How Josh Passed His CPA Exams Using Shorter Study Sessions

How Josh Passed His CPA Exams Using Shorter Study Sessions

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In this SuperfastCPA podcast episode, you’ll hear how Josh used shorter study sessions to study for and pass his CPA exams. He started the CPA study process following the traditional approach, and it was taking him a huge amount of time to get through one small module. Then he switched to the SuperfastCPA study methods, and he immediately started making much faster progress.

Watch the interview on YouTube…

Episode Timestamps

  • 0:00 How Josh Passed His CPA Exams Using SuperfastCPA
  • 01:58 Josh’s Biggest Struggles Before SuperfastCPA
  • 04:35 What Josh Found to be Helpful from SuperfastCPA
  • 06:23 One Mistake that Led to Failing FAR
  • 07:14 Passed FAR with a Change of Mindset
  • 08:57 Josh’s Learning Process Was Trial and Error
  • 10:44 Shifting to Learning Using the Questions First Approach
  • 13:37 Josh’s CPA Journey
  • 16:18 Why Josh Preferred to Study Through Grad School Vs Studying While Working
  • 25:20 Josh Was Still Able to Have Time for Other Things
  • 27:30 Planning Study Time Around Activities
  • 29:48 Josh’s Weekend Study Routine
  • 33:04 How Josh Approached Sims for Review
  • 34:34 How Josh Knew His Study Process Was Working
  • 35:30 Adjusting to Working Full Time
  • 37:15 Learning to Say No To People
  • 40:22 Why Josh Wanted to Become a CPA
  • 43:17 Josh’s Note Taking Process
  • 44:16 Taking Too Many Notes
  • 46:40 Reverse Engineering Questions Was More Effective Than Lectures
  • 49:45 Josh’s Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Study Process
  • 54:03 Finally Passing the CPA Exam Was the Best Feeling

Interview Transcript

Josh: [00:00:00] I spent about a week just doing everything my review course told me to do, which is just watching the video lectures, you know, trying to take all the questions, getting the questions wrong or not really knowing why the questions were wrong.

And then going back to the lectures and trying to figure out why they were wrong. And it would take me an entire day just to get through one little module.

And so I was like, okay, this is probably going to take a lot of time and energy just to get through, you know, one chapter and I need some guidance.


Logan: Welcome to another episode of the CPA exam experience podcast. I’m Logan, and in today’s episode, you’re going to hear Nate and I talked to Josh.

So Josh was one of the few people who, instead of struggling for months and years, potentially using the normal approach, he only used it for about [00:01:00] two weeks before he was like, I’ve got to change something. So he switched to SuperfastCPA strategies only about two weeks in.

He started studying when he started grad school and it was taking him all day just to finish one module.

And that’s why he was so willing to switch to SuperfastCPA so soon.

Something that I think will be really helpful to listen for in this interview is he said one of the biggest mental shifts he had to have was being okay with getting questions wrong when he was going through them for the first time. Remember, this approach is not about getting the questions right the first time. It’s all about learning from the questions as your learning tool. Josh has some great tips, so I hope you like the interview.

Before we jump into the interview, I just want to give another reminder about the free webinar training we have on superfastcpa.com. It’s only one hour long, it’s free, and we teach the six key ingredients to passing the CPA exam.

It’s one hour of training that will save you months and months of struggling.

With that said, let’s go straight into the interview with Josh.

Josh’s Biggest Struggles Before SuperfastCPA

Nate: Let’s go back to [00:02:00] that, that year you were talking about, before using SuperfastCPA, what were your big struggles you were running into with the study process?

Josh: Yeah. So, um, well, full disclosure, I think I only attempted to study for a couple of weeks outside of the SuperfastCPA method before, um, I started using, um, materials and I, at this point, you know, I had gotten so many ads for it. Um, so many ads were Superfast and the link to the free training and the free webinar. And so I was like. What the heck? Let me, let me try this, uh, training and see what, see what happens. And so, um, so I listened to it and, uh, it was just, it was just amazing just the study tips that you gave in that free training of, you know, approaching the questions first and, uh, working backwards and kind of just restructuring, you know, the way you study. And, [00:03:00] um, and when I had heard that, I was just like, wow, okay. I mean this, this, you know, when you say it out loud, it sounds, you know, like common sense. But, um, but, but it’s something that I didn’t really think about. And so, uh, I spent maybe a couple of weeks I had just started grad school. I had finished an internship, got a full-time offer with that internship, and they paid for my review course.

And, uh, and I started grad school. Um, in August of 2021, and that’s when I started studying for it. And I spent about a week, um, just doing everything my review course told me to do, which is just, uh, um, watching the video lectures, uh, you know, take, trying to take all the questions, getting the questions wrong or not really knowing why the questions were wrong.

And then going back to the lectures and trying to figure out why they were wrong. And it would take me an [00:04:00] entire day just to get through one little module.

And so I was like, okay, this is probably going to take a lot of time and energy just to get through, you know, one chapter and I need some guidance. And so, yeah, just kind of took a, took a leap of faith and just seeing like, you know, what, what, you know, what else is there, what study tips are out there? And uh, and you were one of the first people that I ran across. And, uh, yeah, the rest was history.

Nate: Okay. Awesome. Yeah.

What Josh Found to be Helpful from SuperfastCPA

Nate: So, so to get into specifics, um, you know, you kind of mentioned the questions first, but once you started using our study methods and or study tools, what were the most helpful things about SuperfastCPA to you and your process?

Josh: Um, definitely, uh, the idea of the fact that you can be able to have a short study session and still be very effective with that time. [00:05:00] And, um, and that’s what I’ve been, and that’s what I started doing. I just, uh, you know, went straight, uh, spent, for a couple of months, uh, woke up, would do the questions first.

