In this SuperfastCPA podcast episode, you’ll hear Laura’s story about struggling with motivation after failing several CPA exams, and then how she turned things around and passed once and for all.
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- 00:00 Laura Interview
- 00:00 Introduction
- 05:25 Laura Did Some Research First Before Getting SuperfastCPA
- 06:03 Laura Talks About Her CPA Journey
- 07:40 Laura’s First CPA Exam Experience
- 08:51 Not Feeling Ready Even After Months of Studying
- 10:23 How Laura Found SuperfastCPA and Passed Her First Exam
- 12:47 Laura Talks About the Only Test She Felt Confident
- 14:41 The Key Things That Made a Difference for Laura
- 16:09 Laura’s Daily Study Routine and CPA Exam Day Time Management
- 19:04 How Laura Would Plan Her Study Sessions
- 23:10 How Laura Adjusted Her Day to Study Efficiently
- 24:50 Laura’s Daily Morning Study Routine and Juggling Time With Family
- 27:21 The Things That Laura Adjusted To Make Her Study Process Work
- 30:12 Keeping Up With the Momentum is Important As Well
- 32:23 Laura’s Notetaking Process for Difficult Topics
- 34:25 Studying Throughout the Day Using the App
- 38:57 Laura Talks About Her Study Process for the Practice SIMs
- 39:53 Laura Would Make a Timeline on How to Approach the CPA Exam
- 42:09 Laura Realized the Difference of Confidence and Complacent
- 42:50 Laura’s Timeline for Passing the CPA Exams and Not Pressured Anymore
- 46:33 Tailor Your Study Process According to Your Learning Style
- 47:43 Laura’s Relief of Being Done With the CPA Exams
- 48:48 Laura’s Top Tips for People Struggling With Their Study Process
- 55:10 The Biggest Benefit That Laura Got from SuperfastCPA
Laura: I would listen to the lecture and I would read through the notes and I would do the simulations and I would do the practice questions, and I felt like I was doing all of the things that were available to me.
But by the time I got ready to take the exam, I felt like, I think I sat down to do a practice exam for the first time and I couldn’t remember any of the material except what I had just studied. And I just felt so unmotivated because I didn’t wanna keep doing the study process.
I would get home at night and feel like I had to spend three or four hours sitting at my desk watching lectures and going through all the notes just for it to feel like I still didn’t know what I was talking about. And I would fall asleep at my desk. I was sleeping badly. Everything was a mess. I was, I was not easy to get along with, um, at that point.
But one night I saw an ad for SuperfastCPA and it was, I think three weeks before my rescheduled test date and I felt like I was [00:01:00] gonna fail again.
I decided I’m gonna sign up for it, right now, and then I spent three weeks hardcore going through the steps, listening to the audio notes, going through test questions, and I passed my first test.
Nate: Oh, that’s awesome.
Laura: And it was such a relief cuz I had felt like it was never gonna be over.
I was never gonna do it. Welcome to Episode 101 of the CPA Exam Experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate, and in today’s interview you’re gonna hear me talk with Laura.
Nate: So Laura was originally a school teacher and then went on to become a bookkeeper, and after being a bookkeeper for a while, she realized how much higher her career ceiling could be with having the CPA. But without a background in accounting and having to go back and finish the 150 credit hours, she found the CPA material really challenging.
As you’ll hear [00:02:00] her describe, she was following the normal way of studying meaning watching every video lecture, reading every chapter, trying to memorize every little detail in every lesson in her review course. She was studying three to four hours every evening after work. You know, she had multiple kids at home so she had a full family that she’s trying to manage while trying to work and then study in the evenings, and it was just not working.
So she had failed a couple sections. At one point, she was three weeks away from a retake of one of these sections. She saw one of our ads on YouTube and decided, you know, I’ll try anything at this point.
So she watched our free training, dedicated herself to the study methods in the PRO course. Started using the study tools, mainly implementing the idea of mini sessions in addition to her main study session. So she would listen to the audios a lot or read the review [00:03:00] notes. And in that three week period, she ended up passing that retake, which was her first passed exam.
So she also made some of the other adjustments, like studying in the morning so that she had her evenings free. And overall, again, as you’ll hear her describe, following the strategies and just the one cohesive approach made her life a lot easier, and then everything started working, and within a few months after that, she had passed all four sections.
So Laura has a lot of really good tips to share on the strategy side, from a motivational standpoint, as well as figuring out just her daily routine. And you know, having kids, how she would sometimes take them to a playground while she could study. She just had a lot of things that she had to figure out to create a study process that worked for her, which you’ll probably get a lot from, hearing her story.
So, before we get into the interview, wanna mention two things. You know, [00:04:00] what’s coming? Our free training, if you’ve not watched one of those free training sessions. That is the best place for you to start to see what our study methods are and see if it makes sense to you. Pretty much every person you’ve heard on this podcast started by watching one of those free training webinars.
So to sign up for a session of those trainings, you can go to our site at superfastcpa.com on the homepage, or the link will be down in the description of this podcast episode, or this video if you’re watching on YouTube.
The second thing is our free podcast giveaway. So every month we give away three pairs of Power Beat Pro headphones to people who have entered the giveaway. You just put in your name and email. The link to that will be down in the description. The point with giving away headphones is they’re my favorite headphones. I use ’em every day. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks like crazy.
But for you, someone who’s studying still, and especially with this episode, you’ll hear Laura talk about how [00:05:00] valuable she found our audio notes. So the idea is that you know, if you have a pair of headphones, even while you’re doing normal daily stuff, you can be racking up study time and always improving your chances of passing your next section by listening to the audio notes.
So again, the link to that giveaway is in the description as well. So with that out of the way, let’s get into the interview with Laura.
Laura Did Some Research First Before Getting SuperfastCPA
Nate: So you finished once and for all for what, a month ago or two months ago?
Laura: Yeah. I got my final passing score, I think in April.
Laura: So I’m finished and it feels amazing.
Nate: Yeah, I bet. Have you watched or listened to some of these? Do you kind of know how these go?
