In this SuperfastCPA podcast interview, you’ll hear Grace’s very unique approach to studying for the CPA exams, which led her to passing all 4 CPA exams on the first try.
You’ll learn a lot from Grace’s interview about being nicer to yourself through the CPA study process, while still getting the job done.
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- 00:00 Grace Interview
- 05:06 The Timelines of Grace’s CPA Journey
- 06:17 Why Grace Decided to Pursue Her CPA
- 11:03 Finding Motivation to Study for the CPA Exams
- 14:21 Choosing a CPA Review Course
- 17:54 The Best Study Method That Worked for Grace
- 19:20 Morning vs Evening Study Sessions
- 24:21 Having a Teacher Background Helped with CPA Study
- 27:03 Grace’s Process for Making Flashcards
- 28:51 “Do What’s Most Effective for You at the Moment…”
- 30:10 Choosing How to Spend Time Studying
- 31:32 How to Make Sticking to Your Goals Easier
- 33:23 Writing Down Affirmations for CPA Study
- 37:31 Why Grace’s Didn’t Have a Fixed Daily Study Schedule
- 39:12 Gauging When She is Ready to Take the Test
- 41:50 Another Thing That Grace Did for Her Study Sessions
- 43:04 Writing Down Helps With Retention
- 44:04 Learning Through Note Taking
- 45:36 Study Strategies for the Final Review
- 49:54 Grace’s Process for Learning Task Based Simulations
- 52:35 Tackling Research Simulations
- 55:35 Doing the Best You Can and Moving On
- 56:35 Reading the SuperfastCPA Notes Multiple Times
- 59:36 Active Learning is How Grace Passed the CPA Exams
- 01:03:39 Using the Weekend to Make Up Study Time
- 01:06:29 Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Exams
- 01:10:44 Recommending SuperfastCPA to Her Colleagues
- 01:12:10 Comments on SuperfastCPA Notes
Grace: If the only thing that you can do when you sit down is pick which thing is the most effective for you at the moment, then that’s all you can do. And just give yourself the grace to be human, because you are an adult with a full time job and you have limited time to do this kind of thing so, do something that’s going to benefit you every time you sit down to study.
Grace: And that’s really the best that you can do.
Nate: Welcome to another episode of the CPA exam experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate, and in today’s interview, you’re going to hear me talk with Grace.
Nate: So this interview with Grace is one of the most interesting interviews that I’ve done or that we’ve published because in most ways, it’s not very similar to any of the other interviews.
I remember getting an email from Grace.
Nate: She responds to one of the emails about the podcast and said she had passed. She had actually gone four [00:01:00] for four but she feels like she wouldn’t have anything helpful to share on an interview, because she didn’t follow the standard study process and she feels like she just got lucky on the exams.
Nate: And that part was what I thought, okay, I’ve I personally know a bunch of really sharp people that really, really struggled with the exams and I mean, failed multiple attempts, many times. And nobody, you do not get lucky with these exams, that, that doesn’t happen. There’s just too many people that have spent hundreds of hours studying and still can’t pass. So nobody gets lucky passing CPA exams, especially not going four for four.
Nate: So, we, you know, we do the interview, which you’re going to see in a minute, and, uh, her study methods, her whole [00:02:00] process was very non traditional. I mean the best way that she kind of sums it up and describes it is, each day she would sit down to study and each day she just kind of did something different. She just felt like she was doing what she needed to do that day. Now, when you hear the whole interview, that will make more sense. But again, She went four for four on the exams. And really, I mean, day to day kind of had her own process.
Nate: Now in the end, as we’re going through the interview and she describes this whole thing. It starts to become very clear to me why her process worked because, she was doing the main thing that any effective study method has, which is, she was using active learning methods or she was always actively learning. [00:03:00] She was never just sitting there, you know, letting a whole hour video lecture, just wash over her and thinking she was going to take it in through osmosis, which is what a lot of people do.
Nate: So the, the reason that her methods worked becomes clear and we kind of, I kind of point that out to her in the interview and then we kind of talk about that aspect of it. So anyways, you’ll find this interview very helpful slash interesting, and you’ll probably get a new perspective on several elements related to the study process.
Nate: So before we get into the interview, I just want to mention the free training webinar. If you don’t know where to start with SuperfastCPA, or you’re just still feeling confused, overwhelmed, lost with the CPA study process in general. That is the best place to start. We go through the six pillars of every successful CPA study process [00:04:00] and you’ll probably also instantly realize on the training, what is wrong with your own process, if you’ve been doing this for a while and still feel like it’s not working. So the link to that training will be down in the description of both this YouTube video or just the audio only podcast version.
Nate: So with that out of the way, let’s get into the interview with Grace.
Nate: All right, so I have a lot of questions for you, I mean, based on your emails or your email, but, uh, I mean, have you listened to any of those other interviews?
Nate: Do you kind of know how these go generally?
Grace: Yes, I’ve listened to a lot of these interviews.
Nate: Okay. Yeah, so, it’ll be exactly like that. We’ll just kind of talk about your study process. So in my mind, I just kind of generally, I remember you posting some stuff in the forum.
Nate: I don’t know how long ago. Um, I mean, I just, I’m saying, I just remember seeing you in the forum and then, uh, so now you’re done with [00:05:00] the exams, right? Okay. So.
Grace: Last summer.
Nate: Okay. Last summer.
The Timelines of Grace’s CPA Journey
Nate: Um, so when did you start the CPA study process originally?
Grace: Um, originally I probably started at the end of 2020. I…
Nate: Oh, really?
Grace: Yes, I had an NTS for that time. I kept pushing it off. I got it extended. I ended up not taking it during that time and had to pay again to do FAR. Um, so I didn’t truly start studying until… I guess late spring or summer of 2021, because I sat for the first section in August of 2021, for my first section, FAR.
Nate: Okay, so. So your whole time span from start to finish really wasn’t that long. It wasn’t like multiple years. It’s really just.
Nate: 2021 to 2022.
Grace: Yes, I believe I got my final score like a couple of weeks [00:06:00] before that one year anniversary of when I took the first test on August 13th, so Okay. I mean once I got through those first two I kind of rushed the last ones.
Grace: It’s like, just get it done with get it over.
Grace: You can clearly do it. You just have to finish so.
Why Grace Decided to Pursue Her CPA
Nate: So I just the general sense I got from your email is that you really didn’t need it for your job Is that right or like what?
Nate: Okay, so so what made you? So you went to school in accounting because you were like eligible to take it.
Nate: So what made you want to do it? Or what’s kind of your job situation, you know, that whole thing, like you didn’t really need it, but you wanted to get it.
Grace: Right, well, this would be going back to school for the second time is when I did accounting. I, originally, my bachelor’s degree is in interdisciplinary studies, which is the degree that you get in Texas if you’re going to be a teacher.
Grace: So, I’m a fourth through eighth grade math and science teacher, and I’ve kept my certification up, [00:07:00] so I technically could still do that if I wanted to. Um, I got, that was in 2004, I got out of school. I taught for a while, I worked in a lot of different, different things. I worked in oil and gas. I worked in home and auto insurance.
Grace: Um, of course my little stint at, um, in Utah at the animal sanctuary. And worked in, in a hospital for seven years. And then I started working for the state. It was during my first state job that I decided to go back to school in accounting. And that, and that just came about because I was seeing a counselor for a while.
Grace: He insisted that I see a career counselor. She and I did a, I guess it was a personality test. It was called, it was just called Birkman. So it was essentially, these are the things you need in your life to be happy. These are the kind of jobs that can give you those things that you need in your life to be happy.
Grace: And accounting happens to be one of them. And our local community college, Austin Community College, is one of the community colleges in Texas that [00:08:00] is, I don’t know, certified or just able to, you can take the classes there that you need to qualify to sit for the CPA exam. So that’s what I did. I went, I went through ACC’s program.
Grace: Um, of course I had zero accounting in my college history. I did it in high school, but, um. So I had like three and a half years of community college to get the classes that I needed to qualify for the exam. And, and really it was, it was just a career counselor’s guidance and this is something that might give you the things you need to be happy ,so.
Grace: That’s why I went back into accounting. But I’ve worked for the state since I, I started school during one state job, and then I switched to an accounting job at another state agency. Essentially just a general ledger accountant. I, and I finished school in that job. I then, I got a different job with the state as a grant accountant.
