CPA Exam


Commitment to vision and time to pass the exam.

Golden Study Hours

Understand how little time you have, and how to make it golden.

Free Downloads

Golden hour calendar - PDF

Golden hour calendar - XLS

Multiple choice exam booklets - PDF

Multiple choice exam booklets - XLS

Split page for notes - PDF

Split page for notes - XLS


Ignore Haters

Keep your focus and brush off anyone and anything in your way.


Success on the CPA exam is mostly dependent upon: Commitment to vision and time. A clear vision of why you want to achieve the designation is paramount to the completion of hundreds of punishing time of study hours. Get clear on the vision and motivation will follow. Are you in it for respect? Money? Career mobility? Write down your vision and share it with only your most trusted friends and share it below! Think BIG. Second guessing yourself and Googling “is CPA worth it” should be done before you make your commitment.

General study factors for success:

  1. Commitment to the vision of achieving your CPA designation
  2. Commitment in the form of time utilization
  3. Comprehensive review course with most up to date materials
  4. Financial resources to buy yourself comfort and time

My CPA example motivational vision:

I am going to become a CPA so that I can help my closest family and friends. I want the ability to be easily self-employed, start another business, or become a Chief Financial Officer. I want to be able to bill $200 an hour and work only for six months out of the year. When not working, I want to write about accounting and personal finance with a serious designation. I want the respect of my family and to prove to someone that I can provide long term for loved ones.

What is your vision? Please share.

“Without vision the people parish” and those without CPA vision are likely to fail their exams. Read the vision daily and see how it motivates you to properly utilize your resources to pass. A firm establishment of why you are seemingly torturing yourself will see you through the process, especially along any of the inevitable bumps in the road in your personal, professional, or test-taking life. As you push yourself, remember, “In the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Please be sure to add your own hideously cliché and somewhat motivational quotes below.  Bonus points for anything overly religious sounding.

Time is the most important quantifiable factor

The good news is that nearly anyone can pass with enough commitment, but the bad news is that commitment takes the form of time. Education and aptitude only change the amount of commitment required. The exam does not test intelligence, but rather, knowledge. I passed the exam on the first try by doing something most would think of as insane: I simply studied twice the recommended hours for each exam. This allowed me to almost guarantee that I would pass.

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Reasoning your commitment

I knew that the emotional and financial hardship of failing one exam would be crushing. Not getting it right the first time costs thousands of dollars when lost wages, time, and life is taken into account. The CPA exam is an absolute bargain compared to the cost of any degree.

Relax, the answers are all there

Would you fail an exam in which all of the answers were given to you beforehand? No! And yet, people fail the CPA exam time and time again. Several review books are available which have more than enough questions, as well as past released material. In order to learn the provided material, time utilization becomes the most important factor in achieving a passing score. Simply put in the time.

A word (rant) to the haters

For those living under a rock, a “hater” is one who continually disparages and discourages someone, typically driven by jealousy. There will be family, friends, and colleagues who will be discouraging, either because they are jealous of your achievement or simply jealous that that you are spending so much time with “a test” instead of the ones you love.

Stay true to your vision and those you love.

Others who have already achieved things may dismiss your challenges as something easy, or think your time commitment is overkill. Brush them off.

I never liked the people who turned in their test early. How could someone get a higher score on a test in a fraction of the time? Don’t be fooled, often times these people are not getting good scores. Others will brag about how little they study, either consciously or accidently. Either way, I think it is about as tasteful as telling someone how much money you make when no one even asked. Keep to your vision and time commitment, and only share with those who you will trust and encourage you.

Some may be able to grasp concepts faster, but mostly there are other compensating factors. Someone who is fresh out of school with an accounting degree is going to grasp the concepts faster than a humanities career re-start. Simply study more. Mass media channels and marketers promote the “easy” way in the form of all products and services. Whether it is “get rich quick”, learn a language “overnight”, or lose “600 lbs in six weeks”, they are lies. There is no substitute for efficient and hard work. The challenge of your commitment should be embraced, not run away from.

CPA Time management: Golden hours

The most valuable thing you ever have in life and the CPA exam is time. Yes, yes, yes another time management lecture, or really, a time accounting lecture. A root problem of time mismanagement is a lack of understanding of what I term “Golden Hours”. Golden Hours are the available hours that are truly free for your own purposes. Carefully calculate your Golden Hour potential, and it is sad to see how little time remains.

Here is a breakdown for someone single, no kids, and no demanding job:

Getting ready for work and related commute: 1 hour

Transitions: 1 hour

Work lunch and inefficiencies: 1.5 hours

Work that must be done: 8 hours

Exercise / eating / Miscellaneous 1 .5 hours

Sleep: 7 hours

Internet, email, and electronic interaction: 1 hour

Golden Hours: 3 hours


Golden Hours are so valuable and rare, if not seemingly non-existent for some.

