How Marisa Persevered and Passed Her CPA Exams

How Marisa Persevered and Passed Her CPA Exams

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In this SuperfastCPA podcast interview, you’ll hear Marisa’s story about never giving up, even if you fail the CPA exams multiple times.

She knew she wasn’t going to give up, and eventually her study process came together and she started passing exams.

Here’s how she did it…


Master your study process by attending one of our free study training workshops: https://www.superfastcpa.com/study-secrets/

Enter our free monthly podcast giveaway: https://www.superfastcpa.com/enter

Watch the interview on YouTube…

Episode Timestamps

  • 00:00 Interview Video
  • 00:28 Intro
  • 04:57 How Marisa Found SuperfastCPA and Passed Sections
  • 06:41 Passing BEC and Audit Back to Back
  • 08:07 Marisa Describes How She Studied Before SuperfastCPA
  • 09:28 Consistently Took the CPA Exams Despite Being Busy
  • 13:25 How Studying Changed for Marisa After Finding SuperfastCPA
  • 16:13 Marisa Understood Topics Better Through SuperfastCPA Study Tools
  • 18:47 Passed Her First Two Sections with Textbooks and SuperfastCPA.
  • 19:40 How Marisa Studied Less with the Help of SuperfastCPA Study Tools
  • 23:07 Marisa Talks About How She Worked to Get Her CPA
  • 25:01 Marisa Got Lucky That Work Gave Her So Much Time to Study
  • 29:43 The Sense of Relief of Finally Passing the CPA Exams
  • 34:25 Studying in the Mornings Freed Up So Much Time
  • 37:18 Top Tips for People Studying for the CPA Exams
  • 39:38 Marisa’s Main Strategy Shift in Her Learning Process
  • 46:46 Outro

Interview Transcript

Marisa: [00:00:00] And then you’re like, okay, so there’s no like real incentive for me to do it right now, but I never stopped. Like there was a lot of people who like took exams and then stopped and then like took ’em again. Like I took the exam 20 times.

Marisa: Like I seriously took it a lot. Like I, took it, took it, took it, took it, took it, took it, took it. And then I was like, okay, what is going on?


Nate: Welcome to another episode of the CPA exam experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate and in today’s interview, you’re going to hear me talk with Marisa.

Nate: So a few months ago, I just got an email from Marisa and it was just kind of the typical thank you email saying that she was done with the exams. I had never heard from her previously, but in that email, she told me that she’d been studying for six years for the CPA exams. She had taken the exams over 20 times or made 20 different attempts on different [00:01:00] sections, and spent over $10,000 in exam fees.

Nate: So, that’s a really long journey, good for her for never giving up. That was one thing she said in the email that, she just knew she was never going to give up. But then at the same time, once she found our free training and our strategies, things really turned around. And so her story is a really good example of the thing that I’m always talking about. Where you can take the same person, the same brain, change their strategies a little bit, a person that’s been struggling for years maybe with these exams, make a few of the right small tweaks to how you study and you can get completely different results.

Nate: So, if you are someone who has struggled with the process so far, or it feels hard to even push through week to week and sit down and study each day, as long as you keep pushing and you’re always kind of thinking about your process itself and how you can improve, you will get there.

Nate: So in [00:02:00] this interview, Marisa just has a lot of really good things to share strategy-wise, motivation-wise, mindset-wise. How she got from point A to point B, even though it took a long time and it was a very long and frustrating process for her.

Nate: So before we get into the interview, I want to mention two things. First, our free study training webinars. Every time we send one of these out or publish an episode. I get 10 to 20 emails asking, okay, I’m ready to get started. Where do I start with SuperfastCPA? And so if you’re going to ask me that, these free study trainings is where you should start, it’s a free one hour training. So it’s free, so you can see our strategies and we walk through our core strategies on those trainings on that webinar so that you can kind of evaluate it for yourself. Does this make sense compared to what I’ve been doing? Can I see how this is more effective and will be more efficient [00:03:00] and help me get these exams over with faster. So we walk through pretty much everything on that training for free so that you can evaluate it for yourself.

Nate: So the link to that training will be down in the description of this episode. And then the second thing is our free podcast giveaway where each month we give away three pairs of Power Beat Pro headphones to three random people who have entered the giveaway. That’s just your name and email. That link as well will be down in the description.