Laura: Yeah, I did in the beginning. Um, I watched quite a few actually, before I decided to purchase the software cause I was kind of researching it and, and making a decision.
Um, I haven’t watched any, super recently, but I did kind of write down all of my dates as far as like when [00:06:00] everything happened in my journey, cuz it’s been a long one.
Laura Talks About Her CPA Journey
Nate: So when you say it’s, uh, it was a long journey, when did your journey start?
Laura: Well, um, so I’m in my thirties now. Um, I went to college originally right after high school and didn’t study accounting.
Um, so I have a degree in a completely unrelated field. Um, I worked as a school teacher for a couple of years and I didn’t have a great experience. Ended up leaving teaching, um, and I took a job doing bookkeeping and then just fell in love with the whole process of bookkeeping and accounting, and went back to school to finish up, um, all of the requirements to be able to take the exam and to apply for the license.
So I took a, an unusual road to get here, I think I started going back to school in, I mean, it’s been eight years ago that I, that I really started feeling committed to the process.
Nate: Okay, so when you, so you got your undergrad in, I mean, whatever it was teaching, did you have to go back and [00:07:00] do the, uh, to get to the 150 hours, do some accounting classes and stuff?
Laura: I did, um, and I just was a part-time student at that point. I did all, as much of it as I could online because I was already, uh, a mom of two, uh, raising two kids on my own and, um, I found it challenging, especially in the specific prep for each of the exams. Found it really challenging because I couldn’t give up my life to sit and just study all the time because I was still working full time.
I was still a full time mom. I have other activities on the side that, um, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice all of my free time just to study.
Laura’s First CPA Exam Experience
Laura: So I did. I worked as a part-time, I was a part-time student taking as many classes as I needed just to be able to sit for the exam. I took my first exam in, uh, 2019, in October.
I sat for, um, BEC cuz I thought it would be the easiest and I had a terrible [00:08:00] test day experience. Um, I went in for a test at noon and I didn’t even consider that that meant that I should have eaten lunch beforehand. So I was nervous, I was starving, I, my time management was atrocious. And I, as I got outta that exam and I knew I hadn’t passed, I ended up, uh, with a 72, um, and then scheduled to take REG in April, I think, of 2020.
And then obviously it got canceled because everything got canceled at that time. So my exam got canceled and then I wasn’t able to sit for another one again until that, um, September. And finally I felt like even though I hadn’t taken a lot of the exams, I’d only taken two. I’d taken two, or I’d taken one hadn’t passed it, taken, um, scheduled another one and had it canceled.
Not Feeling Ready Even After Months of Studying
Laura: I felt like I had been in it so long and just dragging my heels and like it was never gonna be over. Um, and at this time I hadn’t discovered [00:09:00] SuperfastCPA yet, I don’t think. Um, but I finally said, Okay, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna be committed to it. I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna get it done.
And was studying for, uh, REG that I was gonna take in that December, and I, I was going through the Becker program at that point, I would listen to the lecture and I would read through the notes and I would do the simulations and I would do the practice questions, and I felt like I was doing all of the things that were available to me.
But by the time I got ready to take the exam, I felt like, I think I sat down to do a practice exam for the first time and I couldn’t remember any of the material except what I had just studied. And I was terrified because I thought there was no way I was gonna pass, which I wouldn’t have. So I, I was supposed to take it in December and I rescheduled it for February, and I just felt so unmotivated because I didn’t wanna keep [00:10:00] doing the study process.
I would get home at night and feel like I had to spend three or four hours sitting at my desk watching lectures and going through all the notes just for it to feel like I still didn’t know what I was talking about. And I would fall asleep at my desk. I was sleeping badly. Everything was a mess. I was, I was not easy to get along with, um, at that point.
How Laura Found SuperfastCPA and Passed Her First Exam
Laura: But one night I found, I saw an ad for SuperfastCPA and it was, I think three weeks before my rescheduled test date and I felt like I was gonna fail again. Um, and it was strange because I’m the kind of person usually that I like to go through the whole process of something, it bothers me to just jump in in the middle.
Like for example, when I, when I find a new podcast that I wanna listen to, like I never just listen to the recent episodes. Even if it’s been on the air for like three years. I wanna go all the way back to the beginning and start from the beginning and hear all of it.
Laura: So I told [00:11:00] myself I was gonna sign up for SuperfastCPA after I failed, cuz I knew I was gonna fail in February.
And then for some reason against what my character would usually be, I decided I’m gonna sign up for it. Right. now And then I spent three weeks hardcore going through the steps, listening to the audio notes, going through test questions, and I passed my first test .
Nate: Oh, that’s awesome.
Laura: And it was such a relief cuz I had felt like it was never gonna be over. I was never gonna do it. And even in the first exam that I took, the one that I had failed, um, on BEC, I sat , I sat, no, I take it back. This was on REG the first time I took REG. Um, I sat in the test cubicle, um, and I felt like the questions were really hard and I didn’t understand half of them, and it was material I hadn’t seen before.
And I think halfway through I just laid my head on the desk and I thought, Why did nobody tell me I’m not smart enough [00:12:00] to be a CPA? And I had a complete meltdown in the middle of the exam, wanted to walk out, didn’t finish it, and that was the first one I pass.
Nate: That’s, yeah, that’s awesome.
Laura: It was intense.
Nate: That happened during the one that you ended up passing?
Laura: That happened, yeah, the first test that I passed. I didn’t pass it by a lot, I think I had a 77, um, on REG, but I felt horrible through the whole exam experience and that was the first one I passed.
Nate: Hmm. I, yeah, I mean it’s uh, the way, the way people feel on test day is, is such a, you know, some people are positive they passed, think they just smashed it.
Nate: or vice versa. Just, yeah, the whole range.
Laura Talks About the Only Test She Felt Confident
Laura: The only one I felt confident coming out of was audit. I knew I passed that one. Everything else, people always, people always wanna you come outta your test day and they wanna be excited for you. And the first thing they ask is, How did it feel? [00:13:00] I just got to where, I wouldn’t say anything to that question. I would say, It doesn’t matter how I feel, I’ll know in a month.
