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CPA Exam Mistake #3: Not Getting People Close To You On Your Side

Passing the CPA exam is hard and time consuming.  No newsflash there.  You all know that.


But, many of the candidates I talk to try to explain to their family and friends how hard the exam is and how time consuming it is. As much as they might want to understand, most people who are not taking the exam will have a difficult time seeing where you a coming from.  Your family and friends want to spend time with you and will unintentionally undermine your study efforts.


Except for the rare candidates who have a 100% supportive group of family and friends, most people will need to be proactive in getting support from others. If you can get those closest to you actively on your side, you are building a support system that is working for you to help you pass.


If you are in a relationship, a good idea is to ensure your study plan includes 1 night a week as a "date night."  Your significant other may not be able to spend as much time with you as he or she likes, but if you give him or her no time, that is a recipe for relationship drama at one of the worst possible times.


Another good idea is to set an incentive.  Decide with your significant other what reward will await both of you as you pass each part.  Make the reward about the other person, not about you.  If your wife likes the theater, get tickets to a play.  If your husband likes football, get tickets to a game.  Maybe once you pass all 4 parts, you take a family vacation.


If they see that you understand the sacrifice they are making by allowing you 6 days a week to study (other than your date night), they are more likely to help you stick to that schedule knowing that you are acknowledging that sacrifice and have some reward at the end of each section to say "thank you."


You can also have your family help you study.  Your significant other or your kids (if they are old enough) can quiz you on your flashcards.  This is a great way to get study time in while also spending time with the people who suddenly have to get used to seeing you less.


Communication Is Vital


All the good intentions you may have will be for nothing if you do not communicate your plans to them.  


As early as you can, sit down with your family and friends and tell them about your study schedule.  Tell those closest to you what you need from them (e.g. quiet time, time away from home to spend at the library, no more pressuring you into a weekend of binge drinking and debauchery, etc.).  Also tell them that you are building time into your study plan specifically to spend with them and you have a reward planned for them for each section you pass.


It is also a good idea to talk about what your plans are for after you pass the CPA exam.  Some of this may be tangible, like talking about what you plan to do when you are making more money.  


Some of it may be intangible, like talking about how becoming a CPA is a significant achievement personally and professionally, what that means to you and how your family and friends are helping you achieve it.  When people feel like they are a part of achieving some higher purpose or lofty goal, they are more likely to cheer you on.


What Not To Do


Except for those rare cases where people are in truly toxic relationships, your family and friends are not out to actively sabotage you.  That said, the vast majority of candidates will run into situations where family or friends get upset because of all the time you aren't spending with them.  


In these situations, I have seen too many people make the situation worse by making it about themselves rather than the other person.  If your husband or wife complains about all the time you spend studying, it will be very difficult to keep yourself from saying, "Don't you know how hard this exam is?  Don't you know how stressed out I am?  I don't need this right now."  


While all those things are 100% true, your husband or wife is unlikely to see things that way.  Each relationship is different, but a response along the lines of, "You're right - I'm going to take an extra night off this week for us to spend together" will go a long way toward defusing the situation.  


Taking an extra night off will cost you less study time than dealing with relationship drama.  After you deftly handle that potential landmine, you can come back here to vent your true frustrations to a group of people who will understand and sympathize.


The CPA exam is largely about sacrifice.  While it certainly doesn't seem like it while you are preparing for the exam, the time you spend studying is your time.  You are likely to spend any extra time you have not spent working or studying with your family or friends.  


You will not get much, if any, "alone time" for hobbies or relaxing.  If you acknowledge and accept this, you are well on your way to passing.  If you fight against it, you are setting yourself up for trouble from those closest to you.


As always, if you have questions or comments send me a message or let me know in the comments on this post.  Maybe you have an experience in dealing with family or friends that can help others you'd like to share as well.



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