How Caroline Simplified Her CPA Study and Passed

How Caroline Simplified Her CPA Study and Passed

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In this SuperfastCPA podcast episode, you’ll hear how Caroline simplified her CPA exam study process and started passing the CPA exams. In the beginning, she was trying to watch every video lecture and read every chapter, and it was taking so much time that started thinking it would be impossible to learn all the information.

At some point she heard about the SuperfastCPA study strategies, and once she tried them, her study process became simple, took much less time, and she started feeling like she was actually learning and understanding the information.

In this episode you’ll hear all the details about what strategies worked and how she was able to spend less time studying but get better results than before.


Master your study process by attending one of our free study training workshops:

Watch the interview on YouTube…

Episode Timestamp

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 02:04 Caroline’s Biggest Struggles Before SuperfastCPA
  • 02:37 Making No Progress Studying the Traditional Way
  • 03:21 The Biggest Advantage with SuperfastCPA
  • 04:46 Studying the Traditional Way for Three Weeks
  • 06:32 Finding SuperfastCPA on Spotify
  • 08:15 Realized That the Questions Are Different From the Book
  • 09:06 Changing Her Study Approach
  • 10:46 Realizing This Method Works Better
  • 12:53 Studying After Getting a Full-Time Job
  • 14:32 Using SuperfastCPA Study Tools Throughout the Day
  • 15:53 Facing Setbacks During the Study Process
  • 16:57 Prepping for Her Morning Study Session
  • 18:42 Using the Sims to Test Her Knowledge on the Topics
  • 20:38 Still Able to Find Balance
  • 22:33 Strategies That Worked for Caroline with the New Format
  • 24:29 Using the Questions to Learn Topics
  • 27:08 Making Short Notes
  • 29:59 Caroline’s Final Review Process
  • 32:35 Surprises in the Study Process
  • 36:27 Confident She Was Going to Pass
  • 39:17 Plans for Her Remaining Two Exams
  • 40:53 Caroline’s Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Exams

Interview Transcript

Caroline: [00:00:00] I spent the first like three weeks studying for FAR that way, and I felt like I had made no progress in doing that, and I just didn’t really know what I was studying, so I figured something had to change. And that’s when I started looking into SuperfastCPA, looking at different kind of methods and techniques in order to pass this first exam, cause at that point in time when I was doing like super long hours studying, I don’t know how I’m ever gonna pass this. This is just taking so much time and I don’t know anything that’s going on.

Logan: Welcome to another episode of the CPA exam experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Logan and in this episode, you’re going to hear Nate and I talk to Caroline.

So Caroline finished her master’s and started studying in the summer before she was going to start her job. And tried studying the normal way. For three weeks and just felt like it was super ineffective.

So one day she was scrolling through Spotify and she decided to look up CPA in [00:01:00] the podcasts to see if there was anything that could help her. And first thing that popped up was the SuperfastCPA podcast. And that’s how she got into SuperfastCPA.

I think you’re really gonna like this interview with Caroline. She has a lot of great tips and she talks a lot about motivation. You know, she went through some hard things when she was doing this. She even went through a breakup but instead of letting those things discourage her, she used that as more motivation to pass these exams. And she has already passed two of the exams and she’s going into this year hoping to pass the other two. And from this interview, I’m sure you’ll think the same thing, she’s going to pass.

Before we jump into the interview, just want to give another reminder of the free webinar training from SuperfastCPA on superfastcpa.com. Nate talks about the six key ingredients to passing the CPA exam. It’s something you don’t want to miss. Go watch the webinar. It’ll be super helpful, and it’s only one hour long.

The link to the webinar will be down in the description of this YouTube video, or if you’re listening on podcast, it’ll be in the description of the podcast.

And with that [00:02:00] said, let’s jump straight into the interview with Caroline.

Caroline’s Biggest Struggles Before SuperfastCPA

Nate: So, first question would be, what were your biggest struggles with the study process before finding or using SuperfastCPA?

Caroline: Yeah, I think for me it was just so I was started with FAR, it was so overwhelming. There’s so much text, so much information that I just didn’t know where to start and I felt super overwhelmed and I felt like I wasn’t grasping the material doing the traditional kind of lectures and then multiple choice and then taking extensive notes.

So I figured something in my approach had to change if I like wanted to pass my first CPA exam.

Making No Progress Studying the Traditional Way

Nate: So it kind of sounds like it was just very time intensive to do all that. And did you still feel like it wasn’t working, even spending that much time?

Caroline: Yeah, so I was, I spent the first like three weeks studying for FAR that way. And I felt like I had no, made no progress in doing that, and I just didn’t really know what I was studying. So I figured something had to change. Um, and that’s when I started looking into [00:03:00] SuperfastCPA and like, looking at different kind of methods and techniques and in order to like pass this first exam.

Cause at that point in time when I was doing like super long hours studying, you know, I truly believe, I don’t know how I’m ever gonna pass this. This is just taking so much time and I don’t know anything that’s going on.

Nate: Gotcha. Yeah. I mean, yeah, very, familiar story. Okay.

