If you keep failing FAR, or any other CPA exam for that matter, in this episode we’ll cover the most common CPA study mistakes so you can avoid failing CPA exams over and over.
00:33 Why FAR Has the Lowest Pass Rates
01:11 If You Want a Deeper Dive…
01:50 First Big Mistake
02:11 Video Lectures Are a Double-Edged Sword
02:56 How to Understand Video Lectures the First Time
03:45 “Do What You’ll Be Doing On Exam Day”
04:33 Second Big Mistake
04:59 What Is Your “Job” on Test Day?
05:18 Don’t Run Out Your “Battery”
06:18 Pulling Out the Giant Paper Pad
06:46 “You Can’t Disagree With Me On This…”
07:17 “That Will Change Everything For You…”
07:56 The Basketball Example
08:33 The “High-Leverage… Levers” You Can Pull
08:58 When You’re Doing These 3-4 Things, It’s Hard to Fail…
09:31 Why You End Up Forgetting So Much Material
10:16 There Is a “Better Way” of Covering Material
11:06 2 Ways to Add the “Secret Ingredient” to Your Process
12:03 “Retrieval Learning”?
13:01 Your Phone Can Literally Be the “Ace Up Your Sleeve”
14:00 Take Advantage of Time You’re Already Spending Doing This…
15:01 Add 100 Hours of Study Without Even Trying
16:08 The Best FREE Study Resource
18:18 How to Take the Evenings Off, Every Day
Keep Failing FAR? Do This Instead
And so when you add in all three or four of those things, it’s, it’s honestly hard to fail your exams.
If you keep feeling FAR, or any other CPA exam for that matter, you’re going to want to watch this video because we are first going to cover the most common mistakes that lead to repeated failed scores, and then we’re going to cover the most high leverage, most effective study strategies that you can add to your study process to get much better results. So you can turn that frown upside down.
Why FAR Has the Lowest Pass Rates
So as you know, FAR has the lowest pass rate of the four CPA exams. It covers the most material, it’s generally the most difficult, and then typically most new candidates are starting with FAR, so they’re inexperienced in the study process in the beginning.
And, they’re starting with the hardest section. So it kind of makes sense why it has such a low pass rate.
But again, the stuff we’re going to cover in this video can be applied to any CPA exam section. Some people have a really hard time with BEC other people have a really hard time with Audit. It just kind of depends on your general background and your experience.
If You Want a Deeper Dive…
Now, I also want to mention this is going to be broad, I’m going to talk in some generalities because I’m trying to make a five to 10 minute video. This will not get into the nitty gritty details of the exact study strategies. If you do want a deeper dive or a specific overview of our study approach and what we teach our clients, the best place to go is to attend one of our free study training webinars. You can click on the card thing appears on this video. There should be a link down in the description that training takes an hour.
But if you do have multiple failed sections, that training is going to save you months and months of time and frustration.
First Big Mistake
Okay. So the first big picture mistake, especially for somebody that is putting in a lot of time and effort and keeps taking exams, but they keep failing them. The mistake is operating under the assumption that you need to essentially memorize every word from every video lecture and every word from the textbook in your review course.
Video Lectures Are a Double-Edged Sword
Now I’m not saying you don’t want to use the video lectures at all, but they are somewhat of a double-edged sword. There’s a bunch of reasons I could go into on this. But first let me just cover the main two. The first one being that watching a video lecture, especially when this is new material to you, it’s very technical and dense.
And so whatever ends up being the hardest topics to you personally, those are going to be, naturally the hardest video lectures for you to understand. Your brain, because it’s not making sense. You know, you’re, you’re watching this professor explain these concepts that are difficult and confusing and your brain doesn’t really have context to connect to that.
How to Understand Video Lectures the First Time
And that’s why you zone out just constantly, every 60 seconds. It’s just so hard to pay attention and stay focused. And so the thing that you can do to make the video lecture makes sense, the first time, is to first go through the practice questions for the lesson and gather context about, okay, what am I actually trying to learn from this video?
