From 8 Hours a Day to 8 Hours a Week, How Branden Passed His CPA Exams

From 8 Hours a Day to 8 Hours a Week, How Branden Passed His CPA Exams

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In this SuperfastCPA interview, you’ll hear how Branden dramatically increased the effectiveness of his CPA study process, to the point where he was only studying 8-10 hours a week, but still passing the CPA exams.


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Episode Timestamps

  • 0:00 Interview Edit
  • 02:28 How Branden Started His Path to Become a CPA
  • 06:20 Decided to Take a Break After Passing REG in Two Years
  • 08:00 Moved to San Diego, Got a New Job and Started to Purse the CPA Again
  • 11:38 Revisited the PRO Course and Started Implementing the Strategies
  • 14:37 Branden Went Through a Rollercoaster Journey with the CPA Exams
  • 18:11 Used the Retake Strategy to Pass FAR Six to Seven Weeks Before REG Expires
  • 21:54 How Branden Studied Lightly Though That Six to Seven Weeks
  • 27:54 How Branden Felt Studying for FAR the First Time
  • 29:32 When Branden Studied for the Sims and How It Helped
  • 33:56 Only Got the PRO Course to Guide His Studying
  • 34:32 Just Studied in the Morning and Trusted the PRO Course Strategies
  • 36:23 Switching to the Mornings Made Studying More Manageable
  • 39:43 Branden’s Process for Taking Down Notes and When He Would Review Them
  • 45:20 Branden Studied Only for Atleast 8 Hours a Week and Passed
  • 47:28 Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the Study Process

Interview Transcript

Branden: [00:00:00] You know, my, my daughter’s, she’s like two years old. She wants to see me. She wants to play and all that. So it’s like, I was trying to study up in my room with the door closed, but you can still hear everything going on. And it’s like, it’s just wasn’t working. So I, one of the first things I remember hearing was making a switch to doing in the morning.

Just wake up like, yeah, no one really likes to wake up early. Like it’s just, it’s just rough, but you just have to do it, you know? And like, how much do you want it? So that was the first. Like that was the first change that I implemented was, all right, I’m going to wake up like whatever that hour, hour and a half earlier, but I need to, so I can get at least maybe a solid hour and a half.

And, and I didn’t play with that. I got to the point where I was waking up at four 30, just because I felt good. I was so motivated that like, even though I’m so tired, I just was like, I’m up. Let’s go, let’s get down there, right. But I, like I said, it made such a difference because that first attempt that I had at BEC, I got an 84.

Logan: Welcome to [00:01:00] another episode of the CPA Exam Experience Podcast with SuperfastCPA. I’m Logan, and in today’s interview, you’re going to hear Nate and I talk to Branden.

Now, Branden originally went to school for civil engineering, but one day he noticed that one of his dad’s friends who’s a CPA was doing lots of fun stuff, you know, kind of living the high life. He would go golfing and Branden would see that and think, you know, there’s something to being a CPA, like, how come he gets to go do that stuff? So that was one of the things that got him interested in the CPA and accounting in general.

And eventually he was doing some work in accounting. He even moved for a job and the most important thing that you’ll learn from this interview is that Branden was able to get so efficient with his study process that at one point he was only studying maybe eight hours total a week. Just take that in, studying for the CPA exam and passing your exams and only studying about eight hours a week.

So again, in this video, you’ll learn how somebody using the SuperfastCPA strategies was able to become so efficient that they were able to do that and still pass [00:02:00] exams. I think you’re going to love this interview.

Before we jump into the interview, I just want to give one more reminder about the SuperfastCPA training webinar we have on superfastcpa.com. It’s a one hour training webinar where we teach the key ingredients to passing the CPA exam. Again, it’s only one hour and it is free. It’s something you don’t want to miss. it will save you so much time struggling with your process.

Make sure you go check that out. And with all that said, let’s dive straight into the interview with Branden.

Nate: Let’s go back to just starting your CPA in general.

How Branden Started His Path to Become a CPA

Nate: Like where were you at in your career? What made you want to get your CPA or feel like you needed it? Let’s go to that point.

Branden: All right. Yeah. So, um, a couple of factors are there just even when I got my accounting degree, you know, multiple professors always, you know, they’re always like, Hey, who’s going to get your CPA kind of like, you’re dumb if you don’t, you know, like not wanting that, but it was just like, why are you going to do this if you’re not going to strive to get your CPA license, you know?

Um, and then it was actually my, my brother’s father in law, he was a CPA. And I just remember watching [00:03:00] him. This may be kind of a funny reason, but I just remember seeing him all the time out, like golfing, you know, on a Friday at two, when I was still in school.

And I was like, man, what is this? It’s gotta be something to the CPA, man. He’s always golfing. It just seems like he’s got that, that high life, you know,

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: So that, at first it kind of got me that way. And, you know, not that it’s like that or even needs to be like that, but that kind of what, in a funny way started me down that path. Um, yeah, so I just kind of went that way with accounting. I got my first job as a staff accountant for, uh, just like an aerospace company outside of LA, and I think that was the big, I was from like a smaller city. So, you know, they told me like my salary and all that. I was so stoked, right? And then you get to the higher cost of living of LA. It was like, wow, like, okay, it’s, it’s really expensive and I need to make more money somehow, right? So there was a, there was part of that too, right? Like, okay, if I get my CPA license, you know, plus like while I learned it better, that could probably help me afford just to live in general, right?

So, uh, yeah, I’d say after starting [00:04:00] working as a staff accountant, my manager as well as a CPA, so I had, you know, like having him and talking to him too, and just, really stressing the importance or just like the benefits of having a CPA license to, you know, further your career if you do want to grow.

And I definitely had that ambition where I didn’t want to just be a staff account or I know sometimes we always say like, you know, like an AP clerk, right? They’re definitely needed. They’re the backbone, but not everybody wants to kind of punch the numbers. And I know I didn’t want to, right. Um, so I knew having a CPA license would definitely would help, you know, in a field of applicants, you gotta, you gotta be able to stand out just, you know, uh, a bachelor’s degree wouldn’t be enough. And it worked out for me too, where when I first was going to school, I was going on actually for a civil engineer. So what actually happened too was I got my bachelor’s degree and I knew because of the new requirements, I didn’t, I wouldn’t have enough units, a bachelor’s degree.