The Biggest Advantage with SuperfastCPA

Nate: And so once you started using SuperfastCPA, what were the biggest advantages or, like what did it help you with specifically?

Caroline: Yeah, I guess number one is time, like using my free time, like when I was on, like the treadmill at the gym, just going through some of those quiz questions, um, and kind of just finding pockets of time here and there to kind of nail down my studying. Um, I think you mentioned like the cumulative review, um, at the end of the day that also to kind of reinforce those things that you learned so you don’t forget what you learned a month before. Um, and then having like, it basically the exam material, like on the go on my phone, which [00:04:00] was really helpful.

Nate: Awesome. Yeah. And then, I guess the third question is what results have you got? Like what were the results you got from it?

Caroline: Yeah. I got an 86 on FAR and then I got an 83 on BEC.

Logan: Nice. Awesome.

Nate: Awesome.

Logan: Good job with BEC

Caroline: Thank you.

Logan: I always thought that BEC was actually the hardest one, so.

Caroline: I agree. I thought BEC was harder than FAR for some reason, even though FAR is like heavy content wise.

Nate: Yeah, and it’s really nice to have gotten that done. I think BAR, like the new BAR is going to be like the hardest exam and quite a bit, by quite a bit, so it’s really good you got BEC done.

Okay, so back to the very beginning.

Studying the Traditional Way for Three Weeks

Nate: So, what was your situation when you got into studying?

Were you just out of your master’s degree? Have you been working for a few years? Where’d you start with everything?

Caroline: Yeah, so I graduated from Babson in May of 2023. Um, and I took like [00:05:00] a week off after graduation and then decided I was gonna start studying for FAR ’cause everyone says that you should start with FAR first, um, in the summer before you start work. So I thought, okay, I have like, this entire summer to knock out FAR.

Um, I started studying, you know, the traditional way that I’ve always been studying my whole life when it comes to like exams. So go through the lectures first, take extensive notes, go through the multiple choice. And for some reason when I was applying that same kind of technique to studying for the CPA exam using Becker, I just. It wasn’t clicking for some reason, and I just felt super frustrated at myself. Not only that, but the material was super hard as well, and I thought, okay, if I’m spending like eight hours a day studying this and studying how I always used to study, why, why wasn’t it working for me?

Um, and so, yeah. Basically the method I was going through was using the lectures and then like the taking like really long notes from the textbook and like highlighting and circling everything that, you know, they tell you to. Um, and then I go through multiple choice and get like a [00:06:00] 30. I’m like, I don’t really know why I’m not understanding this. And I thought, you know, maybe there’s like something wrong with me ’cause this has been working for me my whole life. Um, and that’s when I kind of decided, okay, maybe I need to switch it up or I don’t know how else I’m gonna continue doing this. Because I, it was three months, I mean three weeks at that point that I had been kind of following that traditional study method and I just felt super burnt out and discouraged and unmotivated and I truly thought to myself, there’s literally no way I’m gonna pass FAR. So that’s where SuperfastCPA comes in.

Nate: Okay.

Finding SuperfastCPA on Spotify

Logan: How did you find SuperfastCPA? Like had you heard about it from a coworker or YouTube, or what was it?

Caroline: I, I remember I was just in the car one day. Um, my family and I were taking like a trip to Maine and I just, I, I had my CPA book with me and I’m like, I don’t really. I can’t really stuff more information in my head. So I went on Spotify and I thought, okay, maybe there’s like some podcast out there that like, and I’ve never like really looked up something like that before on Spotify, but okay, maybe just look up CPA [00:07:00] exam and see kind of how other people have been studying.

And that’s like the first thing I saw that popped up was, um, SuperfastCPA and it was like the three months episode. And like I, I listened to that and like, I was like, okay. I think I, it was like the method, like about doing the questions first, the cumulative review, and then kind of having that bite-size information like everywhere with you on the go when, whenever you have free time.

Um, and so that’s kind of how I got into it and like got introduced to it. So such a simple, like Spotify search when I was bored one day on the road.

Nate: That’s awesome. Yeah. More and more people are saying they found us from the podcast first, which is good. In the past, it’s always been our YouTube ads, you know.

Caroline: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Let’s see. Oh, one question I had where you describe the first three weeks studying all day, every day. So basically you’re putting in all that time, watching the video, reading the chapter, highlighting the chapter, almost rewriting the textbook yourself with [00:08:00] notes, and then you go into the questions and that was like your sign that all that work wasn’t really working just because the questions were still kind of this black box that weren’t making sense. Yeah.

Realized That the Questions Are Different From the Book

Caroline: Yeah. That’s kind of how I felt at that point. I felt like the questions were for me, like the determining factor of like if I was being successful at this study method and for me, that signified no. Cause I would read the question and be like, I have no idea what this is asking, the textbook like lesson was so much easier than this.

Nate: Right. The context is different. The, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this now, but uh, there’s like the textbook or video lecture context where it’s just explained in a linear way, and then the questions, it’s just a totally different thing. And of course, the only thing that matters on test day is question context, you know, not your.