Like how do these practice questions, what do they keep asking about? You want to gather context from the practice questions and the practice simulations, then watch the video and it will make 10 times more sense. Now going back to the study training that I mentioned, the thing that we teach our clients with our full study process is, for a lot of lessons, you can skip the video lecture entirely, which clearly saves you a ton of time.
“Do What You’ll Be Doing On Exam Day”
If for half the lessons you don’t end up having to watch the video lecture at all, that’s, that’s a lot of time saved. Especially if, again, you’re operating under the assumption that, I can’t move on to the practice questions until I really understand the video. So if that requires that you basically end up watching every video lecture like five or six times, that is a huge, time-waster, that takes an inordinate amount of time.
And it’s so ineffective, especially when you want to be spending most of your study time doing what you’ll be doing on exam day, which obviously is practice questions and practice simulations.
Second Big Mistake
So that brings me back to the second reason why the video lectures and the text is such a double-edged sword.
Because again, for some topics that you’re not experienced in, you do need that depth of understanding, and so it’s there as like a resource, but again, review courses kind of present all the lessons and all the information with the assumption that you need to know all of this.
What Is Your “Job” on Test Day?
That might be helpful if your job was to get up and teach a class on every little topic, but that’s not your job.
Your job is to get in there in the testing center on test day, and just be able to answer the questions that you’re going to see.
And, and so that is the second reason they’re such a double-edged sword.
Don’t Run Out Your “Battery”
Is if you are trying to really understand the video perfectly, before you move on to the practice questions, the thing you have to realize that. Your brain’s ability to focus and assimilate complex information effectively or efficiently it’s like a battery, right?
So we start the day at a hundred percent, whatever that is for you. And it just goes down as the day goes on. So if you have a three or four hour study session, can you sit down and. You spend the first two or three hours just kind of banging your head against this video lecture, like rewatching it, looking through the chapter, kind of spinning your wheels.
Your ability to just focus just gets whittled down to where your brain batteries running on like 10% before you even get to the practice questions for that topic, which are the most critical part of the lesson. That’s what you should have started with.
Pulling Out the Giant Paper Pad
Okay. So I have this just really crappy drawing here. So this illustrates what I’m talking about. If this funnel is time spent, so the most time is spent at the top.. The normal way of studying is this. You watch the videos over and over and over until you feel good about it. Then you kind of highlight the chapter, look through the text.
Then you spend the least amount of time on the practice questions and the practice simulations.
“You Can’t Disagree With Me On This…”
But that’s a big mistake because keep in mind, what you’ll be doing on test day is, multiple choice questions and simulations. So you should be spending most of your time doing that. And even if it’s confusing at first to jump straight into the questions again, you can’t disagree with me on this on test day, what do you need to be good at? Watching videos, pressing play on video lectures? Or answering practice questions and simulations?
“That Will Change Everything For You…”
So you want to be spending most of your time doing practice questions and simulations, and if you really just can’t figure out that topic from working through the questions and reading the explanations, then you fill in your understanding as needed with the videos and the textbook, and that will change everything for you.
You will get such better results doing it this way. Mini sessions, by the way, is just a shorter version of this that you keep performing throughout your day. Primarily using our study tools, but that’s why our clients get such good results with less study time is because you’re just, you’re spending all your time getting good at what you’ll be doing on test day.
The Basketball Example
The other example I can use to just make this ridiculous is if you were trying to get good at basketball, would you just sit and watch video after video on technique on YouTube or would you go out and actually like shoot baskets? And actually get better at shooting the ball? And that’s a ridiculous example or for how obvious it is, but it’s no different than this, but most people without realizing it spend all their time or 80% of their time doing this, which is very ineffective as far as it translates into what you need to be able to do on test day.
The “High-Leverage… Levers” You Can Pull
Okay so the next thing that will make a massive difference and, this alone at, well, I say this all the time, there’s about three or four levers you can pull, like high leverage, high leverage levers, three or four things that you can work into your study process that, I claim are each worth 10 to 20 points on your next score.
