Jeffrey Barnes is a force to be reckoned with. With numerous certifications to his name, his latest feat is conquering the CMA exam in just three short months. Jeffrey has been kind enough to share his secrets to his success, including strange study habits, advice, and some great study tips as well.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Hello! My name is Jeffrey Barnes and I am from Alabama. I went to Auburn University for a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, and recently moved to California to pursue a Masters in Taxation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Initially, I was a history major at Auburn, but I soon realized it was not practical because there are few well-paying jobs in that field. My Aunt recommended I try accountancy and the rest was history. I loved my first accounting class and the accounting methodology came easy to me.

What made you decide to pursue your CMA certification?

My first exam that I decided to take was the CPA. To be honest, I said to myself, “I am going to commit a year of my life to this exam.” To my surprise, I completed the CPA exam in a matter of four months. At that point, I figured that I might as well stay partially true to year-long commitment and said to myself, “I am going to complete as many certification exams as I can in this year.” I ended up completing the CMA in three months, and since then I’ve also passed the CIA, CRMA, CFE, CFSA, and CCSA exams. I am currently working on the CISA exam.

What was the most challenging part of the exam for you?

The most challenging part of the exam was not the material itself, but the amount of material covered in each part. I felt like I was walking across the ocean in ankle deep water.

Now that you have your CMA, what are your plans?

Now that I’ve completed the exams listed above, I will be starting full-time with Ernst and Young in the near future in their San Diego office.

What advice do you have for people studying for the exam now?

The biggest piece of advice I have is to not get distracted. The first thing I tell everyone that I tutor for these types of exams is the following: “2 weeks of hard studying is much more effective and efficient than 2 years of studying for the same test.”

What was your strangest study habit?

My strangest study habit is probably the breaks I take. In between sections, I always play a quick game of Hearthstone to keep me refreshed as well as workout.

What’s your favorite thing about being a CMA?

Though I am not a CMA yet because I still have to fulfill the work requirement, it would be the instant recognition I get when I talk to accounting/finance professionals. Having a credential with the prestige of the CPA/CMA immediately puts you in front of others in your same position whether it is for a new job or a promotion.

Can you share your 5 best study tips and/or time management tips?

  1. Stay focused and study in concentrated 3-hour time intervals.
  2. Take a 1-hour break every three hours.
  3. Be sure to exercise – a healthy body is a healthy mind when it comes to these exams.
  4. Studying for three months, one hour a day is less effective than studying for one month at three hours a day from my experience. You will retain more on exam day.
  5. Especially for the CMA, time management is very important. On exam day, do the easier questions first and come back to the ones that will take 10 minutes to solve at the end. Remember on this exam, an easy question is worth the same point value as a hard question!