Caroline: Right.

Nate: Linear understanding of [00:09:00] everything.

So yeah, I won’t go into my whole thing I’m always talking about, but yeah, that’s the main thing.

Changing Her Study Approach

Nate: So you mentioned you were studying eight hours a day. Did that change at all, or you had all day every day to study still? So how did you change your study approach after starting with SuperfastCPA?

Caroline: I changed it. I studied a little bit less, maybe like four to five hours a day ’cause I felt like I didn’t need to be that extensive and that thorough because I would first start with the questions when I was approaching like a new module, and then I would go through and just like even click like random answers, even if I didn’t know the answer, just to see how they got to the answer and like why the other answers were right and why some of them were wrong. Um, and once I started doing that, I started understanding the material better and then I didn’t realize I don’t need to spend eight hours a day studying because that just kind of would lead to my burnout and like maybe not being able to pass the exams.

So I thought it was a [00:10:00] more efficient use of my time. And then so I would have like a big like time block and then I would use my free time here and there like in the morning or like at night just to kind of. Do some more questions like the take a quiz kind of, um, portion of the app and like look at the review notes and everything when I had like free time.

So I think it was more efficient use of my time, um, and just not having a huge kind of block just for studying.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: So with that four or five hours, were you doing like, two or three, two hour blocks, or was it just kind of one, yeah, like did you just do two, two hour blocks kind of a thing?

Caroline: I kind of just did it by like module. So once I finished the module, I would take like a bit of a break. Um, but that’s kind of how I structured it.

Logan: Okay.

Realizing This Method Works Better

Nate: Did you feel like this was working better within days or weeks or? How long until you felt like, okay, this is more effective than, the previous thing you described.

Caroline: Yeah, it took me like [00:11:00] maybe a few days and I was like, wow, wait, I actually understand this for once. Like this is like the first time using this technique and like going through the things in the app, I was like, wow, I actually understand the material for the first time since starting studying. And it was also that kind of motivating feeling that like, okay, wait, maybe I actually can do this.

And I felt that because I was studying less, I felt like, okay, I don’t have to let studying for the CPA take over my life, I can have my life back and have a good balance instead of spending like 90% of my time studying.

Nate: Yeah, and that’s, I mean, that’s huge, right? Because every, it’s all this big cycle. If you’re feeling burnt out, spending all your time, and then especially if you just have this nagging sense that it’s not even working, then it’s really hard to keep doing it, you know?

Caroline: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Then on the other hand, if you’re spending less time, it’s working better and I mean, demonstrably [00:12:00] working better in your little practice scores, you know, then motivation comes a lot easier.

I mean, that’s just, yeah, that just makes sense.

So you know, over the summer you were studying, full-time for FAR. And at this point, I’m assuming you’ve started your job are you working now? Do you have a job in public accounting or are you still going full-time?

Caroline: Yeah, so basically I started studying for FAR in May. I passed it in, I took the exam August 28th, so end of August. I passed that, and then I started work in October at a public accounting firm.

Logan: Okay. And do you work in audit or tax?

Caroline: I work in audit now.

Logan: Okay, nice.

Audit should be, uh, shouldn’t be too bad for you, hopefully.

Caroline: Yeah. Um, I’ve heard people say you should take it after busy season, and I’m going through my first busy season right now, so I’ll take it. Um, hopefully it’s easier after kind of going through the motions of first few months of work.

Studying After Getting a Full-Time Job

Logan: Now that you’re working, full-time how has your studying morphed now that you have a little bit less time to [00:13:00] study? Are you just doing two hours a day or how does that look now?

Caroline: Yeah. Um, for me, I just feel my brain functions better in the morning. So I’ll wake up like really early at like four or 5:00 AM bang out like two hours. I’m doing REG right now. Um, so I will do that and I also feel like it’s a really productive use of my two hours using this kind of method and the techniques mentioned before in the previous podcasts and everything. Um, so I feel like these two hours that I’m spending in the morning before work are like, I have my weekends now to study. Um, I feel like it’s super, a good use of my time and I feel like, okay, I’m actually getting somewhere even though I am working now full-time.

Logan: I just have one more question with that. So I don’t know if you’re experiencing this yet, but I know that I experienced it and a lot of people have experienced it. Has that two hours kind of morphed into, I don’t know if this is the right word, like enjoyable, but, do you kind of look forward to being so productive each morning? Or is it still like a drag? You know what I mean?

Caroline: Honestly. Yeah, no, I kind of look forward to it. It’s like I know I’m making good headway towards [00:14:00] my goal becoming a CPA, and I feel like because I’m like motivated now and I know, okay, I’ve already passed two exams doing this. I’m just kind of going through the motions of like next, like what’s come, to come. Um, so I do, I, I do find it enjoyable actually.

Nate: It just, it makes the whole day mentally easier that you’ve done that big thing before you even leave the house. Or, I mean, I don’t know if you work from home, but you know, it’s just locked in. There’s nothing that can it up. Um, and you can just kind of feel good about it all day.