Grace: And it was during, I was studying and taking the exam during that [00:09:00] time. And then I switched again. I now work as an auditor for the state. So, I’ve moved through four different state jobs, three of which were accounting related. And, and that’s how I ended up here.
Nate: Okay. So, um, I’m interested to know, did the, uh, taking like a personality assessment and it kind of matching you with accounting, do you feel like that’s been a good fit?
Nate: Like you find it fulfilling and you enjoy it?
Grace: I do accounting, um, I’ve been working as an auditor for a little over a year now and I, I am, really wanting to get back into accounting. Auditing is not accounting by any means.
Nate: Yeah, that’s true.
Grace: It’s vastly different. And I miss accounting, so yes, I do feel like accounting is a good fit.
Grace: It’s just a matter of getting, moving back into it, so.
Nate: Yeah, well I mean, having your CPA now, you know, makes you as mobile as possible as, you know, within [00:10:00] accounting, so, yeah, you’ll find, you’ll find something for sure. Okay, um, so, one of the most, one of the things I found really interesting in your email is that, you know, you kind of said you weren’t, you weren’t motivated to study really.
Nate: But you just did it and that’s so, you know, if you think about it, if you’re really motivated to do something, it’s kind of easy to do it, you know, like it’s, I would say it’s a lot harder to get yourself to do something if you’re just not motivated to do it. So, uh, I don’t know. I mean, you must have a lot of discipline if you just kind of didn’t have these big reasons to push yourself to do it, but you just kind of grinded through it every day. Um, I don’t know.
Nate: So, I mean, you just decided, I gotta, I’m gonna do the, do these exams. And there wasn’t some big [00:11:00] motivation factor. So, I don’t know.
Finding Motivation to Study for the CPA Exams
Nate: How did you, I guess, if you said you weren’t motivated, I’m like, I can’t use the word motivating or motivation. But what, what were you like using to get yourself to do it each day?
Grace: It was really just finishing what I started. You know, I, I, school was not a cheap investment. That was, you know, quite a bit of money and it was finishing what I started really. I, I set out to start doing it. I had a visit with the, I guess he’s just the head of the accounting department at ACC when I first started.
Grace: And we set this plan and this is what you’re going to do. And it was honestly just finishing that plan. It was, If you aren’t going to do the CPA exam, why did you spend so much time back in school? You could have been doing so many other things for three and a half years that you were working full time and going back to school.
Grace: So if that can be motivation, then I guess that was the motivation. To get me to sit for that first exam, though, [00:12:00] my application of intent was about to expire. And if I didn’t sit for it, I was going to have to start all over at the beginning of that process. And just knowing that what it could do for me in the future, you’re like, yeah, for the job that I’m currently working in, it, it’s not necessary.
Grace: There’s very little, you don’t need a CPA to be an auditor for the state and, but that doesn’t mean in the future I couldn’t do something that does require it. I, it did open up and I, there’s a, there’s a time that I’m going to stay with the state just because of, of pension and retirement reasons. But after that, I, I could certainly see myself moving into a private sector job that could be more beneficial for me professionally.
Grace: So, so yeah, my only real motivation, if that’s what you can call it, was you started it and you’re going to finish it because that’s just what you do. You, you finish the things that you start.
Nate: Yeah. [00:13:00] Well, what you said, that was my, uh, that was like my biggest thought about the whole thing or I mean the my why I guess was, I spent so much money on my undergrad and a master’s degree just to like fulfill the requirements to take this exam.
Nate: So I’m going to finish this exam. Yeah, that’s, and that’s the thing. Whatever you have to, whatever someone can find to latch onto as a reason, I mean, it doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s, you know, you can get that in your head as like, okay, yeah, when you think about it like that, I’m going to finish this.
Nate: Um, whatever that reason is. But that was essentially, that was my exact. Yeah, that was my exact reason. Um, yeah, especially in accounting. It’s just the cap, you know, it’s like, accounting is kind of significant, not significant, uh, unique, where [00:14:00] the CPA is the main designation. A master’s in accounting really doesn’t mean much, you know?
Nate: It’s all about getting your master’s to be able to take the CPA. So, anyways.
Nate: Okay, so, you decide you’re going to do it. Um.
Choosing a CPA Review Course
Nate: When you first started studying, what was that like? Did you just get a review course and kind of start going through video lectures? What was it like in the very beginning?
Grace: Uh, well, it was probably for about my last year of school that I was, um, thinking about that and reviewing things. Like, you can get, like, uh, a week or two trial of almost any of the, uh, the study programs, you know, I got a week of Becker and Wiley and Roger and whatever else and I’m just going through them and comparing them.
Grace: So before I got out of school, I had already purchased Wiley as my main CPA study program and [00:15:00] SuperfastCPA. Um, when I was initially watching, going through the different programs just to see which one I might want to use. I was also watching, there was, there, there’s, there’s another program, and I’m sure there’s more than one, besides SuperfastCPA, that’s, I kept watching their videos, and they, they kept saying, you know, it’s, it’s an aid and something extra that you do along with your program, and all these things, and how that’s, how wonderful it is, but they would never say exactly what it is you would be doing, so I was very hesitant to buy that program, and to, because I could never figure out what it was you would be doing in that program. And I had seen the SuperfastCPA, I had come up on Facebook a couple of times and I decided, okay, let’s just see what this one’s about.
Grace: So I watched your hour long video and I was like, yes, he’s telling me exactly what I’m going to be doing as part of this program. That is what I needed to know. So I bought SuperfastCPA too. I got that purchase during my last semester because everything’s access till you pass now. It wouldn’t be expiring on me if I [00:16:00] didn’t do it in a certain period of time.
Grace: So I had all that information before I even finished school, um, to know what I was going to be using. So when I first started studying, I, I did try this, I did try the Superfast method. I was trying to sit down and, and do the multiple choice questions and, and stuff during the day. It just didn’t work for me.
Grace: I, I wouldn’t do it. I would start sitting there, I’d do a few questions and I would just be. Off doing something else. There’s too many other things that the laundry needs to be done, and the dishes need to be done, and you haven’t cooked for the week yet, and all of these things, I just, I could not make myself do the Superfast method the way that you prescribe.
Grace: Your notes and audios, however, are amazing, and are what, were my main, my main tools for studying. The best way for me was to listen to your audios while reading along with the, I always printed them out. I had a big binder full of your notes and I would just read along and listen while you talked. [00:17:00] If there were ever something that you said it one way, but it was written another way, I would just go figure out which way it was and make a note or whatever it was about it.
Grace: And so when I started studying, I already had all the stuff that I needed or thought that I needed to start studying. Um… But it always, it was always, through all of them, it was always a struggle for me to actually do it. I got through FAR. Um, I actually went back, I still have access to Wiley for some reason.
Grace: I told them that I was passed and finished, but I can still log into that thing. But, um, but I went and looked it up. I answered. 1, 070, or attempted 1, 075 of the multiple choice questions in Wiley for FAR of the 3, 127 that were available. And that is the most multiple choice questions I did in any of the sections just to try them out.
The Best Study Method That Worked for Grace
Grace: Um, but for me the, the best [00:18:00] studying was listening to your audios and reading along with your written notes. Why, I’m sure other, I don’t know. I don’t know if I got far enough into any of the other programs that I did a trial of, but Wiley has something called, um, the 11th hour for each of the sections.
Grace: And it’s really, it’s just like probably a little less than 30 videos in each of them. It is just hot topics. It’s like this is for sure going to show up on the exam so make sure you know this kind of thing. So I would go through those 11th hour videos and just make a set of notes. I would write out the questions that they worked out and I had my own set of notes from the 11th hour videos.
Grace: I had your written and audio notes. And for me, that’s what I did. I just reviewed the notes. That, that was the best way I could do to study, and that’s what I did. Um, Occasionally if I was like, out eating, I would flip through your multiple choice questions and do multiple choice questions. But I only ever did yours, because like you said, they’re a lot simpler.
Grace: I’m not going to be able to sit there and read through a Wiley [00:19:00] question on my phone and answer it. That’s just not going to happen. Um, I don’t even know if their app works that way. I didn’t even download their app, so I’m not sure how the Wiley app even works, but.
Nate: Yeah, yeah, you get full strength questions, which it’s yeah, not very practical to use from your phone but, yeah.
Grace: Right. Yes.
