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The 3 "Keys" to Easier Studying, and Passing Fast
Below I've pasted in the content from the 3 emails that provide the "keys" to passing fast, and making the study process much easier.
Email #1: Time
These next 3 emails - this one included- are going to give you the keys to passing the exams much faster than you would otherwise, while making each day of studying much less stressful and frustrating.
All you have to do is read these emails and apply what's in them.
This email, and the next two emails, are going to contain my absolute best advice about how to approach your studying each day...
This is exactly how I went from spending 3 months just to fail one section, to then passing all 4 sections in the next 3 months.
This stuff works.
No matter what review course you're using, no matter what your plan is, no matter what your work & life situation is, all CPA candidates face the same 3 major challenges:
Retention: With so much information to learn over the span of several weeks, how do you remember everything you've studied instead of forgetting everything you studied a few weeks before?
Study methods: What exactly should you be doing when you sit down each day so that you're making the most progress and being as effective and efficient as possible?
(this is one that candidates agonize over... each day is crucial and it's easy for several days to go by and still feel like you haven't learned anything)
Time: Even if you have the perfect study plan that you know will work, again... it's easy for one day to get away from you, and for that to turn into 2 days, then a week, and then you start thinking about pushing back your exams.
So... that sets the stage.
You need a study plan that includes the most effective study methods possible, in a short enough time that you can execute it each day, and that includes some way of remembering everything as you go so that you're not wasting your time.
The solution for the time issue:
We'll cover retention and study methods in the next two emails, but for right now I'm going to give you the solution to the time issue.
First of all, STOP studying after work. It doesn't work. It's almost impossible to stay effective after your brain is fried from working all day.
Also, you don't need to try and get in 4-5 hours a day. Unless you completely re-arrange your schedule, it's nearly impossible to actually fit in 4 hours of effective study day in and day out.
You need to cut your main study session in half... so 2 hours. Even 1.5 hours.
So, you'll be switching to studying in the morning.
If that gives you visions of the crypt-keeper, it's really not that bad.
After I failed my first section, I had started working full-time, but I was more determined to not fail another section, and I knew I had to figure out a way pass the exams while studying less.... period.
My point is... ask yourself how bad you want to pass the exams? Is it worth getting up 2 hours earlier? Hell yes it is.
The other thing, is that once you make the overall commitment to doing whatever it takes to pass, and you make passing the #1 priority in your life, it feels like you're on a mission and it's motivating to study and make progress instead of depressing.
The second part of this, is what I call "mini-sessions". Again... after I was working full-time and trying to pass, I knew I needed to take advantage of every spare second of the day, so I bought some review notes and put them on my phone, and I would read them 5-10 minutes at a time all throughout the day.
Just like Forrest Gump would run anywhere he went, I was reading review notes or listening to audio notes anywhere I went. That included walking across the office, or walking to lunch, while sitting at lunch, waiting in line, at the grocery store.... you get the idea.
This might seem like a boring existence, but I had a white-hot hate for the idea of failing another exam, and I was willing to do whatever it took to not repeat that experience.
The materials I purchased weren't really meant to be used on a smartphone, so it wasn't ideal, but it got the job done.
SuperfastCPA and our products were created based around this idea of mini-sessions. The "mini session" idea was so helpful to everyone that was asking how I had passed so fast, that it gave me the idea to create products that were meant for this specific thing.
So... that's how SuperfastCPA came about. Some of my other ideas are baked into the products - such as our notes being based on actual exam questions instead of just being bullet-point summaries of chapters - but the core philosophy is that you have 2-3 hours of otherwise wasted time each day, and by using effective study supplements on your phone you can turn all those 5 minute opportunities into effective mini sessions.
There's also a huge benefit to mini sessions that I never thought about at first... but this repeat-exposure to the concepts over and over burns things into your long-term memory much more effectively than trying to slog through one big 4-hour session just once a day. In a big 4 hour session, you fill your short-term memory with so much dense CPA material, that most of it spills right back out and you've forgotten most of it before you even go to sleep that night.
So to recap...
You're going to wake up a little earlier and do 2 hours of studying in the morning. Then, you'll do mini-sessions throughout your day, everytime you have 5 to 10 minutes.
Email #2: Study Methods
This is an interesting topic because almost all CPA candidates study they same way when they start out, and a lot of it is a waste of time.
For example... your study routine is probably something like this:
You sit down to study, and turn on the video lecture for the lesson you're on. Then after about 10 minutes, you realize you've zoned out and weren't paying attention, so you start it over. Then, as you actually pay attention, it's not really making sense, so you open the text and try to kind of skim the chapter.
That doesn't really make sense either so you decide to look through some questions, and those look like a foreign language and so your brain just kind of shuts off.
So... it's been almost an hour and you haven't got anything done, so you decide to start fresh with the video lecture and really pay attention this time. And then this sort of loop repeats itself over and over and you never really feel like you're nailing any of the lessons.
Does that sound familiar?
That was my exact experience my first time studying for FAR, and it was very frustrating and the whole 3 months I always just felt like I was spinning my wheels instead of really nailing everything.
The Best Ways to Study
The first idea is the difference between active study methods, and passive study methods.
Passive study methods are what most people spend 90% of their time on. These include:
- Watching video lectures
- Skimming the chapter
- Reading the chapter
- Highlighting the chapter
Active study methods force new information into your brain. These include:
- Doing practice questions
- Doing practice simulations
- Writing explanations on flashcards
- Explaining a concept back to yourself out loud
Passive study methods have their place, but most people start with them, and spend most of their study time on them. This is a huge mistake, especially with the CPA material... the information is so dense and technical that it's the same thing as hearing a foreign language that you don't know... your brain doesn't know what to do with it. You need to give your brain a place to put the new information, and you do that with context.