When You’re Doing These 3-4 Things, It’s Hard to Fail…
And so when you add in all three or four of those things, it’s, it’s honestly hard to fail your exams. The first high leverage lever that you can pull is to build review into your daily study process. As soon as I explain this, you’re never going to forget this, this is going to be a big turning point. So the way that review courses are set up or that the normal way of studying, you go through chapter by chapter, right? You’re obviously trying to feel good about your understanding of chapter one before you move on to chapter two.
Why You End Up Forgetting So Much Material
So you put in all this time and effort to get good at or learn the material in chapter one. Then you move on to chapter two, chapter three, chapter four. So you’re spending all this time and effort on each lesson, but then you’re leaving it behind for five to six weeks and not thinking about it again.
And. I don’t even need to say, what do you think happens to all that information? Or I dunno, 50 to 70% of that information? You know, as well as I do you forget most of it. Because, you’ve just piled all this new information into your short-term memory and then the next morning, or the next night, you replace all that information that’s only a day old, with a bunch of new information from the next chapter, and you don’t go back to any of it.
There Is a “Better Way” of Covering Material
So the different and smarter/better/more effective way of doing it, is to build re-review into your daily process. You want to learn the topics in layers and that’s, again, that’s something we cover on that free training, that’s this is a key thing we teach our clients. You want to go through the new lessons…
It’s like a lighter version of going through each new lesson. Because the second part of your daily study session is going to be going back and building on those previous lessons. So as you go through the, whatever your study timeline is the five weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, whatever it is, on a day-to-day basis, you’re going to be continually improving and building your understanding and retention of all topics as the days and the weeks go by.
2 Ways to Add the “Secret Ingredient” to Your Process
So there’s two easy ways to do this. The first one is to end each daily study session with one set of 30 multiple choice questions that is cumulative from everything you’ve studied previously, The second way. And people really discount this, but this, I think for me, this was the single biggest difference maker.
Again, if you’re not familiar with my story, I studied for three months, seven or eight hours a day. It was the summer between my master’s and my first public accounting job. So I had all day everyday to study. I studied the normal way. Watched every video lecture, you know, got each lesson to like a hundred percent on my little progress indicators in my review course.
And then I go in and fail that exam. And after that simply out of necessity, I switched to some of my own ideas for studying, including studying from my phone in all the little, you know, five minute chunks of my day when I would normally have just read stuff on ESPN.
And that was just a major game changer for me and come to find out there’s all this research behind what they call retrieval learning.
So retrieval learning has proven in a bunch of different studies, I can put a link in the description to one of the research papers on. That summarizes a bunch of these studies, but the idea behind retrieval learning, and again, this is one of those things that once you just explain the two differences, it’s so obvious why which one would work better, but, they compare kind of the normal learning method where you cover a topic comprehensively for a longer time span, but it just in one sitting. Versus doing a shorter version and then recalling that information using like study tools, like flashcards, or multiple choice questions on the same topic. There’s even more benefits for doing it periodically throughout the day.
Your Phone Can Literally Be the “Ace Up Your Sleeve”
So studying from your phone does that for you, it makes these connections in your brain, between all the topics that you just can’t really get otherwise. And it also makes sense why the stuff gets burned into your long-term memory more effectively than learning it all in one big session. And then the next day, replacing all that information with all new material on, you know, chapter two and then chapter three, you repeatedly going back and, recalling or again, retrieval, they call it retrieval learning. It is dramatically more effective for long-term comprehension and retention to repeatedly hit all the topics you’re trying to learn. And like I said, when I explain it like that, it’s, it’s so obvious, clearly that works better than just covering one topic once and then not looking at it again for five to six weeks. So that is the big tip: build review into your daily study process.
Take Advantage of Time You’re Already Spending Doing This…
The other thing that studying from your phone does is, it lets you pack in all this extra study time. So again, what we tell our clients, they take our study tools, our review notes, our audio notes and our quizzes. They all work right inside the app.
Instead of whatever, it would normally be: scrolling through Instagram or reading ESPN, you know, as you walk across the office or on your lunch break, there’s all these little gaps in your day. When you get that screen report that even if you feel really busy, somehow you found two to three hours a day to stare at your phone.