Morning vs Evening Study Sessions
Grace: And it was, I, I do, I was getting up at 4 a. m. every morning because I was in the office for the majority of the time during COVID. So for me, what worked, I couldn’t sit down and study for those first two hours, because again, I have stuff to do. There’s things that need to be done that I’m not doing because I’m sitting and studying.
Grace: So it was better for me to get, get through with those things. I’m up two hours early, but I get the laundry done, I get the dishes done, I get, I pay the bills or whatever. So when I get home from work, there’s nothing else to do but study. And then I was able to study when I got home from work. So for me, evening studying worked far better than in the morning.
Grace: Um.[00:20:00] So, yes, when I first started, I had everything that I needed, but even throughout all the sections, I, I don’t think I ever really got a study process nailed down. It’s, I’m sitting down to study, what can I do right now to actually retain some information? And sometimes that was answering multiple choice questions, but, but not very often.
Grace: Most of the time it was, let’s, or 11th hour videos. You’ve been through them once, just go watch another one that, Then hear it again, or it was whatever I was going to retain for that moment that I would sit down and do.
Nate: Hmm. Okay. That’s, uh, so yeah, one thing I always say is like, if you’re, if you’re passing sections, doesn’t matter like what you’re doing, right?
Nate: Um, but yeah, I’ve got it I’ve got to say, like, even in my mind, not doing many multiple choice and mostly. Listening conceptually, or like, the conceptual studying, like, uh, review [00:21:00] notes, audios. I think that’s all really helpful, obviously. We’ve been to the whole other, you know, where you’re doing multiple choice and everything.
Nate: But, it clearly worked for you. Um, so, you’d get up early in the morning. You’d kind of get your to do list done.
Grace: Daily tasks, right.
Nate: Basically, yeah.
Nate: And so… So, on the average day after work, you would either watch those 11th hour videos or do the following our notes with the audios playing and that was like, would you say, 70 or 80 percent of the time you spent studying was doing one of those two things?
Grace: Definitely, yes. Any, any else thing else I did, it wasn’t consistent enough to say that I did it. You know, going through the multiple choice questions from the, from your app that wasn’t a consistent thing, it was. I was eating out, and I just was looking at them while I was eating. Um, but yes, the consistent things that I [00:22:00] did was reading notes.
Grace: But it’s how I studied when I was back in school. You know, being back in school for the, as an adult, was so vastly different than when I went through college the first time. And when I was studying for tests in school, that’s all I did too, was read through my notes from class. That’s, that’s how I got through all of my accounting classes, so.
Grace: I was like, this is probably going to get me through the exams too. This is how I’m used to studying. I, I never, even studying for classes, I never went back through multiple choice questions that we did in homeworks or anywhere. It was always just reading notes that I did. So that is just what worked for me.
Nate: Yeah. Well, so I guess one of my, in my mind, uh, you know, like one of the way I think on the free training, I kind of explain it this way. You can read the text or like read the textbook from your review course for any given lesson and or watch the video lecture and they present everything and then the questions just the context is just pretty [00:23:00] different.
Nate: So how did you, uh, I mean, so what were your results like you went in your first exam after studying like that? Did you pass it or?
Grace: Yes, I passed them all the first time I took them. Yes, not, I’m barely, I barely passed, but I passed them all. Um, at every test I walked out, I was like, that could go either way. I really am not sure.
Grace: And I, um, I don’t think all states do it, but Texas will give you a, um, what are these things called? A diagnostic performance report.
Grace: After each test. Um, so it’s just, it’s not, you couldn’t restudy based on this, you still have to restudy everything because it’s not specific enough, but I was stronger in simulations on every section except for BEC, which turned out to be the hardest section for me.
Grace: I mean, they are, they are all hard in their own way, and they all just suck, but BEC was my, it was so non accounting, I just.
Nate: [00:24:00] Right.
Grace: Struggled with that one the most. Um, but yes, I, your question was how I felt taking this exam?
Nate: Oh, sorry. Yeah.
Nate: So, actually what I was, no that was, so what I was getting at was, uh, so yeah.
Nate: Okay. So that’s your study process. You pass all four in the first try.
Having a Teacher Background Helped with CPA Study
Nate: So I guess my question was, uh, more like, I mean, apparently this wasn’t a struggle because you passed them all, but what I would, what I was saying is like, when you learn from just paragraph format, basically, primarily, and then go straight to the exam, more or less, you didn’t feel any kind of disconnect with, okay, the questions and how they’re worded and how they are structured is just a lot different than I don’t know, the video lectures I was watching and stuff.
Nate: It must not be.
Grace: Yeah, I didn’t watch any of the video lectures. I don’t think I even opened any of those books. Um, my rabbit [00:25:00] chewed off the corners of most of these books that I’m looking at. I don’t think I opened them. Um, I mean, I did do some multiple choice practice. So, when I was sitting through FAR, my thought was, even the little bit that I did, I’m like, this isn’t like what I practiced.
Grace: So to me, continuing to do those was like, well, it’s not like the test anyway. So if you, for me, if I knew it, I knew it. And reading a question about it, if I knew it, I already knew it. That doesn’t throw me off in a test. I’m not a stress test taker. I’m pretty chill about taking tests. And maybe that helps that I don’t get a lot of anxiety about, about testing.
Grace: Um, and maybe it’s because I have a teacher background. But, um, I, I did not get thrown off by how anything was worded. And I did find the simulations to be… somewhat easier because it was really just kind of explaining and telling a [00:26:00] story down a page. It wasn’t, um, so far off to me than just filling in blanks in a story, kind of.
Grace: So no, that wasn’t a big disconnect for me, just having read notes and then going to the questions.
Nate: I guess, yeah, so I guess on one hand, um, if you used audios a lot, which it sounds like you did. The way that we make those is by going through tons of past exam questions. So we’re not trying to just make like, bullet point, like a summary of everything you’d find in the textbook.
Nate: It’s mostly, for this topic, these are what we’ve seen so many questions on previously. So that’s what’s in the notes for this, uh, topic, so I don’t know, hopefully, or maybe, that’s, you know, helped a lot.
Grace: Right. Um, yes, I honestly, I don’t even have those, I had them all printed out, but once I was finished I [00:27:00] just burned everything that I had.
Grace’s Process for Making Flashcards
Grace: I did make note cards too, um, not necessarily like things that I don’t know, but for me a note card is a… a different way to just read a set of notes, like, I can just flip a card over at a time and read, you know, especially, I’m remembering for FAR, like, the steps to, like, make a new…
Grace: Yes, those steps.
Grace: I remember putting those on note cards and numbering them on the back of the cards so I could mix them up and put them back in order and make sure I knew the order. Stuff like that. So note cards for me was really just taking some notes that is just kind of easier to read in a note card fashion versus just paragraphs.
Grace: So I did have sets of note cards like that, um, for studying as well.
Nate: Yeah, I think flash cards are just absolutely huge. I mean that’s, uh, yeah. Did you, um, did you watch our Pro Course videos? [00:28:00] Yes. Do you ever remember going in and watching like a series of videos on like the study process itself?
Grace: Yes, I probably did that multiple times before I got out of school, or right when I got out of school probably.
Grace: I probably got a set of notes about the process in one of my notebooks that I still have, so.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, but I mean, that’s, I don’t know. That’s cool that you, uh, obviously just kind of changed. Well, I wouldn’t even say you, you really used our process cause it’s so heavy on using the MCQs. It’s, you just kind of did your own thing and it, you know, it worked going four for four.
Nate: Like you said in your email, you feel like you just got lucky. And I was like, no, no, no, no. Nobody lucks their way through these exams. Like, that’s not, that’s not possible.
“Do What’s Most Effective for You at the Moment…”
Grace: Right, it’s just my study method. When I was taking AUD, I did, I saw a counselor for, I don’t know, a couple of months, I [00:29:00] guess. Just, you know.
Grace: Tell me what I can do, how can I get this study method down a little bit better, what, what can I do, and I mean, he’s, he had to pass exams too, to, to do what he does, so we, we talked test strategies and study strategies a lot, but, um, he was like, at the end of the day, you have all these things, you have all these things that you can use to study, you have your, the Wiley course and they have videos and questions and lectures and stuff and you have your notes, you have your notes from this additional program, you, you have all these things that you can do to study.