Um, you know, do, do uh, do cumulative questions, um, as I, as I went along and, um, and the fact that, you know, we, we had notes and we had, um, many quizzes. Uh, I personally didn’t use the audio notes very much ’cause I’m just not a very auditory person. I’m a visual learner. And, uh, I just always read, um, the review notes, um, always taking quizzes, um, because you were right and a lot of your training webinars, you were talking about the fact that, you know, we always say that we’re busy, but we always find like four or five hours a day to check our phones, you know, once we add all that time up. And so, uh, I just made it a point to just, uh, go to my review notes, uh, read that for a few minutes, take a quiz. Uh, if I wanted to [00:06:00] take a break from work, if I wanted to, um, if I, um, wanted to take a break from actually looking at my review course or doing homework for school, um, that’s what I would do.

I would just, uh, you know, mix in, um, a few hour, a little, like an extra hour or two of studying just using that. And, um, and, and that was the process that I had.

One Mistake that Led to Failing FAR

Josh: Um, one mistake that I had when I first started was I kind of had an attitude of like, I have to get the question right versus why is the question right?

And um, and I think that that’s what led me to not passing the first time, is just having that. I, I was so accustomed to trying to get the questions right, not realizing that when you take the exam the questions are gonna be different, they’re not gonna be the exact same. Um, and the ultimate purpose in studying is understanding why the answers are [00:07:00] right.

Why, uh, how do you get, you know, how do you get to the process of getting to the right answer? Um, so, ’cause once you learn that process and once you learn the why, um, you can be able to answer the question regardless of how they word it to you.

Passed FAR with a Change of Mindset

Josh: So, um, so that was a mistake that I made the first time around and I fixed it the second time around.

Still using your methods, but just changing that attitude.

And I was able to pass my FAR retake, ’cause I took FAR first, um, took that December of 2021. Didn’t pass, uh, retook it, uh, a few months later, um, which was not, I is not always the best recommendation, but I was not, uh, it just completely honest. I wasn’t really the best at, um, managing time when I was in grad school and I was just kind of taking my time with it. And uh, but I was able to pass that retake, uh, that I took, um, [00:08:00] a few months later after the semester was over. ’cause I was doing school and studying, um, and working a graduate assistantship. And I waited till after the semester was over to take my FAR retake and um, and I was able to pass that and um, and then, um, yeah, and then tho those, once I changed that attitude of like, why is the question right?

And applied that to my study methods and study schedule, um. Yeah, I was able to pass, uh, the rest of ’em on the first try with the exception of audit. Had to take that a second time and pass that the second time.

Nate: Awesome. Okay. Like you said, there’s so many things about this that once you grasp the idea and say it out loud. It just sounds like common sense, but so much of this that you just kind of go into and you either figure it out through trial and error, or somehow it’s pointed out to you otherwise.

Josh’s Learning Process Was Trial and Error

Nate: But that distinction of [00:09:00] not trying to get the question right, per se, but learning the process behind a question type, was that, did you get that from the PRO course or was that just kind of a realization you had in your own studying?

Josh: Yeah. I, I think it’s a little bit of both. It was a little, it was a little bit of, um, you know, what you were trying to get at with the PRO course as well as me. Using kind of trial and error and realizing that, um, you know, after I took that first exam I was like, okay, um, I don’t know what I’m doing here when I, when I take that, when I took that first exam.

But, you know, that was that moment where I was just like, okay, I need to, you know, not necessarily spend like 10 times more time studying, but changing the approach and attitude that I study with.

Nate: Yes.

Logan: Yeah.

Nate: Yeah, that’s such a big distinction because, I say this a lot, but unfortunately that’s what most people out there, they just view as their [00:10:00] only like, tool

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Against these exams, like just spend more time. But if that time’s not strategic, like you can spend 10 hours a day and still you’re not getting what you need, you know, that practical level understanding of being able to understand the question types, you’re gonna see.

Logan: Still on the same topic, so, you know, trying to get the question right instead of, knowing why you got it right. Did you find yourself answering questions to get them right so that you, your review course would say, oh, you’ve gotten this many, this percentage correct.

Did you find yourself answering questions just because you wanted to see that you got it right, even when you didn’t know,

Josh: Yeah.

Logan: Even if you didn’t know why. Just trying to like make sure I understand that.

Shifting to Learning Using the Questions First Approach

Josh: Yeah. Um, I think one of the most underrated, uh, discouragements in studying is getting a question wrong when you spent a lot of time working out a problem, like, especially if it’s something in FAR where you have your Excel sheet open and you have this big [00:11:00] financial statement problem. Um, you know, it, it’s, there was that side of me that was like, I really want to see this right?

And this other side of me that was like this other side of me that was like, I really need to get through this material, and if I’m getting these questions right, that means I’m doing something right when that’s not necessarily true.

Logan: Was that like a, a mental shift for, and you kind of already talked about this, but it seems like, with exactly, with what you said there, where you’re like, you know, you work through it and you still get it wrong, and it’s super discouraging. I’m guessing that your mind eventually shifted to, uh, it doesn’t matter if I get it wrong because I’m trying to learn from this. Like this is my learning material. Did you find that that happened?

Josh: Exactly. exactly. I had to just be okay with the fact that. You know what? I’m gonna get some questions wrong and I’m not gonna be able to get things the first time, and I may have to rework some things, but the point is, if I get the concepts and if I understand the process to get to the right answer, [00:12:00] um, that’s all that matters.

Logan: Mm-Hmm, exactly.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. so it’s basically the idea of, uh, kind of like vanity metrics, right?

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: And that, this can happen in a lot of different ways. Like one thing that will happen is, you know, someone will say, I got through 200 questions today, and that’s good, but did you really learn how to do those 200 types of questions or would you have been better off to really nail down the process and the why behind 40 or 50 questions?