Um, so I knew like, okay, so what the bachelor’s degree because of the, you know, I wasn’t going to have enough units, but then when I, I just decided to kind of send out my application to see if I could sit [00:05:00] for the CPA, because I was kind of looking back and go, Oh, you know, looking at my transcripts, I luckily I had enough credits because of my engineering classes I was taking, because I had to take, you know, like calc one, calc two and all that.

And so I was able to apply those in different areas where I actually had enough credits where I could sit for the CPA exam. So that’s when I was really like, okay, I need to go for this. I need, I just, I want it for myself. I want to further my advancement, like, or my opportunity to actually grow, whether it was going to be even kind of going to public to be.

Actually doing taxes or, or doing just, or audit, whatever, you know, whatever it could be, or if I just wanted to kind of grow, even where I was like an operational side and wanted to go up to a controller and maybe even strive to be a CFO one day, you know, just young and full of aspiration, but, uh, so, so I kind of started that.

So then once I knew that I could actually sit and I met those requirements, that’s when I kind of, like, I really just felt like it was time to go, cause it was about maybe two, about two years after I [00:06:00] graduated. So that’s when I decided, like, I’m really going to go for this thing. Um, I’m going to be a CPA. All in.

So that’s when I, yeah, did the application. That got approved. You know, I got my review course and that’s kind of like the start or I was saying where I logged in and then I had no idea what to do.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: Yeah.

Decided to Take a Break After Passing REG in Two Years

Nate: But so you did over a two year period, you passed REG, but then within 18 months it had expired without passing another one and then was it just that the frustration of spending two to three years and then losing the one that you did pass that you decided to take a break or what made you take that break?

Branden: I was definitely, right when it expired. It was, uh, it was kind of, I had this scenario in my head where I knew the odds of me getting all four or the next three before that expire were probably very slim.

Uh, I still had, I think I had one more FAR attempt and one more BEC. And in my mind I told myself, okay, you know, if [00:07:00] I pass both of these, And even if regulation expires, I’m still going to move on. So, when those two, I got the 74 and 73. And then regulation expired. That’s when I just, yeah, kind of threw my hands in the air.

And I was like, you know, just not for me, it’s not for everyone. I have a solid job at the time. Like it’ll be okay. You know, I can make it work. I think one of the companies that I worked at before too, you know, the CFO didn’t have the CPA license. So I was trying to tell myself to, you know, it’s about performance.

You don’t need to let this define you, right. Although I was, I couldn’t help it. Of course, deep down, it was a bummer. I really wanted to do it. You know, you start, you start trying, like you’re, you know, you’re studying for the CPA, your family finds out, your friends find out. And then, you know, of course, grandma’s, they get like super excited.

So then, you know, you start getting this little, like, Oh, I don’t want to let them down too, because every time I see him, it’s like, Oh, where are you at? And all that, right. Um, so it was a little bit of a bummer, just kind of [00:08:00] want to see where things go.

Moved to San Diego, Got a New Job and Started to Purse the CPA Again

Branden: And then, so what actually got me back though, was we ended up moving him down to San Diego because before we, so we were in Long Beach, you know, like I said, I was working like outside of LA, so my wife, she’s a nurse practitioner and she just had a really good opportunity.

So we just, we just moved. She had a job down here. I was actually commuting for, for a little bit to where I was working in outside of LA. So that was, that was a little rough driving in because it was during the COVID lockdowns, but my company was deemed essential. So since we were essential, didn’t matter what, you know, department you worked in.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: We were all, we were all coming in, so.

Nate: How far, how far of a commute was that? I, not really, in my head, compute that.

Branden: It was, I would say it’s about, it’s like 110 miles one way.

Nate: Oh, wow. You were doing that every day.

Branden: Yeah. Every day driving in. And so it only lasted a few months, which was, worked out. Cause you know, I, I mean, I told them all the truth, you know, Hey, we moved to San Diego. What are the options? Is it going to be remote and they just, you know, kind of shut it down. They’re like, you know, we’re like, we [00:09:00] know that you’re pretty much going to quit, but you know, we’re not going to force you out, you know, give us a heads up. So, uh, so again, thankfully I did find a job down here that wasn’t too far away. It was actually working for the public transportation.

So it was a government job. And I, you know, I think just going through college, I always had different ideas of maybe where I wanted to go. And in government was one of them just because, you know, pension and there’s all that, right. Oh, you got all the holidays. It’s like, it seems like governments are always closed, right.

So, so I, so I got there and then that’s kind of when I read it, like, or came back to the, to revisit taking the CPA was I was talking to the accounting manager and she was studying for the CPA. And she was just pretty much telling me that the company was going to pay for her exams. So I just thought like, well, I might as well ask and I even inquired before I didn’t like ask right away.

I just, you know, internally too, it’s just like, all right, do I give it one more go? I think it still would be very beneficial to have it. It’s something that I just, I kind of just want to have it. It wasn’t even so much of a specific job. Like I, I need [00:10:00] this because I do want to go work for a firm. It was just, I just, I told myself I was going to get it.

I want to make it happen. So kind of talk to myself. And again, I didn’t want to spin my wheels anymore. Life finally did settle down a little bit, you know, after another move, you know, uh, it was, I knew like, okay, I’m not getting married again. You know, , like you would, you would say.

Nate: Not for a while.

Branden: Nothing. Yeah. Yeah. Nothing, nothing like that for a while, right? We’re good. Um, so I did, I, you know, I came home, talked to my wife, told her just like, I feel like I should believe another go, but if I really do, it’s gotta be, I gotta commit. I can’t, you know, I, I feel like I wasted so much time studying and taking away from life that, and then, and like, vice versa, that it just, it was like, okay.

So I, we missed out on doing, you know, maybe vacations or visiting family on weekends so I could study, but then now I’m studying and Ix didn’t pass so, you know, what’s the real cost. It’s kind of like this lose, lose.

So, I wanted to restart, kind of got all that out of the way of just like the dedication, you know, and not, I guess like I would say part [00:11:00] of my French, but like not half assing it anymore, like I felt like I kind of was,

Nate: Mm-hmm.