Nate: Yeah, exactly. Uh, do you work in audit? Is that?
Laura: No. So I work, um, I work for a private security company, um, just in their accounting department. Audit has always been the material that kind of came easiest to me. I did the best in that class, or are those related classes.
Um, and it just kind of speaks my language in a way that some of the other ones are a bit more challenging. But I’d love to work it on it. Yeah. I think that’s the direction I’m, I’m intending to head.
Nate: Yeah. When you, when you said it was just, you know, you felt confident about it. I think like for a lot of people on the tax side who never worked in audit or there’s a lot of people who come through, like get, try to get their CPA and they’ve been an MBA and never really even worked in accounting.
I think account, uh, auditing could be the most confusing one for those types of people [00:14:00] cause I don’t know. It’s just kind of just such a different thing. It’s way different than, you know, just working in tax.
Laura: It really is. I think FAR was the hardest one for me, but audit just kind of always made sense.
Nate: Yeah. Hmm. Um, okay, so going back to your, so I guess I’m not sure what my question, question is with this, but that’s just, it’s interesting to me that you, uh, the one that you passed, you still on test day kind of felt like, I mean, I’m guessing you just kind of had a breakdown cuz you’re thinking, okay, this is gonna be like the third time.
This again, I’m in here, this isn’t working. Um.
The Key Things That Made a Difference for Laura
Nate: But what do you think did make the difference? Was it your daily process had been more effective and it just translated on test day even though you didn’t feel like it? Or what do you think made the difference?
Laura: I think it’s a couple of things.
The audio note, and I think I’ve commented on this on the website a couple of times, the audio [00:15:00] notes are such a lifesaver for me. Um, when, especially during the pandemic, when we were dealing with everybody being in virtual school, um, my kids especially, I had, I ended up having a three hour commute every day because I had to drive them to their grandparents house.
They did virtual school with their grandparents, and then I still had to drive to work. So every day I was listening to three hours worth of the audio. And so you were just constantly in my head talking about all of the concepts, talking about all of the, um, the material and the formulas and everything else.
And it just helped it to be more conversational, um, rather than just reading, reading the texts from the books or even the lectures, which are uh, still a little bit more academic maybe in a negative way.
Laura: Um, cuz it’s just harder to remember that. Whereas I feel like when you were just reading through the audio notes, it was like we were having a conversation.
And I would get to where my kids would laugh at me, but um, the audio notes would be playing in the car and I’d heard them so many times that I would be like [00:16:00] talking along without, like, mounding along to the things that you were saying. Because I knew what the steps were gonna be in the formula. I knew what the answer was gonna be.
So that helped significantly.
Laura’s Daily Study Routine and CPA Exam Day Time Management
Laura: Um, I switched my study time from evening to morning. So first thing when I woke up, I would get up early, do the prep that I wanted to do, um, for the day. As far as going through the, the multiple choice questions, um, going through, uh, 30 question, practice test, and then all of that would just be in my head all day.
And then in the evening I would try to do a practice test again, and it didn’t happen every day. You know, I tried to give myself some grace there, but that helped a lot. And then my time management was better on all of the exams that I took after that because I would kind of block out. And I don’t remember the calculations, but I would sit down in the exam and I would block out, okay, I wanna be finished with this section by exactly this minute on the clock.
I wanna be finished with this section by exactly this minute on the clock. [00:17:00] And then I wouldn’t be going back and rereading questions and wasting time waffling between one answer and another answer and second guessing I like. Once I got to that time, I closed the section, I was done with that one, and then mentally I just moved on.
And I think that helped a lot because I wasn’t agonizing overall of my answer to it.
Nate: Yeah. There’s just, it’s, I say this all the time, but it’s, uh, every little part of the overall process matters. You know, there’s like the strategies when you actually sit down, but that’s just one part.
If you can’t get yourself to consistently sit down to study, then your strategies don’t matter. But if you don’t have the right strategies even if you’re putting in four or five hours a day, then the time you spend doesn’t matter like. And so it’s like all those things and then, like you said, the, uh, listening to the audios, so the, I, I mean, obviously what we refer to that is just like the mini sessions, just studying from your phone whenever you can, [00:18:00] whether it’s the audios or the review notes or the quizzes.
That just, that just adds up. That can easily be another two to three hours a day. I mean, in your case.
Nate: Sounds like three hours a day and that, that amount of extra exposure just, you know, that’s going to translate to higher scores like it just is.
Nate: Yeah. And then how you said the, uh, cuz I hear that kind of sentiment a lot on all these interview. A lot of times with when someone starts following our process, it’s easier or it’s like less work or less stressful than what they were trying before when they were just kind of sitting in front of their computer and didn’t really know what they were trying to do for five hours.
And so they’ll get into a test and think, I, I feel like I didn’t like spend enough time or work hard enough, or I’m not sure how this is gonna go. But that’s all that, that was the only difference. And then they, you know, just start [00:19:00] passing sections. So it’s essentially kinda what you were saying.
How Laura Would Plan Her Study Sessions
Laura: And it does, I feel like your program gives a really good, um, sort of roadmap where the exam, instead of just feeling like this massive behemoth of information that I have to try to cram in my brain and not let any leak out, it felt really manageable because I knew on a day to day basis exactly what I had committed to wanting to do.
And it’d seen the evidence from other people that that could help me be successful. And then once I started passing tests, I could see that, that could see that in myself. Um, and one thing that I did, yeah, that I, sort of created for myself was, uh, was I made, I made a spreadsheet, very rudimentary spreadsheet, but before I would start any of the exams, I would go through and, um, click through all the sections in my review course and I’d write down, okay, for section one.
Part one, or however, I forget how they, um, identify them. There’s, there’s 16 multiple questions, multiple choice questions in this one, and then there’s 42 [00:20:00] multiple choice questions in the next one. And then there’s 56 in the next one. So I would go through and I just made a table where I put in the total number of multiple choice questions that I was gonna be responsible for, for the next six, seven weeks, however long I’d blocked out for myself.