Like seeing 200 questions in a day sounds good, but was it actually effective? That’s always the question people should be asking themselves, you know.

Josh: Right.

Nate: Am I, am I gaining the practical ability to answer these types of questions from this study time I spent? And sometimes that might mean reworking a question.

Maybe you’ve done several and there is just something you’re like, okay, there, this thing keeps getting [00:13:00] mentioned and I don’t really, I’m not getting it from the question, so let me look that up in the textbook.

And a very different approach or much more effective than, you know, just reading the entire chapter and then going to the questions kind of like you explained in the beginning where you can put in all that time, but it still give you the ability to answer the questions.

So why spend that kind of time upfront?

It’s all this process

Josh: Yeah.

Nate: of getting straight down to like what is giving you the ability to answer those questions you’ll see on test day.

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. A hundred percent

Nate: Okay. So, just to go back to the beginning.

Josh’s CPA Journey

Nate: So you were trying to, you started the study process and taking the exams while you were still in your master’s program then?

Josh: Correct. Yeah. I started, um, studying for them when I started grad school. Yes. Um, in fall of 2021.

Nate: And was that a, was that a Master’s in accounting?

Josh: Yeah. Yeah. Ma- Master [00:14:00] my university was Master of Science in accounting.

Nate: Yeah.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: That’s, that’s how mine was with the Bachelor’s. Like almost all the degrees were Bachelor’s of Science, but then in something else.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Logan: Kind of along with that. So I also did, I did all the CPA exams through my Master’s. But you know, I was kind of the person pushing at least one of the people who was pushing a lot of people through that, like encouraging them, we should do it during our masters. Did you find that you were alone in that or was that kind of a common thing where you were like studying for the exams during your master’s?

Josh: Yeah, I, um, when I was in school, there was maybe a couple of people that I knew from undergrad, um, who was working on it, um, or finished. Um, but that, but when I was in undergrad, I was in Beta Alpha Psi and during all of our meetings where people talked about [00:15:00] Becker, people talked about Wiley. Um, the one thing people always said was, get it done as soon as possible.

And if you can get it done in grad school, that’s the best because, you know, you can. Um, you can work your schedule around and you have a little bit more leeway with, um, you know, with, with your time as opposed to working full-time and trying to study. And so, um, so there was a lot of encouragement from my department, um, at at, at my university.

Um, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to finish all of my exams before starting to work full-time. I had to take a couple while working full-time, and honestly, I would’ve chosen studying during grad school over studying working full-time, any day of the week.

Logan: Yeah.

You’re in that zone of

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Logan: studying, of sitting down for hours at a time, for school. And [00:16:00] granted, you study probably differently for the CPA exams. At least that’s what we try to encourage with SuperfastCPA, but you are like, you’re used to your day being split into more chunks.

Anyway, think, yeah, I think it’s a great time if people can manage it to do it. I found that to be the case as well.

Josh: Yeah.

Why Josh Preferred to Study Through Grad School Vs Studying While Working

Nate: So along those lines, I was going to ask, just, I think you mentioned it, but how did you structure your days to study and go through your master’s program?

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: I guess there’s that segment and then once you were working, so kind of describe how you studied or when.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Like your main session, but also how you use the mini sessions in the app, both during grad school and then when you transition to working full time.

Josh: Yeah, so, um, so when I was in school, I tried, um, to study in the mornings, uh, and, and I would have those, you know, two to two and a half hour sessions of going through the multiple [00:17:00] choice questions. Um, you know, reverse engineering, trying to teach myself from the questions and answer explanations. Um, when I was in grad school, I was working as a graduate assistant and, um, and, and there was a little bit of flexibility on work hours and stuff like that.

So, um, so, you know, I would, I would go to work. I would occasionally take a bathroom break or something like that, take a lunch break and look at the review notes and, and do the quizzes in those little breaks. After having the study session, um, you know, that morning and then at night, you know, I do my homework for school and then squeeze in maybe an extra 30 minutes of, of studying for my review course. Um, that’s how it looked, um, in grad school, um, I had about two months of just working and, and I had one class, uh, one summer class, but for the most part my summer was very much dedicated to [00:18:00] studying. And, um, and I was able to knock out REG in about a month and a half, um, and studied for audit, um, and, and failed that the first time, unfortunately.

But the way my summer looked was, um, I would just, uh, spend maybe do those kind of, do similar to those like morning sessions that I had in grad school, but spread it out more throughout the day. Um, and yeah, just if, if I wanted to take a break from the review course, uh, I would, I, I would go to the Superfast notes, the quizzes, because I also think that while it’s also helping you, it’s also kind of giving yourself a break from looking at your review course and kind of, you know, seeing things in a diff kind of seeing things in a different way and kind of seeing things in a, in a smaller scale. Um, and so I, I thought that that was really neat. Um, unfortunately, I, at that time in my life, I don’t [00:19:00] think I had very good, um, structure in the sense of how I divided my time between work, between school, between family, between CPA studying. Um, and I was just kind of doing things as they came. And that’s something that I would not recommend to the audience.

I would definitely recommend, um, you know, separating your time, just saying like, this is the time I’m gonna spend with CPA studying. This is the time I’m gonna spend for myself. This is the time I’m gonna spend with my family. Um, that’s something that I had to learn once I started working full time. And, um, and, and I really encourage the audience to, um, to do that when they, when they study for the CPA exam is just separate that time between yourself, between your family, between others and between studying and, uh, I was kind of forced to do that.