Caroline: Mm-Hmm

Using SuperfastCPA Study Tools Throughout the Day

Nate: So how do you use the app throughout the day specifically? Like, do you, anytime you have five minutes, do you typically do quizzes or review notes or both? Just how do you use the app throughout the whole day?

Caroline: Um, usually at the end of the day I’ll like take a few quizzes, um, just to make sure, like, okay, did I, do I have, like, do I remember everything? Or like, what are my weak points looking for my weak points when I’m taking the quiz as well. So I try to give myself grace if I like. Don’t get all the questions right.

It’s just like more data [00:15:00] points for me to know, okay, where should I focus a little bit more of my time? Um, and then I’ll do like the review notes, like during lunch or something, or like in the morning before I’m about to start, like to wrap up my study session in the morning before work.

Logan: Do you listen to the audio notes as you’re going places?

Caroline: I do. Yeah, sometimes when I’m in the car I’ll listen to them as well.

Nate: Yeah, yeah. You know, just the whole, just anything you can do helps. That was always like my thinking is, uh, I’ve committed two college degrees to this, um, all this time and money I’m gonna do anything I can possibly do to like score higher on test day. So yeah, I used my phone or studied from my phone constantly.

And then the study tools at that point for your phone weren’t great. So that’s now how this whole SuperfastCPA thing happened.

Facing Setbacks During the Study Process

Nate: Anyways, um, have you faced any big challenges or setbacks in your study [00:16:00] process besides just that first three weeks or has it been pretty smooth since, uh, you, you know, switched to these strategies?

Caroline: Yeah. Honestly, to be honest with you, like I went through a breakup when I was starting to study for FAR. So it was like at that three week mark that I was just like really struggling hit with that breakup. But I realized, I think that in itself motivated me like, okay, I can’t let this little thing knock me down and like not help me progress. I use it as motivation to progress towards my goals. Like kind of saying, okay, this happened. I am a little bit sad, but like I can get up from this at the end of the day and still get my CPA no matter what.

Um, so it did suck for like a little bit, but I think that helped me to really be like, okay, I need to find different ways to study so that I can nail this and become a CPA. So that did happen to me, um, earlier this summer.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. You know, the life events just unavoidable.

Prepping for Her Morning Study Session

Nate: So to get up that early, [00:17:00] how do you, okay, so on the one hand you study in the morning, you know, so hopefully you kind of have the evenings free, your whole life isn’t work and study.

But to get up that early, how do you treat the evenings?

Do you try to get to bed at a certain time or avoid being on your phone at night, or just how do you prepare to get up that early each day?

Caroline: I think it’s a lot of prep work as well. Um, because I know I’m gonna be studying in the morning. I know, okay. I have to like, make all my meals and everything for the next day. So that’s kind of what I spend the evening doing, like prepping for the next day so that everything’s kind of smooth sailing and just like. Wake up and go, honestly. And I try to get to bed by 10:00 PM or like, at least like, be in bed by 10. Um, and then wake up like, but I do, I’ve always been a morning person, so I do enjoy getting up in the morning and like knowing, like, okay, I’m gonna nail this before I start my day. Um, but I think that’s why it’s worked for me because I kind of been waking up early [00:18:00] for a while now, but before I was just waking up early to go to the gym, so it was just kind of swapping, kind of things out to make this happen.

Nate: Yeah, and I forgot to ask in the beginning, do you have the pro course videos? Like did you watch those when you join SuperfastCPA. Did you watch those videos on all the strategies or is it just the study tools mostly that you have?

Caroline: It was mostly the study tools and like listening to the podcast.

Nate: Yeah, I mean, right. If you’ve listened to a bunch of episodes, you get what this process should be. Um, yeah, essentially questions first. Do it in the morning. Make sense of the questions. I mean, that’s real. It’s, in a nutshell, that’s the big idea.

Using the Sims to Test Her Knowledge on the Topics

Nate: What about sims? When do you use those, or how do you use those in your study process?

Caroline: Um, like the ones on Becker or?

Nate: Yeah, just task-based simulations. How do you use those in your study process?

Caroline: I honestly didn’t do too much of them. I would do them here and there for topics that I[00:19:00] realize, like, okay, I really wanna test my knowledge or topics that like I didn’t understand. And I sometimes would just like click through it and like leave it blank just to see how they filled it in. But it was only like for the big topics like leases and like statement of cash flows that I would like kind of really look at the simulations for.

And then I definitely did them when I was doing the simulated, the big simulated exams, um, just to see like kind of how I would do it, but I felt like overall doing, if I did each one of the task-based simulations that were part of each module, they would just take too much of my time. So I kind of glossed over them.

Nate: Yeah, and I mean, you’re passing, so, you know, and, and that is. You have to know how the sims work. So you have to do a certain amount of practice simulations so that it’s not just brand new on test day. But like you said, there’s also diminishing returns to trying to fill out every single little sim because.

Caroline: Right

Nate: [00:20:00] They’re dynamic.

They’re gonna be way different on test day. Uh, so yeah, it’s gotta be somewhat of a balance between those two.