Nate: So with that out of the way, let’s get into the interview with Marisa.

Nate: Have you listened to any of the other podcast interviews?

Nate: Do you kind of know how these go?

Marisa: Yeah, I’ve listened to maybe about three of them. Not like a lot, um, but. I kind of get the gist a little bit.

Nate: Um, yeah, yeah. I mean, we’ll just kind of talk through your, your study journey. I mean, basically like, you know, go deeper into what you mentioned in your email essentially.

Marisa: Yeah. Just like, I don’t [00:04:00] remember how in depth I went in my email, but, um, I started studying a long time ago, like 2015 and.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: It’s like you fall into that like rabbit hole of, you know, you buy two exams and then it’s just a constant, you don’t anticipate failing ever, right? And uh, It was like really bad for a while for me, and then I, Becker expired. So, it was like before Becker was unlimited. That’s how long ago it was like I got it.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: And then I, right before my thing expired, I repurchased all the new books cuz the whole exam changed. It went from three hours for REG and BEC, and then it changed four hours. So I like had to learn a whole new exam and.

Nate: That’s right.

Marisa: Rebought the books like the day before my software expired. So all I had to study for a year was just books.

How Marisa Found SuperfastCPA and Passed Sections

Marisa: And then I got [00:05:00] Superfast and like, I don’t even remember how. I was like googling YouTube videos for, like videos to watch on my drives. And I’m like.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: They’re like, I’m watching a video that’s like someone drawing on a blackboard. And I’m like trying to like, I’m like, this isn’t good and.

Nate: Right.

Marisa: And then I just found you guys, and then I bought it, all four of them.

Marisa: And I was like, all right, this is the way to go. And then I passed two really quick, so I pass BEC and audit. It actually took me like four times.

Nate: Okay.

Marisa: Ed three under Superfast to pass BEC.. And then once I did that, I passed audit like a month later because I just know audit, I do auditing. Um.

Nate: Okay.

Marisa: And then, It took me like a whole year to pass Reg and then I passed it with the 75, which was crazy.

Nate: Yeah, perfect score.

Marisa: Yeah. But I, we got acquired by Baker Tilly and um, they ended up [00:06:00] rebuying my Becker, so, and they got it like at a discount just because I had it before. But, um, I used like the simulations through Becker, but that was it.

Marisa: Like I never touched a single, um, lecture there. And then I took FAR and it actually seemed easier for me because I had taken the rest. And I know the standard is, you know, you take FAR first, right? But I did not do that. And then I failed it with like a 73, and then I lost my BEC score. And then I got to the point, like a really, really bad low, and I was like, all right.

Passing BEC and Audit Back to Back

Marisa: Because I passed audits so quick after BEC I was like, I’m gonna lose audit in a month.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: So I, uh, like buckled down between like October and November of last year and I was like, I need to just get ’em all done. And then [00:07:00] I passed BEC and FAR again with the two highest quarters I’ve ever gotten at any of them, and I.

Nate: That’s awesome.

Nate: BEC and FAR right back to back then that that’s what got you finished?

Marisa: Yep. So I like retook, it’s crazy cuz the first time I took FAR was like 73 and then I took it again like 64 and I was like, whoa, something went wrong. And then I took it two weeks after and I got 85. So it was just like one of those things like you fill out a simulation and then you start and it just like trickles down and like I kind of knew exactly where one of them went wrong and then.

Marisa: BEC I just, it was a one and done after I took it again. And it was crazy because I was like, this one took me three times to pass it, right? And I’m like, just one like session of just going back through all my notes from Superfast and I was like, oh, I can do this again. And I realized I retained so much more than I thought.

Marisa: I was [00:08:00] really worried taking it again. And then I’m like, wait, I got an 85. It’s crazy.

Nate: Yeah. That’s awesome.

Marisa Describes How She Studied Before SuperfastCPA

Nate: Um, okay, so, so let’s go back to, uh, when you first started, what would your studying be like? I mean, I’m guessing you just would go into Becker, start a lesson, watch the lecture. Read the chapter. Is, I mean, is that you just kind of went through everything Becker had?

