How Katie Changed Her CPA Study Routine to Become a CPA

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In this episode you’ll hear me talk with Katie, a SuperfastCPA customer and now CPA, about how she changed her CPA study routine which helped her pass her exams and become a CPA.


Katie: I owe my CPA license probably to your service so, thank you so much. It helped me more than you probably know.

3 Things to Listen For

Nate: Welcome to episode 16 of the CPA Exam Experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate. And in today’s interview, you’ll hear me talk with Katie. She is a SuperfastCPA customer and now a CPA. And there are three specific things that I want you to listen for in this interview.

So first, her overall story, and this is similar to some of the other interviews that we’ve done where, you know, the person kind of got out of college and they just kind of assumed… not, nobody thinks the CPA exams are going to be easy, but they just kind of viewed them as this thing that they’re just going to kind of put the time in, study a little bit each day and just kind of pass the exams and get them over with. And then they run into the reality that these are much bigger or harder or a much different thing than your average college exam. And she kind of talks about that process and she uses the phrase, I, I got to the point where I realized what it was actually going to take. And then she kind of talks about that shift and you know what that meant, what it what she means by what it actually took.

Nate: So she explains that process. The second thing is she shares a some good tips on her own note taking process. And again, this is something that has come up in multiple of these interviews where I’ve always promoted the idea that you should be making your own flashcards and specifically flashcards. And if someone doesn’t have their own tried and true methods for taking notes that they used all the way through college, I would still probably recommend the flashcard route.

Nate: But, some of these interviews have convinced me it doesn’t have to be flash cards. And usually that’s when someone has their own system that they’ve already been using for years of taking notes. And this is one of those cases she kind of talks about how she did it, how she used the notes both in the day to day study process as she’s creating them and the different ways she did that. And then also how she used her own notes as she got closer in her final review to an actual exam. And then the third thing that she talks about or the third specific thing that I thought was a really good idea.

She shares a specific tip for getting used to getting up early in the morning and getting used to it pretty quickly. And she talks about that. And I could not agree more with the point that she makes. So listen for that. And obviously, we talk through her whole study process. So there are a lot more than three specific tips you will get from this. Again, if you’re in the study process or you’re going to be in the next year, I would highly recommend you listen to this full interview.

Go back and listen to the other interviews you’ve already published and some of our other podcast episodes, because they are completely free. And we have gotten a lot of comments about how helpful these have been to people that are still trying to figure out their own daily study process. Now, that being said, these episodes are obviously completely free to listen to or watch on YouTube, but they do take a lot of time to record and then edit everything and publish it. So if you found these useful or if you found one of the previous episodes useful, please take a second and go to your favorite podcast app where you’re listening to these and just leave a review. So I just want to read one of the most recent reviews we got on the podcast. This is from elistamom. They said, Great for motivation. The podcast is keeping me motivated to keep studying. Listening to others, talk about their path is keeping me on mine.

So that’s a simple review but you get the point- and that is a good point. Listening to other people that are going through the same thing you are, I do think it helps with motivation and keeping a cohesive mindset about what you’re trying to accomplish each day as you go through the months that it’s going to take to get these exams over with.

Free CPA Study Training

The last thing before we get into this interview, if this is the first thing from SuperfastCPA that you’ve come across. The best place to start is one of our free study trainings. That is, it’s a webinar we run multiple days a week where we walk through our study process. And this is all based around a two hour study block. So our big claim with this is you can learn how to study or get more done in two hours than most people can in four to five hours studying the normal way. And that’s all explained on the training, what that means and what we mean or why, what we recommend is different. And the key thing about this is when you can do that. All you need to do on weekdays, assuming you’re busy and you’re working full time, all you need to do on weekdays is one of these two hour sessions with your review course. So instead of trying to find four or five hours all throughout your day to sit with your review course, you only need to find two hours a day to actually sit with your review course because what you will be doing is so much more effective and efficient. So to sign up for one of those trainings, just go to superfastcpa.com/passnow or if you’re just listening to this, you can text PASSNOW, one word to 44222, or go straight to our website at superfastcpa.com and it’s easy to find a link to one of these trainings. With all that being said, let’s get into this interview with Katie.

How to Become a CPA

Nate: So how long have you – you’re all done, right? You’ve passed all four?

Katie: Yeah, I’m all done.

Nate: When did you pass your fourth one?

Katie: I passed my fourth one this past January.

Nate: Nice. I meaning like three months ago or three or four months ago.

Katie: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I had audit passed for a while and then, that was my first one that I had and then I did REG, FAR, and BEC in like five months.

