The three-day Common Final Examination (CFE) is your opportunity to demonstrate the depth and breadth of the competencies you develop through your pre-requisite education and in the CPA Professional Education Program. No question, it’s a big deal. And for anyone currently enrolled in Capstone 1, this September’s exam likely feels like it’s happening both too soon, and not soon enough. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help you get from now until the CFE.
Setting and sticking to a study routine will be important. Consider how and when you will prioritize studying, your work schedule, and personal commitments over the coming weeks.
· Develop a plan and stick to it. Consider what time of day you study best, though if you’re a night-owl, think about planning a few morning study sessions as the exam starts at 9:00 am. Use your plan to track how much you’ve done to prepare (and review it when you start to worry you haven’t done enough).
· Beware of rabbit holes. If you won’t be able to continue studying without knowing the whereabouts of that long-forgotten celebrity, set a timer and spend five minutes searching. When the timer sounds, move back to studying.
· Start and end on time. You won’t have a few extra minutes to steal during the exam, so try to avoid getting into the habit of taking them when writing practice cases.
· Pick a study spot. Find somewhere clean, quiet, comfortable and distraction-free. Possible spaces to consider: your office after/before working hours or a library.
· Find a study partner to keep you going in the right direction.
Taking care of yourself is especially important during stressful periods. When a deadline looms, it may be tempting to pull a few all-nighters. However, being well rested and energized will help your brain retain information better than on two-and-a-half hours of sleep and eight cups of coffee.
· Take time for yourself. Schedule breaks and rest periods between studying sessions.
· Reward yourself. A little reward like a nice cup of tea or an hour playing video games can go a long way. And planning a bigger reward for when you finish the exam can help motivate you.
· Get enough sleep and exercise. Higher energy levels will help you stay focused.
· Choose an activity to turn to for distraction, whether learning a new hobby, exercising, or spending time every day doing something you love.
Remove Unnecessary Stress
Think of ways to simplify your life for the next few months. Some ideas to consider:
· Make a list. Prioritize what you need to do (at work, at home, studying) each week to avoid getting overwhelmed.
· Grocery shop online. If delivery or in-store collection is available where you live, once you have it set up, it only takes a few clicks.
· Say no. Don’t be afraid to say no or ask someone else to help you out.
Having a support network during a stressful time is important. Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and lean on them when necessary.
· Let your friends and family know that you will be preoccupied with studying and may not be as available as they are used to.
· If you have kids or regularly care for a loved one, see if someone in your support network can watch them so you can study or do something for yourself.
· When you take a break from studying, spend time with people that will keep you focused on relaxing and de-stressing.
How do you balance studying and relaxing while getting ready for the CFE? Share your experiences and your own tips with us using @cpawsb. And for more information on the CFE and how to prepare check out the website for practice cases, reports and the CFE blueprint.