Branden: You know, of course it was like, yeah, let’s go for it. So got everything taken care of. I already had the review course. So, um, you know, I, I was like, let’s go, let’s make it happen again. And I know I left off with using the notes from SuperfastCPA for BEC. So that’s actually what I started with.

I decided to do BEC first. I’m like, let me just take the, let me do it. I got. 74 right there and like, let, let, let’s just get my confidence up by doing one that I, I, I really truly feel like I can pass. And then again, I felt pretty confident about REG cause I passed before, but I know like with tax law and all that, I’m like, let me do that one second cause I know there’s gonna be changes.

Logan: Mm-Hmm. .

Revisited the PRO Course and Started Implementing the Strategies

Branden: Um, but yeah, so then I, I had the notes, so I, I went straight to ’em and I knew even since the last time I was using them is when there was like the PRO. Uh, PRO website and like, and that was, and that one to me when I was kind of going through it was more of the guidelines of like setting up study to be successful.

Nate: Mm-Hmm.

Branden: So, I did, I did review that one. I feel like that one actually really helped because when I finally implemented that [00:12:00] guide, it just was like night and day for the progress of what I made on my studying. You know, even when I first got back on the second go, I was studying after work. And it was just tough.

You know, my, my daughter’s, she’s like two years old. She wants to see me. She wants to play and all that. So it’s like, I was trying to study up in my room with the door closed, but you can still hear everything going on. And it’s like, it’s just wasn’t working. So I, one of the first things I remember hearing was making a switch to doing in the morning.

Just wake up like, yeah, no one really likes to wake up early. Like it’s just, it’s just rough, but you just have to do it, you know? And like, how much do you want it? So that was the first. Like that was the first change that I implemented was, all right, I’m going to wake up like whatever that hour, hour and a half earlier, but I need to, so I can get at least maybe a solid hour and a half.

And, and I didn’t play with that. I got to the point where I was waking up at four 30, just because I felt good. I was so motivated that like, even though I’m so tired, I just was like, I’m up. Let’s go, let’s get down there, right. But I, like I said, it made such a difference [00:13:00] because that first attempt that I had at BEC, I got an 84.

So it was awesome, you know, and just seeing that score was like great, you know, and just like, wow. Like, and like the only thing I just, my retention was so much better just by studying in the morning.

Nate: Yeah. So, sorry, just to, just to clarify. So on the second start, before you started, you went back in, rewatched the PRO videos all the way through.

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: And that kind of gave you this plan to follow as far as like how to study with your review course and I guess when, cause we always emphasize the mornings, but. Okay, so you, you watch those and just got clear on what was in those videos as far as how to approach this whole thing, which kind of was missing, a strategic approach was missing your first time around.

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: That’s kind of the whole difference. Yeah.

Branden: Yeah. And I would say, and to go into more detail, I do remember we were at my, my wife’s [00:14:00] parents, my in laws house. And it was like, again, right when I got, right, I’m going to start up again. I’m, I’m going back to the CPA exams. That’s when I really just, I took it.

I think it was like two hours at my, like the first time when I opened up, just going through the videos and taking notes on everything that was being said in the videos. And already that was, again two years ago or so, but I remember like I had my, yeah, my spiral notebook and just like, okay, this is like, this is what I need to do.

These are other tips that I need to remember and have in the back of my mind. Cause it was, you know, setting up that game plan just made such a game changer of studying, just knowing what you need to do and following it.

Branden Went Through a Rollercoaster Journey with the CPA Exams

Branden: And yeah. And again, that, and even through this journey of when I did pass, I still have a little bit of that rollercoaster.

And I, I, I feel like what I really love about my journey as well was that I fell off a little bit and then it was kind of revisiting the notes and kind of going back is what actually I feel like really pulled me through to finish strong on the last exams, which [00:15:00] I mean, I can go into now because it was cool.

It was just, just to tell you, I, so I passed BEC, got the 84. Went into regulation a little, uh, a little, I don’t know, overconfident, but again, I passed it before, so I wasn’t thinking too bad on it. So I actually didn’t pass. And I was like, Oh, I couldn’t believe it. I’m like, well, how did I not? I’m like, here we go again.

And I think also part of that with too, was when I passed BEC, the score release, it was in the November. So then you’re thinking, okay, I got 18 months, right? There’s plenty of time. Like, let’s enjoy the holidays. Let’s not try to do all this studying with all this happening. And then my birthday is also in January.

So we’re kind of like right after my birthday, let’s get back onto it. And I think that just totally like after having that first pass, just totally derailed me and just put me behind because trying to get back on, it didn’t really happen until February. And now I’m looking, I’m like, well, now it’s been, it’s, it’s not the exam release date, right?

It’s, it’s when you sat, right. And it goes back. So then I’m like, Oh God, when I go back all the way to there, [00:16:00] I’m like, I’ve already lost so much time now. And now I, so my studying wasn’t going good. Fast forward. I actually don’t even pass REG. So there was another like reassess cause I’m like, I’m not going down this path again.

I’m not doing it. That’s right. So it was a little discouraging because at the time I was studying for audit and I’ve just, I’ve never worked an audit. In college I took one course and it was my senior year. So, you know, like, all right, like it wasn’t too focused on it.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: Um, and it just, again, like experience wise, didn’t really quite have it there.

So I wasn’t feeling too good after seeing that fail. But, you know, I still did, I stuck to the plan again. Not, not like, I think like my first block of my CPA studies, I was trying to be perfect. And like, I wanted to know, I wanted to know the answer to every single question. And I was so focused on just trying to memorize the answer B, you know, and like, sometimes you would go, I would go in that, that motion, you know, the, I would see a question and I wouldn’t even like read it cause I just knew it was the second answer, [00:17:00] right.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: It was, Oh, there it is. It’s that one. It’s that one. Right. Like, I just know it’s this. And, uh, which doesn’t help. So this part gets out there. Don’t try to memorize it. Doesn’t that’s not what gets you there. Um, so anyway, so audit back to the plan, right?

You got to go through all the sections, even the tough, tough section. There’s tough sections on all of them. Sometimes it would, you know, I don’t really feel like studying that today. No, you gotta, you know, I had to study it. I had the game plan. I had the guideline. I wrote it out. Like, what am I going to do?

