Self-Care Is Essential for CPA Exam Readiness
May 14, 2019

Self-Care Is Essential for CPA Exam Readiness

Mylin Batipps Jr.By Mylin Batipps Jr., PICPA public relations coordinator

You’ve studied hard and are confident that you know all that’s needed to take the CPA Exam. But to truly be prepared, you need more than just knowing the material. You must also take care of yourself—both mentally and physically. Are you getting enough sleep? How are your eating habits? Do you have what you need for exam day?

I spoke with Patricia Hartman, director of client services for the National Association of State Board of Accountancy (NASBA), on the steps CPA Exam candidates should take—literally and figuratively—as they prepare for the rigors of exam day.

Q: Should CPA Exam candidates study for the CPA Exam the day/night before their exam?

Pat HartmanIn my opinion, late night cram sessions are not a very effective way to study. I recommend using the night before the exam for reviewing any notes you may have created during your study sessions.

Did you know that sleep is critical for memory formation? Give your brain a chance to rest. Studying until the last minute may lead to you having a harder time remembering the material you studied. It’s important to get a good night’s sleep, so don’t study too late! Aim for a full eight hours of sleep; you want to be refreshed and well-rested the day of your exam.

Q: Do you recommend any kind of exercises that will help candidates physically and mentally prepare for the CPA Exam?

Walking is great exercise and it can decrease stress and anxiety. It also improves your quality of sleep, so take a walk early in the evening the day before your exam. Go outside and get some fresh air. If you’re studying, remember to get up and move around at regular intervals. Sitting for long periods of time decreases blood flow and can impair your performance. During the exam, make use of your break time to stretch.

The AICPA provides study materials that allow candidates to study the exam blueprints, take sample tests, and view the features and functionality of the exam. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the functionality of tools, resources, and navigation found in the exam, and practice with the sample tests.

Q: What are the kinds of foods that students should eat the day before and the morning of the CPA Exam?

Avoid junk food! Go for protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein helps with alertness, and carbohydrates provide sustained mental energy. Your mom was right – you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The night before the exam, I suggest you sit down with your family or friends and enjoy a relaxing meal. You’ve studied hard, so take a break and relax before the big day. On the day of the exam, start with a healthy breakfast or a protein shake if you’re not up to a big breakfast.

Q: What must CPA Exam candidates bring with them to the testing center that they may not be aware of? What else should they know about exam day?

All you really need is your identification and Notice to Schedule. Your Notice to Schedule has a list of acceptable forms of identification as well as a list of prohibited items. Visit for information on what to expect and how to prepare for exam day. Prometric also offers you an opportunity to do a “test drive” so you know exactly what to expect on exam day.

Q: What steps should candidates take if an emergency occurs that prevents them from being able to take the exam on their scheduled day?

In the event of weather-related issues, the first thing you should do is check to see if the center will be open. Sometimes, the test center may have to close due to weather conditions. You can do this by visiting

If the test center is open, you will need to contact your state board of accountancy or its designee to let them know why you will be unable to take the exam on your scheduled day and receive next steps.

Q: Who should CPA Exam candidates contact if they have any questions regarding the logistics of exam day?

I encourage all candidates to read the Candidate Bulletin available on NASBA’s website. It is a comprehensive guide to everything you can expect before, during, and after the exam. In addition, NASBA’s call center (1-800-CPA-EXAM) is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. If you prefer, you can also email us at

For more information on CPA Exam study tips, check out Episode 2 of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation’s “Work Your Way to CPA” podcast series. All episodes of the series, as well as additional resources to help you successfully reach CPA status, can be found on

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.