doesnt know how to do these things.

  • If you want assistance in order to learn how to do the above points, we offer exam preparation courses, which go through the core content quickly and in summary form, so you understand quickly the core concepts that you need, but without spending too much time that you cant focus on the key learning processes. It also allows you to quickly watch the content at double speed, skip the topics you know well and rewatch the topics you don't quite understand.

The exam prep course also goes through practice exams, explaining how to answer them, approach the questions, structure your thoughts, manage time etc. Here is an example of one of these videos:


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Hopefully you found this article useful.


You can check out our exam prep courses if you are interested here.


We have courses for all subjects including Ethics & governance, Financial Reporting, GSL, SMA, Audit, Tax, CBI, FRM


Merit Training


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