Marisa: Yep. And then, yeah, exactly. And then I would be like, okay, it would say like, normally it would take you like a week to get through a chapter and it would take me a month. And I’m like, okay, great. Like now, like already so far behind. And I felt like it was like you read the whole chapter and you took the notes and then you answered multiple choice questions and you get every single one wrong and you’re like, okay, now this doesn’t make any sense, but I dunno.

Nate: Right. Yeah, that’s a very common experience. Um, you [00:09:00] know, the video lecture, if it’s 20 or 30 minutes, you zone out or you don’t understand it. So it’s like a 20 minute video lecture can turn into two hours just to watch it. And then, you know, chapter, same thing. Once you feel like you’ve read ’em or watched it and understand it, you can still go to the questions and realize you have no idea.

Nate: About how that was presented and how it translates into answering the questions.

Consistently Took the CPA Exams Despite Being Busy

Nate: So, um, so how, so how long were you working at that time and then you were just trying to study in addition to working?

Marisa: Yeah, so I worked at a small firm and I was like one of like five staff at the time, and like it was like that constant like, oh, prove yourself to be promoted and prove yourself.

Marisa: Prove, prove yourself. And I was so good at being a staff and I feel like a lot of people rely to me. And I was overworked for like the first [00:10:00] three years for sure, of my career. And like, I’m not a great test taker. So it was like the first year when they were like, oh, you know, use this time study. And then when it didn’t happen, it was like, All right.

Marisa: Well now you’re kind of like working on your career now, and it’s like there was an emphasis on the CPA, but it wasn’t like, it didn’t feel like any like, accomplishments for me, like for me to get work done. I’d be like, okay, I get things done out of the way. Like there’s nothing that’s like rewarding with the CPA at the moment.

Marisa: Um, yeah, and like I lost my chance to get a bonus, like the year.

Nate: Oh yeah.

Marisa: You’re like tired and then you’re like, okay, so there’s no like real incentive for me to do it right now, but I never stopped. Like there was a lot of people who like took exams and then stopped and then like took ’em again. Like I took the exam 20 times.

Marisa: Like I seriously took it a lot. Like I.

Nate: yeah, that’s okay. [00:11:00]

Marisa: Like I took it, took it, took it, took it, took it, took it, took it. And then I was like, okay, what is going on? Because you, you know, it’s, they trick you because like, and I hate to like be like, I hate asthma and they trick you, but they really do because they, the exam fee is cheaper if you buy two at a time.

Marisa: So like, you are in.

Nate: So did you just keep buying two at a time?

Marisa: Buy two? Yeah.

Nate: Yeah. Okay.

Marisa: And it expires after six months. So if you don’t take it, then you kind of like waste your time. But if you failed the one before, then you’re like, I have to keep moving forward.

Nate: Yeah. That, that is something that, uh, that’s, well, that goes to a bigger issue with these like, there’s just a lot of. Obviously there’s a lot of strategy in the study process that when someone’s just starting, they have no idea about. Um, but there’s also that with like how you buy your NTS’s and schedule your exams. And that is something that I hear a [00:12:00] lot that people that are new to it do, because I mean, they don’t really know how it’s gonna work once they start studying and try to take exams.

Nate: So they’re like, yeah, okay. It’s cheaper to buy two or even all four. And then like you said, You could barely fail the first one, but you feel like you’ve gotta just move on to a whole new section, which is you never really want, you don’t wanna do that. Like if you scored to 73, you’re two points away.

Nate: It’s much easier to finish that section than just throw it away and start on a new one. You know?

Marisa: That’s exactly.

Nate: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Marisa: Yep and it was back when too, it was the blackout windows, like you couldn’t test in certain months. And then it was also like, you couldn’t test, you couldn’t take the same test within the same window too, so you couldn’t take it right after again, which is like, crazy. So.

Nate: Yeah, that’s, that’s, I mean, I took them, I mean, way before you, like, nine years [00:13:00] ago at this point or something, but it was the same way. The two exams were an hour shorter than they are now and uh, yeah, there was windows. It wasn’t just the, you could test whenever, all through the year.

Marisa: Yeah. But when it changed, and when I got Superfast, I really changed, like my whole mentality. I changed the way of studying. It’s, it was crazy.

Nate: Yeah. So let, so, so let’s go into that.

