Before reading this article, know that this is a general guide to studying for people who want to take the CPA exam. If you find yourself needing more time to study or less time to study for this exam, do not panic. Everyone has different study needs.
Factors like experience, time out of college, education, and job status can affect how much you need to study or how little you need to.
Summary: Find out how long you should study for each CPA exam section below. Consider using a CPA review course to help study more efficiently.
How Many Total Hours Should I Study for the CPA Exam?
For those who may not have done much research into the CPA exam, there are four sections to the test that cover different topics. Since they are different lengths and cover different depths of topics, here is a loose study guide we recommend for each section.
The good news is that you have 18 months to complete the remaining parts of the exam after taking one part, so you don’t have to take them all at once. In total, they will take about 16 hours to take.
The sections ahead will prepare you for questions you may see on the exam and how long you should study for each of them. You can use our CPA questions to help get a better idea of what to expect.
Here is a quick table to help you get an idea of what you are in for:
|Section of the Exam||Recommended Study Time||Take the Exam Within|
|AUD||70 to 90 hours||4 to 6 weeks|
|BEC||60 to 80 hours||4 to 6 weeks|
|FAR||100 to 120 hours||6 to 10 weeks|
|REG||90 to 110 hours||6 to 8 weeks|
|Total||320 to 400 hours||All 4 parts in < a year|
How Many Hours a Day Should I Study for the CPA Exam?
To not overwhelm yourself and to help make the studying easier in the year and a half you have to take the CPA exam, you shouldn’t study too long per day.
CPA prep courses recommend studying for the exam anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day depending on how recently you were in college, how much experience you have, and what job you are currently doing. You are the only one who can decide how long you need to become acquainted with these topics.
How Many Hours a Week Should I Study for the CPA Exam?
Again, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with knowledge, but you should be devoting plenty of time to studying if you want to pass this exam.
If you study 1 to 3 hours per day, that will leave you studying anywhere from 7 to 21 hours a week, and prep course experts recommend 15 to 20 hours of weekly study for the CPA exam.
How Many Months Should I Study for CPA?
At the minimum, CPA prep experts recommend studying for 6 months, which is most doable for people who recently graduated from college. Chances are your will need to study more than that.
You have up to 18 months after taking the first section of the exam to complete the remaining three sections. That means you could study anywhere from 6 to 18 months (or more) for this exam.
How Long to Study for Each CPA Exam Section
Four sections cover a broad range of topics and vary in difficulty as you work. In the table near the beginning of the article, we showed how long you should study for each. Now, we will explain why experts suggest those hours.
Studying for the FAR CPA Exam
The Financial Accounting and Reporting, or FAR, CPA exam will be one of the most difficult sections of the exam due to the broad number of topics covered in this section of the exam.
There are 66 multiple-choice questions as well as 8 task-based simulations. This is how each of the topics breaks down to make up this section:
- Select Financial Statement Accounts: 30-40%
- Conceptual Framework, Standard Setting, and Financial Reporting: 25-35%
- Select Transactions: 20-30%
- State and Local Governments: 5-15%
The FAR covers 34 content groups and 69 topics. Because it covers so much ground in one area you should expect to spend the most time studying for this section.
While none of the topics related to financial statements and transactions seem to be difficult, remembering all the information for each section can be overwhelming. That’s why we suggest spending the most time studying for this section of the exam.
CPA prep companies recommend spending anywhere from 100 to 120 hours studying for the FAR section. You won’t be able to deeply understand everything on this exam, so stick to main concepts for your best chance at success in this section.
Study Time for the REG CPA Exam
Also being one of the more difficult sections of the CPA exam, the Regulations, or REG, part covers past and present tax codes for both personal uses as well as businesses.
The REG section of the CPA exam comes with 76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations. The breakdown of the REG is as follows:
- Federal Taxation of Entities: 28-38%
- Federal Taxation of Individuals: 15-25%
- Federal Taxation of Property Transactions: 12-22%
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures: 10-20%
- Business Law: 10-20%
There are 28 content groups and 62 topics covered in the REG. It can be difficult due to its coverage of old codes that are no longer used and not taught in as much detail.
The main focus when studying for the REG should be memorization. You can bring your progress to a quick end if you start asking why things are the way they are. If you work on memorizing instead of rationalizing, you should see success in this section.
Second only to the FAR section, you should consider the REG the most complex section. Therefore, CPA prep groups recommend taking 90 to 110 hours to study for this section of the exam.
Studying for the AUD CPA Exam
The Auditing and Attestation, or AUD, section of the CPA exam is considered an easier section of the exam, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
With 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations makes it the second-longest section of the exam. It covers the following:
- Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence: 30-40%
- Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response: 20-30%
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles: 15-25%
- Forming Conclusions and Reporting: 15-25%
The AUD section is made up of 27 content groups and 69 topics. The challenge arises because these topics are usually rather niche and may not be studied by everyone who wants to be a CPA.
The content is mainly audition procedures and processes, but many accountants don’t take as many courses in auditing in college and even those who work as auditors will still need to brush up on procedures and the rationale behind auditing.
Prep courses recommend spending anywhere from 70 to 90 hours studying for this section of the exam.
Study Time for the BEC CPA Exam
While the Business Environment and Concepts, or BEC, section of the CPA exam boasts historic pass rates, it still shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The BEC section of the CPA exam includes 62 multiple-choice questions and 4 task-based simulations. It also has 3 written-communication tasks. The test section breaks down as follows:
- Corporate Governance: 17-27%
- Economic Concepts and Analysis: 17-27%
- Information Technology: 15-25%
- Operations Management: 15-25%
- Financial Management: 11-21%
It covers 18 concept areas and 29 topics. The BEC questions range from business topics (such as economics and working capital analysis) to other accounting topics.
Even though it has very high passing rates, the only way you will pass is if you take it as seriously as the other sections of the exam. CPA prep courses recommend spending 60 to 80 hours studying for this section.
How to Study More Efficiently for the CPA Exam
As stated above, you know your study style best, but the CPA exam should not be taken lightly. If you want to pass and allow yourself to have more opportunities for success, you will need to take your studies seriously.
You can begin by taking an AICPA practice exam to see how you would fare on the actual exam.
If you have recently graduated from college, you may find that you don’t need to study as long as someone who has worked in a specific field for many years as your knowledge breadth and depth will be much better than the person currently working.
Notes from college, work experience, and peer study groups can all help you pass the exam, but everyone can benefit from a review course. Our team conducted the best CPA review to help you find the best fit for you.
CPA prep courses are beneficial for several reasons:
- Licensed professionals provide you with the correct topics to study
- Prep courses can provide you with plenty of study material
- The course will provide you with a schedule to keep you on track
- You will gain access to practice exams and questions
- They are taught by experts who know the best study methods and tips for easier studying