Grace: If the only thing that you can do when you sit down is pick which thing is the most effective for you at the moment, then that’s all you can do. And just give yourself the grace to be human, because you are an adult with a full time job and you have limited time to do this kind of thing so, do something that’s going to benefit you every time you sit down to study.
Grace: And that’s really the best that you can do.
Nate: Yeah, well, right. So that’s very, um, it’s [00:30:00] one of those things that sounds so obvious, but it’s also really good advice because people get, you know, you know how things work. You just get lost in your own day or whatever’s going on.
Choosing How to Spend Time Studying
Nate: Um, so, a question on that, how would you decide, like, arbitrarily or whatever, okay, tonight I’m just, I think MCQs would be what would really help me, or, no, tonight’s a reading the notes while I listen night.
Nate: How would you decide what’s the most helpful in any given moment?
Grace: Um, sometimes trial and error. I… I know myself well enough, usually, that I, I will just know that I can’t concentrate if I’m just going to read a textbook today, or I can’t concentrate if I’m just going to be looking at multiple choice questions, um, but sometimes, you know, if you start doing something and I’m just like, this is not effective, I just got through three pages and I have no idea what it said, so we’re going to switch [00:31:00] and try something else.
Grace: Just pick up your note cards and just look through your note cards. Note cards are easier for me to focus on because it’s tiny pieces of information at a time. Um, so sometimes trial and error, but mostly I just know myself well enough to know how tired am I, how, how am I going to, what am I going to be able to focus on?
Grace: And that’s just knowing myself as to what, I don’t know how else to say that. I typically know what will work.
Nate: Yeah, um, have you read, uh, have you read Atomic Habits by James Clear?
How to Make Sticking to Your Goals Easier
Grace: No, but I feel like that’s on my reading list as something you have recommended in the past.
Nate: Yeah. Um, he, he, he’s basically describing, you know, kind of what you’re talking about, where it’s kind of a fallacy, the whole idea of achieving your goals is just having, you know, this huge amount of discipline and self control and just powering through with brute force until you accomplish your goals. He’s saying it’s much [00:32:00] more this process of kind of strategically setting up your day or your environment or whatever it is to kind of find the path of least resistance to at least do something each day to like move closer to your goals.
Grace: Yes. That sounds more of kind of what I did. Yes.
Grace: To get through them.
Nate: Yeah. That’s interesting. Huh. Okay. Let me look at your email for a sec. Okay. There were several things I wanted to ask you about.
Nate: Uh, so one thing was the, um, the affirmation. So you said you had a counselor that would have you write affirmations down, and it sounds like this is another book reference, but have you ever read, uh, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill?
Grace: No, but I have had an intern reading that once when I had a job that I was at, and he recommended it.
Grace: But that’s probably on my reading list too, I just don’t really get to those.
Nate: Yeah. So, in that book, you know, [00:33:00] it’s called Think and Grow Rich. It’s primarily about, like, mindset, and it’s not really about getting rich, really. It’s about your mindset and how to cultivate it and everything. But he gives that exact advice, where you write affirmations in the present tense, based on your, whatever your goals are.
Nate: You write them down as if they had already happened.
Writing Down Affirmations for CPA Study
Nate: So like, that’s what you said, the counselor would have you write down like, I study effectively, I’ve passed REG, I’ve passed FAR. Did he, what, in his words, what was his like rationale for having you do it that way?
Grace: That was actually a different counselor. This is many counselors prior to taking the CPA exam. It was just other random affirmations. I hate affirmations. I really do. But I liked writing, so she just had me writing them. Something down over and over and over again. And, um, which I enjoy doing because I like writing. But, [00:34:00] um, so that was a different counselor than the, my CPA exam counselor.
Grace: But, um, but yes, I just used that. And it was, I mean, my journal is right here next to me. There are so many pages that are just full of, I am studying effectively to pass REG. I am studying effectively to pass FAR. Um, I will pass. Um, I have passed. And, you know, after having watched so many of these videos with you, um, just, my poor rabbit had to hear all of this stuff.
Grace: He probably knows your voice. If I didn’t have headphones on, he’d recognize it. But, um, I would just talk to you. As if I had already passed, as if I was already telling you the story of how I passed. Even though I hadn’t even taken a section yet, he had to hear over and over again how I passed a CPA exam, even though I hadn’t passed it yet.
Nate: That’s funny.
Grace: But that I, I tried to do that with everything. Even like stuff I’m nervous about, like a job interview or something. It’s like, you know, at two hours this is just gonna be in your past and you’re not even have to think about it anymore. When I’m walking [00:35:00] in to take one of the exams, it was like, You know, by 5 o’clock you’re going to be having dinner and you’re not even going to be thinking about the exam anymore, you’re just going to be done.
Grace: So just look to that, that’s what you’re doing. You’ve already passed, you just have to show them now that you did it. And you have to sit and answer these questions to do it. So, so yes, I, I do, I do that a lot. Just act like it’s already over and you’ve already passed and you’re fine.
Nate: Yeah, that’s, uh, I mean, I’m, I’m into all that stuff like the self help.
Nate: Um, I read a lot of books. I mean, actually now, not that much, but for a long time. I mean, I read so many books about that kind of thing. And I remember I was in a college class one time because a lot of people think that, you know, think the whole self help things kind of, kind of dumb or too fluffy or whatever.
Nate: But I was, I was in like a business class in my undergraduate and, uh, this kid raised his hand. I can’t remember what, [00:36:00] what the whole point was about what we were even talking about, but he just mentioned that he was a, his like job during college was a, uh, like a valet up at Deer, Deer Valley. So in Park City, like the nicest, uh, ski resort.
Nate: And he’s like, so all I do all day is park rich people’s cars. And he’s like, nine out of ten of them, there’s, you know, self help tapes playing, or CDs playing in their car.
Nate: And, uh, yeah, anyways, I just thought that was funny. I always think of that, that kid saying that one comment in class.
Grace: It works.
Nate: So, no, yeah, it does, right?
Nate: Um. Okay, so you would talk out loud a lot, whether it was like a motivational thing, or would you also do that with like the concepts, like you’d read something in the notes, or kind of explain something [00:37:00] back, or was it, so you didn’t really do that with the actual material?
Grace: I don’t remember ever doing that with the actual material.
Grace: If I was reading aloud, it’s because I was reading from, I was reading it all out off of the, from the book or whatever, from your notes, but just reciting stuff out loud. I don’t ever remember doing that.
Grace: I might have.
Nate: Oh, okay. Okay. So the out loud stuff was just kind of your, like.
Grace: Motivational stuff.
Nate: The mindset. Yeah. Okay.
Nate: Okay. Um, okay.
Why Grace’s Didn’t Have a Fixed Daily Study Schedule
Nate: So you do your to do list in the morning, you work. So how many hours, would you just be doing like two hours each night, study wise, or how long did you actually study?
Grace: Um, you know, I never timed it. I, um, I’m not sure. I, I didn’t, like, trying to set myself into rigid of a schedule, I wouldn’t have done it just because I was trying to do that.
Grace: So I, I just did however long felt effective, but I can’t tell you how long that was. It may have been an [00:38:00] hour one night. two and a half or three the next night. It, I didn’t force myself into any particular time constraint. It was more of, when you’re done, you’re done. You know, if you’re, if I can’t keep my eyes open, well, it’s just better to go to bed.
Grace: Um, cause it’s not gonna, nothing’s gonna stick if I can’t stay awake. So, um, so it wasn’t a consistent length of time. Um, probably at least an hour, but.
Nate: Okay, so going along with that, based on how you said you studied, if, like, if you weren’t going through the questions unit by unit or whatever, um, and I mean our notes you can get through in a couple hours, so I’m guessing you went through them like many times.
Grace: You say that, I never got through your notes in a couple of hours. That was, that was always multiple days to actually get through. I can’t just read it, just to read it. I’m going to read it and, [00:39:00] and absorb it at the same time, so I can’t get through a set of your notes in a couple of hours.
Nate: Okay. But at least, you know, um, I guess what I was, where I was going with that is.
Gauging When She is Ready to Take the Test
Nate: If that was kind of your process and you weren’t going unit by unit through your Wiley course, how did you decide when you were done, like, covering the material or, or like ready to take an exam? How did you gauge that?
Grace: Um, well I always had, I scheduled them in advance. So it was always just, you’re taking it on this day.