How Studying Changed for Marisa After Finding SuperfastCPA

Nate: So, um, when you, you probably at some point for whether it was one of our ads or whatever, you probably ended up watching our free, like one hour webinar where we just kind of explained our main strategies.

Marisa: Yeah.

Nate: Um, do you remember the, I don’t know, the top one or two biggest changes in like your mindset? Of like how you viewed studying this, basically what you mentioned, like what were those specifically?

Marisa: Yep. The two was the waking up early and getting it done before work. [00:14:00] Um, and I still try to do that now, get up early and get some work done before work.

Nate: Mm-hmm.

Marisa: But, um, and the, the testlets, the five questions instead of like opening up social media or opening up, you know, my messages, I just open up the app and every single time I, like, I wrote like triangles on my notebook and I had like eight triangles and every time I did a, a testlet during the day, I’d fill in a triangle, you know.

Nate: Nice.

Marisa: So it’s like, I.

Nate: I like that.

Marisa: Keep track of like little things that I would do. And then every time I got done with the section, I made like a big flow chart. Like I got like big paper and I would try to like flow chart it.

Nate: Hmm. I’ve never heard that one. I’ve heard a lot of people’s, you know, like a very like specific strategy to them personally, but that’s a good, you you mean just like the huge like presentation paper things from Office Depot?

Marisa: Yep. It’s, it had like a old calendar that I like.

Nate: Gotcha. [00:15:00]

Marisa: Old month, so I flipped ’em over and yeah, it was like, especially for the audit exam, it helped because you’re looking like audit committee and then you branch it off and then you describe one and then you can kinda see like, it in big picture, I guess.

Nate: Yeah, yeah. Some, some version of, um, taking the concepts and getting to where, you know, like you can personally explain it or kind of put it in your own words. And that’s just, that’s one version of that. So you would just do that with individual like concepts or like you said, or probably how, I don’t know, different types of audit opinions based on findings or whatever.

Nate: Just mapping out. Yeah, I get what you mean exactly.

Marisa: So like I would have like a, a definition or like a key term next to like audit committee, whatever they do. And then I, if I would go through and answer like a testlet about, like something else about the audit committee and I’m like, oh. And then I would just like add that [00:16:00] word like under it in my flowchart so that like, I could see that, oh, there was another question about this.

Marisa: That was kind of a point there instead of just the definition.

Nate: Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Marisa Understood Topics Better Through SuperfastCPA Study Tools

Nate: Um, what about our, so you watched our free training and then did you get the, like the PRO course and the study tools? So you had our kind of video course on how to study. Do you remember going in and watching like a series of videos or did you just have the study tools?

Marisa: I just had the study tools. I don’t remember when I bought, I don’t know.

Nate: Actually, you know what if you bought it that, so was it around like 2017 or 2018?

Marisa: Yeah, probably.

Nate: Oh, okay. So we didn’t even have, okay, nevermind. We didn’t even have like the PRO course. Yeah.

Marisa: Yeah, but I bought all, I think for like

Marisa: 600.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. That sounds right.

Marisa: I was like, this is a steal. I’m getting it all, but I would like listen to your lectures, [00:17:00] especially with tax and the way that Becker does it. Like there was one section I was like, all right, I’ll listen to this lecture, and then I’m listening and I’m like, Becker makes, it sounds so much more confusing.

Marisa: And I’m like, did they do this purposely? I don’t get it because it’s like, if I didn’t listen to your lecture, I have no idea what they’re talking about. You know, like the only reason why I can kind of follow this is because I’ve like learned it a little bit, so.

Nate: Yeah. That’s funny. I mean, that’s a good, uh, um, like one question we get a lot is cuz what I, what I tell people is, okay, you get these study tools and you just start using ’em. Like read the notes all the way through, listen to the audios all the way through. And then, so the first question that people ask is, well, won’t I be going ahead of where I’m at in my review course? You know, and I’m like, yes. But the thing is, our stuff’s simple, like easy to understand. So you’ll just, you’re just getting a headstart, like big picture, understanding in [00:18:00] advance, and it will make your full lesson in Becker make more sense faster the first time, cuz you already have like an idea. Um, anyway, so that sounds like that’s kind of how it worked for you.