Nate: Nice, ok, well let’s just start at the top. So when you when you first started studying, did you just get a review course and just kind of jump into it? Or how did how did you start the study process?

Katie: Yeah. So I when I got my full time offer, I work for RSM. They gave me the Becker package. So that’s what I started off initially. But I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t do a Masters program. I did the 150 credits. I was maybe not expecting the exam to be as rigorous as it was.

Nate: Yeah.

Katie: So I did not really take my study course all that seriously when I first started. So I kind of thought I’d be like any other college exam. And then after I took my first exam and I found out just how tough it is, like just how like in the details, some of the questions can be. I basically had to like, restart everything. And this was at the same time when I was about to start full time. So it all came crashing down all at the same time. I freaked out thinking I’m never gonna be able to do this if I start working. But what worked for me is I used to study before I went to work. So like, I would wake up at five a.m. and then study until I had to leave for work until like eight fifteen. And that’s basically what I did. It took me a lot to get to that point because I thought I’d just like redo my review course. And when that wasn’t working, that’s how I found SuperfastCPA. And I started using that, especially like the audio lectures, because I travel a lot, especially like driving to and from like – I’m in South Florida. A lot of my clients are like Central Florida. So my longest commute is like three hours. I would stay out there like but three hour commute. I will listen to audio lectures to and from work anywhere I would go in my car, I would I would listen to them. I feel like the more you listen to it, the more like ingrained to get for when I started getting strict that like 5am to like eight a.m. studying every day and then everyday, like eight hours at least on the weekends. That’s what made the biggest difference.

Nate: And when you started, did you did you fail any sections?

Katie: Oh yeah.

Nate: Oh you did?

Katie: I did. I failed – that first time I took FAR, AUD and REG, I failed. The first time I took I think it was FAR, I got a 73. So it was one of those fails I was like right there. But I just couldn’t get over the threshold. Same thing with REG the first time I took it. It was similar to that. I think I got, like I said, at 71 the first time I took REG.

Nate: OK. And so when you when you like, got our package or whatever did you start studying based on… kind of our, how we recommend you study or did you mostly just use the audios?

How Katie Used SuperfastCPA

Katie: So I used, I would say is audios mostly. But I also use like the five question quizzes a lot, especially if I have downtime. I had the app so I would just log on whenever I had a couple minutes just to do questions. And then before my exam, I would print out like the actual written notes, and then I would just review them, highlight the things that I thought were important and then the things I didn’t know well, I would like flag them with those little Post-it to like go back and read again. So I did use those, but closer to, like my exam date, I would just use those kind of as like a recap of, like, everything that was in each section.

Nate: Yeah, ok. And so when you were going through the, you know, studying each day when you in the beginning and you failed those sections and then after that, when you started passing your sections, what changes did you make to your actual like your main study session and how you used your your, Becker stuff? Did you just study the same and just kind of get better at it? Or did you change anything with how you actually…

Katie: I think the biggest change was just how much time I put into it every day. I think before I would only put in during week, two hours and then weekends around like six, seven hours. And I just thought that wasn’t enough. So I would do like the Becker stuff. And then I would listen to the audio lecture that would coincide with the same chapters in Becker. And then I would do the little quizzes when I was like out or at work. And then I would try to do like practice more practice exam before my my exams. That was something I didn’t do on the first time I took it. I didn’t take a practice exam because I just thought I would be better just to review the concepts when the little time that I had in between like the last day of studying and the actual exam day. But I started incorporating like at least doing one practice exam before each exam day.

Nate: Yeah, I think that’s good. I mean, I know you use the audio notes and little quizzes, so that gives you a decent amount of kind of rereview each day. Were you doing that – any rereview as part of your main study session or were you just mostly using that time to move to your new material?

Katie: The rereview I would use like the audio lectures for the most part. So, like, I would just listen, like if I did like that day, like pensions in the morning, then when I would go to work or like I was traveling back from work, I would listen to like the pension lecture on the notes. And then when I got home, I would try to do just specific questions to that section and then do a couple of those five question quizzes that would just like encapsulate everything that you try to keep other stuff fresh, too. Yeah, that’s how I try to do it. Like, if I learned that Becker section that morning, I would try to listen to those audio lectures after the fact.

CPA Test Day Experience

Nate: So you’re actual, like your test day experience and especially where you had a few failed sections – what were some of the things you learned going through the real exam that you then used the next times that helped?

