The first thing every successful CPA candidate needs to master is their time management skills. Studying for the CPA exam takes a lot of time because the exam is extremely demanding.
Understanding how much time you will need to devote to studying for your CPA exam is one of the most important factors in determining whether you will pass or fail. You want to study enough to pass but not too much to waste all of your time in the process.
Let’s look at how long it will take you to study for the CPA exam and how many hours you need to devote to studying during your CPA exam journey.
How Many Hours to Study for the CPA Exam in Total?
The AICPA recommends that CPA candidates study between 300-400 hours for the full CPA exam. This implies that candidates should study between 80-100 hours for each of the four CPA exam sections.
It is vital to note that the suggested hours for study are based on student averages. You may need more or less time than this on a particular section based on your current knowledge and skills. Sometimes you may need more time studying one section than the other or less time for a section that you are good at.
Since each Section is different in terms of topics covered, length of questions, and duration of the exam, you will probably need to study different amounts for each section. Let’s review each section to see how many hours you should study for each CPA exam section.
How many hours of studying should it take for the AUD CPA Exam section?
The AICPA recommends candidates to study 70-90 hours for the AUD CPA exam section.
The AUD section is considered one of the easiest parts with one of the highest pass rates. Don’t let this fool you, however, AUD is a niche topic that has little overlap with the other four sections. It can be challenging because most students take fewer audit courses in college. Even those who have worked in audit for years need to memorize internal controls, audit procedures, and opinion letters.
The AUD exam section consists of 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations and takes 4 hours to complete. Audit requires a lot of understanding and memorizing the auditing process. The more you are able to memorize, the better off you will be. It’s a good idea to spend the majority of your AUD study time working MCQs and memorizing auditing concepts.
How long should I study for the BEC CPA Exam section in hours?
The AICPA suggests CPA candidates study for 55-75 hours to prepare for the BEC CPA exam part.
The BEC CPA exam section is often considered the easiest part of the CPA exam because it typically has the highest pass rate out of any section. Although it was the shortest exam in terms of multiple-choice questions, it does have a written simulation section where candidates’ written communication skills are tested. This testlet makes BEC somewhat difficult to study for.
The BEC exam includes 62 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), 4 task-based simulations, and 3 written communication simulations taking a total of 4 hours to finish. BEC mainly consists of business management and economic concepts that are fairly easy to memorize. Make sure you make time in your study process to practice your writing skills. The written simulation can mean the difference between passing and failing BEC.
How many hours should I study for the FAR CPA exam section?
The AICPA recommends that CPA candidates spend at least 100-120 hours studying for the FAR CPA exam section.
The FAR CPA part is the longest CPA exam section and covers more accounting and reporting topics than any other section. It is impossible to memorize everything in FAR. The FAR study book is twice the size as the other sections! Spend your study hours focusing on the main concepts and topics. It’s a better strategy than trying to memorize everything.
The FAR exam consists of 66 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations taken over the course of 4 hours. Spend the majority of your FAR study hours practice MCQs and working practice simulations. FAR is largely based on financial reporting concepts, so working as many MCQs as possible will help bring your study time down.
How long does it take to study for the REG CPA Exam section in hours?
The AICPA encourages candidates to study for at least 90 to 100 hours to prep for the REG (Regulations) CPA exam section.
The REG section deals with tax law, federal taxation forms, and business law concepts. This requires candidates to memorize unrelated figures and facts that don’t appear anywhere else other than the tax code. REG can be tricky for candidates who aren’t familiar with US tax laws or don’t have much experience working as a tax accountant.
The REG CPA exam section consists of 76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations taking a total of 4 hours to complete. A good study strategy for REG is to memorize the most important tax figures like the standard deduction, itemized deduction, and other limits and amounts. The REG MCQs are designed to make you second guess yourself, so memorize your figures and you will pass without a problem.
How many hours per day should I study for the CPA exam?
NASBA recommends that CPA candidates should study for at least 2 hours per day over the course of 45 days to prepare for each CPA exam section. This study schedule would enable CPA candidates to pass one section per testing window and complete the entire exam within a 12 month period.
How many hours per week should I study for the CPA exam?
Most State CPA Boards recommend candidates to study between 10-15 hours per week for each CPA exam section. A structured CPA study schedule like this will allow candidates to complete at least one CPA exam part each testing window and finish the full CPA exam over the course of a year.