The idea is simply to take advantage of that fact, and use study tools instead of these little time-wasters. Obviously just for the portion of your life where you’re trying to pass these exams, it’ll happen a lot faster, you’ll get these exams out of your life, much faster, if you are constantly keeping it on the top of your mind by doing this retrieval learning, or what we call them, we’ve called them from day one, “mini sessions”.
Add 100 Hours of Study Without Even Trying
So if you’re consistent with that, whatever your main studying consists of, you are able to add in an extra 50 to 100 hours or more of extra study time over the timeline that you’re studying for whatever section it is, without having to find any extra dedicated study time. Cause obviously the time thing is a big issue, especially if you’re working full time, it’s really hard to consistently find four to five hours a day to sit in front of your review course.
But the thing that you do already do every day is you go through your daily routine, whatever that is, wake up, drive to work or work from home, you know, whatever it is you already do, you already are conditioned to use your phone in little chunks all throughout the day. So all we’re talking about is taking advantage of that time, and leveraging that to add this, you know, “added insurance” that you pass your next section
and doing this retrieval learning or mini sessions with study tools from your phone is incredibly effective when it’s combined with your normal daily main study session.
The Best FREE Study Resource
All right. So the last tip I have for you is to listen to our podcast interviews. If you’re just finding this video on YouTube, we have recorded at the time of this video over 60, I believe, over 60 interviews with some of our past clients that passed their CPA exams, and you just get to hear their full story, their full study experience.
The ups and downs, the things they struggled with, the mistakes they were making in the beginning that they didn’t realize they were making, their breakthroughs they had. The things that really started to work for them, turning points, you know, and then just that whole thing. So these episodes are very motivating, but they’re incredibly informative as you hear all these different experiences.
And what you’ll notice is that all these successful candidates have these, these like pillars or these key things that they all did. And they did those things like slightly differently based on their personal preferences, but there are these key pillars that they all did. And so you learn a lot about the study process from effective or successful CPA candidates by listening to these interviews.
So to find the podcast, you can just type in SuperfastCPA to any podcast app. Primarily on the Apple podcasts, but it’s on Spotify, google podcasts, should be on any podcast app. I would subscribe to it, and work your way through those interviews. They will be incredibly helpful to you.
Okay. So I have gone on a 25 minute just diatribe on this. We’re going to try to edit this down to maybe 10 or 15. But the big thing is you want to study strategically. Just by viewing the study process. Another, it just, it sounds so obvious once I say it, but you want to study to pass, think about what you have to be able to do on test day and then spend most of your study time getting good at that, which is being able to answer exam questions and simulations.
The other big takeaway is to take advantage of time that you’re already spending and pack in as much study time as you can. And you don’t have to sacrifice your evenings to do this.
How to Take the Evenings Off, Every Day
The big thing that we teach our clients is you nail that two hour session in the morning, and then you fit in the extra two to three hours as you go about your normal day, doing the mini sessions with our study tools and you get home from work or you’re done with work, at whatever 5:00, 6:00, or 7:00 PM and you take the evenings completely off. And so, as you’ll hear on those podcasts interviews, person after person just describes how they went from the CPA process, being this overwhelming, all consuming nightmare that you know, their life was wake up, go to work, study, feel stressed out about studying,
finally, go to sleep, wake up and do it again, for months. And a lot of times it wasn’t even working. To, going to this somewhat… it’s regimented it’s definitely regimented, but it’s a much more relaxed and simple way because you’re focusing or you’re spending your time on the most effective study strategies.
And then you take the evenings off. And a lot of the people you’ll hear on the podcast either took a full day off on the weekends or sometimes took the full weekend off. That’s never what I did, but once your process is really working, you can kind of do it, do it however you want. So I hope you found this video helpful, make sure to subscribe to the channel, but mostly I would subscribe to the podcast or both because we put different content on each one.
Again, if you want a cohesive overview of our specific study strategies and how they all fit together, and take a deeper dive on that, make sure to sign up for one of those free study training webinars, the link will be in the description below, or you can find it,
it’s the main thing at the top of our homepage at superfastcpa.com. So thanks for watching or listening, and we’ll see you on the next episode.