Katie: Definitely the time management of your exam. I the first time that I took REG that I got my one 71, I ran out of time in my last simulation, and it was just really discouraging because I feel like if I had more time, I probably could have just gone off like these more points on it, I probably would have been over the threshold. So when I was studying, I just tried to get faster at answering questions, especially with the quizzes. I didn’t try to, like, spend more than a couple of minutes on each question. So if I didn’t know, I would just pick and move on just to try to get faster at answering them. But that was definitely the biggest thing I had to change after my first failed exam was just how much time I was putting into each section. Oh, it always felt like that last SIM, I was like pressed for time and I was like rushing through it. And every time that I felt rush to finish, I failed the exam. So if that’s any indication…

Nate: That does, that’s that’s a big thing, and that’s what I’m always talking about in those training videos, is you just you have to get good at answering multiple choice questions through the study process. And then that will kind of take care of itself on test day, because the faster you get done with the multiple choice questions, the more time for SIMs, and that’s really what the SIMs are about, is just sitting there struggling with them for as long as you can.

CPA Simulations on Test Day

Katie: Yeah, I think sometimes you don’t see, like, how much time the SIMs can take you because you don’t like you won’t see how many attachments are attached to the SIM until it’s actually like your time to view it. And if you get one of those, SIMs that has like eight attachments at the end of your exam and you’re like 30, you only got like 20 or 30 minutes left. That’s probably not even enough time to get through, like reading through all the attached information so that, I had I had to make a huge change. And I’ve never really been the best test taker like all throughout like when I took my ACTS and when I was in college, I was always like one of the last people to finish exams just because I was just a little slower. So it definitely was I really had to change how I was approaching the exams so that I wouldn’t feel like I, you know, I should have if I would’ve gotten more time, I would have been able to pass… that kind of mentality.

Taking Notes for the CPA Exams

Nate: Yeah, and then how about – how did you approach… Because I don’t really like the full two week final review, you know, because if you just go lesson by lesson, you’re really just forgetting a bunch of everything you’re going through and then you basically are trying to relearn it all at the end. That’s why I talk so much about rereview on a daily basis. But how did you do your own? Like, what was your version of a final review?

Katie: So I took a lot of written notes, especially when I would do like practice exams. And if I would go back, I would like write down all the like the sections I did like poorly at and like maybe the specific part of that question I got wrong and then I would just make notes on also if I was weak at. And then I would just review all the things that I was really weak on on my practice exams. But for my final review for the two weeks before, I would just I would try to listen to all the audio lectures again and then go off of my notes from the practice exam for things that didn’t go that well. So, like, if I struggled particularly like one module, like I would like really bad at it, then I would read, I would look at the lectures on Becker again, do the practice questions on Becker and then listen to the audio again. So I kind of went in like that order. I would do the Becker audio, and then I would do the Becker multiple choice. And then I would listen to the audio lecture for that recap from from you.

Nate: Nice. And that was my next question. So you – sounds like you took notes kind of just like regular notes, like on a notebook and not so much flashcards.

Katie: No. And maybe just me in particular, but it it just does so much better with me when I saw it on a page. And like for me, if I was sitting in the exam, I could kind of visualize like where in my notes I wrote that specific formula. And I did color codes and like all of that for like specific formulas, for like terms for like if I did the difference between, like S-corp and C-corp, I did like red for the differences. Like I would just remember like where in my notes I saw this particular thing.

Nate: Yeah, for sure. I think you said kind of the key idea, though. It’s like, it’s not so much the mode of how you do it, but when I talk about people making flash cards, the biggest thing is you don’t want to take notes or make flashcards on every single thing because then you’re just spending this huge amount of time making notes or flash cards… you want to specifically do that for things that you personally struggle with, you know, to understand or remember. And that’s basically exactly what you said.

Katie: Yeah. And especially after a practice exam, I would only really like redo notes for things that I was a weak at or like a module that I perform, like, really poorly. What I like go back and actually like starting notes.

Dedicating Yourself to Work vs Your CPA Exams

Nate: OK. So going back to just kind of your daily process, did you… so in the beginning, when you’re just starting, you mostly studied after work and you weren’t getting up early, is that right? What it was at the beginning?