Like I knew exactly every day what I was going to do, right. And if you miss a day, which happens, all right, I got to make up for it on the weekends, then we talked about that before I utilized most of my studying Monday through Friday, so I left the weekends open and then yeah, anything got messed up, all right, I have to do it now because I got to stay on schedule.

I need to be able to finish all these sections. You know, that way I have the time for final review and all that. And, um, so save the course on audit past that one. So then my confidence was back to like, [00:18:00] all right, cool. Let me get back to REG and like actually study this time. Like, I don’t think I’m just going to get an easy 75, like automatic, right.

So, um, so that was successful.

Used the Retake Strategy to Pass FAR Six to Seven Weeks Before REG Expires

Branden: So I did, I did pass regulation, which left FAR and just being nervous because by the time I finally got to FAR and was getting everything, you know, for like that last stress, the last exam, you know, three done, I had, I think like three months before my BEC was going to finally expire.

Because like I said, I pushed it. I took so long to get back on after that first pass. It just, you know, put into overdrive for like the last three and then, and then the nerves, right? Like, oh, like, what if I fail?

Nate: Mm-hmm.

Branden: It got to be terrible, right. So I, um, So I had everything planned, right? I’m like, I knew my exam expired, like it was like May 5th.

So I knew I got to, you know, get my, I got to get FAR in by then, right? So I had to actually plan to take it like the end of April. And thankfully, I was actually talking to my boss about it at the time. And he said, well, if I was you, I would do one like end of March, [00:19:00] like figure out the times. And I would, I would do at the end of March.

And then like you keep on studying, even after you find out your score, because if you did fail, then like, you’re still kind of going for that original exam that you have at the end of April, but if you end up passing then cool, you’re done earlier, right.

Logan: Yeah.

Branden: And so that, that, that helps. So that’s what I did. Right. I changed my exam date to be like the end of, end of March and that’s when I saw on the PRO, on the PRO course that the retake. So I was like, oh, you know what? I’ve actually taken FAR, let me look at this strategy of this retake. Let me just see like how it’s a little bit different. I’ve gotten pretty close. Maybe I don’t need to do like this traditional like first time strategy.

So, so I read it and like, and I did pretty much what it said, right. You go through and you kind of create your, your bad categories and your good categories and you kind of have the two, right. So, and I knew at this time it was maybe like beginning of February.

So I’m like, okay, I definitely have a decent amount of time for this. Like end of March, but like, let’s go. So I made my own game plan. I’m going to go through each section starting off with just doing, [00:20:00] I think mine was set for maybe either MCQs and that’s all I wanted to do. I’m like, I’m just going to go each section MCQs. What’s my score? Is it good? Or is it bad? So I went through, and of course my first time through it all, the list, uh, the column of bad was, you know, big, of course. So, here’s the big, here’s my good ones. Alright. I was like, alright, cool. So now I have my one category of good, and then the bad. And then that’s when I started doing the, implementing like, alright, start back with the first one from the bad, and then finishing up with a light review of all my good ones, as just one general one.

And then, as I slowly started making the bad ones more to the good, and then It was easier to kind of go through, you know, like stuck into these final six or seven sections. And then my big column of good where I could just do 25 questions of all those as one general recap every day just to keep them fresh.

And uh, yeah, and then I, it worked, I took the exam and I got an 81, which was awesome. And I can’t help but think it was also that retake strategy, but I’m going to say, I don’t care what anyone tells me. That’s what it was. [00:21:00] It was totally the retake. I did, that’s what I, that’s how I outlined it. That’s it.

And I passed. And I’m like, awesome. Okay. And that’s my last one, so.

Nate: Nice. Yeah. That’s awesome to hear. Um, so how long was So when you shortened the, your original timeline for FAR to leave one more attempt, what did that shorten your study timeline down to? Like, how many weeks were you doing the retake strategy for FAR?

Branden: Uh, I would say it was either like six or seven weeks.

Nate: Okay.

Branden: So it was still a decent amount of time. It wasn’t like three weeks of a retake.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: Like oh, it’s right, right around there. But yeah, so it put it down to where I was like seven weeks away because it was maybe like early february when I decided to move it up from the end of may because that would just have been way, that would have been just way too much time of just going through I would have gotten burned out for sure knowing that so.

How Branden Studied Lightly Though That Six to Seven Weeks

Branden: But I mean even, but even getting to 81 with that i’m like, oh, I, I probably could have, I think for sure, [00:22:00] three, four weeks, depending on how much time you’re studying, you know, um, I, I was like, I said, I was waking up maybe 4:30, sometimes still five.

And then I wasn’t even, I wasn’t even studying on weekends at all. So it was just Monday through Friday. And even at those days, so three of the days was very dedicated to just studying from my timeframe of like where I needed to be done by, you know, like 6:15, that way I can kind of help out with the kids, get them ready for school and get myself ready for work.

The other two days, because I do like to work out and exercise, and uh, that’s something I didn’t even get to yet, that’s, that was another part of my, like, spinning the wheels, because I was studying not really efficiently, and then I wasn’t working out efficiently, and I was trying to do both, like, the same days, and it just wasn’t working out, so then I was getting frustrated that my studying wasn’t good, then I’d work out, and I was getting frustrated that my workout wasn’t good, because I wasn’t giving myself enough time to actually get, like, what I would like consider a decent workout.

So then I was like spinning my wheels on both ends and it was like driving me crazy. So, um, [00:23:00] what helped was that I, I did just really, it was like final go three days, solid study, two days, slight study. So I’d still study. And then those were like my to get a decent workout, like planning. And so it kind of even helped me like planning with the workout too, as well, where I’m like, I knew like Monday and Thursday.

I was going to be able to get like my work in it, workout in right after my short study, like a 30 to 45 minute study. And so that was like, okay, just be content. You’re going to get done and take care of it. Right. And then I knew Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, two hours, hour and a half to two hours, full dedication of just studying and following the guideline and the plan that I had wrote it out for myself based off the book from the PRO course.

Nate: Yeah. So that’s really, uh, really efficient. You just, um, you, so you’re only really studying five days a week and even though, even then three days of, what like two solid hours and on the other two on the Monday, Thursday, where you’re going to work out, it was more like an hour, even a half hour, so.

