Tips to Pass the CPA Exam From Jerry Seinfeld to Tim Ferriss

What do two people who have never taken the CPA exam know about passing?


Not so fast.

The famous comedian and the best selling author know a thing about elite performance. They know how to minimize time and maximize output.

One of the big challenges facing every CPA student is procrastination. It is the disease that kills more CPA exam scores than any other.

Jerry Seinfeld had a great tip about how he would stop procrastination dead in its tracks.

When asked by a young comic how to be successful, Seinfeld shared the following tip,

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

This tip applies to writing, working out or studying for the CPA exam. It is a visual way to reinforce a positive habit. The traditional emotions of a CPA student are self loathing. You beat yourself for not studying.  Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. What I find is few CPA candidates actually have any methods for reinforcing positive behavior. This is what Seinfeld teaches and you can adopt it to your routine.

The second CPA study tip is from best selling author Tim Ferriss.  On a recent episode of his podcast (46:47 mark)he answered a question about how he would study for the MCAT. His response applies to the CPA exam.

His response was that he would take a lot of practice questions under stressful conditions.  You want noise, no sleep, hunger – whatever you can do to create an environment of stress. You want to start with minimal stresses and then amp it up to big stresses. Often when we study for exam and do CPA practice questions we do it under perfect conditions. You are well rested, well fed and there is total silence. The real exam is not like that. The real exam is you fighting through traffic, double dosing on coffee and eating a granola bar for breakfast. You are a jittery, sweaty beast. Thus Ferriss recommends re-creating stressful conditions. Do practice questions on an empty stomach. Do practice questions when you have barely slept. Do practice questions when your neighbor is making noises due to a home renovation. Do practice questions when you’ve downed 3 cups of espresso in short order. Whatever you need to do to rattle yourself, do it. The idea is that you want to ace the practice questions under stressful conditions. Any hurdle that you face on the real exam day will feel trivial in comparison.

His second tip is to spend time improving your memory. The book that he recommended was Your Memory.  Even though the CPA exam is less geared towards memorization, it is still useful to master some short term memory techniques.  It won’t help you with the simulations but it will increase your MCQ score.