Um, in, um, when I, when I started working full-time, I would just, I would study in the morning before work, um, go to work, [00:20:00] squeeze in a little bit more studying, um, at night. Um, some mornings I could not get up and so I would just do that study me, study session at night. And, um, and that’s why I said that, um, I would choose studying in grad school versus studying, working full-time any day of the week because it’s the worst feeling in the world when you work all day and then go home and study.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. But on the other hand, you saying that I wasn’t great at managing my time, but you still passed your exams and got done. The time you were putting in was working, there’s a lot of people out there that are studying 5, 6, 7, 8 hours a day and still not passing, you know.

So I guess it’s more a testament to just the time you do spend, if you’re doing the right things, you know it’s to pay off. I was wondering, could you just give an example of a bad example of what do you mean [00:21:00] specifically by, not managing your time great. Or, not separating out the specific things.

Like what do you mean specifically by that?

Josh: Um, yeah, I would just say, um, not having consistency with the times that I studied, um, or, uh, yeah, I mean there would be more some days where I would study in the morning, but then there would be some days that I couldn’t wake up and I would study at night and I would fight to stay awake studying at night. And also, um, just, you know, there would be some days where I didn’t work and I was able to study, um, all day. But then there are some days when I was able to, um, study maybe just a couple hours. And um, and I think looking back, I would’ve liked to have had a little bit more, consistency just for my own sake and my own mental health, but

Nate: mm-Hmm.

Josh: but yeah, that’s something that I would encourage, um, the audience as well.

Nate: Gotcha. [00:22:00] Yeah, I mean it is much easier to, I guess, stick to a routine when it is a literal routine,

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: I guess is basically what you’re saying.

That’s kind of the only thing that studying while working full time does for you, I guess. I mean, it’s harder, but you’re kind of forced to either do it before work or after work and after work there’s so many things and obstacles, you’re fighting to have effective study sessions if you’re doing it at night.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Versus the morning. But

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm.

Logan: Yeah. When you were talking about that, that reminded me that of a routine that I had for a while while I was studying. Maybe it’s a little embarrassing, but during my, so at one point I was, working part-time doing school full-time and then studying for CPA. And so I would go into work early in the morning, study and then work, and then go to school and at work to save time. Every morning I would eat like a hot pocket for [00:23:00] breakfast and a Mountain dew and just like, I don’t know, but it was like every day, like the same thing, same routine day. Looking back, I’m like, that was probably really unhealthy. But, um, like you definitely like creating, and Nate has had episodes about this, creating these routines where you do the same thing.

You know, you drink your favorite drink while you’re studying, you go to the same spot, you study at the same time. Like all these things will, it helps you be more in the zone.

And yeah, along with what you were saying, the consistency also really helps. Anyway, yeah, that just reminded me of that.

Nate: Yeah. No, it is a big thing though because if every little part of your morning is like a open-ended decision, you have to make like, okay, well no plan. What am I gonna make? Let me look, what stuff do I have? Maybe today’s oat oatmeal, and then well, no, I’ve gotta like make myself eggs ’cause I don’t have anything else.

If all that stuff’s just decided beforehand. That’s [00:24:00] another just way of making time in the morning is, you know, most people kind of just go through their morning routine, meaning getting ready for work, and it’s like an hour to just kind of slowly go through the different steps. But if you just kind of systematize that, systematize, systemize that, and you know that you’re just grabbing the Hot Pocket and you’re Mountain. Hot Pocket and Mountain Dew, like, yeah. I mean, you can survive anything for six months though. I mean, you, you’re fine and you passed.

Josh: I should have done that honestly.

Logan: That’s

Nate: Probably, I mean, it sounds good.

Logan: it’s not a new part of the PRO course. No, just just kidding.

Nate: Yeah. Breakfast Hot Pocket and Mountain Dew. Yeah.

Yeah. I basically mentioned this book somehow on every episode, but the, uh, the Atomic Habits book, just reducing friction or even down to like the choices you have to make to get to your key activity for the day. Yeah. So, but that, that’s a good example. You just [00:25:00] removed all the decision making around what to eat for breakfast and how much time it takes by just making it the same every day.

You can do that with your bedtime, your night routine when you wake up in the morning, like what time you’re sitting down.

And it sounds like a lot of work, but it just solves so many problems.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Josh Was Still Able to Have Time for Other Things

Nate: Were there any hobbies or like exercising, just anything that you made it a point to still do throughout the process just because it was something you enjoyed doing?

Josh: Yeah. Um, I always tried to, uh, make time to hang out with friends that I made, you know, back in college and continued to make, um, in grad school. Um, I still tried to make time for them. Unfortunately, I kind of neglected working out, which is not something I would recommend to any studiers out there. Um, and, but you know, I was able to make time for friends.

I was able to make time for my church. I was able to make time for my [00:26:00] family, um, you know, made time to eat ’cause that’s important. Um, you know, I was able to, um, it, it was a little bit difficult, but I was able to fit in those things better than if I didn’t employ these methods.

Nate: Yeah. Right, because if your, if your main session’s done in the morning and then you make up anywhere from like one to three hours with the mini sessions idea. You know, by the time you’re done with work, you’ve put in three, four, maybe even five, like really high quality hours without having to find five dedicated hours, which is extremely hard to do when you’re already busy with everything

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Else.

And yeah, it makes it more flexible, it’s easier mentally, it’s easier like behaviorally to actually do it each day. Um, I just think, yeah, it just makes it a lot easier. And then, like you said, you still are [00:27:00] able to work around those important things, whereas if you hadn’t been studying in the mornings and you go to work all day or school all day, then really your only time to study is at night.

And of course, then you’re either choosing between studying or doing normal stuff and uh, you’re only gonna study like half the time.

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Right, right.

Logan: Not to get into it specifically for religion. So you mentioned church, like, so were, was there a day of the week where,

Planning Study Time Around Activies

Logan: The day was a lot more filled up with family and those kinds of activities.

