iStock_000003605853_SmallWiley CPAexcel welcomes Bryan Kesler, CPA, of, who has some great advice for students studying during the busy tax season.

While no one ever plans to study during busy season, many of us don’t have a choice because of the 18-month window to complete all four sections.

So, how do you juggle working busy-season hours and studying for the CPA exam?

If you follow these three tips, I can assure you that you’ll be able find at least one hour of meaningful studying during every day of busy season.

Strategy #1: Sky High Studying

If you are an auditor, or do any weekly traveling during busy season, then you need to follow for my plan for Sky High Studying.

Every time you travel, your primary focus needs to be on eliminating wasted time standing in line at the airport and focus on getting to your gate to begin studying.

Here are three tips to avoid standing in any lines at the airport:

  1. Sign up for TSA Pre-Check to avoid the long security lines. It costs just $85 and lasts for five years.
  2. Avoid checking luggage when possible. This will eliminate time spent standing in line to check and/or retrieve your luggage.
  3. Download the app for the airline you are flying with and use their digital boarding pass to eliminate time printing your boarding pass.

Now that you’ve eliminated about 95% of your time standing in line at the airport, it’s time to come up with a plan to actually get some studying done at the airport.

Step 1: Before arriving at the airport, take out a sheet of paper and create a specific quantifiable to-do list.

Example: If you are using the Wiley CPAexcel Platinum Review Course, watch one lecture, review the electronic text and complete one practice exam in the 45 minutes you expect to be waiting to board your flight.

Step 2: Create another specific and quantifiable to-do list for your flight based on the estimate flight time minus 30-45 minutes for take off and landing.

Traveling can be exhausting but, if you come prepared and with a plan, it can be a good use of your time.

Strategy #2: Backseat Study Method

The Backseat Study Method is one of my favorite study tools because it gets your entire audit team involved.

When you are at an audit client or commute with several colleagues to the office, this is a valuable chunk of time that you can utilize to study.

Here’s how to maximize your morning commute with your team:

Step 1: Create a specific plan of attack for what you want to accomplish during your morning commute.

Example: I recommend using flashcards to study during your commute, such as Wiley CPAexcel’s flashcards.

Step 2: Start flipping through as many flashcards as you can!

Step 3: Turn studying into a team effort by having one of your co-workers read you the flashcard question.  If you get it correct, everyone takes a drink of their coffee (the best kind of drinking game)!

Strategy #3: Designated Driver Strategy

When out of town on an audit, it’s important to bond with your team. However, when you haven’t passed the CPA Exam yet, studying needs to be your number one priority.

This is why I highly recommend you use the Designated Driver Strategy when trying to balance busy season and studying.

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to spend time with your team but still have energy in the evening (and the next morning) to study!

Step 1: Food comas destroy your motivation to study in the evening. Be sure to snack throughout the afternoon so that you aren’t starving at dinner.

Step 2: Always offer to be the designated driver. It will remove any awkwardness when you abstain from adult beverages at dinner and will make you the hero of the team.

Step 3: Order a light entrée at dinner and avoid overindulging in heavy appetizers or desserts.

Step 4: Get the team back safely and fire up your study materials for a productive night and hopefully early morning of studying .


Need more study strategies for busy season?

You can find 14 more proven tips for juggling busy season and studying for the CPA Exam here.

Considering Wiley CPAexcel for your CPA exam prep? Find Bryan’s full review of Wiley CPAexcel here.

Bryan Kesler, CPA, experienced four busy seasons in his seven-year accounting career. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @CPAexamguide