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Which CPA subjects should I choose, and in what order?

Updated: Mar 31

A common question by CPA students is around subject planning - in what order should they do their CPA subjects in and in what order they should study them. There is no one correct answer, ultimately the choice is up to you (what you like, what you are interested in, what career path you work in or want to work in etc.) but there are some suggestions and advice we can provide in regards to this.


See tips & advice below or if you want to just see recommended subject plans, scroll all the way to the bottom:

Subject Selection Advice & Tips


1. We recommend that you complete all or most of your core subjects first, then do electives afterwards.

The green subjects below are your 4 core compulsory subjects, which we recommend you do first. Complete your electives after that.

2. Of the core subjects, complete Ethics & governance (E&G) first.

E&G subjects provides a good background to the profession and the professional, ethical and governance issues you may face as a CPA in the workplace. It's also one of the easiest subjects in CPA, so its a nice way to ease yourself into the study routine before things get harder.


3. Try and complete your harder subjects earlier rather than later

The harder subjects are Financial Reporting, Taxation & Audit. We suggest doing these earlier rather than later due to their difficulty for a few reasons. First, it will give you an idea of how difficult CPA can get, so if the program is not for you, you learn this earlier rather than later. Secondly, it will force you to get your learning and studying patterns down earlier rather than later, which will have a positive flow on effect for your remaining subjects. Finally, it will cause you to overestimate the difficulty of the remaining subjects after that, which will give you a pleasant surprise once you actually undertake them.


4. Don't do Audit before Financial Reporting

Audit involves careful consideration of financial reporting and standards, so you need FR knowledge to do this well.


5. Don't do two content heavy subjects in the same semester

The two most content heavy subjects in CPA are Financial Reporting and Australia Taxation. These both have significant volume of study material, are technically difficult and require a lot of effort to complete. We recommend you study these two subjects by themselves for the semester you are undertaking it. All other subjects, however, you can pair up without too much trouble.

Suggested course selection pathways:

As mentioned above, we recommend matching your subject choices with your interests, preferred career path or where you currently work. We have generated 3 options, based on different career paths & incorporating the tips and tricks listed above:

- Public Practice e.g. senior adviser at KPMG, PWC, BDO etc.

- Analyst/Commecial e.g. commercial analyst at Coca Cola, Woolworths, Metcash etc

- Financial Planning e.g. financial planning associate at MLC, Westpac, CBA


a) Public Practice

As with all plans, do E&G first. Then do 2 core modules (SMA & Financial Reporting). A lot of public practice staff work in audit so we recommend you do this next. Then for electives we recommend you do Taxation (many public practice staff also work in tax or need to know tax) then finish off your course with the final core subject - GSL.

b) Analyst/Commercial

As with all plans, do E&G first. Then do 2 core modules (SMA & Financial Reporting). Audit's not as important in commercial as it is in public practice, rather CBI is more relevant next as it covers some of the commercial issues that companies (& you) may face in the workplace. Then for electives we recommend you do Financial Risk Management (more relevant to your role than tax) and finish off with the final core subject - GSL.

c) Financial Planning

As with all plans, do E&G first. Then do 2 core modules (SMA & Financial Reporting). There are some niche elective subjects you can study for financial planning (would not recommend for most students unless they are currently working in or wish to work in financial planning) then finish off your course with the final core subject - GSL.

We hope this helps you with your subject selections!


If you need assistance with notes & resources for each subject you are planning to enrol in, you can purchase this from our site's home page (www.meritcpa.com).


If you need more assistance and would like to watch a video series explaining each chapter in the textbook in an easy to understand way + walking through how to answer MCQ questions for your final exam, you can support us by purchasing our exam preparation series, which you can view here.


Merit CPA

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