Marisa: Yep. I did. I mean, I don’t know what the problems are that you, I don’t know if you’ve had that, but the simulations in Becker, I feel like that helped me with just the simulation part. Just, you know, understanding the software and stuff like that. But yeah. Those were good. I only did simulations. I would just look at the whole problem because I don’t know, I liked the big picture, like if you’re looking at one thing, like what are the six answers that you can get from that?

Nate: Mm-hmm. So, yeah.

Passed Her First Two Sections with Textbooks and SuperfastCPA.

Nate: So, uh, the way you explained that earlier so, the year that you passed the three, I think, before the one dropped off, were you on you, that’s when you only had the Becker [00:19:00] textbooks, cuz your online access had expired.

Marisa: No, I didn’t pass any until I got Superfast, so.

Nate: That, that’s what I meant. So you had our stuff, but only the Becker textbooks?

Marisa: Right. Mm-hmm.

Nate: Oh, wow.

Marisa: Wired. Yeah. So I passed three.

Nate: So, but you passed three that way.

Marisa: No, just, just two before.

Nate: Oh, okay. Oh, that’s right.

Marisa: Yep.

Nate: And that’s tough. Your main, uh, material, just being like.

Marisa: Reading?

Nate: The textbook. Yeah.

Marisa: Yeah. And my, I mean, I had old notes that I used, but it was hard cuz it was, the exam changed, so.

Nate: Yeah. Um, okay.

How Marisa Studied Less with the Help of SuperfastCPA Study Tools

Nate: So, okay, so when you switched to, you watched our free training, you kind of adopt our strategies. So you study in the morning. Did that mean your study time was less? Because you know, we say like if you’re studying effectively, you only need to study like the two hours in the morning and [00:20:00] then do the, uh, like mini sessions with our study tools.

Nate: Is that kind of what you did?

Marisa: Yep. I don’t think I studied a lot. I don’t, and like, I think I still had a life and you know, I skip weddings that I probably didn’t care to go to, but I, uh, I don’t think I studied as much as other people. Mm-hmm.

Marisa: What helped was I would go on walks and Max, my boyfriend, he would read me questions. And like that was good because he would never read me a Becker question, you know, and then like, oh, this Superfast. And he’s in sales, so like especially the BEC exam, he was like all about it, the economics. But.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: You know.

Nate: That’s cool.

Marisa: Get through five questions for this walk around the block. Like yeah, that’s a good way to trick him to help me. But.

Nate: Yeah, so, okay, so, so you used our study tools on the [00:21:00] app quite a bit. Then you would do five questions throughout the day. You’d go on walks and use ’em. Um, I think you mentioned you’d listen to the audios, you said that, right?

Marisa: Mm-hmm.

Nate: Yeah, just when you were driving and stuff.

Marisa: Yep. And then I would print out your notes and I would write ’em up, like write my own notes on your notes.

Nate: Yeah. A lot of people say that. That’s a good, uh, a good strategy. So you had, so you had that like at your desk where you study, I’m guessing, and then throughout the day, you obviously have the app on the phone that you could use.

Marisa: Yeah. I didn’t, like, I think someone said that like, I don’t know, one podcast I listened to that they would like listen to the audio notes, like while they worked, I didn’t do any of that. Like I kept it pretty separate just because like, you know, I was like senior three last year, you know, like I actually just got promoted to manager now that I’m my CPA, but.

Nate: Congrats.

Nate: That’s awesome.

Marisa: Yeah, that’s a big push, but it’s [00:22:00] like a hard demanding job. So like I really had to like focus on work, but um, I, yeah, I kept it pretty separate. It’s almost like it was like that work-life balance thing where it’s like, you know, you’re working from home, the pandemic, and you have to like really log off.

Marisa: Like I was at that, but with like studying, I’m like, okay, I’m like really logging off to study or.

Nate: Gotcha. Yeah. I, I’m the same way if I’m really trying to work or like think, I can’t even listen to like, I can’t even have like classical music on in the background. It has to be silence. So, um, some, yeah, people have said that they like listen to the audios while they work and I mean, I guess there’s some stuff you could do if you’re copying and pasting something mindlessly, but.

Marisa: Yeah.