Were you able to still fit in mini sessions and study sessions on those maybe busier days? How did you make that fit?

Josh: If I understand correctly, are you basically just saying, um, with all of those extracurricular activities that I doing, how was I able to kind of fit that into my schedule?

Um, yeah, so for me, um, you know, I had, you know, I, uh, with my church and with my, um, [00:28:00] activities that I was doing, um, I was there every Saturday night, every Sunday morning.

And then, um, I was in a Christian organization in college that had events on Thursday night. Um, and I knew, you know, from the beginning of the week that those were the nights, then those were the mornings that, that I was gonna be occupied. And so, um, it was pretty easy to, to, to work around that because, um, at that point, like, you know, it, it was very rare that something unexpected came up.

And then, yeah, if I wanted to, you know, step away for 10 minutes in that, in those events, um, and like take a mini quiz, I could do that.

Logan: Yeah. Since you already knew those things were happening, you just adjusted accordingly and it all worked out fine.

Josh: Exactly. Exactly.

Logan: Perfect. Okay.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: I think there’s something to be said for that. I, would say the majority of the time there, a lot of things are planned ahead of time.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Logan: Life events and things with family and friends and whatnot. Of course there’s gonna be times where it’s like [00:29:00] really is spur of the moment. Oh wow I wasn’t expecting that. But a lot of the time, there are ways to see things coming and make the necessary adjustments to still make sure that you’re studying is happening. And I think that’s a valuable lesson, a valuable skill to implement that you, anyway, you just mentioned it there, so yeah, I think that’s great.

Josh: Yeah.

Nate: Your structure allows flexibility, or just being disciplined to, again, there’s very, very few real distractions from like 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM in the morning, know, so it’s just so much easier to do it then it’s in the history books for the day. Nothing can ruin it.

And then you’re free. Yeah, to work around important things or things that you just wanna do, you know, doesn’t to be important.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Josh’s Weekend Study Routine

Nate: So on the weekends, would you try to do the same thing, kind of hit the main session in the morning before the weekend events started?

Or how’d you structure studying on the weekends?[00:30:00]

Josh: Yeah. So, um, Saturdays I almost always went to a coffee shop and, uh, tried to, um, spend most of the day just, uh, knocking out, um, as many questions, um, and in the review course as I could and taking notes and, um, doing all that, I, um, I was able to, um, to kind of do those morning sessions that I usually do, but just expand it a little bit more, um, before I had to go to church on Saturday nights. So, um, so yeah.

Nate: Yep.

Logan: So this kind of goes along with it ’cause usually sims are part of what we recommend for the weekend studying. What was your strategy with the sims like, were you, only doing those on the weekends during those extended sessions, or did you include those during the week, or not really much at all. How did those look?

Josh: Yeah. So, um, so there would be a couple of times, um, with each exam that I practiced where I would try to do [00:31:00] a few sims in the middle of the study process, but for the most part, I waited kind of till the end where I did the review process, like the final review, um, to practice some simulations. Uh, just like Nate, how you were saying, um, in your PRO course and the fact of like, it’s important to understand how they’re structured and to have kind of a process of, of, of answering those sims. Um, but, um, but not to spend so much time trying to get every sim right in your review course because the exam is gonna be completely different. So, um, just having, um, an understanding of what a sim looks like and having a, having like a game plan essentially of how you’re gonna break it apart, take the exhibits, read through it, um, and especially Nate, like you were saying, um, the best advice that you could give with that is try to get the multiple choice questions done as soon as you [00:32:00] can so you can have the most time on the sims.

Because the sims are essentially just, you know, taking these concepts and taking these processes that you learned and just making it bigger essentially. So, so yeah, that was kind of my process with that.

Logan: Okay.

Nate: Yeah, a lot of people say that. Kind of just waiting until the last week or so to really.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: And I, I kinda like that idea, thinking about that. I think it’s valuable see some of the sims topic by topic as you go just to see like, okay, there’s all these lease MCQs, but how did this, how does this show up as far as sims?

But then kind of doing a deep dive on the sims like the last week or so before the exam. That’s how you that too, Logan?

Logan: Yeah, that’s what I did my, for my two week final review. That’s when I started doing sims every day. Was I, but I didn’t do them beforehand, except for with audit. But audit was my first exam, so I was kinda [00:33:00] like figuring myself out. But anyway. Yeah.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Yeah.

Josh: Yeah.

How Josh Approached Sims for Review

Josh: My attitude with the, with sims were essentially, if I know the concepts and I know the process to answer a multiple choice question, I’m probably gonna know the process to answer a sim. So it, it would just be a matter of, um, under having an idea of what they look like.

Logan: Mm-hmm.

Nate: Yeah, and, and like you said, half the battle with the sims is when you open one, you don’t really get specific instructions for each sim there is this like 10 minute exercise you have to kind of go through to open the different exhibits and kind of just assimilate all of it. Like, okay, what, like how, what is going on here?

And, uh, you’re rushed for time and you can’t really go through that process, you know, that’s when like time management can make someone who’s otherwise really prepared and would pass otherwise. It can, and it does cause [00:34:00] people to fail, just the time management piece. So that is a big thing. And like by far the simplest version of it is.

You just get really good at answering MCQs, which just comes through practice throughout the study process. And then on test day it kind of takes care of itself. And then you have more than enough time to, to do that with the sims, like open packet. Okay. These, this is the hardest one by far. Let me do these easier ones first.

Now I know I have 20 minutes that I have to submit this hard one.

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: Anyways, all time management stuff.

Logan: Yeah.

How Josh Knew His Study Process Was Working

Nate: So one question was, when you got your first passing score, was that kind of the validation of my study process is working or did you feel like switching from, you know, your first few weeks to these methods,

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Did you feel like, okay, this is definitely working better and then passing your first section was, I don’t know, just when did you feel like it was really clicking and [00:35:00] your study process was working well?