Grace: And for me it was kind of ready or not. Just do it and see what happens, because I always scheduled so close to the end of my window that, and in Texas you only get 90 days from, in that window, so you don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room. Um, so I would usually just schedule it and I had to be ready by that day.
Grace: I, did I ever feel like I was finished? I never felt [00:40:00] like I was finished. I don’t think I ever would have. I could have studied for a year and not felt like I was finished.
Grace: Um, it had to just be close enough. Because I never would have done it if I waited to be finished. Um, I felt like I knew, I knew enough about each thing to, to be successful, so.
Nate: Yeah, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s, it’s interesting because, you know, for a lot of people, again, you were, you passed all four on your first try, so whatever you were doing was working. Um, but then as you describe it, it’s kind of like, well, tonight I might study an hour. I might study three hours or I don’t know if I’m going to do MCQs or just read the notes.
Nate: You know, it almost sounds like haphazard, right? But it was working.
Grace: You should try living in here. [00:41:00] I mean, you’d say the same thing. I’m sure.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just I think for a lot of people it would be, that, that just wouldn’t work. But I guess I’m just saying it’s a, it’s just a testament to the idea of knowing yourself and at the end of the day, you know like, this is, the CPA exams are so different than college because the professor kind of like leads you through the material as the semester goes on and you show up two or three times a week.
Nate: Um, it’s just you’re responsible for getting this info in your head. However, that has to happen. You can’t really rely on, you know, the review course to just because you watch the videos doesn’t mean it’s going to be in there. I don’t know, you just have to figure that out, like whatever that is.
Another Thing That Grace Did for Her Study Sessions
Grace: Yes, and I mean some of those, I know we keep talking about your notes and audios, but going through the 11th hour videos also takes a pretty [00:42:00] significant chunk of time, um, to get through those.
Grace: If you’re going to stop and take notes and, and have a thorough set of notes afterwards. So, it may be like 24 videos and maybe there. from 5 to 15 minutes a piece, but, you know, that’s going to take, if you’re pausing every few seconds to take some notes, or you’re pausing to write down the questions that are working through it, that takes time to get through as well.
Grace: So, um, that, that was a pretty significant chunk of, of study time as well, particularly on the weekends. That’s when I did them the most. I would just, you know, at the beginning of the day, it would be, you’re going to get through 4 or 5 of these hot topic videos. And that would be a, many hours to get through those few videos. So that was also time consuming as well.
Nate: Okay, so let’s talk about that. So you mentioned when you would read our notes, and you wouldn’t just be a few hours because you were like taking time to absorb it and understand each little piece, take [00:43:00] notes, the same thing you would do with the, uh, those 11th hour videos.
Writing Down Helps With Retention
Nate: So what was your actual process for that? If you, I don’t know, if you’re covering a new topic in the notes or on one of those videos, were you taking notes by hand or I think you mentioned note cards?
Grace: Both, yes.
Grace: And I did all of that by hand. It was all in notebooks. I think I still have all of my notebooks from that.
Grace: But yes, because for me writing it, um, like, like typing it, I may as well just copy and paste what someone else has typed, but, um, writing it by hand was, is a way for me to remember stuff. I, I can picture a page where I read something to give you an answer off of that page kind of thing. Less so now than when I was younger, but, um.
Grace: But yes, writing it by hand, I could literally, in my mind, go to that page and [00:44:00] read it and get an answer sometimes.
Learning Through Note Taking
Nate: And so, as you’re taking notes, what are, you’re essentially, you’re reading a formula or a summary, like a paragraph that’s describing something, and you’re just kind of writing it out in your own words, or just how you understand it to take notes on it?
Nate: Is that kind of what you’re doing with the notes?
Grace: Yeah, depending on what it is. Um, formulas for sure. Especially all of the financial formulas that you just kind of have to memorize. Just writing those over and over again is how I remember those things. Um, flashcards aren’t going to go very far for me for memorizing formulas.
Grace: But… I, I don’t… I don’t feel like I reworded things very often. Writing it down exactly as someone said it or wrote it before, I mean, I’ll write affirmations over and over again over hundreds of pages.
Grace: I have no problem just copying a set of, of notes word for word into a notebook. So, just writing it out, just, [00:45:00] not even just reading it, but writing it out, even if it’s the same words, um, because, I mean, it’s explained as simply as it can be explained, so just writing that out is, that’s mostly what, if I’m writing it, that’s what I’m doing.
Nate: Gotcha. Yeah, I, that makes sense too. Um, it’s, it’s just a, that’s one step further than reading it on the page or whatever on the screen. And you’re like, okay, yeah, I get it. But to actually write it out is just, yeah, I know what you mean. There’s more power in that. It’s just one step further than reading it once, I guess.
Nate: Yeah. Okay.
Study Strategies for the Final Review
Nate: So, so, let’s say, so you have your test date, and it’s coming up, if you have a week left or whatever, did you do anything different for a final review, or just kind of the same daily thing?
Grace: Pretty much the same, leading up to it, I always, my goal was to always schedule it for a Friday. And take the Wednesday and Thursday off of work before, to just read [00:46:00] through notes over and over as much as I could for those three days or two days leading up to it.
Grace: I tried to schedule for the afternoon so I’d have that morning to, I didn’t have to be rushed in the morning. I could take my time in the morning to get ready and get there. Um, but yeah, my, my final, my final crunch was really just those two days leading up to it. And I think for all but one of them I was able to take that off of work, um, to be able to do two full days of just reading everything again as many times as I could. For the other one, when I, when I scheduled, I had AUD scheduled for a Friday like I normally would. And then two weeks before the exam, someone decides to get deathly ill, and I am nursing a rabbit back to health for a little over a week.
Grace: So I had to reschedule that exam. And I ended up taking it the day before Thanksgiving. So I couldn’t take the two days prior off. I had to just do what I could in my hours after work, just reading and reviewing as much as I possibly could after [00:47:00] work for those two days before I took it the day before Thanksgiving, which is a Wednesday.
Grace: So, um, so yeah, otherwise it was the Wednesday and Thursday, cramming as much as possible, re-reviewing as much as possible before I actually go sit and take it. And I’m, I’m very glad I passed the first time because I remember I’m sitting there answering these questions and I’m like, there is nothing that I could have done differently to be more prepared for this.
Grace: Like, I don’t know what I would have done to have been more prepared for that test. The stuff that I, I didn’t know wasn’t in any of the notes that I, that I had or reviewed or anything. I’m particularly ragged with some, some weird tax stuff. And I, and in another one of your interviews there, it was a girl and she said that when she would finish the test, she would just write down the things that she knew she didn’t know.
Grace: If she had to re-study, these were the things that she really needed to study. Because she couldn’t answer questions about them. And I did that, too, after each section. [00:48:00] Just in case, it’s like, this is what you didn’t know. And I know, it’s probably a big, huge no, no. I shredded those after I got my, my passing score.
Grace: So there’s not a list anywhere of stuff that was on that test. But it was a list of what I knew, I, you didn’t know enough about this, so if you have to redo this, you better, this is what you need to focus on, so.
Nate: Yeah, um, but I think probably, you learning so conceptually, probably helped a lot with, because, I don’t know, like you mentioned, REG, a lot of the tax stuff, you know, like the rationale behind tax rules is all really similar, like why the rules are the way they are, and how, I don’t know, how basis works across different entities or whatever, it’s generally the same.
Nate: So, probably just learning very conceptually, you know, helped you do decent, even when you were basically [00:49:00] guessing, I would think.
Grace: Yes. Yes, because most, on, on that tax stuff, you know, you don’t have to memorize any, any tables of numbers and stuff. They’re, they’re going to give you that. It’s how to apply it that they want to know if you can do, so.
Grace: Um, but yeah, there’s random tax stuff that I, I guess was just newer stuff that I was expected to know that I hadn’t. But I had not reviewed, so.
Nate: Yeah. And, and what about sims, uh, like in your study process? I mean, I think everyone, because I’ve, on these interviews, I’ve heard everything from like, no, I literally never looked at the Sims to that’s primarily what I studied.
Nate: I’ve heard a few times, like you said, you just found the sims naturally easier. That’s definitely rare. You know, and when people get those performance reports back. It’s almost always, if someone failed, it’s almost always shows weaker on the sims.
Grace’s Process for Learning Task Based Simulations
Nate: Um, but anyways, I guess what I was saying is everyone should do at [00:50:00] least enough sims to just see the format before the real exam.