Branden: [00:24:00] Yeah, usually like, yeah, 45 minutes. I mean, maybe that 15 minutes was making coffee though, so getting ready. Yeah, I mean, I really had it down to that’s, that’s where it was that Monday through Friday. And just being laser focused, especially on the studying, um, just being very active, what I was going over, like I didn’t do that many videos. I mean, I really just kind of really use the MCQ strategy and the sims. I think that. I kind of left out since for my studying, I think that was a big game changer too, for the entire second block of my CPA journey, because the first block I didn’t really do too many sims I thought like, Oh, if I just know the content from the MCQs, it’ll, you know, transpire into there, which it did a little bit, but not as much.

I feel like you definitely still need the hands on, you know, experiencing, like, going through the sims. So that also really helped. And I think, yeah, going through the course, it was, you know, I think, you know, you have to add your, your sims, your one or two, and then you kind of start building them up, start building them up as you’re going [00:25:00] through.

So, yeah, um, just being, again, very laser focused on what am I reading? Like, what is this question, like saying, you know, and then after I go through the set of questions, if I got it right, I was still, unless I, like, I really know why, like, why I got it right. Like I didn’t want I didn’t need to dive deep, but normally I wasn’t getting questions. Like for FAR I wasn’t getting like prepaid questions because I already was pretty solid on prepaids.

So that’s what I did like my whole career as a staff account was prepaids, right? Um, but you know, like I never really did leases, so it’s like I would really want to focus on lease. And so when I get to that question, it was just like really going through the words to write, you know, the words are so important, and it’s so easy to overlook what they’re really trying to say sometimes or where you assume, you know what it’s trying to say, where you, again, like at least for me I couldn’t I needed to actually like just read it, take it slow.

And then really start figuring out or getting my, my, my good list, like finally, like having that, that lightbulb click of like, [00:26:00] Oh, I’m like, like, I see what they’re asking for. Like, what do I need to do? That’s like, and then being able to find out what I was doing wrong. So, and then, you know, trying out more questions to be like, Oh, wow.

Yeah. I really got this. Cause you know, I get more questions. I would finally actually find like, Hey, this is in section 3 B 2 like let me go now to that section and do a couple of questions. You know, get ’em all right. Like, all right, cool. I got it. And that was always a great feeling too, of just taking this like failing section and being like, oh, this is like my, this is my good, like this is my passing section now.

Like I’m, I’m good at this, right? So what’s the next one? I, I think that was also a challenge throughout the journey, right? Like, no one wants to go through the challenging stuff, right? Because, you know, like work, you have to work your brain. It takes, it takes actual, like mental focus and like exercising the brain, right?

So it, it’s so much easier to do. Like, oh, let me look at the, you know, COSO framework or something, right? Like, it’s just memorizing definitions, but actually looking at, you know, something, I can’t even speak, but you know, I just have something where you actually have [00:27:00] to calculate and you need to go through and you need to find like the amortization of a bond or something, right?

Nate: Yeah, you’ve got to spend a lot of time feeling confused if you’re doing this right. Yeah. Pushing through, wrestling with the confusion until you get to that breakthrough, like you said. And like, once that happens, a topic becomes pretty simple. Like once you just get it, but, uh, yeah, it’s, I think that’s why it’s people watch video lectures or highlight the chapter cause it feels like you’re, it feels like you’re doing something. Feels like you’re being productive, but the context of the questions and how they work, you’re going to have to go through that struggle, whether you’re watching the videos or not.

And, uh, Yeah, that’s just if you’re doing this right, you’re going to feel confused a lot. Um, and I think people hate that, but.

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: That’s where that whole active learning thing comes in.

How Branden Felt Studying for FAR the First Time

Branden: It’s true because there was almost lying to myself the first time, right? [00:28:00] Where I’m studying say for FAR the first time.

And I, I’m, I’m great at section one, right? I went through like the foundations and the principles cause I have it all memorized, but then I wouldn’t touch these other sections, right. So it’s like, you don’t know what you don’t know. So for all I know is like, well, I’m, I’m getting over 90 percent on this.

And once in a while I’ll get questions in the other sections when I would do like a mixed review, uh, which I wouldn’t do in the beginning, I would only like select the ones I wanted to do. And of course I would choose the ones I was strong at, which does not help you.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: So I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And then when you go your exam day and you don’t pass it’s like, well, it’s no wonder, right. But I felt good studying because I was doing so good where, you know, two were the ones I actually passed. I sucked it up. I went through the hard, challenging topics though. And that’s all I would really focus on and like you said, I felt so confused.

I don’t even, am I ever going to grasp, grasp this, you know, because you just, it’s kind of discouraging, right. You go through this whole set, like 25 questions and you get like [00:29:00] 40%, right. That’s like, well, that doesn’t feel good. And now I’m this many weeks away from exam day. But then you just kind of kept going.

And like you said, and it finally turns and you get that light bulb. And, you know, you, you figure out, you dissect what you need to learn. And then, but once you do, you get to take that one away and then others less for you to have to learn or just to be able to like know how to handle and do the computations and yeah, and that’s good because It’s like the struggle like you said an act of learning but then the end result is you actually pass, so.

Nate: Right.

Logan: Yup. Yeah, I was gonna ask.

When Branden Studied for the Sims and How It Helped

Logan: Um, so, you know in that whole process you talked you mentioned a little bit about the sims. But I kind of want to just understand what you were saying about them. So you did a lot of multiple choice questions, what was your strategy with the sims? Because you know our typical recommendation is, you know, you have your study sessions on the weekends where you, do the sims, but you weren’t really studying on the weekends very much.

So like what did you do to learn from the sims and like when were you [00:30:00] doing that each day?

Branden: So the sims were for the most part like the Monday through Friday at the end of every every session.

Logan: Okay, so you still did them every day. Okay.

Branden: Yeah, so I would, so I typically do, you know, the material that I either study on. Have the, the refresher and then I would do like two sims or maybe like even get it up to like three sims. Sometimes one, I always wanted to get at least one. And then the importance to like looking at the time, because again, those days happen where you do just sleep in or, or you just don’t have that solid time that you’d, you’d, you’d want like the two hours, like today it became an hour and a half day.

And I knew if I spent a lot of time on, you know, like the new material and I didn’t think I was gonna have time for say the sims or like the overview again at the end, I would not do the overview because I knew I was doing that quite a bit, I would actually focus more on the sims, because I felt like I started getting a lot out of the sims.

