By Deon Taylor, CPA
I have the occasion from time to time to work with CPA candidates on several various topics of the CPA exam. A common complaint that I hear from students is that as soon as they master a topic and move on to other topics, when they go back to review the topic that they recently learned, they can’t remember what they have learned. If students don’t engage into a constant and steady course of review, this will certainly be the case in your CPA exam studies. Here are some tips that I would have in terms of being able to review efficiently, and still being able to move through material efficiently.
The concept of constant review is like building blocks. The information builds upon each other one topic at the time. For example, after completing one section of material, you of course go to the next section. After completing the second section, you would then go back and do MCQ’s on the first section to make sure that you’re retaining it. I would say that if you are scoring at least in the 70’s on the reviewed section, it is okay to move on to the third section. If by chance you scored lower than that on a section, I would rewatch videos and possibly take notes on the areas where you struggle so that you can review back to them in your review sessions. Once you complete the third section, you would then review the first and second sections the same way, and then “rinse and repeat” until you finish the material. I can remember before I received the counsel that I just shared, I also struggled with how to efficiently review material for good retention in my own CPA studies. It is critical for me to say that I feel that this is a very efficient and effective way to review, however at the same time I am not a big fan of students doing MCQ’s until they drop to try and learn material. This doesn’t lend itself to true understanding and comprehension of the material, which is the true key to passing the CPA exam, in my opinion. This is not to mention the fact that most students that employ this method of study often memorize most of their multiple-choice questions, which distorts a candidate’s true evaluation of where they are in mastering and understanding the material. Memorization just isn’t an effective method of learning material, as you will most certainly forget it as soon as you leave the testing center, or even being overcome with test anxiety and forgetting what you were trying to memorize altogether. Association of different topics to certain things is the true way to help candidates learn material so that they can remember it on exam day. The thing that I tell CPA exam candidates all the time is for them to remember that they must know a little bit about a lot of subjects, instead of them thinking that they need to know everything about every topic on the CPA exam. That simply isn’t possible. This should hopefully resonate with candidates, because I’m sure that most of us can relate to this in our everyday lives. I mean, who memorizes things often in their daily lives? I don’t, and I don’t expect many other candidates do either. I will also say that I personally believe that candidates shouldn’t be afraid to keep moving through material as they are doing their regularly steady paced review sessions. Please do not get hung up on one or two topics and spend tons of time trying to learn one or two topics, as this may destroy your study momentum, and leave you discouraged. Another thing I learned in my own CPA studies was to not be afraid to cover a topic, and then if I didn’t understand it as well as I thought I should, skip a day reviewing that material, and keep moving through your course. Then after you’ve skipped a day, go back to that hard topic and go over it again. You’ll be surprised how much better that you will be able to comprehend and retain that material better after giving your brain a day of rest on that material that you had previously struggled with. That really seemed to work for me in my studies. I feel like employing these tips in your studies will help improve your confidence as well, which is just as important in your CPA journey as it is to understand the material. As a side note to remember, understanding material is also the best way to be able to succeed at working SIM problems as you encounter those, both in your studies, and on the exam.
In conclusion, I hope that this post will help each of you with your review process and help you with gaining confidence in your retention of the material. I can’t stress the importance of this enough and the role it plays in your success in the exams. Best of luck to all of you, and please keep in mind that steadfast commitment and never giving up is the true overall key to getting through these exams! Happy Studying!