Logan: Yeah, I always looked at the sims as like a, uh, just another test of what I should have been learning from the multiple choice questions, like multiple choice questions was like the real deep learning material. And then the sims was just kind of, uh, I mean they are important, but, just a way of making sure I did understand what I had learned. Um, yeah.

Nate: They’re kind of just an elaborate MCQ really. I mean each, each.

Logan: It’s a whole bunch of multiple choice questions put together.

Still Able to Find Balance

Logan: So you kind of mentioned something that you really liked at the beginning when you were in the summer, when you were starting in the summer, is that you were like, oh wow, I can kind of still have a life, can kind of still do the things that I enjoy. So as time has gone on, through that summer and then now that you’re working in public accounting, is there anything that you’ve been able to [00:21:00] keep doing that you really enjoy? Because you’ve been able to be so efficient, instead of having to give up, you know, sacrifice everything that you enjoy to do these exams.

Caroline: Yeah, I think I still am able to carve out time, like on the weekends with my friends, um, able to carve out time to still go to the gym. I love going to the gym like pretty frequently, like five times a week. I still have time to do that. Um, and then like even like outings with coworkers after, or, you know, hang out with my friends after work, I think, and spending time with my family as well.

I feel like because I’m nailing it down and like being really efficient with my study time, I’m able to make time for other things, um, that I care about. But before this I thought, you know, I have to give up like my entire social life and everything to be able to be a CPA. Um, and I realized that’s not the case and that’s no way to kind of live your life even though you have goals.

I think it’s all about how you find a balance and how you find joy in [00:22:00] everything that you’re doing to be able to make it to this, happily and like not burnt out.

Logan: We were talking to somebody recently and he was saying, like, to try to take it, take the approach of just look at how, uh, how lucky you are to be doing this process. Like to be somebody who had the ability to go to school to. Uh, to do, do their masters and now to become a CPA that will better your life.

Like, um, yeah, just like having that, like you said, joy in everything, uh, is a great mindset to have.

Nate: Yeah.

Strategies That Worked for Caroline with the New Format

Nate: So what about even after switching to kind of this new format for studying? Are there any other study strategies that you kind of discovered on your own or that you’ve added in that have worked really well for you besides doing the questions first?

Caroline: Um, I think for me, taking like short notes at the end of each unit, um, just like basically from the textbook to fill in my gaps of knowledge. [00:23:00] I think that really helped. Um, as opposed to like basically writing down everything the textbook, um, was saying, or like taking notes from the question explanations.

So I needed, I feel like I personally study a lot with like written notes and so kind of incorporating that piece back into, um, this new kind of study method and like taking short notes that made sense to me, um, really helped as well. And then I would make like for BEC and like FAR, I make like formula sheets of like everything I needed to know.

Nate: Yeah. And that’s a great, that’s a good, uh, way of describing it, like kind of letting the questions inform what you, what you need to try to learn or understand better. Whereas when you, uh, when you watch the video lecture and you’re kind of just really, you’re just taking notes or rewriting what they’re saying.

Caroline: Yeah.

Nate: I don’t know, debatable how valuable that is, but as you go [00:24:00] question by question.

Yeah. It’s like, if I don’t understand this, let me kind of try to translate this into my own words. Um. And that’s one thing we’re, we talk about constantly with the flashcards. So you have that act of writing things out that initially are confusing to you. And if you can distill it down into basically your own words, then it means you’ve, you, you understand it.

And then the reviewing the flashcards, you kind of commit it to memory over time.

Using the Questions to Learn Topics

Nate: This is one thing I always ask. When you are starting a group of questions for a new lesson, what is your actual process of breaking those down and learning from the questions first, like just how would you describe that?

Caroline: Yeah. Um, so like, let’s say I’m starting a new module. I’ll like quickly flip over the module just to kind of know like what this section is about and then I’ll go into Becker, I’ll go into the questions and like maybe sometimes I’ll know it from like maybe previous classes I’ve taken at [00:25:00] school or I just don’t know the question at all.

So I’ll literally click on a random answer. Um, and then I’ll read all of the questions. Um, and then I will make like a list of like common or like bigger tested topics within the questions for that module. Um, and then I’ll make like kind of a mental note of that as I’m going through the textbook and like kind of reading it and like taking really short notes to like fill in the gaps of like what I didn’t understand or if there’s something that the questions kind of had, but I didn’t really understand I had to go back in the textbook and like see, okay, how did they describe this in detail. Um, and if not, like if I really didn’t understand it after going through all of those motions, then I would like look it up on Google. And that was usually, that help, that helped too.

Nate: Just a, yeah, that’s a very good, uh, just a very effective way of doing it. A lot of times we’ll get asked things like, I don’t know. It’s, it all comes back to you just do what you have to do to [00:26:00] understand the questions in front of you.

Caroline: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Cause sometimes we get asked. Well, you said, we’re not supposed to watch the lectures, but what if I’m really not understanding something, you know, and it’s like, well, you just, okay, your, your judgment is involved, right? Like, whatever you have to do to wrap your mind around these questions and how they work. And the Googling thing, that’s a huge, uh, I, I did that all the time, um, even 10 years ago, because sometimes it’s like a, a definition, like sometimes you’ll keep seeing things in the questions that.

