Studying for the CPA Exam is a marathon, not a sprint….

CPA Exam Approach

cpa examAs I attend more and more college recruiting events I hear different strategies from students who plan to take the CPA exam. Being a marketing major myself I can’t vouch on the best approach to becoming CPA certified but after working for a public accounting firm I know it’s critical to do.  With that said, I found this interesting blog written by Tripp Smitham, an accounting student at UT Dallas, that I thought would help shed some light on the topic.

Life and sports are full of sayings supposedly full of good advice that must sound much better in a person’s head than when you actually hear them.  Baseball seems to be a perfect environment for such thoughtless pearls of wisdom to flourish.  I remember plenty of gems overzealous coaches and dads would shout during my at bats in high school.  Some almost seemed to have some trail of logic behind them like “set the table!”… I remember thinking “all right well I’m batting so I’m at home plate so maybe they’re associating plate with place settings and setting with getting ready for dinner like maybe the pitch is dinner coming to the table…” yeah not sure what they’re getting at.  Then there were the ones that only seemed to display a complete lack of understanding for the fundamental rules of baseball such as “make him pitch to you!”… Ok well I’m the batter and it’s really the most basic principle of the game that the pitcher pitches the ball to the batter hence the name “pitcher.”  There were plenty of other ones out there that offered a similar amount of good advice.

Now as bad as most of these catchy sayings are some really do offer sound advice though you might not understand them the first time.  When I played catcher one of the things my coach used to tell me was “give the pitcher a target.”  What he meant was put your glove right where the pitcher needs to place the ball in the strike zone.  Now that may seem worthless enough but try throwing a ball at a certain spot in midair and you probably won’t be able to hit it.  However, if you try hitting a solid target in the same spot the brain can focus in and the target and coordinate the muscles resulting in a more accurate throw.  So giving the pitcher a target actually has a measurable benefit.

The same is true when you hear a professor tell you “studying for the CPA is a marathon not a sprint.”  Now what exactly are they telling you?  Well ok a marathon is long… it’s going to take a long time to study for the exam.  That seems pretty obvious and not very helpful.  What are some other differences between a marathon and a sprint though?  When a runner starts a marathon they don’t take off full speed from the starting line. They have to pace themselves.  In a sprint, there’s no time to pace yourself, you just have to get to the finish as fast as possible.  That strategy will win a sprint but if you try that strategy in a marathon you’ll find yourself exhausted with miles left to the finish line.  The person who wins the marathon is the one who can distribute their effort most effectively over the entire course of the race.

The same strategy that wins a marathon is what it takes to study for the CPA.  You can’t just blast through it; you have to distribute your effort over the whole course.  This means breaking up your studying into manageable portions.  When you try and power through too much at a time you get tired, and when you get tired you start making silly mistakes.  Once you start making silly mistakes you start getting frustrated and if you’re frustrated you can’t be effective while studying.  You have to take breaks between study sessions and give your mind a rest.  Get up and move around.  Go get a coffee or lunch and don’t think about studying for an hour.  This lets your brain rest so it can be at full strength for your next session.

If you try and go straight through all your studying and never take any breaks you’re going to reach the end exhausted and well behind where you hoped.  Don’t be afraid to take some breaks because you need to study as effectively as possible not as much as possible.  Remember, the marathoner doesn’t think of himself as slower than the sprinter… he just knows he has farther to go.

At Saville, Dodgen & Company staff accountants can work while they are pursuing their CPA certification and we provide support to those employees. We don’t expect students to come right out of college with it in their back pocket. You can find more of Tripp’s blog at TXCPA2B.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.