Josh: I exactly that when I found out, when I got that first passing score and then kind of solidifying that with the second passing score because I was able to pass that second exam in less time.

Um, so, um, so yeah, just, I, I would say that getting those first couple of passing scores is that idea that like, yeah, I’m, what I’m doing is probably right. What is, what’s probably effective?

Logan: Yeah.

Nate: Yeah. Awesome.

Adjusting to Working Full Time

Logan: You felt like it was effective, but were there any moments during your study process whether that was like, busy season or family or whatever that was, that kind of like slowed you down or made it more difficult.

Anything kind of like that?

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Um, yeah, I would say, um, when I started working full time, it was a very interesting time in my life where I have a new job in a new city, um, where I don’t really know a lot of [00:36:00] people and I have to study. And, um, and it was just, it was a lot of life changes and figuring out how to study with all of these life changes was a little, was a little difficult. Um, but I kind of had to accept the fact that you know what, maybe in the first couple of months that I’m here, I might not be able to socialize as much. Um, but um, but I was able to, you know, make time to study, have, you know, make it be effective. Um, and it, it just kind of took a little getting used to, with all of the life changes happening at the same time.

Logan: Yeah.

Nate: How, how long was that? I mean, do you feel like to, to just get adjusted to what you’re talking about working full time and figuring out how to still study? Was that like a few weeks or?

Josh: Yeah, it took a few weeks. Um, yeah, it, it was, it just took a little getting used to, um, I mean, before, [00:37:00] um, I started, um, working full-time. I was not very much a morning person and I’m still not a very good morning person, but I was, I slowly had to get better, um, when I was studying and working full-time.


Learning to Say No To People

Nate: I like asking people this, just for gonna hear this. What specifically , did you have to eventually kind of nail down like, okay, I have to have put my phone down by this time so I’m asleep by this time so I can get up by this time? What like specific routine did you have to kind of plan to make that work?

Josh: Yeah. Um, uh, I would say, um, I, I would say the biggest thing for me was just having to say no to people, which is not something I want to do, but I kind of had to do sometimes, um, because, and it’s. And it’s hard for me because I’m a huge people pleaser and I don’t want to, you know, if I, if I have the opportunity to spend time with somebody or hang out with [00:38:00] somebody or hang out with my family or hang out with a friend, um, or just go out for dinner one night, um, there were times when I wasn’t able to do that and, um, but I had to be okay with that for just a couple of months.

And I would say that’s hard because I have a huge fear of missing out and yeah, and, and, I, I, and I had to be okay with that when I was studying for this, knowing that like, you know, at, at a certain point this is gonna be done and I’m gonna have all the time in the world to do these fun things to, to the most extent, obviously, obviously I could, I still was able to do some fun stuff while I was studying, but to the most extent.

Logan: How did people, did anybody understand what you were going through? Like, did you have anybody that had been through a similar thing, or was everybody kind of just like, okay, I guess we’ll see, like how were people’s reactions to that?

Josh: Um, I wish I could say yes, but, um, nobody close to [00:39:00] me in my life has taken the CPA exam outside of my dad who tried. But, um, but yeah, I mean, for the most part, people who are close to me didn’t really understand the magnitude of, you know, how big this exam is, how hard this exam is, and how much of your energy has to go to this.

So they were kinda like, okay, Josh has to study, you know, kind of attitude. But, um, but, and, and I mean, they understood and they respected it, but, um, but you know, I don’t think anybody really understood to the fullest extent, like, you know, how, you know. What I was really getting myself into.

Logan: Yeah.

Nate: Yeah. And you mentioned, so you were in one city for your master’s and you like got hired in a different city, so you were just moving on your own to a brand new city as you started your first big public accounting job. Yeah.

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Yeah.

Nate: That’s big adjustment. Yeah.

Logan: And, and what do [00:40:00] you work in and do you work in tax or audit or what?

Josh: yeah. Um, I work, I don’t work for that firm anymore, but, um, now, but I did work in audit at the time and I still work in audit, but I work, um, for, um, for state audit, for state government.

Logan: Okay. Okay. Quite different.

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Logan: Okay.

Why Josh Wanted to Become a CPA

Logan: So you know, started all this and your master’s and everything and now you’re not working in public accounting specifically what was your driving motivation to become a CPA? Like, was it, you know, I know at first I did it because everybody said I should become a CPA, but then, I kind of learned more as time went on.

Like, how did that go?

Josh: So that story actually has different phases. So when I was in college, I, um, you know, through Beta Alpha Psi, through a lot of different recruiters and everything, they were all saying that like, yeah, get your CPA. It’s, it’s gonna be open up, great opportunities for [00:41:00] you. Just, you know, it, it, it had been kind of encouraged all throughout college and so I had decided pretty early on that, you know, that’s something that I want to do because, you know, the opportunity and the money and everything that kind of comes at the end of it.

Cause everything that people tells you when they, when they promote it. Um, and uh, that, that was kind of that driving force, you know, I wanted it to, you know, be a good, um, long-term benefit for me in my career. When I got into it, when I got into studying for it, I feel like everybody has that moment where they’re like, when they start studying and they’re like, is this even something I really want?

Is it worth it? You know, um, is it worth putting all this time and energy studying for it? And, um, and, and yeah, I still had to remind myself the long-term benefits of it career wise, but I also had to think to myself. I want to prove to myself that I can do this. You know, I want to be proud of [00:42:00] this and, uh, and I want it to be an encouragement to other people. And so when you combine those two elements, like that’s what kept me going, and that’s why I, that’s why I essentially wanted to do it.