It’s clear that it’s just kind of assumed, you know, what that is or how it works, and it’s not really the point of the question, but then looking up the actual definition just kind of unlocks like, okay, now I see why these questions all work like this. It’s just, yeah, it’s a really helpful strategy.

Caroline: Yeah. I think sometimes it’s like a little bit like maybe a different twist on an explanation and it’s like if you somehow find that or manage to get that, everything kind of makes sense.

Nate: [00:27:00] Mm-Hmm.

Caroline: So it’s also that too, like kind of how exactly doing whatever you need to do to like understand it and using your judgment.

Nate: Yeah.

Making Short Notes

Nate: So, you take these short notes and is it just in the moment in your study session for that day, or do you keep these that you review later? Or is it just your way of understanding one tiny thing at a time and you never really look back at ’em?

Caroline: I think. It depends. Sometimes it’s just like in the moment just for my own knowledge, but then maybe at a certain point it’s like very clear to me like, oh, I know exactly what that is. I don’t need to like write down the definition of it. Um, and then sometimes I’ll take those short notes and like put them like at the very end when I’m doing like my final review a week before the exam, I’ll put all these like notes.

I’ll compile them all together into this bigger document. Um, and so that’s kind of how I go about the whole short note taking situation.

Nate: Gotcha.

Logan: So with that, so when you say you compile ’em into like a document, do [00:28:00] you like retype them in a document or rewrite them? Or like how do you compile that? Sorry, I’m just trying to understand what you mean by that.

Caroline: Yeah. Um, so I think there’s different units in Becker. So then I’ll take all the notes from modules like one to seven for a certain unit, and I’ll put that into like one written page.

Um, and I’ll do one written page for each unit, and then I’ll use that the days leading up to the exam. Just looking over these notes that I made for myself.

Logan: Okay.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: Yeah. It seems like you’re following pretty closely. You know what, we uh, we talk a lot about flashcards a lot. You know, you’re building up this thing of flashcards and then you’re reviewing a lot towards the end. And so yeah, like that act of you, first writing out all those notes and then compiling it at the end so you can study it. Do you feel like that’s been extremely helpful, like in your final review to get you ready for the exam?

Caroline: Yeah, definitely, cause I think it’s also like [00:29:00] written and like translated by, like this is what my understanding of like a certain topic is. And because it was my own notes that I had like basically created over the course of a few months, it was like everything I needed to know about this unit.

Um, and so I felt like it was every bit of information that like was. Important and not so much like all the words in the textbook for this unit. Even like the, you know, chapter summaries and stuff in the, um, Becker book. Like I felt like my notes were more like, okay, this is, for me, it was very much more personalized.

Logan: Yep. That’s a super important part of the process because being able to put it into your own words, it really makes you think in a different way than just like, passively reading through something that somebody else wrote. But if you write it in your own words, you had to like really think about it.

Like, okay, does it actually make sense? Um, so it’s just a super helpful part of the process.

Caroline’s Final Review Process

Logan: And um, [00:30:00] I actually had kind of had a question. With those notes, kind of like leading into, so for your final review, um, what did you do during your final review? Just like lots of multiple choice questions. You were obviously reading those review notes. What, what did that look like? You said it was about a week long.

Caroline: Yeah, so I felt like I would just do practice questions every day, like maybe like, one day was just dedicated to one unit. Um, and I would just keep going through practice questions and like looking at my notes. So I would, but I wouldn’t dive too, too deep into detail because I felt like I would just confuse myself if I did that cause I felt like the deeper kind of learning would happen before that.

And then this was just kind of refreshing my memory the week before the exam. And then the day before, I didn’t do any questions at all. I would just look at these notes and familiarize myself. And I would spend like maybe two, three hours that day. The day before doing that. Um, so that was kind of my final review method, like the week leading up to the exam and like lots of relaxation and just like remind myself, okay, I [00:31:00] work so hard for this and like it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be fine.

Logan: Yeah.


Nate: So you have seven days roughly. You kind of dedicated one day to one unit each. Is that how you tried to do it?

Caroline: Yeah.

Nate: That’s a good idea. Yeah. Like you said, your final review, especially with these exams, it cannot fix a crappy routine in the weeks prior, but,

Caroline: right.

Nate: all this stuff that you have studied, you’ve been diligent about learning and everything, getting as much of that floating around is in your like short-term memory as possible.

Caroline: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: I mean, yeah, it just makes a huge difference on test day, um, being disciplined and sticking to your routine the whole time. You know, that gets you like, I don’t know, 80 or 90% of the way there.

And then yeah, a really effective final review gets you, you know, the rest of the way versus my big mistake when I failed far the first [00:32:00] time was my final review was going through just like the four or five hardest topics cause I just assumed, okay, I know these aren’t easy. So this is all gonna be about like dollar value, LIFO, and leases.