Nate: So did you do that? Was that in the last few days or how did you work in practice sims at all?
Grace: Um, I guess just whenever I felt like looking at them, I, that’s, yeah, like for FAR, um, I hate to say it. I only attempted six task based simulations of the 201 that were available. But my, so if I, whenever I opened up the task based simulations, I just clicked for the answer and just read through the information because they were usually so text heavy.
Grace: And I’m like, I don’t want to read this.
Grace: And they’re, they’re great. It’s so weird in the practice course anyway, like. You type in that last answer and it just grades it and gives you all the answers. And I was like, but if I wanted to look back over that, I couldn’t anyway. So, if I did do the sims, it was just to open and click for the answer and just read through.
Grace: And see what I could learn from what that answer was [00:51:00] presenting. My biggest concern with sims was, um, searching the professional literature cause, typically, you can find that exact wording in there somewhere, but there’s a lot of places that sound a lot like it, too.
Grace: And so, I would get into the sims and I would just click through to look for those, searching the professional literature ones, to try and practice on those, until I felt like, okay, I know what I need to look for.
Grace: Hopefully get that right. So, that’s really all I did with sims. I, I never actually worked them. If I did open them to do them, it was just to click and get the answer and read what information was available there. So I didn’t, kind of like the multiple choice, I didn’t find it as useful to try to work through simulations either.
Grace: But I don’t know, I found them to be much easier on the tests besides BEC. BEC was just it’s own monster, I mean.
Nate: Yeah. Was that, I mean, the, the writing ones or just the non writing [00:52:00] normal sims on BEC?
Grace: Was a monster? They all are.
Nate: The ones that you found, yeah, just all of them? Okay.
Grace: Yeah, I did, I don’t think I even looked at regular simulations for BEC.
Grace: I, Wiley had like 40, I wrote it down, look at this, like 43 of just the written ones. And really it’s just read what they wrote to kind of get an idea of what these things should sound like. You don’t, I mean, you could try to write them yourself, but I didn’t see how that would be beneficial. And of course, you know, they had days and hours to write these things to make really beautifully written compositions, but.
Tackling Research Simulations
Grace: I remember sitting there doing the written part, and I’m just like, please don’t grade this by hand. Please don’t grade this by hand because really, I just picked some keywords, and I made it, If I didn’t know what it was talking about, I just made as many sentences as possible in paragraph form, using those keywords, and I just prayed nobody looked at them for real.
Grace: Because they would have failed me for sure and never allowed me to try that [00:53:00] again.
Nate: That’s funny, because that’s what I tell people is, uh, yeah, you can’t, practicing, writing out a bunch of practice written communications is kind of just, because you don’t know what you’re going to see on exam day. You basically want to fit in as many of like the BEC buzzwords as you can and make sure it makes sense in the sentence you use it.
Nate: And, uh, yeah, just give a coherent, logical response and that’s basically the best you can do.
Grace: Yes, I, I would agree with that. That, um, and I, I got through them. I think everything but FAR. I submitted them with like 30 minutes left on the clock. Because there’s, I can’t just sit there and, I’m not going to divine this answer from heaven.
Grace: If I didn’t know it the first time, I’m not going to know it now. So what’s the point of continuing to stare at this? Like, I’m not going to all of a sudden come up with this beautifully constructed. Um, response to these written communications. Why am I [00:54:00] going to sit here and stare at them for another 30 minutes?
Grace: So, um, so I did submit those with like 30 minutes left on the clock just because that’s the best I can do, so.
Nate: Yeah, no, I mean, yeah, it makes sense to me. Um, man, we’ve, okay, we’ve gone like a full hour already, that went by fast.
Grace: I’m not working today, so I’m fine if you don’t have anything to do, I don’t mind staying long.
Nate: Yeah, yeah, I, we’re kind of, we’re through most of it, uh, let me just look at your email again. Um, oh, so the other, the other thing I thought was funny from your email is, uh, cause you hear me ask on other episodes, like, when, how long into your process did everything start to click and you just, you kind of said it never really did. And I guess you kind of said that before where you never felt fully ready for each exam.
Nate: It was more just, I’m going to set a date, do whatever I can day by day and then [00:55:00] go in and take it. But then you, you know, like you said, you went four for four. Um, but there’s a lot of, uh. Um, I don’t know, there’s a lot of wisdom in that, like, I don’t know, doing what you can do every day at the same time you have a deadline because you know you can’t just prepare endlessly forever, um, yeah, I just, yeah, your whole, your whole approach, I just find it very, uh, interesting, but again, you went, you went four for four. It’s just.
Grace: I did.
Nate: Yeah, that’s cool.
Doing the Best You Can and Moving On
Grace: Yeah, I felt like, yeah, click, it never really clicked, I just, you know, it’s, had to accept that this is what it, what it is, and do what you can, and just move on. Even, even sitting there answering the questions, I, I tried not to leave any unanswered, like on multiple choice, but of course you could easily see which ones you didn’t answer and just go click on them, and I didn’t know the answer any more the second time [00:56:00] than I did when I skipped over it the first time, and I played Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe way too many times on some of those sections, and I still managed to, to get through, because, I mean, there’s no point in sitting there and obsessing, like, over this one question that you can’t answer. Just pick an answer and move on. It’s, it’s not, you’re just taking time away from something you might know the answer to.
Nate: Yeah, exactly.
Grace: Take away the time that you don’t have, um, to answer that question, so, I try to approach it like that. It, it worked. Luckily it worked but, um.
Nate: Um, okay.
Reading the SuperfastCPA Notes Multiple Times
Nate: So one other question I have about how you would use our notes. So were you trying to, did you get through ’em start to finish multiple times, like during your window studying for FAR?
Nate: Or were you working through ’em slowly enough that you were kind of matching the, like let’s say you’re going through the, I don’t know, the leases or something, uh, on those 11th hour videos, [00:57:00] and you’re just kind of closely working with our notes on the leases, or were you getting through the notes, like, multiple times, like, I don’t know, once every 5 to 7 days or something, and then just starting over?
Grace: Yes, I got through them many times, just starting over. It was never super quick, but I got through them. Multiple times within that, that time frame and audios, I would listen to them to and from work, but some days the app just wouldn’t load and it was just like, well, I can’t do that today because I don’t want to sit here for 10 minutes when I could be at home already.
Grace: So, um, so as much as I could, I listened to them in the car, but of course there were days when it’s like, I just no more notes. I just got to listen to some music for a day. And, um, so, yeah, I got through them many times over. That repetition is probably what helped a lot, just hearing it so many times.
Nate: Yeah, I was, so, I’ll get to this thing [00:58:00] where I was going to like, because like I said, when I saw your email and how you said you studied, you know, to a lot of people it would be like, that’s kind of hard to believe, you went four for four, not really doing practice questions and sims, mostly just reading, you know, review notes and, uh, watching those final review videos or cram videos or whatever.
Nate: Um, So, like, if I was to analyze why it worked, I think what you said where you were, you weren’t just always reading the notes, you were kind of carefully, you were reading them, but you were going piece by piece, making sure you understood as you went, taking notes, so it was this very active process.
Nate: So actually, okay, that’s a really good point. Um, because I talk about that a lot. If you’re just sitting there passively, you know, you have the video lecture on, and you’re just sitting there, [00:59:00] and half hour goes by, you know, you can tell yourself, yeah, well I just watched this video, I’m getting things done.
Nate: But, it’s very low impact, or it’s just very passive. Whereas you were doing that. You were using the review notes and watching those videos, but you were doing it very actively, right? Like pausing it constantly, making sure you understood. Okay, what they just said is this. So take a note. Um, so yeah, that’s, that’s just a huge distinction, I guess, for anyone listening to this in the future.
Active Learning is How Grace Passed the CPA Exams
Grace: It is. Even just reading your notes, if I got through, you know, two pages and I’m like, well, I just zoned out and I wasn’t really reading that, I would make myself go back and start over again on those two pages. And yeah, I didn’t let myself, um, do that. Like it was, if you, if you didn’t get it, you’re going to go back and do it now and you’re going to get it or you’re going to switch to do something else.
Grace: Maybe this isn’t what you’re going to do today. [01:00:00] Maybe you’re going to just do something else because this isn’t working. Um, but yes, I would say it was very active and repetitive. I repeated things a lot.