Nate: Yep. Yeah. Everyone knows that you’re gonna make more money and, you know, get promotions faster. And at the beginning that seems like all the right, the motivating reasons. But like you said, once you get into it and you realize what a daily mental battle it is, quickly, becomes just kind of a, like a battle with yourself really, basically how you, like you mentioned like, can I overcome this thing that requires, you know, discipline, waking up at the same time. Hours of focus study for months on end. Like there’s a lot that goes into it. It’s very different than college where you kind of get walked through the material by showing up to class.

Um, yeah, it’s just very different [00:43:00] and, uh, it’s just interesting that that’s what everyone goes through.

You start out with all career oriented benefits, but it quickly becomes this thing where it’s kind of just the man in the mirror type thing. Right.

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Exactly.

Nate: Yeah.

Josh’s Note Taking Process

Nate: What’d you do for like note taking and, or flashcards?

Josh: Yeah.

Nate: How much of that did you use, or what was your process for that?

Josh: Yeah. So I did, um, what you recommended in the PRO course, you know, going through the questions, um, you know, taking the important topics that you consi consistently see coming up, as well as the questions that you get wrong. And, um, making notes for it. I didn’t use flashcards, but I used just a binder and wrote it like a notebook.

Um, and, uh, ’cause that’s just how I’ve always taken notes. Um, and I kind of did it Cornell note style, where it was like, you know, I have a tea, and then, you know. I have a question or you know, something here, and then the answer on the [00:44:00] right side with, you know, explanations and stuff like that. Um, and then, you know, try to read that throughout the study process.

And then on my review week, um, just reread those notes over and over again on top of your review notes.

Taking Too Many Notes

Josh: I just took notes in my binder and, um, on, on the important stuff and questions that I was getting wrong and, um, reviewed that on, on, um, the final week. I will say, um, this was one mistake I made when I was studying for audit. Um, it is, it is possible to take too much notes ’cause um, ’cause I, I think at a certain point I was just trying to write down everything that I didn’t really understand the process, you know, and, and spec.

I mean, in an audit you really have to understand the audit process and risk assessment and all that. And um, and I [00:45:00] think at a certain point I was writing too many notes and not understanding the process, like comprehending it. Um, and, um, so, so yeah, I, uh, that, that is one thing that I would say is like, uh, definitely take notes, but don’t try to write down everything.

There should be a balance of like understanding processes, understanding concepts, and, writing things down if you’re continuously getting it wrong or if it’s something really important.

Nate: Yeah.

Logan: I think the key there is, and we talk about this sometimes is putting it in your own words.

Like, you’re just like writing down the process word for word instead of sitting there and walking yourself through the process and like maybe writing it down in a way that makes sense to you. Yeah, there’s that distinction there of making it work for you instead of just, you know, just putting it on the page ’cause you hope that you’ll remember it later kind of a thing.

Josh: Exactly.

Nate: Yeah, getting clear on the what and [00:46:00] why. That always helps me a ton. Like what is, what is actually going on here? Like what’s the substance of this, foreign currency translation questions. That’s where it really help. Like what is the substance of this transaction, like, what’s really going on here?

It’s easy to just get lost in like, the specifics of the words, you know, the accounting jargon

Josh: Mm-Hmm

Nate: and then stepping back and just thinking like, okay, what, what does this actually mean? That’s a very helpful, I guess, thought exercise or way of trying to break things down, like, what’s, what’s really going on here?

Josh: Mm-Hmm. Right, exactly.

Nate: I had a question in there somewhere.

Reverse Engineering Questions Was More Effective Than Lectures

Well, another question would be, was there any other study methods or things that really helped you that we didn’t really, that we haven’t covered or talked about?

Josh: Um, uh, I don’t think so. I mean, I think we, I think we covered, uh, all the bases. Ultimately, it’s just, um, the biggest game changer was what you talked [00:47:00] about and like, you wanna spend the majority of your time studying, doing the things that you’re gonna do on test day. And what you’re gonna do on test day is answer questions and not, not be able to watch a lecture or read a chapter.

Um, and, um, and yeah, I mean, I just think that, you know, working backwards from answer explanations that you get from the questions is not really something that gets encouraged a lot, um, just in general. And, but that was the most effective for me is just kind of, um, working backwards or reverse engineering. Um, and, uh, just approaching the questions and approaching the answer explanations and really wrestling with these answer explanations and working through, working problems over until I understood the process, until I under, until it clicked, you know? Um, I think that when it, when something clicks. When you’re approaching the questions first and approaching the answer [00:48:00] explanation first, I feel like that is so much more effective than something clicking when you’re watching a lecture, because you don’t even know if that’s gonna come on the question, you know?

Nate: Absolutely. Yeah. And, okay, so the way that I like to describe that is if you just hear someone speaking a foreign language, it just doesn’t mean anything to your brain. All right? You just, no hooks or you, you just don’t have any context as to what’s being said. It just doesn’t mean anything. And so

Josh: Right?

Nate: You can watch someone talk for 20 minutes in a different language, but you’re not gonna get anything outta that. But if you were like in a language class and you know, you had this list of kind of words that you’re listening for, or if you just have some context before you watch this 20 minute training on, you know, how to say greetings in German or whatever.

It will make a lot more sense. And so going through the questions first kind of gives you these, you know, you [00:49:00] have some pieces to work with. Like, I kind of get this type of question, but this keeps getting mentioned. Then if you go and look for that information in either the video or the textbook, you just have this, you have context of what you’re looking for and it will make sense the first time.

And it’s just, it’s, it’s more interesting if you say that about CPA study. Just having a question in your mind first of, okay, what is this? Like what is the, uh, the cost method for treasury stock transactions or, whatever. If you have actual questions, then you’re more engaged in general versus just pressing play from the beginning and getting 30 minutes of information dumped on you.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Okay,

Josh’s Top Tips for People Still Struggling with the CPA Study Process

Nate: What would be your top two or three tips to people that maybe still struggling with the study process?