And, and even like again like that second go around. Cause you know, you can, you can see on your review course, if you, when you [00:31:00] have a review course, it tells you which ones you’ve done, you know, in the past, when I didn’t pass my exams, it was obvious that, you know, if you went to my history and look at sims, you could see that I maybe did six sims out of, you know, the 90 or a hundred that they have available.

Whereas you go the second round, especially like the FAR retake, you know, I probably did at least 70%, you know, and I have the idea in my head of like, okay, I got to make sure I want to get a hundred percent of the sims, right? Which didn’t happen, but even that difference of doing, you know, five to six versus doing, you know, 55 sims.

I also feel like that was a game changer. And then I really saw the positive in the sims too because it could take other topics. And just because of the way sims are laid out, you know, opposed to a multiple choice, it does allow you to kind of maybe spit some of those cracks that you couldn’t get from reading, or at least for me personally.

So when I would see a question that I got wrong, Yeah, because you would get a sim that was similar to another, like another [00:32:00] MCQ, right? But now because of the sim, it’s like, Oh, okay, right. Like, and then it just, it’s so powerful using the why, like, you know, when they explain why you got it wrong or like why the correct answer is. That to me was so, so powerful that I started utilizing more instead of just getting it wrong. I mean, like wrong again, right. Next question. So especially like in the first, cause I know you could hide and do the questions at the end, but a lot of times I would do it where I got it, you know, show me the answer right away, especially towards the end, because then I would, I wanted to know, and I wanted to read it and then that way I can kind of have like my side notes of like, Hey, what topics do I really need to spend time on again?

Like, like what, what in this is like tripping me up, right. So, but then yeah, starting to do a lot more of the sims it could fill in some of those gaps where, you know, maybe reading on MCQs what the answer was, I was still not really clear. I could still, I was like, okay, this isn’t really helping. Tell me why this is the right answer.

Like, I don’t understand what it’s, what’s the reasoning still, right? So then you go to a sim and just the way that those are built, it’s like, oh, okay, now I can see how they [00:33:00] came out with this answer. And then I can translate that back to the mc, just to the overall topic. But like back to the MCQs too, right?

Like, oh, okay, now I got it and then I’ll, I’ll get it right on MCQs now because now I actually, actually understand.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: Like the process of like how it’s being calculated versus again, just it’s not like a definition. You can just memorize.

Nate: Yes, and I do think that the sims add a lot of context There’s just there’s just really good crossover.

It’s working on both is, helps you really understand a topic from both sides. So yes, I I think ideally you’re kind of, with our standard process, yeah, you’re doing the, the topics through the week with the planting the seeds or the multiple choice and then on the weekends you’re hitting the sims for that topic or those topics you’ve covered, but I mean, the way you’re doing it, same thing, you’re just weaving it into your daily thing. Um, did you have a question, Logan?

Only Got the PRO Course to Guide His Studying

Logan: I was just going to ask, so, you know, you had [00:34:00] the BEC notes from way back. And then when you came back, you also got the PRO course. I’m assuming, I mean, you can let me know if I’m wrong about this, but I’m assuming you also got the other material for the other exams. Like the, did you use the review notes and the audio notes and the mini quizzes throughout this or was it mainly the PRO course?

Branden: Yeah, just the PRO course.

Logan: Okay.

Branden: I had the BEC and then I passed and then I kind of was just kind of going through with the PRO course and then I was finding the success, you know, so I kinda stayed on that path, you know.

Just Studied in the Morning and Trusted the PRO Course Strategies

Nate: So you’re basically, so you studied in the morning and that was it? You weren’t really using like study tools throughout the day on the app or anything?

Branden: No, no, I wasn’t.

Nate: That’s yeah. So you really weren’t studying a ton. I know. Yeah. You were not, you weren’t spending a ton of time studying, but it was just very efficient what you were doing.

Branden: Yeah, I think once, and then just trusting it, I think that’s, it came down to like the, like the, all of it, adding up of switching it just to the morning, [00:35:00] right?

Having an outline planned, uh, looking at the blueprint, right? Like what do they actually want? You know, so taking like those tips too, because I never looked at the blueprint of what the AICPA actually wanted. So it’s like, Oh, well, this helps too. And then, you know, it’s, I know other people are in my shoes where they failed the exams multiple times.

It’s not the best feeling, but, uh, you kind of see the questions you get.

So that also helps. I started to take those failures to like, help me be successful. So like when I was studying certain topics, you’re like, all right, how many times have I actually seen this out of the three times I’ve taken this exam, right?

Or I think that was the most FAR, I think FAR overall I took is my fourth one. So, so anyone that’s failed a lot, don’t worry, you can still make it.

Nate: Oh, we’ve yeah, there’s, yeah, there’s such a wide, uh, spectrum of, I mean, there’s people that have taken 20 or 30 attempts, you know.

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: I mean, I’m sure more they’re out there, but we’ve talked to several [00:36:00] people that, I mean, most common is someone’s failed, you know, maybe like two or three times in their whole thing.

Kind of like you, maybe, maybe two to five times is the most common thing. But then there are people that have passed all four in the first try. There are people that have, you know, spent 10 years taking exams throughout every year for 10 years. So, yeah.


Switching to the Mornings Made Studying More Manageable

Nate: So one of the things I wanted to ask was, uh, just, didn’t it make your whole life so much easier to study in the mornings? You know, because like he’s mentioned, you’re just seeing your family after work.

Basically, by the time you’re done with work, you were just done for the day. Whereas before you were trying to study after work. Um, I mean, I’m just, I’m guessing it was just made your life easier in general to study in the morning.

Branden: Like I said, just the, that quality of life, which changes so much when you’re, when you’re already in this path of going, because like you said, when you’re so exhausted [00:37:00] after work, just mentally, and then, and everyone knows, right, and you’re driving home, there’s traffic, and just, and then, like, for my situation, it’s like, it’s time to be like dinner, the kids are hungry too, and we would, I would actually try to fit in that first to do a little bit of the family time, and then go sneak up and try to study, and it’s just, not, not, not a good combination for success of all that, plus eating. So now like the last thing you want to do is to look at the question, try to figure it out. So, and surprisingly, like once I kind of got in that, once I did get in the routine of waking up early, it was, it was easy to get up at the time that I needed to do to get the studying in. Yeah. So it almost seemed like, Oh, try to get in, try to get two hours before you need to leave for work. Like what happens if you do wake up late? Like, yeah, life happens. But I was having I was having an easier time getting my studying in the morning than I was at night. It was way easier at night to start it later than I [00:38:00] wanted to, right? Like, okay, if I’m going to study at night, I have to work.

