CPA PEP Core 2 – How to Study for the Exam Without Feeling Burned Out

I just wrote my Core 2 exam at home yesterday and luckily it went smoothly for me. One of the most hardworking people in my CPA group chats messed up the timeline and submitted her case too early. We all felt so bad for her knowing how hard she studied while working crazy hours at her firm. Change is scary and hard so I hope the time table I provided in my last post can help.

It felt weird waking up this morning not having any studying on my agenda. I took it easy by scrolling on my phone for a while before starting my day with a coffee and leftover pasta from dinner yesterday. I watched some Netflix before deciding it is best for me to share how I studied for my CPA PEP Core 2 exam while the memory is fresh!

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED – Densmore for CPA PEP – Are The PEP Essentials Packages Worth It?

When Did I Start Studying for My Core 2 Exam?

Since I took the 20-week extended module, I had plenty of time to study for the exam. I started my study plan 6 weeks before my exam and that was before Assignment Set #7 & 8 were due. I studied on average 45 minutes per day including on the weekends. I wasn’t able to study more on the weekends as I would end up watching Netflix or working on my blogs on those days.

If you are taking the regular 8-week Core 2 module, it is obviously difficult to start 6 weeks before the exam. However, if you double your study time to 1.5 hours per day, you would be able to start 3 weeks before the exam and get through all the same materials I did without feeling burned out!

If you need help deciding between the regular and extended module, I wrote a post to help.

How Did I Keep Track of My Studying?

If you know me, you would know I use Google Sheets for everything. It is no surprise that I used Google Sheets to keep track of my study as well.

I created a list of items that I want to go over in the next 6 weeks (or however long you decide your study plan will be). When I planned my week on Sundays using the Monday Hour One process, I referred back to this list and insert an item per day.

Since the time required was only an estimation, there were days when I would not be able to finish the item as planned. When that happened, I would simply update my Monday Hour One schedule to push everything back one day. There were more days than items by starting 6 weeks before the exam so I was able to postpone for about a week in total at the end.

~ More CPA Posts ~
CPA PEP Core 1 – How to Study for the Module and the Exam
CPA PERT – Ultimate Guide on How to Get Your First Experience Report via EVR Approved
CPA PERT – Enabling Competencies Examples
Densmore for CPA PEP – Are The PEP Essentials Packages Worth It?
CPA PEP Module – Regular Module or Extended Module?

What Did My Study Plan for the Core 2 Exam Include?

Here is the list of items I had on my list separated by category below for your reference. You might find that you are familiar with certain chapters enough that you can consider reviewing only once. Note, I did not include any Core 1 items on my study plan. Theoretically, Core 1 topics are examinable on Core 2 exam so I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.

Chapter Readings

  • review notes (a condensed version of the chapter readings with bullet points that I made during the module) from Week #1 to #8 (Assignment Set #1 to #8 for extended modules)
  • review the same notes again, but this time I make a condensed version of the notes (things I really want to remember)
  • review the condensed version of the condensed version (sounds excessive but this 2-time condensed version was quick to go through)

Enabling Competency (review this before practicing cases)

  • review The CPA Way
  • review the WIR technique (Weaknesses, Implication, Recommendation)
  • review the QQC technique (quantitative, qualitative, recommendation)
  • get familiar with writing everything in a WHAT + WHY format

Practice Cases / Integrated Problem / Practice Exam

  • attempt all Practice Cases from Week #1 to 8 in 60 minutes and debrief right away
  • attempt all Integrated Problems (skipped Power BI as it’s not examinable) from Week #1 to 8 in 60 minutes and debrief right away
  • attempt the Practice Exam (2 cases) last as it will be your first attempt and debrief right away

Module Workshop Materials

  • attempt the activities and debrief right away
  • review notes from the module workshop (if you had a virtual live session like I did)

Specific Concepts To Study (topics you identify while studying or working on cases)

  • ratio analysis / trend analysis
  • AR credit policy change, AP discount offered by vendor

What Else Did I Wish I Had Studied For?

As mentioned earlier in this post, Core 1 topics (in fact, everything you learned in PREP) were examinable on the Core 2 exam. However, I decided not to include any Core 1 topics in my study plan because of the following reasons:

  • I would have studied for them for my Core 1 exam (granted, it was 6 months ago)
  • I am comfortable with the fact that I might miss a part or two of an assessment opportunity (AO)


By starting my study plan early, I managed to not feel burned out at all while going through everything I wanted to. I chose to study in the morning before work because I am more productive then and I also wanted to “get it over with” first thing.

I understand this pace might not work with everyone but I still hope the list of items would be useful to you as a guide. Remember, the pass rate for Core 2 was 84.3% in 2019 so passing will not be an issue as long as we put in the effort.

  1. 7.22.20
    Sana said:

    Just read through your posts, it was really helpful. I will be starting Core 2 in the fall, and I wanted to ask you, did you find that the Knotia readings were enough or did you have to refer to external material for the exam? I wanted to start studying earlier, and before I start the actual Module – would you recommend someone to read through all the Management Accounting Chapters in Knotia beforehand if they are doing the 2 month Module? Really nervous, because a lot of people mention Core 2 is the hardest!

  2. 7.22.20
    Jennifer Chun said:

    Hey Sana.

    The assigned reading on Knotia was good but I did watch some YouTube videos on a couple of concepts I wasn’t understanding from just the reading (you just gave me a post idea!). My suggestion would be to read the assigned readings early and note down concepts you will need refresher on. If the exam is still going to be 2 cases, reading my own notes from the readings and practicing the cases were enough for me. Congrats on passing Core 1!!!

    I personally found Core 2 to be easier especially if you enjoyed management accounting in school. Also, you have one less Module Workshop Weekend than Core 1 too.

    Let me know if you have more questions now or down the road 🙂


    • 7.22.20
      Sana said:

      Thanks so much! We do get all the survival guides for all the modules in D2L so I definitely want to get ahead on the readings because I do need to brush up on the concepts.

      I did find that some of the Core 1 readings were much more detailed than we needed to know for the exam (ie business acquisitions). But it doesn’t hurt to know more I guess lol..

      • 7.22.20
        Jennifer Chun said:

        The module starts on Jul 27, right? If so, getting 5 extra days would be super beneficial. I know I would have been a lot less stressed if I had 5 extra days to study for Core 1 last year so that’s a very smart move.

        I just shared a list of videos that I found helpful. I added to My CPA Journey page and let me know if they turn out useful for you!

        Best of luck Sana 🙂


        • 7.22.20
          Sana said:

          Great, thanks so much! I’ll definitely check it out!

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