And so I just spent those last, that, that last week just doing those five hardest topics. And then of course you get in there and there was like three questions total and all these like fairly simple things that I just hadn’t seen for weeks. And uh, so yeah, that’s a really effective way of doing it.

Surprises in the Study Process

Nate: So we’ve kind of gone through everything. Has there been anything surprising about this study process that you just didn’t know before or you had never heard that just emerged as you got deep into this?

Caroline: Yeah, I remember telling my friends about how I was studying for the CPA exams and how I started with the questions first, and like I haven’t heard of any other person [00:33:00] starting with the questions first. And I felt like I was always a super traditional study. Like I studied a lot for my exams in college, like in high school, like I would put out so much prep work and I thought. Okay. Maybe like everyone is, like, maybe everyone caught onto this questions first method before I did for the CPA exams. Um, but I think that was the most surprising thing. That was like, not ever, I don’t think I’ve met a single person that has like done the questions first approach, and it was more so me putting them onto the questions first approach. Um, so that was the first thing. And then the second thing was that I didn’t realize that I would have a social life as well while studying because I guess, I thought that I would have to give up everything I ever enjoyed just to become a CPA. I thought, okay, maybe I just had to sacrifice my time for like a year. Um, but I realized that in doing that I wouldn’t be happy. And if I wasn’t happy, then I wouldn’t be motivated to study for my CPA exam. So I think it all kind of circles back again to the [00:34:00] idea of balance and like with that balance being able to happen for me because of my efficient study methods now.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: I was just gonna kind of add on to that. I saw the same thing when I was studying through this. I was doing it while I was doing my master’s and people were just really surprised at like the fact that I was passing exams while I was doing my master’s, and they were like, how are you doing that?

That’s crazy. Um, and I was like, I don’t know, I just do, I just focus on the questions. And I would see people like even like watching a Becker or something lecture, like during class or something like that. And I was like, do you really think that’s like, an effective way of studying.

So I, I agree. Like, I mean, maybe it’s changing as time goes on, but I think it’s still the majority of people don’t think to do the questions first. Like it’s just not a common thing. So, yeah. I, I noticed the same thing, like people were surprised when I was like, uh, I [00:35:00] just, I just do the questions.

Nate: Yeah, I think there’s just, I mean the way you were describing it in the beginning, this is you always studied the way you always studied in college just was not working. Or when you apply it to these exams, there’s just so much material that you can’t really take the approach of, I’m gonna learn everything.

You know, starting with the textbook and the video, it’s just way too much, uh, info or it’s, it would just be so time intensive that it’s so miserable that most people can’t do that for six months or a year. And then on the other hand, yeah, when you. I mean, it really is true. Like if you figure out how to study really efficiently, you can literally study in half the time.

Um, and we, I hear that, I kind of hear that feedback about like our YouTube ads or whatever ’cause I’ll kind of like describe that on our YouTube ads or in our emails and people are like, listen, you [00:36:00] can’t shortcut the CPA exams. And it’s like, well, that’s not, that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s just you really can get this down to where you only have to spend two hours a day in front of your review course.

This doesn’t have to be this like life wrecking nightmare for a year. Yeah. It just, as long as you just figure out how to study effectively, so yeah. That’s awesome to hear. I’m glad it’s, I’m glad it’s helped.

Confident She Was Going to Pass

Logan: I do have one other question. So, how was your test day experience? You do all this studying, you do your final review. Were you surprised at all when you went in to actually take the exams or did you feel super prepared? Like how did you feel on test day?

Caroline: Yeah, for FAR I felt like very confident. I was, um, going like, I feel like I’m usually kind of nervous on test day kind of person, but I went into the testing center, I felt super confident with kind of what I was able to build up in terms of my knowledge. In the past [00:37:00] three months, I’d been studying for FAR, um. And I just, I knew I was gonna pass it like deep down. I just knew that that was the end result. Um, and so when I, uh, and then on test day actually, um, I took the 1:00 PM exam, so I would have a little bit of time to like sleep in and just like really nail down the relaxation that morning before going in to take the exam. Um, and that morning I would just look over like my, for my super short notes and my formula sheet and then put it away just so that information is like lingering in my short-term memory, just in case like maybe there’s one or two questions that like my, I might’ve like seen information about that morning.

Um, so that’s kind of my test day ritual. Um, but I was super confident, deep down, and I just, I just knew that I was gonna pass this, and I was kind of surprised to feel that way because at the beginning when I started studying, I was like, uh, there is literally no way I’m gonna pass. I don’t know when this is ever gonna happen.

I’m probably gonna fail a few times. So it was really nice to be like, I, I feel great. [00:38:00] Like I’m definitely gonna pass this, so.

Logan: Did you feel that for BEC too? Sorry.

Nate: Oh, no worries.

Caroline: I, yeah, I think in terms of that, I felt a little bit less confident from BEC, just ’cause I felt like I didn’t like the material that much, but still that same kind of feeling was there.

Nate: Yeah. And that’s once you, once you get the learning process down, it doesn’t really matter like what the topics are, you know? And, and you get to that point. That’s a good feeling. And you know, that’s not a common thing to hear from CPA candidates like, I know I’m gonna pass this. Um, but yeah. You know, yeah, you, you get to that point, uh, and your process becomes just so effective that you get to that point.