And then I put in a formula that told me, Okay. If I’m gonna get there in this many number of days, then I need to do 30 questions a day, or I need to do 50 questions a day. And so every day when I would complete my studying, I would take off of that total, the number of questions I had gone through. So I could see just this running total of, okay, today I need to do 30.
Maybe if I skip a day the next day I’ll have to do 32 a day to still get to my goal. But it made it feel not as scary. If there was a day that maybe I, I didn’t get to my material, or if there was a day on the other side of that, if there’s a day I did extra work, I could see the payoff every single day subsequent to that, that I was gonna have to do less work, and that made it just feel more, more manage.
Nate: Yeah. A few people have [00:21:00] mentioned that the idea of, uh, going through their review course and the way that they, I, what benchmark each lesson is just the number of multiple choice. And put that in a spreadsheet, just exactly like you explained. And then they just divide the number of, uh, I think it was Casey’s interview.
He did that, and then he would just say, If I just do 50 new multiple choice questions a day, then this whole section will take me 21 days or something like that.
Laura: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Nate: And then add on a week for review. And that was how he set his, uh, study timeline and.
Laura: Yeah, cuz I did, I realized that their groupings as far as you know, this, you know, this lecture and questions is dedicated to one topic and the next one’s dedicated to another.
I realized those didn’t matter to me as much as far as like doing two sections a day and like just doing two groups of the same material. I wanted to do the same amount of work or the same number of questions regardless of which section they were in. [00:22:00] So I kind of, instead of trying to get through three sections in a week.
I knew I was gonna do, I don’t know, 120 multiple choice questions and that made it make more sense to.
Nate: Yeah. And then would you save the daily set of 30 re-review and try to do that in the evenings?
Laura: I did. Um, so I would do, if I had time in the mornings, I would do it in the mornings.
A lot of time I didn’t. Um, so then when I got home and kind of before I got sleepy, so like after I got my kids to bed, cause all this is focused around being a parent, right? So after I got my kids to bed and I knew that my house was gonna be quiet and it wasn’t gonna be interrupted for a while, that’s when I would try to sit down and commit to a full 30 question practice test of randomized questions.
Nate: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. And again, a lot of people have mentioned that same idea. Um, if they couldn’t, just really couldn’t get the two hours in the morning, they would do an hour, like the new material in the morning and then [00:23:00] save an hour for at night or however it works. Um, so when you were studying before and you would try to study in the evenings.
How Laura Adjusted Her Day to Study Efficiently
Nate: Is that, like, and I’m guessing that you just had constant distractions, like, you know, trying to be a mom at home at night after school and trying to study.
Laura: There was that, And then also I was trying to, using the, the other study materials as far as trying to go through every single item that they offer, which is, which is an enormous amount of, of time commitment.
Um, I was trying to still live an everyday kind of life and then have study time. I was able to do that with SuperfastCPA because it really minimized the number of things I had to do and was still effective or more effective. Um, but with the, when I was just studying on my own before Superfast, I, you know, I’d eat dinner and then I’d wanna watch [00:24:00] tv, and then I’d wanna like do some house cleaning.
And then I would, I would just leave it until the very end of the day when I couldn’t concentrate anymore. And as soon as I put on a lecture, I knew I was gonna fall asleep in the middle of it because that I was exhausted. So I wasn’t managing my study time as well.
Um, and waking and what I, what I changed after I listened to your, all of your intro videos was waking up early, studying in the morning, right when my brain is, is, you know, it’s my best brain time, um, to actually retain and learn and, and focus rather than trying to do it at 10, 11 o’clock at night when I’m falling asleep.
Nate: Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s just one of those things that sounds so obvious when you say it, but what most people are trying to study at night when their brain’s already fried and it just, you know.
Laura: It’s not effective.
Laura’s Daily Morning Study Routine and Juggling Time With Family
Nate: Yeah. So what time would you try to get up in the morning or what time did you get up in the morning to when you switched to the morning studying?
Laura: It depended, I mean, [00:25:00] depending on the day.
I would just try to set my alarm for two hours before when I knew I needed to start getting ready. So some days that meant getting up at 4:00 AM some days that meant getting up at five 30. It just kind of depended on what the rest of my day was gonna look like.
Laura: Uh, which was early mornings. I mean, and that meant that I had to commit to giving up all of the, you know, TV time and, and social media time that I would usually do in the evening, going to bed early so then I could get enough sleep and get up and actually be able to study.
And another another thing was I didn’t wanna just spend, and I really couldn’t just spend all day on the weekends studying because I have my kids and they’re young kids and so they wanna be able to get out and go and do. And so I kind of took a, um, a note from, I dunno if you say legally blonde, but, um, I don’t know that it comes recommended exactly, but she does, when she’s studying for her, LSATs, um, does go through and she, she tries to study in like chaotic environments because she feels like that’s gonna help her focus better.
So I got to where I would take my kids out and we would go to maybe the [00:26:00] playground that I would release them to go play on the playground and then I’d put my hand headphones on and sit down and go through review questions just on the side. So there was always, there were always things happening at the same time.
And so that kind of helped me to zero in my focus, um, because wherever I was, just pull out my laptop, turn on a hotspot, start going through review question.
Nate: Yeah. That’s one nice thing about, you know, your, your phone is the ultimate version of that. You, no matter how busy you are, you’re always looking at your phone, but. That’s true, that’s a reality. Like even your laptop, you can, and a few people have mentioned that, especially on weekends, that same idea, taking their laptop somewhere. I think usually it was someone with kids like take their kids. Some play place or something and just pull out their laptop and put on noise canceling headphones and just do questions for them.
Laura: Well, cause I knew I was, I was sacrificing my like, fun time, but I didn’t wanna feel like I was making everybody else sacrifice for this journey. You know? I wanted to still be able to offer to, to [00:27:00] my kids to go out and have fun, even though I wasn’t gonna be maybe participating actively in what they were doing.
Nate: Mm-hmm. Um, and so that was one thing I was gonna ask. You kind of mentioned it, but you know, to make the morning thing work so that you, well, so that you’re going to bed on time or earlier than you would just normally.