“Do I want to spend three gorgeous hours with my significant other, cooking, drinking, laughing, and being intimate – or, do I want to study three hours for the CPA exam?”

The CPA exam vision must be strong in order to give something up that is pure fun or another commitment. In order to increase Golden Hours, each main part of the day must be maximized and re-calculated. A realistic calendar will demonstrate the potential for free hours and how to utilize them.

Freeing up more Golden Hours takes a multi-faceted approach, unique to each individual. The easiest way to free up your time is to use your money. How much is a Golden Hour worth to you? Spending actions that increase your study time should be utilized at any reasonable costs. CPA candidates can be so cheap! Studying with old review materials, not taking work off, ironing their own shirts, and still bringing lunch to work in Tupperware? Study for the CPA is a time to spoil yourself and give you every opportune hour for you to achieve. Buy a babysitter, gardener, cleaner, chauffeur – whatever. Send your spouse on a vacation so you can just get this thing done. Let’s see how we can free up the Golden Hours by providing potential tips to limit wasted time in each category.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Getting ready for work and related commute

  • Use audio review materials while driving or taking public transportation.
  • Consider using public transit to free up study time that can be used to answer questions and read material.
  • Consider ride-sharing so that you can study when someone else drives, or even have another person quiz you.
  • Some strategies may lengthen commute time but provide an excellent environment to study away from distractions at home.
  • Buy time by paying for others to help you wash your clothing, clean your house, take a taxi, or whatever.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Transitions

  • Always bring study materials with your everywhere.
  • Go direct from work to your study spot without first going home.
  • Push off procrastination tasks such as bill-paying, cleaning, and cooking to one time slot a week.
  • Avoid changing clothing unless absolutely necessary, don’t be afraid to study in your work clothing.
  • Consider studying at your work desk right after work. Added bonus: You look like a workaholic.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Work lunch and inefficiencies

  • Snarf lunch at desk—more time for study.
  • Study while you eat, gross, but gets the job done.
  • This is a time where your job must understand your production will be at lower capacity.
  • Over-achievers may make a conscious decision to work less hard until they pass their exam.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Work that must be done

  • Obtain an understanding with your boss that you need as much free time as possible to obtain your goal.
  • Use vacation time and strongly consider requesting un-paid time off in order to study
  • Choose between being a work “All-Star” (or martyr rather), or work less hard and pass the CPA
  • Do not hide behind your work as an excuse for lack of study commitment
  • Attempt projects that coordinate with your exams at the appropriate time.
  • Take time to relate any loosely-related work concepts to study materials

.5 hours + of extra gold: Exercise / eating / Miscellaneous 1 .5 hours

  • Try and incorporate exercise into your transition periods, such as walking fast to the library.
  • Try flash cards and recall of mnemonics while on a treadmill or exercise, if safe.
  • Perform deep stretches with study material on the ground. Recite concepts.
  • Meditate on your CPA exam success and the vision that you are seeking.
  • Anything that is not directly related to your success, postpone.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Sleep

  • Explain to loved ones that you are on a rigid sleep schedule and they must support you.
  • Recognize you will be sacrificing sleep on occasion.
  • Make up for any sleep deprived weeks with one power sleep weekend.
  • Try mobile applications for alarms to wake you during your best sleep cycle.
  • Analyze your patterns and adjust lifestyle appropriately.

.5 hours + of extra gold: Internet, email, and electronic interaction

  • Allow yourself “email time” only at specific points in the day.
  • Turn your devices off as needed             .
  • Let people know that you are occupied by telling them your goal, or simply telling them you are slammed with work. Carefully consider who knows your goals, as “did you pass?” gets to be a tiring question.

Given enough improvements to create more Golden Hours, you should be able to have a recommended daily study dose: two perfect hours.

To achieve two perfect study hours, most will need to study for three, as people get distracted. Given the right lifestyle choices, you can block three hours if needed and also spend time with your loved ones and yourself.

Track your study hours and golden schedule each day.

Hours studied should be a point of pride and move you towards your ultimate vision. (Download my free Golden Hours excel file).
Golden Hour study resources

I have included a calendar, multiple exam booklets, and a notes page as a useful resource. These items can be utilized in either digital or paper format. What follows is a brief introduction to the resources.

Golden Hour Calendar

The Golden Hour Calendar enables you to set daily goals and track to see if you are on pace for longer term goals. The blank PDF can be printed and filled in as you make your way on the study journey. A column for “weighted hours” takes into account your productivity level. Feel free to customize in excel for your own personal use. The calendar should reflect your vision, your schedule, and your customized plan towards success.

Multiple Choice Exam Booklets

Use the booklets to record your responses to multiple choice questions and track progress. Save wear-and-tear on your books. A piece of paper can be utilized to cover old responses or the correct answer should you choose to record that on your answer sheet.

Split Page For Notes

In the spirit of public accountancy, here is a split page to use as you see fit. One half of the page can be custom questions and the other answers. Record concepts, feelings, or whatever may help you in your success.