I think I had set like two months. BEC was my last exam and I had, uh, two months or something. Because I had scheduled them all at once and uh, I just knew I was ready after like four weeks, so I paid the money to move it like three weeks sooner [00:39:00] and took it. And yeah, it’s just, it’s a good feeling to know you’re in complete control of the, the study process and being able to pass.

Yeah. Okay. So yeah, we’ve gone through everything. Uh, so the last question.

Logan: I had one more question.

Nate: oh, go ahead.

Logan: Sorry.

Plans for Her Remaining Two Exams

Logan: What’s your plan going into these last two exams? So you were mentioning you’re kind of gonna wait to finish audit till after your first busy season with audit. You’re studying for REG right now what’s kind of like your game plan for these next few months to finish, especially now with these score releases?

What are you thinking?

Caroline: Yeah, I think I’m gonna take REG sometime in the summer. I think like in June before that, like, June score. I don’t really know what that summer score release is like, but sometime in the summer. So I wanna take a little, this one a little bit slower. Um, just ’cause I started working and everything and I felt like it was super intense starting, like I studied for BEC within that first few months that I started working, that was like super intense for me.

[00:40:00] So I just kind of wanna take it easy now that I’m working like longer hours. Um, so I am just kind of taking it slow on ride, but I’m still kind of getting through it, um, now. Um, but I might feel like ready before that. Um, so I might take it a little bit earlier than that, but latest like June, and then I wanna take audit by the end of the year. Um, so however that aligns with the score releases, I wanna, I’ll finish my exams by the end of this year.

Logan: Awesome.

Nate: Yeah, and I’m pretty sure you will.

Logan: Yeah, if you take your REG one sometime before June, you should, I think you’ll get your score release in like July or something like that.

Caroline: Yeah, something like that. I think that’s my game plan for REG.

Logan: Cool.

Nate: Yeah, and it is smart to be over prepared. If anything, just with these, the new score releases being.

Caroline: Right.

Nate: Months apart, it’s, yeah. Okay. Well, so last question.

Caroline’s Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Exams

Nate: What would, even if it’s stuff we already covered, what would be your top two or three tips to people that you know are [00:41:00] trying to study? Maybe they felt like you in your first three weeks. What would you say to those people?

Caroline: I would say, first of all, give yourself grace because this is not an easy thing that you’re trying to accomplish. It’s actually hard and it’s okay to kind of struggle at first. Um, but I think in struggling it kind of motivates you to find maybe different techniques. Um, and so I would definitely like, number one, hands down, like questions first approach is what I recommend. I didn’t watch any of the lectures, um, after I started doing the questions, unless it was like for one question I just really, really didn’t understand. So doing the questions, um, as my foundation for learning and like building my knowledge, um, and then using the textbook to fill in the gaps of knowledge that the maybe questions didn’t, um, cover or like just, getting more background information on the questions and then taking short notes for my understanding. Um, so I would say that’s the [00:42:00] biggest thing. Um, and then not spending too much time on the sims. Um, and just, yeah, I would say definitely the questions first approach. And then also the cumulative review at the end of the day.

So every after every study session, I would hit the practice test and ev, it was every module I learned up until that day to kind of keep, you know, things I had learned maybe one month, one and a half months ago, fresh in my memory. And if I didn’t know it, when I did that question at the end today, I would know, okay, I’m gonna have to go back to this at some point.

Um, and yeah.

Nate: That’s a perfect description. Again, it’s just kind of letting, starting with the questions and letting that inform where you go like, okay, this keeps getting mentioned. Let me look up this part in the textbook to just get that background info, you know, instead of the full textbook. And then you have to try to make sense of everything in there.

As you know, as far as the questions, it’s just a, that’s a great description of the whole thing, [00:43:00] I’m, I’m glad you found this on Spotify. Um, sounds like it’s just helped make your, make your life easier, which is the entire point.

And you just had a lot of really good tips to share that will make this episode really valuable to other people, especially your initial experience that three weeks you described is what pretty much everyone goes through. And unfortunately a huge percentage of people just push forward for months. You know, a lot of times failing exams before they ever figure out, I’ve gotta just change something.

So anyways, I appreciate you doing the call Caroline, thanks for being on here, and make sure to let us know when you pass.

Caroline: Yeah. All right. Thank you so much for having me today.

Logan: All right. That was the interview with Caroline. I thought it was awesome. And I love that she found SuperfastCPA just by searching CPA in Spotify and found the podcast.

More and more we’re hearing that people are finding SuperfastCPA through the podcast so that’s awesome.[00:44:00]

If you liked this episode with Caroline, or if you like the podcast in general, make sure to leave a rating in the podcast app that you use. Or if you’re watching on YouTube, make sure to like the video and leave a comment in the YouTube video.

And most importantly, make sure to share this with anybody that you know, who is studying for the CPA exam.

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Thanks for listening or watching and we’ll see you in the next one.

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