CPA Exam Strategy: Holidays, Hardest First, and Momentum. Part 2 of 3.

2 of 3

This is the second in a 3 part series I am writing on different CPA exam passing strategies.

One construction controller I know very well who has Big 4 experience along with industry accounting in oil service provided me with his story and strategy for passing the exam. He had a great perspective on scheduling the exam to maximize the holidays and PTO.

  • Staying Home for the Holidays

For this professional, the sections he was weakest on, he had to burn vacation around holidays. He found it helpful to take vacation on both sides of Thanksgiving, and inundate himself into the study material. He kept telling himself that if he passed the sections he struggled with, he’d never have to pass them again. In some cases, this meant ducking out of hanging with family to study that year. When he passed REG, it was his highest percentage score in passing any part. This was a case similar to mine- he had no tax experience, but by going all in studying, he knocked it out.

He specifically recalls taking off the Friday before Thanksgiving, had that weekend to study, then entire Thanksgiving week and the following Monday off. He then took it on Tuesday, the day before the window closed. In the weeks prior to that he completed 3 of the 7 chapters, then finished the rest and went through them all again. He also took notes on the lectures and wrote his own outlines of the lectures/chapters and would go through those 3-5 page summaries when cramming or before taking practice tests, pausing the lectures or re-watching the intense sections to get all the info in.

  • Leveraging the Big Mo and the PTO Bridge

Once he got the hard one done, he used a day or two of vacation studying for the others to make sure to close them out. He took the two hardest parts in successive windows so he’d have max windows after that to pass the easier sections. He also bridged passing the exam over two different fiscal years so he could use as much as vacation as possible to pass.

The theory was that by passing REG Nov, he left a year and half before it expired covering the next two calendar years. This means theoretically you could bridge three fiscal years if necessary to maximize PTO you can access to lean on to study.

As you can see, he didn’t use my strategy- I took the easiest first to build momentum, where he was protecting the back end by trying to pass the hardest first so there was less risk of expiration. Whichever path you use, the main lesson is plan your work, then work your plan. You too will soon be a CPA!

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