The Things That Laura Adjusted To Make Her Study Process Work
Nate: What kind of things did you have to rearrange and square away in your evenings to like go to bed on time to get up early?
Laura: I pretty much just quit watching tv.
Laura: Cause that’s one of those things, um, that once you get started, and I don’t, I don’t watch tv, on the tv I watch through a streaming service. And so once you get started with one episode of something, it just feeds you the next one and then the next one and the next one.
You don’t realize four hours have gone by. Um, so I cut off, I canceled a couple of my subscriptions, so I didn’t even have access to them, so I couldn’t just sit around and, um, and watch show after show after show. [00:28:00] And just tried to, tried to get a little bit more sleep because when I’ve learned, when I’m really, really tired all the time, then I just kind of zone out and don’t realize that time is passing.
And so it feels like I can’t get as much done. So trying to get, you know, a little bit more sleep so that I feel like I’m optimizing my awake time. And I mean, that was pretty much it just, I just gave up, um, gave up my leisurely evenings and tried to go to bed as early as I could.
Nate: Yeah. And, and then at the same time, I’m guessing that that also that made, that’s, even doing, that made you freer in the evenings for the most part than when you were trying to come home from work and study four hours, just basically use the evening to study, right?
Laura: Yeah, it. Overall, it, it made a significant difference for sure. And, or even if I wanted to, maybe there was, I would just try to limit, you know, I’ll, I’ll give myself 30 minutes after [00:29:00] dinner, I can do whatever I want for that 30 minutes. But then at that point I’m gonna sit down and do my practice test.
And after I practice test, go to bed.
Laura: So trying to, instead of just letting time happen, trying to, to set limits and, and schedule, blocks of, of what I wanted to do for that amount of time and, you know, set alarms and really commit to it helped significantly.
Nate: Yeah. Well, and then another thing you said earlier, um, you know, like just really losing motivation and at the time, what you, all this time you’re spending, you know, wasn’t like paying off. And so every day, if you just feel like it’s, you’re essentially like wasting time and it’s not really leading you to passing scores, I mean, no one can, you can’t just keep doing that forever, but like this, where you’re highly disciplined every part of your day.
You’ve thought about it beforehand, like, I’m going to bed at this time because I gotta get up at this time and I have a half hour [00:30:00] to, whatever, watch one episode, whatever it is.
Um, that’s a lot easier to do if all this time you’re spending is paying off. Like, I mean, I’m guessing that Yeah, that was your experience.
Keeping Up With the Momentum is Important As Well
Laura: And it did, And I tried, I mean, after I took the first one, I just tried to keep that momentum and keep going because I would give myself, um, well, in the beginning, after I passed the first one, I got that passing score. I think I started like the next day studying for the next one. And then beyond that, I didn’t even wait for the score.
I would take one and then immediately started studying for the next one. And then the score would come up a couple of weeks into my new study. And then, um, cause I never liked doing the same test back to back. That was very unmotivating to me because I’d already spent maybe six weeks on that material. And then I didn’t want to continue to spend time on that material.
I needed to switch it up so I never did the same one back to back. Um, for better or for worse, I still passed ’em all. But yeah. Um, but that helped once I, [00:31:00] once I had that first passing score and I felt like this is actually something I can do and I can still live my life as long as, like, I just used the smart techniques from SuperfastCPA that was so encouraging.
Nate: Yeah. Right. Once you get an idea like, okay, this is, this is working, then it’s just so much easier to keep doing it every day if you spend.
Laura: Yeah. And I try to tell myself, you know, this is, this is short term. You know, I’m not gonna be doing this forever, so I’m going to make that sacrifice for a short period of time, because it’s gonna have long term benefits.
But if I had to continue making that sacrifice year, after year, after year, after night, after night and of, of just sitting around watching lectures, I never, I never would’ve done it. I know I wouldn’t have, I would’ve given up.
Nate: Yeah. I mean it’s, yeah, it’s a lot. Um, okay, so I have your post where you, in the forum, you listed out your, your strategies.
I just wanna see if, if we missed anything. [00:32:00] Um, so it sounds like you would, I mean, you already described this getting up early, you doing the standard kind of SuperfastCPA, uh, study process in the morning. You’d make flashcards for anything you struggled to remember. Um, and then a list of topics you struggled to understand and wanted to look back over later.
Laura’s Notetaking Process for Difficult Topics
Nate: So that’s one question. When would you do that? When would you look back at things that you had made a note? I want to go deeper into this.
Laura: I would save that for weekends. Um, because in the morning I didn’t want anything to distract me from getting the, the work done that I’d planned to do. Um, with the flashcards, especially cuz a lot of them were formulas.
Some of the formulas I just, I struggled so much to, to keep in my brain. Cause a lot of them are very similar. Um, I would look, I’d read over my flashcards, um, before I went to bed. But it wouldn’t be like looking at it and then trying to guess what it was gonna be and then flipping it over to see if I was right.
It was just [00:33:00] reading the front of it, reading the back of it, setting it aside, going through each one over and over and over, and again, just reading them, um, over and over again. Until at one point, my brain just started making the connection before I even flipped the card over, I knew what the answer was gonna be.
So it wasn’t that I was constantly quizzing myself, but just reminding myself that these are the pieces of information that I need to really, really ingrain in my knowledge. And seeing them, um, every day, almost every day before I went to bed, really helped to, to get all of that stuff.
Laura: If that makes sense.
Nate: Yeah. The, the flashcard strategy is, and it’s not like flashcards or like some revolution strategy, I mean, but writing ’em in your own words, stuff that you struggle to understand is, it’s just absolutely huge. That’s the first thing I ask someone if they’re like.
Nate: I’m still really struggling. I’m, you know, putting in time every day and I keep getting to 72 or whatever. That’s the first thing I [00:34:00] ask is like, are you making a lot of flashcards for things that you keep missing, because that’s typically the, the big missing link.
Laura: Mm-hmm. And the, the pre-made flashcards is not that, that there’s anything wrong with them, but a lot of them just contain a very lengthy answer to every question.
