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If you are driven to pass the CPA exam, you are likely to be highly motivated.  You expect success and hold yourself to a high standard.  This can be a double-edged sword.

 

One of the mistakes highly motivated people make is pushing themselves too hard in studying for the exam.  To pass all 4 parts of the exam, most people will study upwards of 300 hours.  A generally accepted rule of thumb is to study 2-3 hours for every hour spent watching / listening to a lecture. 

 

The material is dense and complicated.  High intensity studying for such a long period of time is a recipe for burnout.   

 

I'm Working Out Every Day But Seeing No Results

 

It's like exercise.  If you work out as hard as you can every day, it will be counterproductive.  Your body needs a chance to rest and recover after working out in order for you to see improvement in you body and fitness.

 

Studying for the CPA exam is an intense mental workout.  Make sure you give your mind a chance to rest and recover as well.  

 

How many times have you been too tired to study, but you felt guilty about not doing it and you ended up with added stress and anxiety about not studying?  How rested did you feel after this time off that really wasn't time off?   

 

If you build in some rest days or extended rest periods into your study plan, you can really be at peace with your time off when you are not studying and allow your mind to relax, stress-free.  This also has the added benefit of allowing your brain to absorb the material you have already studied.     

 

Ignoring The Exam For A Day Will Help You Remember...Really...

 

Research shows that people learn, understand and retain information more efficiently when they take breaks and allow their minds to relax and focus on other things. 

 

So, when you take your 1 night a week "date night" with your significant other or night out with your friends, you can relax knowing that the time focusing on something other than the exam is actually helping your brain process all that accounting knowledge you have been cramming in there.  Going out on Friday night to have a couple (not seven!) drinks is actually a critical part of ensuring you pass the exam.

 

How Mini Breaks During Study Sessions Trick Your Brain Into Remembering More

 

It's not just taking a break 1 or 2 days a week.  You also need to schedule breaks during your study sessions.

 

Studies show that you will actually remember more if you take breaks every 30 minutes or every hour during a long study session than if you try to study for hours at a time.  

 

This is due to the way human memory works.  The primacy effect and the recency effect are the names given to the phenomenon that, when trying to remember a long list of items, people are more likely to remember the items at the beginning or ending of that list and less likely to remember the items in the middle.

 

Another effect, the Zeigarnik effect, shows that people tend to remember incomplete tasks better than completed tasks.  This is because people do not like things that are incomplete.  Your mind will spend more time thinking about an incomplete task than a task that has been complete.  This often leads to stress, but in the case of studying, leaving a section incomplete before you take a break is actually stress that is helping you remember.  

 

You can take advantage of these effects to give yourself the best chance to pass.

 

When designing your study sessions, take a break for 5 or 10 minutes every 30 or 60 minutes.  Also try to leave sections incomplete before a break.  For example, if you are studying leases, do not wait to take your break until you finish the section.  Take your break at the scheduled time, even if you come back after the break and finish the leasing section in 10 minutes.  

 

While it doesn't make for a "clean" break, that is the point.  This combination of taking several short breaks and leaving sections incomplete spanning a break or even multiple study sessions will maximize the material you retain.

 

Rob

Pederson CPA Review

Continue reading "The Top 11 CPA Exam Mistakes" » 

 

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Comment by Niusha H on December 25, 2013 at 10:32pm

I recently read that it's not vacation time off that rejuvenates people, it's what they do while they're on vacation that can rejuvenate them... or inadvertently, leave them in need of another vacation.  Engaging in a hobby other than doing www.RogerCPAReview.com's plan and my family's plan is really important for me to remember to do on a regular basis.  Another word for it, is adequate self-care for the mind and soul.  Good point!  And, I'm glad you shared.  :)

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