Nate: Yeah. So, and that would, okay. So that would be another thing that I would say like, okay, why did her process work so well?
Nate: Yeah. The thing I’m always saying is, uh, these exams and learning all this material, it’s a lot like learning a new language. And everyone understands that example. Like, you couldn’t do one deep dive study session and like master a new language. It’s just not possible. It, you can only functionally learn like a new language through this constant like repetition.
Nate: Saying the, saying the new words over and over. Using them in the sentence however, whatever, however that language works. Um, it has to come like in layers. Your understanding has to come in layers. And so that was worked into your process as well it sounds like.
Grace: Yes, I would [01:01:00] say so.
Nate: Yeah. Um, so, with your notes, as you’re going through our notes, repeatedly, it’s like, the second time you read them, the third time you, something new clicks, so you kind of add to your notes for that topic, is that basically what you would do?
Grace: Um, if it happens like that, I, um, probably, I don’t remember specifically enough. It’s been a while now. It’s easy to put that behind me and not remember specific details like that. But, um, my goal was always to have this set of notes so that I could just review over and over again. I mean, now I have to go, oh, that, even just Googling something, just for some clarity. Helped, but I don’t remember doing that frequently, but sometimes it’s just saying it in a different way. Let me change these words around because this makes more sense kind of thing.
Nate: Right. [01:02:00] Yeah, yeah, so I guess in general just a big takeaway is, uh, everyone I talk to has one unique thing and like with you your whole approach is unique, but the more we get into it, I can see, like, why it worked.
Nate: So, so anyone that’s, like, successful at these exams, if you talk to them about, like, what they did, there’s always, like, clues leading back to kind of this active learning, uh, thing. You’re, when you’re spending time, you’re actively, like, forcing new information into your brain. Whether it’s like taking notes or doing questions, you know, you’re pausing the video instead of okay, I just let 60 minutes of a video like wash over me and I might remember two things from that. Yeah.
Nate: Yeah. Okay. Well, yeah, I mean, a lot of people are going to find this really helpful because.
Grace: I hope [01:03:00] so.
Nate: Yeah. I just, uh, like I said, your, your approach or your mindset to it of, I’m going to just do whatever I feel like will be effective for me tonight. I think that could throw a lot of people off, but then there’s a lot of people that, that will, you know, they’re like, yeah, that’s what, that’s how I need to do this as well, cause.
Grace: I think there’s probably a lot of people who, who need that, a really rigid structure to, this is exactly what I have to do, but it’s just not something that’s going to work for me because that is not how my brain works. Yeah.
Using the Weekend to Make Up Study Time
Nate: So, but, but a big takeaway on that is you were doing something every night. I mean, more or less, right? It’s like, I don’t feel like doing…
Grace: You keep saying every night, and I’m like, eh, was it every night? Mmm… There were many nights where it’s like, well, you really just need to sleep, because you’re not feeling okay, or something.
Grace: So, every [01:04:00] night, probably not, but 95% of the nights, yes.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, so you were very consistent.
Grace: Right. I tried to be, yes.
Nate: Um, so another thing that comes up a lot is I guess it’s about intention, like you are deciding in advance to take a night off because you just need it. You need to sleep. Whereas, you know, what happens to a lot of people is they just kind of procrastinate it. You know, they just don’t make it a priority. A day goes by two days slips by. So, how would you kind of balance that as like, I mean, I, I know what you’re saying.
Nate: It just comes down to, I am act, I’m choosing in advance. I’m not going to study tonight because I really need to sleep or, you know, whatever it is. But then I know that tomorrow I am back on it.
Grace: I need to do it. Yes.
Grace: Weekends were [01:05:00] always my catch up. If it was a bad week, if things went, went terrible, the rabbit is sick.
Grace: Um, I mean, there’s things that interfere with that, even not just procrastinating because you just can’t. Um, weekends are always my catch up time to finish up. Well, you, you didn’t do enough during the week. So now, yes, go get the groceries, but now you’re going to spend the rest of the day finishing up your notes on the 11th hour videos that you didn’t do during the week or whatever it was.
Grace: My weekends were catch up if the week did not go well.
Nate: Okay. That’s another great point. Um, and I think it’s such an obvious idea that. I mean, I talk about that exact thing in the Pro Course videos. You use the weekends as a buffer to just catch up. Like, you never start a Monday behind on your whole plan or feeling behind.
Nate: Um, yeah. I mean, it’s pretty self evident. It just makes sense. Yeah.
Grace: You eventually have to catch up. I mean, [01:06:00] it’s not going to work if you don’t.
Nate: Right. Yeah. Okay. That’s… Yeah, I mean a lot of your, yeah, just your whole, uh, mindset is, I don’t know, I get it. I get why it worked for you after, you know, hearing the whole thing.
Nate: That’s, that’s cool. Um, yeah, so we kind of went through everything. What, yeah.
Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Exams
Nate: So the, the last thing I always ask. Even if it’s stuff we already covered. What would be your main three tips for somebody, you know, that’s still trying to figure out their own study process?
Grace: Um, I would say give yourself space to be human.
Grace: Don’t expect perfection. If, if all you, if this is all you can do, this is all you can do. And just accept it because you, you are an adult with a full time job and responsibilities at home. You can’t expect to just master something all at [01:07:00] once. Um, I think that’s, the best thing anyone can keep in mind.
Grace: Just keep reminding yourself that if you have to. It’s not, you don’t have to be perfect. But, honestly, I, I have developed some superstitions over, over my life. And, um, I, I, there’s things that I kept consistent each time. I always brought the same snack to eat in that little break that you get on the exam.
Grace: I always had a chiropractic adjustment the day before I had to sit for the exam. Um, my, my little sister was involved in some way each time. Um, the last three, they just, they drove me to and from the testing center. So, I mean, pick, always eat, always eat before you go. You will be starving before your break, so eat a meal, not just a snack.
Grace: And then bring a snack, because that’s the worst, man. Sitting in there hungry, that was awful. Um, I wrote, I wrote another one down, hang on. That was all I wrote down, sorry. So those are my two. [01:08:00] If you’re, if you’re still studying, just allow yourself to be human and eat before you take the test.
Grace: And bring a snack.
Grace: Make sure you bring a snack.
Nate: Yeah, I, yeah. I like how you describe all your, um, I don’t know, just your whole outlook on the process. If you needed a day off, for whatever reason, you took it, um, but at the same time you were very disciplined, like there was just, there was intention behind everything you did throughout the process.
Nate: It wasn’t just like, you know, kind of the self sabotage thing where like, uh, I’m just too busy or kind of making excuses and then a week goes by and you don’t study. Um, yeah. So there’s never taking a day off, like the really hardcore approach. And then there’s just the more, not holistic, I don’t know what the [01:09:00] word would be.
Nate: Your approach, which is like…
Grace: What I did. Grace’s approach.
Nate: And then, uh…
Grace: Yeah, I cant imagine, someone who is procrastinating and not…
Grace: I just, like, I get that some people need that structure, but man, if I had… I would have burned myself out so bad if I was two hours, every day, never stop, you can’t take a break. That would just, I would have probably quit before I started.
Grace: It’s just, it’s just far too rigid for me.
Grace: Um, I, I need, I need some space in there to, to allow life to happen because it does, so.
Grace: And that works for some people, it does. That would, that would have burned me out really, really bad.
Nate: Yeah, and I, I mean, that’s really good for a lot of people to hear, you know.
Nate: Just, uh, well, I mean, I hear that through, through emails a lot, um, just, yeah. And when I first started this, I would always be, like, in emails to people, I would just kind of be [01:10:00] like, no, you don’t, like, you don’t take days off, like, you want to pass these, you, cause that’s how I did it, you know? Yeah. And so, uh, but doing these interviews has taught me a lot about, people take whatever strategy it is, and, I mean, they might not even do it.
Nate: They might throw it out because they just know it doesn’t work for them, or, they customize it, or, they just have their own, completely own way of doing it. Um, yeah. And it’s kind of a balance, too, right? Because, obviously, there’s a lot of people out there that just follow this traditional approach of watching the video, reading the chapter, doing the questions, and they spend years and like, never pass sections, so.
Recommending SuperfastCPA to Her Colleagues
Grace: Yes, I have a friend who did that and passed that way. So, I, I think it just depends.