That it’s not memorizable in the same way is just, you know, what’s the formula for net profit? Oh, flip it over. Well, there it’s.
Studying Throughout the Day Using the App
Nate: Okay. And then you said you used the audio notes a lot, which you talked about. And then you would, uh, and then you would do quizzes on the app a lot as well. Sounds like.
Laura: I did, Yeah. I, at, at work, um, anytime cuz I’m allowed to keep my phone on me at work. I don’t know if that’s the same for everybody’s workplace, but when I would want to do the questions I needed to actually focus, I couldn’t just like be doing it under my desk, like waiting for somebody to walk by and trying to pretend like I wasn’t on my phone. So whenever I would take a bathroom break or take a break to go walk outside, the first thing I would [00:35:00] do is, do my five questions. Go through it, read through the answers, like try to understand if I got any wrong, why I got them wrong, and then continue on with my day.
But I was, I mean, I was doing that, I don’t know, three, sometimes six times a day, just doing the little five question quizzes. And then after that, even though I went back to work or continued on doing whatever I was doing, those questions that I had gotten wrong were still just kind of circulating around in my brain.
And those concepts were circulating all the time because every I spent so much of my day was the breaks between studying so, while I was using those, um, those breaks, which, when I say breaks, I mean like the time that I was working or the time that I was driving or the time that I was shopping or whatever it.
Um, felt like the breaks between my study time rather than my study breaks between the rest of my day, if that makes any sense.
Nate: Well, and a few things that you’ve mentioned, the, uh, I talk about this sometimes the, this is like, there’s [00:36:00] all this research on, uh, geez, what is it called?
Retrieval learning, and they say it’s like the most effective way of learning something and retaining it long term. And again, it’s one of these things that once you describe it, it just sounds so obvious, but constant little chunks. Putting that stuff back in your short term memory, like all throughout the day, is dramatically more effective than one longer session done once a day.
And so, yeah, those, the, the mini sessions, just besides the content itself, just that practice makes a big impact on your long term memory.
Laura: And I think the as there was also sort of some maybe memory association involved, because I studied in so many different environments all the time. There were moments where I would be in exam, the exam and I would see a question.
I would think, okay, I remember like when I was studying this, I was sitting at Chick-fil-A. Like, let me just go back in my mind to that study session [00:37:00] because then maybe I can piece together what it was I saw on that screen or whatever. Um, whatever it was, but, but, having, instead of just always studying at my computer desk with a blank wall behind my computer, while all those study sessions look and feel the same now in my brain.
Being in different environments constantly kind of helped me associate what I had been studying with that environment. And also I listen to the audio notes so much. Um, because, because I listen to the audio notes so much, kind of in the background of whatever else I was doing, different pieces of it would stick out at.
At different times because I started, when I started studying, I started listening to the audio notes beginning to end, and some of it was stuff I hadn’t really looked at in six months and didn’t really, I wasn’t currently answering questions on that material specifically. So they, I, I kind of just zoned out of that section.
But then maybe two or three weeks later when I was listening to the same, that [00:38:00] same, play, same group of, of your audio notes again then, oh yeah, well, I just saw a question on that and now I remember how that’s gonna fit into to my learning, that.
Nate: Yeah, so the, the academic papers on that retrieval learning, they talk about that specifically, that, uh, different settings like exactly what you said. And I, I mean it’s. That’s weird, but that’s, they describe that there’s a bunch of paragraphs about that same thing, that it just ties it like hooks in your brain in different parts by being in different settings. I don’t know. Mm-hmm. , I can’t coherently talk about how it actually works, but
Laura: Yeah. And I don’t know that I would’ve tried to do that on purpose if I had known the research about it, but that just was one of the things that came up naturally by the way that I had to study.
Nate: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Um, so you mentioned your evenings, we already talked about that. And then on the weekends.
Laura Talks About Her Study Process for the Practice SIMs
Nate: Oh, so practice [00:39:00] sims, so you would, you kind of save the practice sims for the weekends?
Laura: I did just because I usually needed a little bit more time to go through those. Um, and I was constantly trying to improve my time. Um, because on the very first exam that I took, I ran out of time on the last question. And so when it was one of the essay questions that I knew I hadn’t done well on it, so I was just always concerned about I never wanna run out of time again.
So I wanna try to get to where I can answer every multiple choice question in approximately a minute. I wanna get to where I can get through the sims within a reasonable amount of time and, and break down if I have 45 minutes to get through this three question simulation section.
Well then I need to spend exactly 22 minutes on each one. Or if I finish the first one early, maybe I can spend a little bit more time on the second one. So pick out which one is the more challenging of the two, or which one. I think it’s gonna take me longer and try to be strategic about the order.
I would answer them in.
Laura Would Make a Timeline on How to Approach the CPA Exam
Nate: Mm-hmm. Oh, your timelines that you said you would write down on the on test day. What would you set [00:40:00] for your MCQs? Would you try to stick to one minute per question on test?
Laura: Usually what I would do is I would say I would take the four hours and divide it up by five, perfectly by five as far as minutes go, and I, I forget it, it came out to 43 minutes per section or something like that. Um, but I knew I was gonna take less time on the multiple choice questions.
So then when I’d go through a multiple choice section, I would usually end up finishing that within 30, 35 minutes closing that and then I would readjust the extra time that I had saved and added on to my simulation time.
Laura: So I once wanted to constantly feel like I was on top of it and that I was deciding how much time I was gonna spend on everything.
Cuz sometimes when you open the simulations and it’s maybe the two question simulation section, and one of them is just go look through the re the, the, um, AICPA codes and find the specific section that references [00:41:00] this thing. Well, that’s gonna take me maybe two minutes, then I have 40 minutes for the second simulation, so I can maybe spend a little bit more time on it, or if I feel confident on it, close it early and then I have more time for something else down the road.
Nate: Yeah, that is, uh, I like the way you describe that. So I, the two MCQs, that’s two segments of the exam. Then the three sets of sims, that’s three. So five segment. Dividing it equally, but then as you finish each one earlier, that just adds on to what you have left. That’s, that’s a good idea. It’s a good way to.
