Learn Through Practice

How are you going to get ready to make passing grades in the last testing window of the CPA exam--October and November? Let me tell you about a trick that I learned back in the day and that I still use today. Back then, I read a book titled Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. I won’t try to repeat the entire book but Maltz began with the obvious idea that we learn through practice. He used the example of learning to drive a car. We get behind the wheel, we step on the gas, we steer the car. We do it over and over and we learn to drive.

Unfortunately, in our busy lives, there is only a limited amount of time that we have for practice. And, whether you are learning to drive a car or to play golf or tennis, a considerable amount of time also goes into the preparation. Maltz argued that real benefit could be obtained by practicing mentally, by visualizing doing the activity and watching as the process goes just perfectly. Physical practice is great but mental practice provides many of the same gains. And, it is quick and cheap (and doesn’t require preparation).

For example, if you want to become a great golfer and it rains one day, your chance for practice is lost. Maltz would tell you to sit in your chair at home and mentally feel the golf club in your hands and the grass under your feet. Visualize seeing the ball on the ground. Feel the club moving back and then forward in a smooth swing. Hear the club hit the ball and mentally see it fly off just perfectly.

Do that over and over and over and get the sense of the perfect swing. The body will then remember each sensation and try to replicate them exactly the same when you are next on a golf course.

I have no idea whether that exercise will improve your golf game or not but I have used visualization many times in my own life. For me, it really helps. Whenever I give a speech, I visualize standing at the front of the room and what I want to say. I think about feeling confident and bold. In my mind, I always start off with “if the speech goes perfectly, this is how it will feel.” I do that over and over (often after I am in bed at night) until I feel like I have actually given the speech before I even step in front of my audience. Then, I just let my body replicate what I have visualized.

Occasionally, at school, when I think an upcoming class is particularly important, I will mentally walk through the entire process several times in advance so that I will be comfortable that it will go well. Invariably those are great classes.

That is interesting but how does it help you? What is the benefit? If you are going to take the CPA exam in October or November, I want you to start spending a few minutes each day visualizing the testing experience. Feel yourself walking into the test site. You are entirely calm and confident. You know enough to pass. It is time to get it done. It is time to get 75 points. You start reading questions and your concentration is excellent. You pick up the little tricks in the questions. Everything seems so clear. You don’t get flustered. You are not nervous and don’t get distracted. You are amazed how well the material comes back to mind. Do this over and over until it feels natural to you.

I honestly believe that you can improve your testing experience by doing what I refer to as “confidence visualization” – when you take the next part of the exam think about every detail and imagine that the entire experience is just perfect. How would that feel? That’s the feeling that I want you to visualize a few times each day to train your mind and body to know how to react at the exam site.

But you can also do visualization a second time. Assume that you’re going to study for two hours tomorrow night. Today, visualize that study time with the feeling that it is going to be absolutely perfect. No wasted time. Plenty of points added. You feel yourself sitting down at the table, picking up your pencil and beginning to work questions. Your mind is clear. You don’t feel sleepy or out of sorts. Noise and commotion around you cannot distract you. You are studying with a high level of efficiency and energy. Visualization helps you train your body and mind to think that way. Visualize it and then make it happen that way.

Visualize success – on the exam but also in your study routine –and it is so much more likely to happen.

Back to Articles