I need to start by 6:30. There’d be times I’m getting up. It’s already 7:30. And, you know, my wife too wants to have us time. So by the time the kids are asleep and she’s, you know, downstairs watching a show or, and just wants me to be with her, you know, I’m getting text messages because she’s downstairs and I’m upstairs running two story and I’m getting a text message.

I was like, you know, 8:05, like, are you almost done? And I’m like, I barely started, you know, or, or maybe even if I did start at say like 7:30 and it’s been a half hour, sometimes it would take time just to even get in that like right mindset. So I really was like, everything was pretty much wasted time.

And I was maybe just finally getting that grip of like, all right, okay. I can kind of focus. And then, yeah, already distracted again, because it’s like, Are you done yet? I’m like, oh, yeah, so.

Logan: Yeah.

Branden: I will do this. Wake up. It’s super quiet. And like, and like, again, it wasn’t that difficult. You know, I kind of had that routine [00:39:00] set of wake up, go make a coffee.

If you don’t like coffee, like, you know, whatever you might have that you enjoyed. But for me, just a hot coffee, like the smell of it was great. Sipping on it. And I was able to get into the studying pretty much right away because you’re just, you’re clear, right? You had a good night’s sleep and I could just, yeah, there was no waste of the time.

I felt like I was able to go ride horses out of the gate.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: What do I do? I had, like I said, I always had my notebook with all my plans, you know, like trying to like, just to make sure I keep on schedule what I needed to like what to do and yeah, just, all right, what are we doing? All right. You know, making it happen that I felt like.

Logan: I had one, I’m sorry.

Branden: Just saying I felt I get set up for success, like a hundred percent.

Logan: For sure.

Branden’s Process for Taking Down Notes and When He Would Review Them

Logan: Um, one, one thing though I had wanted to ask from some of the stuff you were mentioning before so, you know, you didn’t have our study like the review notes and all that stuff but you did have the PRO course and I know one thing that we talked about in the PRO course is like flash cards and notes and stuff like that and you kind of mentioned your own [00:40:00] notes like what was your process for taking things that you really didn’t understand and kind of getting them down in your own words so that you could then kind of use that to, to remember to refresh yourself, if that makes sense.

Branden: Yeah. Um, so I, I did do flashcards on certain topics, especially more when you just need like kind of like another definition. And then, um, so I, I use those for like BEC. As well as I think even REG like I was kind of going through, uh, and then, yeah, just those ones I had actually at my bedside. So there would be, there would be times at night if we finally weren’t like watching a TV show or whatnot, I could just sit there and let me just go through a few and kind of just keep circling through because there’d be certain ones, right?

Every time I came up again, like, why can’t I remember what this definition is, right? So just the repetition would help to finally get that. As far as like the copy, uh, computations really were the ones. Like the questions I would really need to focus on and that was just kind of like the old school of paper and pen and [00:41:00] just even mimicking.

Okay, let’s see the steps and then spending time on each step I’m, just really trying to like, okay, what’s going on? I kind of get from here to there and sometimes it was very, sometimes it was a little unclear. Like the step I’m like, okay, like how did you get from that to this? Like what did you do? Like like there was no real clear answer and um, but yeah, I would kind of just work it out myself on paper. Like, again, I was always at least a math guy, so I felt like that was, I just kind of did it my own way, I guess, of like an algebra or algebraic, like, right, like, hey, let me just, uh, figure this out and then keep going at it.

And again, like, at least towards the end, like, with FAR, for certain topics, finding when, when it started to turn, that’s when I would really like hit it hard of just, okay, let me, let me go directly to that section and like find those questions. And then not even being scared, I feel so silly. Like I was so worried sometimes about my actual review course score, which I get it, but at the same time, it’s like, wow, that doesn’t really matter.

Nate: [00:42:00] Right.

Branden: Even if I wanted, if there was a certain questions I really wanted to see, you know, maybe I would hit another 25 MCQs. And if it was a question that I just in my mind knew, like, I didn’t need to worry about or wasn’t focused on, I would skip it. Now, I don’t, I just don’t even care. Skip this question.

Like, I don’t, there’s only certain ones I don’t want to get to, like the ones that like, again, like it’s, it’s starting to click because I need to find those and really, I need a test of what’s going on in my, when I’m figuring out if it’s correct and what I need to know. So that was kind of one way of a little bit of the paper and like putting it together with more questions, but yeah.

I would say the one thing, um, besides that, like I didn’t have too many other notes, a lot of my, like the notes were just kind of like for the plan of what to do and then going through. Of just, okay, on this day, I’m doing section 1A1 and 1A2 because 1A1 might have 12 questions, you know, so I can definitely do multiple sections versus, okay, this section has [00:43:00] 200 questions.

It’s definitely a lot more content. Let me, this one needs to be spaced out between, like, three days. This is where I need to focus on it. Um, so it’s kind of just, yeah, going through that and then. Yeah. Workout word problems sometimes, but I try to try to keep it all in my head and mental.

Nate: Yeah. I mean, essentially it’s just this process of, like you said, being honest with yourself, not memorizing questions or like the vanity metrics of your review course dashboard.

It’s like, do I know this topic? Any questions or sims that are on this topic? Do I understand like what’s really going on? And yeah, the process of maybe it’s running through the problems on a spreadsheet or by hand. I mean, whatever that is, it doesn’t really matter. It’s, it’s just this process of, can I answer these types of questions and do I understand the why behind it?

Um, yeah, yeah. It’s just at the end of the day, that’s the whole, it’s like the whole thing.

Branden: And like I said, and then [00:44:00] finally what works, like I think sometimes like in the earlier part of my, my first studies, I was trying to get the notebook and write the notes, what did I go over? But I just, I never really came back to them.

So again, like being honest with, even on that sense, am I, am I not utilizing the time that I could, you know, writing up these notes that I’m not going to go back to takes me however long minutes, which could maybe be a few more MCQs that I could really analyze. And you know, cut through to figure out like what this question is, so.