Katie: Yeah. I mean, I will admit and when I first started work, I think I put more effort into, like, doing well at my job than trying to finish the exam. And if I can go back and tell myself that that was not the route to go down, I would definitely do it, because at some point, it kind of hit me that if I don’t, like, really get serious about finishing this, then like it doesn’t matter how great I do at work. Like, I can only go so far. So I kind of had to change my whole thinking on that, but I definitely was one of those like kids out of college that thought I would have no issue with taking this test, and I had a lot of issues at the beginning before I got disciplined about what it actually takes to get through all four of them.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah, the CPA exams are weird. I – there were two people for my master’s degree that were in my hire group, at my same firm and I, they were clearly like two of the smartest kids like in the master’s. They were just they were sharp and they really, really struggled with the CPA exams. So you just never know. There’s just something about them.

Katie: Yeah.

Nate: And then so from going from there for where you study to after work and then realizing, OK, if I’m going to like block this in, this has to happen in the mornings. How did, what was just your process for getting used to waking up so much earlier? Because that’s one of the one things I hear from people. And I’m like, OK, what do you want me to say? Like, do you want to pass these or not?

How Katie Woke Up Early to Study

Katie: Yeah. What I did, which helped a lot, was I also woke up early on weekends. So even though I had the time to sleep in, I would still try to, like, train myself to wake up early. So, it wasn’t like I woke up super late Saturday and Sunday and then here I am trying to wake up at 5:00 on Monday. So I try to keep waking up, maybe not at 6 a.m. on the weekends, but at least by like 7 am I was already awake, like not like trying to start my day earlier. So I didn’t feel as like, bad as when I was trying to wake up on Monday at 5. It worked out better for me. I was on a travel engagement when I was taking my last exam, which was BEC, and I was in a hotel. So I would wake up super early. I would go downstairs and get breakfast and just sit at the desk from our hotel until I had to go to work. So that made it a lot easier because I didn’t have any distractions in my hotel. I wasn’t like at home, I was like in the middle of nowhere for some job. So, but I made my get up early on the weekends to get used to getting up at 5am, like Monday through Friday.

Nate: Yeah, I think that’s a really good tip, is… and overall that’s similar to again, what I’m always telling people is like if you just can treat this as four or five months that are just it’s just going to suck, when if you just accept that, it’s it’s like easier and it sucks less to get up early, study every day, never miss a day of studying. Always do those little mini sessions, just all of the above. If you just kind of accept that that’s how it’s gonna be for a few months. You have a much bigger chance of just passing them all and getting it over with.

Katie: I agree. Yeah, it is definitely a short time, like a short term sacrifice for the longtime goal, because I, right now that I have them all done. I just have to focus on work. It just feels like a huge load off my shoulders. And I just feel like I’m just less stressed in general. Our job is not necessarily the most stress free anyway. So now that I know it’s like one more level of stress is like, I don’t to worry about anymore. It’s like made my life better. Like, even that sounds dramatic, but I do think that my life is better now that I don’t have to worry about these exams.

Nate: Oh, for sure. I mean, anyone who’s actually studied this… Started the study process understands just how, how crappy it is to have these, like, hanging over your head. And getting your fourth passing score is like top two days of my life for sure.

Katie: Oh, 100 percent. One hundred percent. And it’s I, I feel like people don’t realize just how much harder it is to do it while you’re working, because I was one of those people that thought I’d be fine. And I mean it is possible. And I feel like if I did it, really anybody can do it. But it’s, it’s ten times more difficult because the time you don’t have the same amount of time to devote and a lot of times it’s work or studying, and I think you should choose studying.

Nate: Right. Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s… It is also hard because, like you said, you kind of just get the idea quickly when you start in public accounting or at any job, really, that, you know, you want to be doing your best at work. But then eventually the partners start asking, like, how are the CPA exams coming, you know?

Katie: I think that definitely is what happens, because I think my partner was probably the second happiest person after me and when I passed my exams, because it’s just just takes a weight off of his shoulder and like my team shoulder also, like, they don’t have to worry about me finishing. And I know of people that have like given up and I did not want to become one of those people, and I really did. Even if it meant just doing it for myself, I wanted to do it. But it is. It can be discouraging, but it feels so great to be done after you’ve accomplished it.

Finding Out She Passed Her CPA Exams

Nate: Yeah, well, and it’s not just that, I mean, it it does get to that point where you just kind of like, OK, this is you kind of view it as a personal challenge. But like you said, you you had to do all those. What did you say, 150 credit hours or whatever, just to sit for the exams and then in other states, you know, you have to have a Masters just to sit for these exams. So that’s that’s what I was always thinking about, was like I didn’t pay forty thousand to do these stupid tests. Like, I’m going to pass these. Yeah. So about that. What do you remember when you found out you got your fourth passing score? Like what was that day like?

