Make Studying Your Top Priority

Thoroughness and diligence was the MO for California-based Helen Singh.

The accounting and finance pro knows what it means to buckle down and that’s exactly what she did when it was time to prepare for her CPA exam. “Studying is your top priority,” she says. Somehow, stating the obvious resonates when Helen speaks. “Everything else—work, personal life, etc.—comes next.”

The Importance of Choosing the Right Study Program

In fact, the easiest thing she did, she admits, was choose Wiley as her preparation program. “With Wiley,” she says, “everything is relatively easy to understand and broken down in bite-sized lessons.” While she also says that she was drawn to Wiley’s test bank and the fact that the material never expired, there was one thing she wanted to mention that she didn’t expect.

Despite the high volume of material to consume and absorb, Helen felt confident she had the discipline to get it done. “I studied every single chapter, I didn’t skip anything. I stayed focused at all times.” Her study regimen involved “hitting the books” at least two or three hours a day and eight hours a day on weekends.

Plan Ahead and Stick to Your Schedule

Singh’s no-nonsense approach helped her with the challenge of managing her time. She planned 10 to 12 weeks per section and followed Wiley’s calendar faithfully. By doing so, she pushed herself to get ahead—and stay ahead—of her deadlines every step of the way. “I was basically competing with myself,” she says. “Being ahead of schedule made me feel more confident about the material heading into the exams.”

Helen started her studying by listening to each lecture. She took good notes, pausing the lecture to get her thoughts down accurately. She added tabs to separate important parts and use different colors to highlight important information.

“When I was ready, I would take the practice exams, and take the exam questions over and over.” I tried to finish studying two weeks before the exam and dedicate the last two weeks to exam questions from the test bank. And I did it non-stop!”

Another tip that Helen offered: she did her test bank questions with her notebook open and notes available. She’d then take the exam simulation with her notebook closed. If she failed the simulation she’d take the exam again. “I did not delay any exam,” she says. “Having a firm deadline for each part helped me stay focused.”

Not that there was any question that Helen would blaze through the material. When discipline is your strong suit, and you’ve got your eyes on the prize—that is, passing the exams the first time through—you do whatever you have to do to make it happen.

Your Sacrifice Will Be Worthwhile

“I sacrificed everything,” she says. “There were family dinners, shopping, parties, other events that I just couldn’t be there for. It was hard.” In fact, during her nine months of studying, she only celebrated the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, nothing more. The rest of the time she focused on her task. “I have to admit it felt awful,” she says, “and it was extremely tiring.”

Still, we’re all pretty sure Helen’s sacrifice will prove worthwhile. Now that she’s passed her CPA exams and is getting her license, Helen, currently a controller in the private sector, has better access to more profitable and prestigious opportunities.

“I think it will result in people taking me more seriously,” she says. “I’ve had the finance experience already, but a title doesn’t really mean anything because jobs vary a lot from company to company. When people know you have a CPA, they know you can do the job.” That should serve her well as she climbs her way to her ultimate goal: CFO.