Four Ways to Force Yourself to Study for the CPA Exam

I’ll save you the hoo-rah, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it. It’s March already; if you aren’t studying, you’re working, and if you’re doing both right now I worry about your decision-making capabilities. Oh well.

Masochistic or not, it isn’t always easy to get yourself motivated to study.

You have entire CPA exam strategies laid out on the CPAnet forums here, here, and look, you even have a hoo-rah. Not everyone is an Elijah Watt-Sells so get that out of your head and worry about what works for you.


That strategy – finding a perfect fit for your own needs as a CPA exam candidate – also goes for motivation.

So how do you force yourself to study? Here are a few ideas:

Bribe yourself – Sock away $xxx for a new toy and reward a passing score with whatever your bribe is. If you’re cheap/laid off/sinking $1000s into failed exam fees and broke, it could be a decent dinner or a movie. Define splurge for yourself and make that the carrot you dangle in front of your face to get you to study.

Commiserate – You can find plenty of miserable accountants taking (and not always succeeding at) the CPA exam. You can also find support and encouragement if you’re actually trying to pass, so use resources like CPAnet and Twitter to find other candidates to speak to. If you’re taking a live review, sign up with someone else from your firm and go to class together. It helps to have someone else keeping you in check.

Visualize your goal – This might be the most, um, cheesy of methods but it absolutely works. Write CPA after your name on business cards and put them up where you will see them frequently (but don’t hand them out, that’d be illegal); though this tactic isn’t meant as a substitute for actually preparing (sorry to break it to you), a little positive thinking takes the anxious edge off.

Plan – Sometimes knowing there is a clearly defined schedule takes some of the panic out of the CPA exam, and if you’re disciplined enough, you won’t need motivation. Sure, it’s robotic, but that’s what studying for the CPA exam is. The exam doesn’t ask you to think critically outside of the parameters of financial reporting and accounting, nor do you get bonus points for creativity. So maybe you just need to have a plan, stick to it, suck it up, and move on until you’re done. It’s the most miserable of the options but sometimes all that works.

So? What worked for you?

I’ll save you the hoo-rah, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it. It’s March already; if you aren’t studying, you’re working, and if you’re doing both right now I worry about your decision-making capabilities. Oh well.

Masochistic or not, it isn’t always easy to get yourself motivated to study.

You have entire CPA exam strategies laid out on the CPAnet forums here, here, and look, you even have a hoo-rah. Not everyone is an Elijah Watt-Sells so get that out of your head and worry about what works for you.


That strategy – finding a perfect fit for your own needs as a CPA exam candidate – also goes for motivation.

So how do you force yourself to study? Here are a few ideas:

Bribe yourself – Sock away $xxx for a new toy and reward a passing score with whatever your bribe is. If you’re cheap/laid off/sinking $1000s into failed exam fees and broke, it could be a decent dinner or a movie. Define splurge for yourself and make that the carrot you dangle in front of your face to get you to study.

Commiserate – You can find plenty of miserable accountants taking (and not always succeeding at) the CPA exam. You can also find support and encouragement if you’re actually trying to pass, so use resources like CPAnet and Twitter to find other candidates to speak to. If you’re taking a live review, sign up with someone else from your firm and go to class together. It helps to have someone else keeping you in check.

Visualize your goal – This might be the most, um, cheesy of methods but it absolutely works. Write CPA after your name on business cards and put them up where you will see them frequently (but don’t hand them out, that’d be illegal); though this tactic isn’t meant as a substitute for actually preparing (sorry to break it to you), a little positive thinking takes the anxious edge off.

Plan – Sometimes knowing there is a clearly defined schedule takes some of the panic out of the CPA exam, and if you’re disciplined enough, you won’t need motivation. Sure, it’s robotic, but that’s what studying for the CPA exam is. The exam doesn’t ask you to think critically outside of the parameters of financial reporting and accounting, nor do you get bonus points for creativity. So maybe you just need to have a plan, stick to it, suck it up, and move on until you’re done. It’s the most miserable of the options but sometimes all that works.

So? What worked for you?

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