Grace: If you know, if you know how to do it. I mean, I, I, where I’m working now, there’s a lot of people who are taking, taking their CPAs. And I always tell them, [01:11:00] hey, just go watch the video. It’s just an hour. Just watch it and see if there’s anything that you could use.
Grace: Um, as you study, you know, they might give you an idea and so I’ve been referring people to SuperfastCPA. I don’t know. They don’t follow up with me if they’ve actually done it or not and it’s not my business. It’s fine, but, um.
Grace: I mean and then I hear what they are doing and I’m like, oh, well, I’m glad that works for you, you know, because that wouldn’t have worked for me.
Grace: I have a friend now. She, she’s like, oh, I need to get at least, you know, 60% on I don’t know what review course she’s using, so I’m getting that so I’m ready and I’m like, okay, you go for it.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, I guess I, yeah, I think the biggest takeaway and despite, or I mean, regardless of how you did everything, like we were talking about earlier, you were just very, uh, you were intentional and whenever you were studying, you were actively learning, like pushing new information into your head.
Nate: So, instead of kind of [01:12:00] letting a, you know, 30 minutes of a video, yeah, kind of just.
Grace: Just kind of play in front of your eyes and not.
Nate: That’s a good way of saying it.
Comments on SuperfastCPA Notes
Grace: Yeah, I feel like your notes covered, I mean, I feel like your notes touched on every, everything they could have, like, there’s only so many questions they can ask you.
Grace: They, you, they cannot ask you about everything in those blueprints. But I feel like your notes really covered at least something about everything. So, maybe you don’t know in depth what derivatives are. And I’m saying that because they’re not on the test anymore. But, you know enough to be able to answer this simulation because it’s dropped down in multiple choices.
Grace: You know, if you just know a little bit and it just comes out of right field because it’s like, that was such a small part of the blueprints. And now all of a sudden it’s there. Um, I feel like your notes touch on enough of everything to, to be a very well rounded studying, [01:13:00] so.
Nate: Yeah. I mean, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nate: I’m, I’m glad it helped. And I mean, again, when I read your email, how you were like, you said you primarily used our notes. I’ve got to admit that even me, I, I’m, I almost think like, I mean, our notes are good, like I obviously believe in them a lot, but to be someone’s primary material, I still hesitate to like recommend that or say, you know, this is all you need.
Nate: Um, but I’ve, I’ve heard from a few people that said that’s, they primarily used them. Um, but still someone just starting, I would always tell them like. If you’re just starting, you want a main review course for the in depth info, and our stuff is just more of a, it just is what it is. It’s like the supplement that helps going deeper in your review course a lot easier, easier to understand.
Grace: Yes, it’s just such a vast, and you’ve [01:14:00] said it before, you’re not trying to teach this stuff. You just need to know enough to pass the test. I don’t need to teach it. If I was going to teach it, I’d go back and learn it. But, um, or learn it in more depth to be able to teach it. But, um, but yeah, and maybe, maybe because I had the 11th hour videos as well, I feel that that way about your notes, but I really, yeah, I just, I really feel like they touched a little bit of everything.
Grace: So, I mean, even if there was something it was like, okay, you kind of mentioned it, but I’m gonna go look into it. I just can’t tell you that that happened often enough to say it was a regular thing.
Nate: Yeah, I mean, we do. We use the blueprints to make them. So it’s like, okay, know this on the blueprint. Okay, now let me look past, in all these past questions, what things appear a bunch in questions based on this. So I mean, yeah, hopefully that’s the idea. They touch on everything in the blueprints, at least touch on it.
Nate: So, yeah.
Grace: And I, I, I did have the blueprints printed out for each [01:15:00] section, and I’ve probably read through them at least once, but I didn’t really, I never referred back like, oh, I’m trying to learn this, but is it even in the blueprints, because, you know, the blueprints can be kind of vague. What does it really mean?
Grace: So, yeah.
Nate: Yeah, they’re kind of a guideline. It’s not this thing that you need to cross reference relentlessly while you’re studying. Yeah.
Nate: Okay. Well, um, yeah, that’s, that’s basically, I mean, we’ve gone through everything, but that, that was fun to hear your, hear your story. I didn’t know based on your email, I didn’t know how this was going to go, honestly, but that was just very, uh, very insightful and I think will be really helpful to a lot of people that, you know, kind of fall on in your type of thinking, you know, where being too rigid is much more detrimental than it is helpful. Um, yeah.
Grace: Yes, I wasn’t sure if it’d be helpful. I didn’t want to, want to make you [01:16:00] sit with me for like an hour and be like, well, this is just crap. We can’t share this. And you probably want to edit that little, that little word out right there. But, um, but yeah, I didn’t want to, I mean, I did pass, I did use your stuff.
Grace: I just didn’t follow a really strict method. So I didn’t know how you would feel about presenting that to people, so.
Nate: No, yeah, but getting into the details, I mean, I can clearly see, you know, why it worked.
Nate: It’s yeah It’s essentially just that you were actively learning whenever you were studying you were actively learning I mean, that’s really what it comes down to. So yeah, just a totally different way of doing it, but going four for four. Nobody nobody lucks out doing that on these exams, so.
Grace: Yeah. But once I got through the first two sections, it was really like, okay, just do it, just finish it, come on, don’t. I would always start studying for the next section before I got my score back, but I scheduled my exams very, [01:17:00] um, except for AUD, which got messed up when, when someone got sick.
Grace: And, um, I scheduled as close to the grading cutoff as I could so that I didn’t have to wait very long to get my score. So really, when I got my score, I was only a couple of weeks into studying for the next section. If I had to just stop and go back and restudy, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. So I was, I try to be very meticulous about how I scheduled the exam so that I wouldn’t have to wait very long for results in case I had to restudy.
Grace: But, thank God I didn’t.
Nate: Um, that’s one thing I never asked. How far apart, or not how far apart, but when you start studying for FAR, how long, how far away did you set your exam date?
Grace: Um, I don’t remember. Um, let me see. Hang on. I know I have this written down. That’s why I’m looking.
Grace: And I didn’t allow myself to reschedule that one. So, june 27th, 2021 was about a week of studying. [01:18:00] And I sat for the exam on August 13th, which was the Friday the 13th. So that was a terrible idea, but it turned out not to be. But, um, so what was that? June, probably like June 20th I started and I took it on August 13th.
Nate: So, less than, I mean, 5 or 6 weeks or yeah, 7 or 8 weeks, yeah.
Grace: Something like that, yes. My, my original goal was like, 8 weeks for, um, FAR and REG, and 6 weeks for BEC and AUD. And I think I got pretty close on all of those. Hmm. But, again, in Texas you have 90 days, 90 day windows to schedule in. So, um, I tried to schedule enough into my window so that if I needed a few extra weeks, I could reschedule and I still had a little bit of wiggle room, um, on my 90 day window.
Grace: So, but yeah, probably about six weeks for, for AUD and [01:19:00] BEC.
Nate: Yeah, so I mean, relatively short timelines. I mean, definitely not super long ones either. Okay.
Grace: I tried not to. I didn’t want it to, I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to risk running out that 18 months if I, just in case, um, because I needed to retake one and it just completely threw me off and I needed six months to take it again or something.
Grace: Um, I didn’t want to run out of time, so, so I ended up finishing in less than a year, a little bit less than a year.
Nate: I’m glad it helped and congrats on being done. That’s awesome.
Grace: Thank you. Yes. September 8th, I believe was my, my actual license date, so.
Nate: Yeah, that’s really cool. I mean, especially like now you just have it, it’ll be a big benefit at some point.
Nate: I guess you said currently it’s not directly, but.
Nate: You’re done with it. It’s in the history books. No one can take it away.
Grace: It is. Yes, that’s the that’s a big benefit.
Nate: All right. [01:20:00] So that was the interview with Grace, like I said, in the beginning, I’m sure you found that very informative and helpful and motivating and different than most of the other interviews we’ve had on the podcast. So if you found this helpful or the podcast helpful in general, Please take a second to leave a rating in the podcast app, like the video on YouTube, leave a comment. Maybe one takeaway you got from the interview with Grace, but most of all take a second to share the podcast or these videos with someone, you know, who’s working on their CPA exams as well because these interviews collectively are the most helpful free resource available anywhere for figuring out a successful CPA study process.
Nate: So thanks for watching or listening and we’ll see you on the next episode.