How Long Should You Study for Each Section of the CPA Exam?


From the Bean Counter mailbag!

How much time would you recommend allocating to each section of the CPA Exam assuming you’re using a CPA review course?

Anon Bean Counter

Ah, the dreaded CPA exam. While most people dread it, I constantly say:

“it’s not that hard”

There are two things that are actually hard in the CPA exam:

  1. Figuring out the requirements and how to actually apply
  2. Dealing with the head games, emotional stress, peer pressure around failing (we’ll cover this another time)

The actual test isn’t very hard at all, especially if you have a full CPA exam review course.

I studied approximately 2 weeks for each section and passed in 7 months (took some time off in-between and failed once). During those two weeks, I broke it out by:

  • Studying 4 hours during the weeks after work
  • 6-10 hours each day on the weekend.

I also had 12 hours of Masters class with homework and a 40/hr per week job. Oh ya, I had a girlfriend at the time as well and surprisingly didn’t leave me over the CPA exam (common occurrence I hear).

But I studied somewhere between 40-80 hours depending on the section. FAR and REG take longer and BEC and AUD take less.

In a follow up question the same individual asked:

Thank you….obviously its really up to the person but would you say that 200 hours for REG is overkill?

Yes, I’d say so. Take the test quicker and if you fail, don’t study more than 1 week and re-take again.

The first time I took audit I scored a 71. It was my last exam! I kind of deserved it as I took the entire exam in 90 minutes (I think you have about 4 hours). I love to rush.

In studying for the second exam, I decided not to over do it. I opened my books for a few hours but took the exam about 5 days after I received my failing score. I got 20 points higher the second time around, a 91. My best on ANY exam!

I literally felt more confident about audit than any other section on the first test, yet I failed. Sometimes you just need a different mix of questions, or a new simulation. That was the case for me. I turned a 71, into a 91 in 5 days with no more than 5 hours of study.

So my advice? Study as quickly as possible. No more than 2-3 weeks and take the exam. Some people drag a section out for months at a time, WHAT A WASTE! Get it done and move on. If you fail, do a quick re-take and you’ll be done in no time!


  • fil-am

    IMHO, the time frame would work for most fresh graduates or those who are still in school. Being a candidate with international education background who graduated almost 10years ago, the time frame maybe doable if all you have to do is study but in most cases, it would take at least 6 weeks prep. I took a month or more break between each section and it didn’t bother me. In the end, it all depends on the individual’s circumstances, his/her determination to study and pass. Thanks.