Laura: And I don’t know that it really does anything except kind of organize my brain a little bit differently to say like, Now I have 10 extra minutes, so then I’m gonna keep trying to stick to my schedule where I said that at, you know, 12:41 I was gonna close this section and move on to the next section.
But, but then I know, like whenever I get to a section where I think I’m really gonna need extra time on this, I’ve already saved myself 10 minutes that I’m [00:42:00] gonna add to that. So then it doesn’t feel rushed in the same way as just trying to get through everything as fast as possible.
Nate: Yeah. That’s, that’s a good, that’s a good tip.
Laura Realized the Difference of Confidence and Complacent
Nate: Um, so after you passed your REG, REG was your first one that you passed?
Nate: Did you, uh, pass the other three on the first try or did you have any setbacks on those?
Laura: No, I had some setbacks and usually it was, I would get over confident and feel like, oh, well now I know that I, I can pass one, so maybe I won’t spend as much time doing sims on this one, or just different things.
You know, it’s, it’s easy to become complacent. There’s a, there’s a fine line between confident and complacent. I have found , um, I’ve, I took two, It took me two tries to pass all of them except for audit. I got audit on the first try.
Laura’s Timeline for Passing the CPA Exams and Not Pressured Anymore
Nate: Nice. So once you passed Reg, you got ’em all done in right around a year then?
Laura: I think it took [00:43:00] me, let’s see, So I passed the first one in February, 2021. I passed my last one, April of 2022. So just over a year. Yeah.
Nate: That’s awesome. But again, even if it takes longer, Well, I mean, just passing in general. Cause a lot of people spend years never pass ’em, so just passing them. But it’s fine if it takes, you know, longer, if you can still have somewhat of a normal life and you don’t feel like your entire life is just work and then study or stress out about studying.
So it just makes it a lot more feasible or not feasible, tolerable?
Laura: No, I think you’re right and, and I never did. After I started doing your method and, and you know, working with my spreadsheets and my time limits and the other things that kind of made sense to my brain, I didn’t stress about studying anymore because I just had decided this is the part of my day that I commit to the most studying.
This is the part of my day. I commit to a little bit of studying and review. [00:44:00] I do a lot on the weekends, little pieces throughout the day, but then I didn’t have to worry about it because it was just constantly in the material, but not being anxious about the material.
Nate: Yep, yep, yep. A lot of people describe that same idea.
Cause a lot of people get, like you said in the beginning when you were feeling like you’re studying, just wasn’t translating to anything, you’re just, there’s just a sense of, uh, dread about that by itself just tied to the study process. And it again.
Laura: Well, there’s just this constant, Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?
What else can I do? What, how do I, Cause there’s just, there’s just so much , so much.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah. Like you said, especially if you’re trying to use every single resource in the review courses.
Nate: Um, It’s just one of those things like they’re trying to cover every, every possible angle, which is like the point of a review course.
But then the bad side of [00:45:00] that is people just operate under the assumption that they need to absolutely memorize everything that the review course presents and the stuff in from the textbook, and then what actually shows up in the questions. Two very different things, so.
Laura: Yeah, and they, because they provide such a diverse amount of material, it does feel like, oh, I need to do all of this to give myself the best chance of being successful.
Rather than I need to just take a step back, figure out the way that I learn, the way that I retain, the time that I can work best, and kind of tailor it, which is something that you talk about right in the beginning is here’s a great way to do it, tailor it to what makes sense to your life, to your study process.
And you’ll be successful. And I was just like, other people have done.
Nate: Yep. Yep. There’s a, there’s a bunch of the finer details that don’t really matter how you do it.
Nate: But then there’s like the pillars that have to be there. Like obviously you’ve gotta have a [00:46:00] effective way of covering the new material the first time.
Like that’s obvious then. Mm-hmm. , you should have some form of re-reviewing all the time so that you’re not constantly forgetting this stuff. You spent so much. Learning in the first place and then, you know, just all the different pieces and then you have to have the time to do it should be the same time every day so that you’re consistent.
So there’s like the strategic pieces, then the behavioral pieces. Like there’s just these like six things that have to be there, but you can customize those six things.
Tailor Your Study Process According to Your Learning Style
Laura: Yeah, and I mean, one thing that I know a lot of people have talked about and, and recently I’ve seen people talking about, uh, I think you, you changed something on the app after I’d finished my exams and I wasn’t quite as involved with the, with the, um, software anymore. Yeah. Was was where you can like, read the audio notes, physic, like visibly read them at the same time they’re being read to you. But one thing that I, I never did in all of this study process was I never read, [00:47:00] just read through your notes. Um, and I know that’s something that a lot of people like to do.
The only reason I didn’t is because I don’t read anything. I either listen to an audio book or I listen to a podcast or listen to the, so every, all of the information that I’m, that I’m, you know, putting in my brain is something that I’m listening to because that’s just the way that I learn best and the way that I can fit in my activities and also consuming whatever kind of material, um, whatever kind of reading I want. I just, I never have the time to sit and read something. So that was a step that I completely ignored and that was okay because I was still, I was, I was listening to the audio notes over and over and over and over and over again.
So I was getting that information just in the way that made the most sense to me.
Laura’s Relief of Being Done With the CPA Exams
Nate: Yep. Yeah, that’s, uh, so how is it now going back to just being done? Is it, do you almost feel like you’re, uh, I don’t know, not, not that you would miss the study process, but just having your completely normal life back.[00:48:00]
Laura: It’s a huge relief. It is. Um, I don’t think that I missed it. It did feel strange to, you know, readjust to ha- to doing things in the evening instead of having to get up and study in the mornings.
Laura: Um, although I did find out recently, I, um, apparently I’m missing a, a business credit or something, so I’m about to start a summer course to get my last credit that I, that I don’t have to actually get my license.
Um, application started. But you know, now that I know how to arrange my day to study, that should be absolutely a breeze.
Nate: Yeah. One class compared to the CPA exams, just, that’ll be easy.