A study schedule will also help you stay on track without feeling too bogged down and losing your mind in the process.
Can I pass the CPA in 3 Months?
Yes, is possible to pass the entire CPA exam in 3 months, but it would be very challenging. You will need to spend time studying for each of the four CPA exam section simultaneously in order to pass all of them in one testing window.
Variables That Influence Your Number of CPA Exam Study Hours
It is vital to note that not every candidate needs the full 300-400 study hours to prepare for the CPA exam. Every candidates has different levels of experience, education, and general accounting knowledge, so it only makes sense that everyone will required different amounts of study time.
Let’s look some of the most common factors impact the number of hours it takes to study for the CPA exam.
Your academic background plays a huge role in your CPA exam study process. Since the minimum education requirements for CPA exam tend to be consistent across most states, everyone will most likely take the same college courses, but you do have some choice when picking your college courses to meet the education requirements.
For instance, if you took the minimum amount of auditing college courses, you will most likely have little understanding of the auditing topics covered on the CPA exam. Thus, you will need to study more. In addition, in some states, internal controls or governmental accounting is not a requirement for the undergraduate program, so you need to study more for these sections for your CPA exam.
Also, everyone performs better in some subjects than others. You might have learned and retained more in your tax courses than in your financial reporting courses. This all influences how many hours you will need to study those topics.
Time Since College Graduation
Most candidates take time after graduating to take the exam for different reasons. It is advisable to wait around two years before taking the CPA exam. After college, some candidates may feel burned out, while others may go straight to pursue MBA to meet the 150-credit hour requirement.
It is vital to note the longer you stay out after college, the more time you may need to study for the CPA exam when you decide to take the exam. The CPA exam is a purely academic examination and has little to do with real-life accounting in practice.
If you start studying immediately after college, you will need less time to study since you will easily recall some of the accounting facts, concepts, and topics studied in college. It’s a good idea to take the CPA exam when information is still fresh in your head as soon as practical.
Professional Work Experience
Yes, the CPA exam is primarily an academic exam with little real-world applications, but sometimes your accounting experience will contribute to your knowledge base and help you prepare for the exam. For example, if you have worked as a tax accountant for years, you will most likely have a good base layer of taxation knowledge to pull from on the REG section. Thus, you might need to study less for REG than you might need to on the other exam sections.
You might think the same applies to auditing experience, but real world audit experience plays a minimal role in CPA exam knowledge. There are some overlaps, but not that much.
Foundational Knowledge of Financial Accounting
Some of the factors mentioned above are more important than others, but the most important factor is your general understanding of accounting topics and concepts. If you are able to recall all topics covered in college courses, you will have a far easier time studying for the CPA exam. A broad knowledge of accounting concepts can be applied to almost every exam section.
All of these factors may play a role in the amount of time you need to study for the exam, but either way, you need to put in the study hours in order to pass the exam. Here’s a few study strategies to help you reduce your study time.
How to reduce your total number of CPA Exam study time?
The best way to reduce your CPA exam study time is to do the following:
- Focus on passing not increasing your score
- Get a review course
- Practice MCQs and memorize facts
You don’t need to punish yourself trying to get a score of 90 on the CPA exam. This is a largely a wast of effort and time when all you need is a 75 to pass the exam.
A higher CPA score is not relevant. Instead, you should focus on passing the CPA exam.
The best way to minimize your CPA study time is to invest in the right CPA review course that emphasizes your learning style. By studying with a guide that works with your learning personality, you will optimize your study time and retain more information in a shorter period of time.
Spend most of the time in reading solutions, practicing MCQs, and memorizing important facts. This is the fastest way to study and will help you get the most out of each study hour.
How long to study for CPA exam?
How long you will need to study for the CPA exam depends on your experience, education, and test taking abilities. Most candidates spend at least 8 weeks studying for each exam section. This means you will need about 1 year to complete the entire CPA exam.
How many hours does it take to prep for the CPA exam?
Most CPA candidates require between 300-350 hours of study time to successfully pass the entire CPA exam. Each CPA exam section requires slightly different amounts of study time due to their complexity and topics. Most candidates spend 100 hours studying for FAR and AUD, while they only require 50-75 hours for REG and BEC.