(Posted September 2023)

Adding in a CPA PEP module to an already busy schedule of full-time work and personal obligations can seem daunting. Between the workshop, the weekly assignments, and studying for the PEP exam, it can all feel very overwhelming!  Here are some tips to help you along your CPA journey:

Get Organized

Don’t wait until the PEP module starts to get organized and have a plan!  Consider both your current work and personal obligations as well as when you will have time to study over the term of the module. Consider whether that will be sufficient to complete all of the PEP module assignments and put in weekly study time for the PEP module final exam. Consider whether you will be able to keep up that level of study throughout the module.

Having a plan will help reduce your stress and give you confidence that you can be successful so create a study schedule that fits you. This should take into account the study days you have chosen, the PEP module assignments, and additional technical review and MCQ / case writing practice needed for the final exam.  This study schedule can (and should if you are able) start before the PEP module workshop. Having a couple extra weeks to start your technical study can give you a great head start and make the process less onerous overall. Use the syllabus provided by CPA as well as the CPA Competency Map (Part 2, Section 6) to identify what you need to understand for your module and at what level. Focus your studies on the Level A and Level B topics. You will be given access to the relevant eBook chapters prior to the start of the course so you can jump start your studying.

Ensure your study schedule is planned out. Do more than just identify days of the week where you will study. Create a list for each day of what you need to accomplish. This will help ensure you can complete all of the assignments and topics you need to in the time you have.

Use this plan as a checklist. As you complete items, cross them off the list, which will help maintain your motivation throughout the PEP module! Add items that you did not complete to the next study day so you can remember to complete them. If circumstances change, do not be afraid to rework the schedule to ensure that you can still fit in the necessary time to be successful in the PEP module.

Schedule your rest days. It can be easy to lose track of the activities that reenergize you with all of the personal, work and PEP commitments you will have during a PEP module. If you do not take care of yourself, you are more likely to burn out, lose motivation, and see your performance decline. There may be less time for yourself, but there is still time, and scheduling your rest will ensure you do not forget to find it.

Manage Your Time

Once you have a reasonable study schedule in place, it is important to stick to it. Ensure that you are not spending too little or too much time on the tasks. Avoid the temptation to spend just a “little more time” on a certain area – that will certainly result in you spending a little less time in another area.

Prioritize what needs to be done. If you have an assignment due, complete that before moving on to the exam study portion of your schedule. For your exam study portion, make sure you focus on what you do not know instead of reviewing topics that you are already comfortable with.  Also, remember to schedule breaks in your study schedule.

Avoid cramming the day before the exam! You actually will perform better if you have a brain break before the exam. Consider just reviewing your case approach the day before the exam, and then let it go. Do something you enjoy that will help you avoid worrying about the exam.

Be Disciplined

It is so easy to accept a friend’s invitation for a night out, and then an evening of study vanishes. However, given the quick pace of the modules and the limited time before the module final exam, you cannot get this time back. Stick to your study plan and do not be distracted by other more enticing offers!

When you are studying, do not be distracted by social media, family and friends, or your phone. Instead, get yourself somewhere quiet without distraction where you can focus on only your studies. Putting in more focused time will mean that you take less time overall studying.

Manage Expectations

There may be days when your family and friends will be weary of the time you are required to commit to your program, and there will certainly be days when you will feel that same weariness. Communicate the cost of achieving your goals to those around you so they are aware you will have less time to give in the coming months and be aware of this yourself. You should also communicate that this cost is necessary to succeed as you progress toward your goal of obtaining your CPA designation. Keep this goal in mind and remember this is an opportunity more than an obligation.

Stay Positive

Remember, this is only for a season. It is important to stay positive throughout the process and focused on your end goal. This can be hard when your friends are enjoying life without you!

Do not be discouraged by others around you – remember that everyone learns differently. You might take a bit longer to understand a concept, but you want to ensure that you actually understand and can apply the concept to write a response, which will serve you well as you approach the CFE.  Remember that the more you are able to learn and retain now, the less preparation you will need to do for the CFE.

If you are looking for additional resources to help you prepare for any of the CPA Canada PEP modules, consider our Core and Elective module resources as well as our Competency Map Study Notes publication.