How to Study for the CPA Exam

Finding a way to study for the CPA Exam that works for you is one of the most important steps in working toward earning your CPA licensure. While there is no one right way to study for the CPA Exam, there are a few helpful practices you can use to help you get the most out of your study time as you prepare to take the test.

In this article, you'll learn how to study for the CPA Exam, from beginning preparation all the way up until the date of your exam. We'll cover all of this information and more in the following sections (jump to):

But before we dive into how to study for the CPA Exam, we’ll need to take some time to explore the education requirements you need to have before you can take the test.

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Before You Begin

Before you can take the CPA Exam, you need to make sure that you meet the education requirements. Those preparing to take the CPA exam must have a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, or a related subject such as finance, and have completed at least 150 credit hours of relevant courses. While a bachelor's is the minimum degree requirement, some CPA Exam candidates may need to pursue additional education, such as a graduate-level degree, to meet the 150 hour requirement. This can include a Master's Degree in Accounting, an MBA with a Specialization in Accounting or a Master's Degree in Accounting and Financial Management. In certain cases where candidates have met the bachelor's degree requirement and do not wish to pursue a graduate degree, they may choose to work toward a Graduate Certificate in Accounting to round out their credit hour requirement.

You might also choose to enroll in a CPA Preparation program or course in order to spend additional time reviewing relevant material. These programs are great for reviewing aspects of accounting that you may not have a strong grasp on with knowledgeable faculty who can help you learn and gain insight.

Choose Study Material That Best Suits You

Do you like to study at your own pace? Do you prefer guided courses? As with any academic pursuit, the right study material will vary from person to person. In general, we recommend that you research your options in order to find the solution that works best for you. We recommend reviewing with material or courses that incorporate elements of Becker Professional Education's CPA Exam Review, which can be found in several of our own accounting degree programs here at DeVry1.

Study for the CPA Exam

When it comes to studying for the CPA exam, it’s best to start as early as possible. By starting early, you can identify sections of the exam that you may need to spend more time on and can spend longer reviewing them until you get more comfortable.

Starting early can also help you settle into a consistent study pattern. Instead of getting caught up in a rush and pulling long cramming sessions, studying for shorter periods of time every day on a consistent schedule gives your brain time to reinforce your understanding of concepts. It also ensures that you'll get enough rest in between for those concepts to solidify inside your head and reduce stress.

Become Familiar with the Exam and Environment

It may help to familiarize yourself with the exam environment as you prepare. Take a minute to research how the test is administered, scored and what kind of environment it’ll take place in. Recreating a similar environment at home when you study or practice may help you become more comfortable so that you aren't thrown off by taking the exam in an unfamiliar space.

Use CPA Practice Exams to Study and Use Time Management

Another great way to study is with practice exams. CPA practice exams can help you discover areas or topics you might need to spend more time on, and let you work on your pacing.

The CPA Exam is made up of four four-hour timed sessions, so becoming comfortable with completing each section in the allotted timeframe is key. Taking practice exams can give you a chance to explore what taking the real test might feel like. As you get closer to your exam date, you can start to take practice exams under timed conditions so that you can work to reduce stress and become more confident.

Take the CPA Exam

Once you've completed your CPA Exam prep, it’s time to take your exam. Try not to overwhelm yourself with studying on exam day. Be sure to take time in the days leading up to the exam to rest and make sure that everything is in order, so that you don't use up the mental energy you will need during the test itself. You'll also want to make sure to get a good night's sleep the day before the test and eat breakfast the day of so that you’re well-rested and fueled during the examination period.

Preparing to Take the CPA Exam?

If you're preparing to take the CPA Exam, we can help. Our Graduate Certificate in CPA Preparation incorporates elements of Becker Professional Education's CPA Exam Review to help you deepen your understanding of accounting competencies prior to taking the exam1.

See how we can help you prepare for the CPA Exam at DeVry.


1Credits and degrees earned from this institution do not automatically qualify the holder to participate in professional licensing exams to practice certain professions. Persons interested in practicing a regulated profession must contact the appropriate state regulatory agency for their field of interest. For instance, typically 150 credit hours or education are required to meet state regulatory agency education requirements for CPA licensure.