Laura: Yeah. I can’t imagine anything else ever being harder.
Nate: Right? Yep. All right. Well, yeah, we kind of went through everything.
Laura’s Top Tips for People Struggling With Their Study Process
Nate: So the, uh, I guess kind of two things, if, was there any other tip or strategy that we didn’t cover, I didn’t ask you about, that you felt like made a big difference, [00:49:00] and or going along with that, what would be your top two or three tips to people that are really struggling with their study process?
Laura: Okay. I don’t think, I think that we talked about all of the things that I felt like made a significant difference.
Um, my top tips are going to be try a bunch of different things and figure out what works. Because for my first test to my last test, I took seven exams in that period, right? Because I took three of ’em twice and then took one of ’em just once. I took seven exams. My process from the first exam. Even the first exam using SuperfastCPA to the last exam was different because I figured out what worked, what I need to do more of, what I didn’t have to do as much of.
So just to constantly feel like it’s okay to adapt and change as long as you’re still making progress and not be afraid that. Give yourself grace. If you, if you miss a day, just get back [00:50:00] and do your work the next day. You know, it’s, you’re never gonna go into the exam or maybe some people do, I never went into an exam feeling like, I’m definitely gonna pass this.
I know all the material. I’m just gonna absolutely kill it. It’s gonna be great. I know everything. I never went into an exam knowing everything. I don’t think that you have to. I don’t know if anybody does, but you can still pass it even knowing that there are some things that you don’t understand or that you don’t remember.
That’s okay. Um, so I, I guess not to stress out to the point that you feel like you can’t take the exam until you know everything, cuz you’re never gonna get to that point. Um, would be one of my tips. Um, as you go through the material, feel like if there’s something that you don’t understand or that’s really tripping you up.
It’s okay to just set that aside, get back to it when you can. Maybe don’t get back to it. I mean, I can’t, There are some things that I never [00:51:00] fully felt, I just kind of thought, I hope I don’t get a question on this material and everything will be fine. Um.
Laura: So I guess not to stress too much about feeling like you have to know everything cuz you’re never gonna feel like you do.
Um, and then just commit to this is what I’m, you have to be, you do have to be committed to it, but you don’t have to give up your entire life. Um, so find out what makes sense. Constantly adjust and adapt, and, and eventually you’ll narrow it down to exactly what you need to do for you.
Nate: Yeah. It’s one of those things where like a highly disciplined approach also gives you freedom, you know, if you can nail down the, the key parts in the day. Once you’ve done that, like you said, you can take a complete hour or two in the evening and, okay, I don’t have to think about this or tell myself I should be doing more. I like, I nailed it for the day and that’s, so now I just com- take a complete [00:52:00] mental break.
Nate: Yeah. Well.
So what was the main benefit that you got from SuperfastCPA? Whether it was like the strategies or the study tools, or what was just the biggest benefit you got from adding SuperfastCPA to your plan?
Laura: Man, that’s a good question. Um, and this is something we actually didn’t even cover in the interview. The biggest benefit, I think, because I did, Oh, I have two things. Can I have two?
Nate: Yeah. Yes, of course.
Laura: Okay. I’m gonna have two. Uh, the, the first was that you made me take a step back and actually plan for myself what I wanted to do and then commit to it and I did.
Oh, the, um, I forget what it’s called in the very beginning, the, the printout that you, that you write, you know, these are the good things that are gonna happen and these are the bad things that are gonna happen. If I don’t, I filled that in. Stuck it on my bedroom wall, like right next to my door.
So every time I was coming in or out of my room, I stopped and I read it. And that just helped me stay focused and stay on track with, with the bigger picture of why these are my goals. Um, so feeling like I had a handle on what I wanted to do and how I was gonna do it because I’m such a planner and I just couldn’t plan around, you know, the, the vast amount of material without having that roadmap.
Um, and then the other one was the forum. Um, because I was, because I wasn’t in a degree program, I wasn’t, I didn’t have other, you know, people that I knew in my life or other friends who were going through the same process at the same time as me, because I’m, you know, I’m my thirties, I’m not a 20 year old college student anymore.
Mm-hmm. . But having the forum where there were people that were cheering for me and I could see people succeeding and we could talk about how things were going and, and what helped and what didn’t help with people who were in the same boat as me. Um, really, really helped cuz you would see someone post, oh, I didn’t pass this exam.
And then, you know, maybe you would chat with them or someone else would chat with them about what they could [00:54:00] do to, to do it better. And then a couple months later it was, I passed. So you’d see that process of people being trying and then being discouraged and then getting that encouragement and then succeeding.
So, uh, I found that really to be a positive environment.
Laura: So participate in the forum.
Nate: Yeah, I need to, oh man. Between emails and the forum. I wish I could get in there every day and like. answer questions and stuff, but it’s starting to get to the point where questions will get like four or five comments from everyone else, which is awesome.
Laura: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And we know what you’re gonna say, so sometimes we’ll just jump in and say it for you.
Nate: Right? I know that’s right. There’s a few people that do that, and I’m like, Yeah. Could not have said that better.
Well, yeah, alright Laura I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I’m glad you found our video or I guess saw our ad that first time, that’s what YouTube ads are for, I guess. And, uh, yeah, congrats on being done after all that time, that’s awesome.
Laura: Thank you so much. I literally could never have done it without you and without your, your method. I feel like I know you because I’ve listened to your voice so constantly, but this has been really fun.
Nate: That’s funny.
The Biggest Benefit That Laura Got from SuperfastCPA
Nate: Okay. So that was the interview with Laura. I’m sure you found that very helpful and informative. And if you did, please take a second to look us up on the podcast app you’re using, specifically Apple iTunes podcasts and leave a rating and review for the podcast so that other people can find us in the listings.
And take a second to share this episode or a recent episode you’ve heard that you found helpful. Share it with someone you know who’s also working on their CPA exams. These episodes, these interviews, are the most helpful, free resource available anywhere for people trying to figure out this CPA study process, trying to pass their CPA exams.
So thank you for listening or watching, and we will see you on the next episode.