Katie: Yeah. So I found out, I was at dinner with family that was from New York. And they were all asking about how the process was and I used to hate getting that question because I always had to tell people I got like I’m not done yet or I was really close. I have to study again. And in my mind, I’m like, oh, not to, like, tell the story again how like, I was really close and like, I really don’t wanna talk about this anymore. And when we were at dinner, NASBA sent out a tweet that the scores were out and I was like, too scared. I don’t wanna do this at dinner because I’ll be like, really depressed if, like, I didn’t pass. But my sister was at dinner and she checks for me and she was like, you passed and we were already at dinner. So we all got desserts. And I it was really fun, but I was terrified. I was like, I can’t… I want to be alone when I checked the last one, I don’t want to be anywhere. I don’t want anybody to talk to me. But it ends up being like a good moment.

Katies #1 Tip

Nate: Nice. One of the questions I’ve been asking is you might have mentioned this in some form, but if there was kind of one thing that you feel like was your secret sauce to the study process, what would that be? Or I guess maybe your biggest tip you would give to somebody?

Katie: I would just split as much like repetition. Like if you can do questions over and over again, listen to audios over and over again. Do as many five question quizzes. I feel like what really get you to understand the topics is seeing it over and over and over again and doing that question time over and over again and looking at that same like multiple times if you’re using Becker, like just the more you see it and hear it and like practice it, the better you are, the better prepared you are. For the most part, the question types don’t change very much when you actually are on the exam. It’s just like the figures and like maybe what that final calculation is. But if you know just the basics of what they want you to do, you can answer any of the questions. So the more you see those question types, the better you get and the more prepared you are and the faster you are answering those questions.

Nate: OK. Thanks for saying that, because, that’s another thing people e-mail me about, they’re like, hey, I’m I’ve been taking these five question quizzes and I think I saw one that’s the same. I’m like, OK, now do that till you’ve seen them all ten times. Like, because that’s the point.

Katie: Yeah.

Nate: Anyways, all right, cool. Everyone has had and it’s been interesting to me because all these different interviews, everyone has their own just little tips and tricks that they figured out. And I think the biggest thing to learn from that is… what a lot of people do is they start and they’re putting in a few hours a day and it’s just so different and overwhelming, like you said, because it’s so much different than a college exam, that they just kind of freak out or give up or or keep doing it that way for months and then fail sections. You just keep at it. You start, you start just figuring out what works. And once you get to that point, then it’s just a matter of time, you know, that you’ll you will pass.

Katie: I mean, like when I found exactly what worked for me is like after I took REG and I passed and I was waiting for BEC I didn’t change anything. And my same study habits, exactly what I did, and I did fine on BEC. So like like once, you know, what works for you specifically like don’t try to alter what it is that works out first time because more likely than not, if you study the same way you’ll get a similar outcome.

Nate: Yeah, I agree. Well, yeah I don’t want to take up much more of your time. I appreciate you doing this.

Katie: Yeah no problem. I owe my CPA license probably to your service so thank you so much. It helped me more than you probably know.

Nate: Awesome. That’s good to hear. All right. Thank you very much.

Katie: Thanks, Nate. Have a good one.

Nate: Yeah, you too. See ya.

Nate: All right. So that was the interview with Katie. If you’re listening or watching to this point, you heard the whole thing, and I’m confident that you found that well worth your time. We went through a lot of helpful things about how you can take some of her ideas or strategies and improve your own daily study process. Specifically, I really liked her point about not getting up later on weekends or not treating the weekends as like days off. I’m a big, big advocate of that. This whole process is easier if you just view every day exactly the same. And not just that, but you view the weekends as an opportunity to study even longer. I would always try to study for at least five or six hours on Saturday or Sunday, and I would still get up really early, exactly like what she described.

I wouldn’t really let myself sleep in or I didn’t view the weekends as like my time off. I just found it much easier mentally to view every day as the same until I was done. And then, of course, she mentions using our app a lot, using the audios, and then the questions quite a bit. And then reading our notes as kind of part of her final review strategy.

Again, to get our best study strategies… pretty much mostly for free because we cover the main ideas of our study process. Sign up for one of those free one hour trainings. We also provide our best discount on our bundles only through those trainings. And so you have to be on one of those trainings to actually receive the link to that promotion for our best pricing on any of our bundles. So, again, to sign up for one of those trainings, just text PASSNOW to 44222, PASSNOW is one word, or go to superfastcpa.com/passnow, or find the link in the description below if you’re watching this on YouTube. If you’re listening, you can just go to our site. It’s easy to find a link to one of those trainings. So thank you for listening or watching and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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