The fastest way to get context of what you're trying to learn, is by going through the practice questions for a lesson FIRST. Yes, before you watch the video lecture or before you try to read the chapter.
To get even more info on this, read the part about using MCQs to study here...
That explains it pretty well.
The bottom line is, you spend most of your time going through questions and forcing the rules and concepts into your brain, instead of just sitting back and zoning out to video lectures and fooling yourself that you've been studying.
The Exact Study Formula To Follow:
- For a new lesson, go through the questions first
- Again, refer to this page for the exact process...
- For a lot of lessons, you can learn what you need to know by just going through the questions. This saves you an hour or more for most topics. That adds up fast
- For tougher concepts that you're just not getting, still struggle through the questions, and THEN go back and watch the video lecture. You'll know what you're trying to learn, and the lecture will actually make sense the first time once you've done this
So that's how you should spend the first hour of each study session to move through new material very quickly.
But... we still have retention to figure out. How to make sure that you actually get better at everything you've studied as the days go by instead of just forgetting everything you've studied. I will show you exactly how to do that in tomorrow's email.
And this is really the secret sauce to passing fast, passing the first time, and getting these exams over with.
So watch for tomorrow's email.
Email #3: Increasing Retention Instead of Forgetting
Ok... so now you'll do a 2 hour study session in the morning, focusing on questions as you move through new material.
Now let's talk about how to get better at everything you've studied as you get closer to test day, instead of forgetting everything.
So we said you'll do a 2-hour study session in the morning, and the first hour, or really the first hour and a half should be going through new material.
The last half hour, you should do one set of 30 MCQs that are cumulative from everything you've studied up to that point.
So let's say you're on day 20. After you've done your new material for the day, you would generate 30 questions pulled from the lessons you've studied in days 1-20.
Then, for any questions that you have a hard time remembering or that cover a core concept, write yourself a flashcard. Do this in your own words, and you'll remember it much easier.
Pretty simple. Doing this constantly re-sharpens everything you've studied so far, and you get better at it over time instead of slowly forgetting all that stuff you spent so much time on.
The other big benefit is that as far as test day strategy, the one thing that unlocks your highest odds of doing well on the SIMs is by finishing the MCQs as fast as possible. So by doing these daily sets of 30 MCQs, you not only get good at the actual material... you'll get very fast at MCQs in general.
On test day you want to average one MCQ per minute.
How to Take This Idea to the Next Level...
Like I've said several times already, after I failed FAR, I was obsessed with making sure I didn't fail again.
And... I wanted to pass as fast as possible.
So, I knew I had my smartphone with me all day, but that I was using it to look at Facebook or ESPN 100 times a day.
So I purchased some review notes and audio notes, and I would listen to the audios whenever I was driving, and I would read the review notes or do questions on my phone whenever I had 5 minutes during the day.
I also created opportunities to do these little "mini sessions". I would take a 10 minute walk around the building a couple times a day and do a mini study session. Or I would save the last 10 minutes of lunch, or I would read notes while I walked across the office to talk to someone about an audit... whatever, you get the idea.
This one small change - that I made a habit - made such a huge difference in how well I remembered concepts, and my actual understanding of the material.
And as it turns out, this repeat-exposure throughout the day is much more effective for real learning and memorization than one big 4 hour session all at once.
And again, your studying broken up throughout the day in smaller chunks is SO much easier behaviorally to actually accomplish each day.
This turned into the entire reason SuperfastCPA exists... the materials I had to use on my phone weren't really meant to be used from a smartphone.
They were better than nothing, but it wasn't ideal.
And, the review notes and audios were still way too bloated... the audios were around 15 hours just for one section, and the notes were just bullet point summaries of the chapters.
Again... on test day you have to sit and work through questions, so we created our notes and audios based on actual exam questions.
Once you start going through practice questions for a chapter, you quickly realize that you're only seeing questions on the same 2 or 3 key parts of the chapter, and that's how the actual exams are.
So it's much more effective to focus on the content from questions, instead of just reading chapter summaries over and over.
So to get to the point, that's what our review notes and audio notes are based on... actual exam questions. So that you know everything you're reviewing is the highest-leverage content to be spending your time one.
And these were made to be used on your smartphone, so that you can pull them out and read them for 5 minutes, and have a self-contained, effective mini study session.
Our MCQs are organized in mini-quiz format. So when you generate a quiz, you get 5 questions pulled from the entire test bank.
So some questions will be from material you haven't studied in your morning sessions yet - but this just gets you primed and follows the same idea of learning new material through questions.
The other questions will be re-review, which obviously just helps your retention.
The other thing we've built into our mini-quizzes, is that calculation-heavy questions have been modified with nice round numbers so that you can do them in your head.
Other question apps for mobile don't do this, and it's not practical to try and solve a dollar-value LIFO question from just your phone. So, people end up not even using the questions on mobile because they can't really answer complicated CPA questions on mobile.
Let's recap the big picture:
Here's how to make your studying so much easier, much more effective, and you will pass faster if you follow this format:
- You do a 2 hour study session in the morning when your brain is fresh
- You focus on questions first to move through new material rapidly
- You do a set of 30 MCQs for re-review
- All throughout your day you do as many "mini sessions" as possible from your phone
What to use for your mini sessions?
This is what we specialize in. Our study supplements - the review notes, audios notes, and our MCQs were designed with mini-sessions in mind.
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If you have all 4 sections left, the Total Bundle is by far the best value. It already has a big discount built into the pricing compared to buying everything separately, and an additional 40% off of that saves you a lot of money on the best study supplements out there.
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