Josh: Um, yeah, first, first thing is first always, uh, and, and I say this from my own mistakes, uh, have a routine, [00:50:00] you know, pick a day and time that you wanna study. And, um, and, and, uh. And, and, and like you were saying, um, have your favorite drink, have your favorite food, um, you know, bring that in and just have a routine.

Stick with it. Give you all your time and energy in those, in that little block that you, um, that you study and make the most of that time. Secondly is, um, you know, reverse engineer the process and, um, and if you fail, uh, an exam, don’t be discouraged ’cause sometimes you may just have to tweak a study method.

So, um, just re reverse engineer the process. Um, play around with it, see what fig, figure out what works for you. Um, and, uh, I wouldn’t, I, I would never recommend that if somebody fails an exam to do the exact same thing, try to tweak some, tweak something and, um, ’cause that’s typically all that is, [00:51:00] is needed to pass.

It’s just one small change in your study method, whether it’s spending more time practicing questions, spending less time taking notes, you know, you know, things like that.

And, uh, the, the third step, uh, the, the third, the, and, and the third recommendation would be, um, on test day. Uh, try to do as little as possible and, you know, don’t stress yourself out too much.

Um, you know, read through. Do one last skim through of the notes, I guess. Um, I, I, personally that’s what, that’s what I did on the day of. I didn’t try to do any heavy studying or anything the day of. I would just, I, I went into the last day knowing that I did everything I could. I’m just gonna look at this one more time so I could have everything in my head at one time.

And, um, and my routine before I took every exam was, you know, I would look at those notes in my car before I went into the testing center and, uh, [00:52:00] say a quick prayer and then, like, I had some pump up music. I was, I listened to, um, Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses. And that would be my, that would be my pump up song.

Every time I walked into the, walked into the, um, testing center, um, for every exam that I passed, I wore the same shirt and the same jeans. So, and, and the one time I changed that I didn’t pass, so. I don’t know if anybody here is superstitious, but that may help you.

Nate: That’s funny. Didn’t, didn’t you, Logan, didn’t you do that? You wore a..

Logan: I wore the same shirt to every exam, too. Yeah. What was it like a specific shirt like, or was just like, did It, like a logo on it or something? Or?

Josh: It was a, it was a black, it was a black Raglin shirt. I think that’s what you call it, like a, it, it’s one of those shirts that’s like, it has the little tight cuffs at the end of the short sleeve.

Um, it was like, it was like a black T-shirt with the orange cuffs on the [00:53:00] sleeves and, um, wasn’t even that, you know, great of a shirt, but it helped me pass every exam, so.

Nate: Lucky shirt.

Josh: Yeah.

Nate: I can’t, there was some, someone on one of these interviews said that they would, I swear they said they would drink a beer the day. It can’t be the day of. That would be insane. They would drink, maybe it was the night before. I can’t remember. They would.

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Logan: Think you’re right. Like they had like a barbecue and something that before.

Nate: Maybe it was the night before. They would always have like a meet up with their friends and have a drink the night before. And I mean, whatever. If you’re like going in and passing,

Josh: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Like do whatever you want. I mean, whatever your routine is. Alright, Josh. yeah. Oh, go ahead.

Josh: Yeah, for me it was caffeine. I just also drink a lot of caffeine in the morning of.

Nate: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Alright. All right. I appreciate you doing the interview. That was really helpful. Just gonna be just another really good episode. You shared a lot of really good tips. I’m glad you [00:54:00] emailed me back in April. I mean, it’s been a while.

Finally Passing the CPA Exam Was the Best Feeling

Nate: I, I guess forgot to ask, what, what has it been like being done?

Like you mentioned

Josh: Uh.

Nate: Forward to being done, but what is it like now that you were actually done?

Josh: Oh, it was the best feeling in the world, honestly. Um, just, you know, being done and thinking about, you know, when I was the, I had found out that I passed my last exam the first day of busy season at my old job, and I didn’t really get a chance to like embrace or celebrate, but, um, but I loved the fact that like, the only thing I told people at work and in life was just, I don’t have to study anymore.

This feels so weird. I don’t have to study anymore. Like, it was just, it was just an amazing, it’s amazing feeling and, uh, but even more so, it was just an amazing feeling of like, you know, I stuck with it and I was able to accomplish this and I didn’t and I didn’t give up. And, you know, as much as the professional [00:55:00] benefits are great, it’s more so just like the personal, you know, self-esteem of like. You did this when you didn’t have to and you kept going when it, you could have quit. So it was just tho all of those feelings were just like, it, it, it made it all worth it in the end.

Logan: Mm-Hmm.

Nate: Absolutely.

Logan: That’s how I felt.

Nate: Yeah. Alright, well yeah, we won’t take up any more of your time, but I appreciate you doing the call and glad you found us. I’m glad it made a difference and congrats on being done.

Josh: Yeah. Thank you guys so much and thank you Nate for all that you do and, um, for introducing me to this

Nate: Yep, yep. The best compliment I can get is that it actually helped someone pass, so. Love to hear it.

Logan: All right, that was the interview with Josh. I’m sure you found it helpful. I thought it was a great interview.

Again, I really liked his comment about changing his mindset to be okay with missing questions.

And I also love that he was able to maintain some of his social life, family, [00:56:00] friends, even church. And I think that’s something that a lot of people miss out on if they are spending all day studying.

Make sure to like and leave a comment on the YouTube video or leave the rating in your favorite podcast app. Be sure to share this podcast with anybody you know who is going through the CPA exams. This podcast is the best free resource out there for CPA exam candidates.

Thanks for listening or watching, and I’ll see you in the next video.

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