Nate: Yeah.

Branden: I think again just it’s for me personally that really worked really well. So I just kind of kept it put on the pedal of yeah again like just not second guessing anymore. Like once I like especially again like with FAR on the the retake, that one I felt like was awesome I just just that feeling of like letting go and be like, all right, like this is like the final stretch.

The other one’s gonna expire just [00:45:00] trust it and just, just go and then it helped knowing that I was going to do that new approach of the two exam dates, but just again, not to overthink, not to worry, here’s the game plan, see it through. And then again, like I said, I’m far, I got an 81 and that was just a great feeling, especially to tell everyone to like, Oh, it’s the last one. I got an 81.

Branden Studied Only for Atleast 8 Hours a Week and Passed

Nate: I don’t know if you ever thought of this, but it sounds like if my mental math is correct, you were studying like eight hours a week. Three days where you studied two hours, right?

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: Six and then two days where you were studying maybe like an hour. Yeah, so like eight hours a week.

That’s pretty, uh, that’s pretty low. And then to go in and pass. So again, it’s just this, you know, you can get really, really efficient at the study process and when that happens. You can, that would make, you know, there are people out there that would make them sick to hear that because they spend, you know, eight hours a day, six, seven days a week and still fail, you know?

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: It’s pretty [00:46:00] crazy.

Branden: Yeah, but there, I mean, there was definitely a time where I was studying a lot more, right? It’s just and I, I, again, like, I think I was taking that advantage or at least taking historically what I’ve seen before on the exams specifically for FAR, like what have I seen a lot of, like bonds, right?

Leases like, let me, the stuff that I never want to study, but I see it all the time and that’s probably, and that’s not probably, that’s why I’m failing. So let’s, you know, I got to just make it happen. Like you said, making it very active You And about those topics that I know I’m going to see and just, yeah, just being like smarter and then figuring out what works for me, you know, and then based off a lot too of what I got from the PRO course and watching those videos of setting myself up like for the plan to be successful, so.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. And I think the morning, like you were saying, the, the morning irregardless of your study strategies, it’s, it’s so much easier. You will, you will just be more productive. Like you will get more done in two hours in the [00:47:00] morning than. Four or five hours at night at night. You’re fighting a thousand different circumstances kind of like you explained You’re fighting yourself because you’re tired basically through every minute of the study session Whereas in the morning you just that’s just not there because you feel good.

Your brain is fresh. There’s just so much to be said for that Yeah, well, uh, so I know you, yeah, we’ve, we’ve gone over, so I appreciate you doing the call and everything.

Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the Study Process

Nate: What would be your, your top three tips to people that are still struggling with the study process?

Branden: My top three would be, yeah, if you’re not studying in the morning, switch to the mornings if you can. That’s, I, I feel like that one was huge. Uh, have a game plan, stick to it, don’t second guess it, and follow through. Make sure you’re getting through all of the areas that you need to get to. You know, don’t, don’t hyper focus on anything if you’re not doing bad. Just gotta keep going through. Um, and then, yeah, just consistency, making [00:48:00] it happen.

I know that kind of goes along with the other one. But, uh, yeah, just get out of your own way. And I think a little bit of making it for you. I think what I made the change to of, I think I was saying earlier about, I want to do it for my kids and, you know, my family. I think the second time around, like in a selfish way, I kind of made it more about me, like that I wanted to do it.

And I think that, I try to actually like, again, like however it sounds like, even if it was selfish, being honest and just saying, I want this for me. I want to get this done so I can have it for my family and friends. But I think, you know, like have that, but you know, be confident and it helps, helps pull you through to make it happen.

Nate: Yeah. Well, I think an element of that last thing is making it for you is also kind of owning the responsibility of if this is going to happen, this is what it’s going to have to be each day. You know, it’s, it’s, yeah. So I, I know what you mean.

Branden: Yeah.

Nate: Okay. Well, yeah. So, uh, that’s, that was awesome.

Branden: I I I was like, follow the PRO [00:49:00] course and do the retake. If you’ve failed one, I would a hundred percent stand by the retake guidelines. Like, I didn’t even know that was there. I just happened to look at it. I was like, Oh, what’s this? And I’m like, how, I’m like, Oh my God, I was trying to solve this two years earlier, because I probably would have been done so much sooner because I would have just done that for all the ones that I was retaking.

Uh, so that would be, that would probably be the three. If you have taken an exam in your, your retaking, do the retake strategy.

Nate: Yep. All right. Well, yeah. Um, I appreciate you doing the call. That was really valuable. People are going to get a lot out of that. And, uh, yeah, I mean, I’m glad you found us. We didn’t talk about that.

I’m assuming it was a YouTube ad, but yeah. Yes. I’m glad it, glad it made a difference and, uh, congrats on being done.

Branden: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Logan: Yeah. Congrats Branden.

Branden: Yeah, I do remember when I, when I did find you, find you, I went with, you know, I was going different sources, but when I came back the second time, I [00:50:00] went straight back to like the notes I had from BEC and kind of kept all those, you know, the guidelines for making the plan and whatnot.

So I think that was like the huge game changer and helped me get through this. So, so thank you.

Nate: Yeah. Awesome to hear. Yep. That was fun to hear your story.

Logan: All right. That was the interview with Branden. I’m sure you found it super helpful. And overall, again, it’s amazing that he in the end was only studying maybe eight hours a week and still passing his CPA exams. And it’s just a big testament that people can get to the point where they are so efficient that the CPA exam is no longer a large burden, but instead just something extra that you’re doing that’s not too difficult because again, you’re so efficient and effective with your studying.

To learn how to do that, again make sure you go check out our free one hour webinar training on superfastcpa.com. We teach the key ingredients to passing the CPA exam and we teach you how to be efficient and effective and yet still pass exams. So make sure you go check it out.

Also, be sure to share this podcast with anybody you know who is going through the CPA exams. [00:51:00] This podcast is the best free resource out there for CPA exam candidates. So make sure you share it with anybody you know.

If you liked the interview, make sure to leave a rating in your favorite podcast app or if you liked the video, make sure to like it and leave a comment. Thanks for watching or listening and we’ll see you in the next episode.

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