Nate: Um, yeah, that would’ve never worked for me. I would’ve had to just be, I could have done it when, uh, well, actually I would go to like the driving range a lot and hit golf balls while I listened to audio notes when I was [00:23:00] studying, stuff like that where you’re not really having to think otherwise, you just, yeah can listen.

Marisa Talks About How She Worked to Get Her CPA

Nate: I wanted to ask you about your first three years. So you said there wasn’t a ton of pressure to get your CPA, but it was also kind of, you know, they like expected you to get it eventually.

Marisa: Mm-hmm.

Nate: Um, so after a few years, was it like the type of thing where in one of your reviews or whatever, they were like, okay, are you working on this?

Nate: Are you gonna get this? Like, did it become a big deal after a few years?

Marisa: Yes. Yes.

Nate: Okay.

Marisa: It was always a topic of discussion in my reviews and yeah. And I do feel like just being understaffed and being a good staff, you know, they wanted to keep me, and then it got to the point where I was like, I don’t know what to do.

Marisa: And they’re like, we’ll do whatever it takes for you to pass. And then, [00:24:00] that’s when I was like, all right, so you’ll pay for everything.

Nate: Yeah. I was just gonna ask, was there anything on their side with that comment? Like, do whatever it takes, meaning we’ll let you study one day a week, or, I don’t know, something?

Marisa: I feel like because of the time and like my work ethic and people wanted me, needed me, like I haven’t left the firm and that’s crazy. I feel like in public accounting, but um, they really like, said, you know, we’ll do what it takes. And then I was in this meeting for like breaking the mold. So like before that, like before we got acquired, it was hard because it was like I didn’t have time for anything.

Marisa: Like I was always working and then I worked in non-profits over the summer. So like my busy season never ended.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: It was like very tough. Like I was always working and I’m like, am I working? Am I studying? I’m always doing both.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: And like there was a huge weight on my shoulder and like I, my boyfriend wasn’t allowed to [00:25:00] propose until I passed.

Marisa Got Lucky That Work Gave Her So Much Time to Study

Marisa: Like it was a bunch of stuff like that and, then when we got acquired, I was like, okay, there’s all these resources now that like they’re kind of giving to us. Um, and there was like a breaking the mold meeting that we had and I started like talking to this guy about how like, you know, my old firm didn’t charge hours and all this stuff, and he was like, oh, you know, you seem my great, and then he messaged me separately and I told him about the CPA and how, like it’s been a really hard time for me to study and be able to like do this. And he’s like, oh, you remind me of someone. I have this thing for you and sent me this like flyer for like a fellowship, like a professional practice fellowship.

Marisa: It’s for managers only. And I’m like talking to this guy like very casually and I should have Googled him and like been like, who is this guy? He’s like head of PPG, like top tier.

Nate: Oh really?

Marisa: Like firm person. And [00:26:00] like I like didn’t think anything of it. And then a month later I messaged him back being like, hey, like, this fellowship? Like is this still going on? He still looking for people and he was like, oh, like we’re actually found. No, he is like, we’re gonna finalize the list today. Like it’s always next year. And I was like, that makes sense. I’m still senior, you know, spur managers. And like a week later I got an email from him being like, oh, I just wanted to congratulate you.

Marisa: Like you’re selected of one of three people. The whole firm to do this like fellowship. And I was like, all right, cool. So it’s took away all my client interaction for the whole like six months of the summer from like May to November. I went fully prac, like professional practice. I like looked up new standards, like updated templates, did more like training stuff like different projects, less client facing.

Marisa: And for busy season, I’m back onto [00:27:00] the, uh, like audits 75% of my time. And then for next May through November, I go back to PPG and like the next fellows come in for their 18 months.

Nate: Okay.

Marisa: That’s so cool. It, they gave me so much time to study. They were like, just take the day to study today. And I was like, all right.

Marisa: And that’s how I think I got tax done. Work like really helped me out. But it was like they wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t like in this position where I’m like, I can’t do another year as a senior. I gotta be manager.

Marisa: Yeah. So it was like a really big push for me and the firm recognized my talent so I felt valued.

Nate: I mean, that’s, that’s really good cuz it, yeah, a lot of times doesn’t work like that. Um, at our firm, it’s funny you say that because there were a few, there were a few women we worked with that, or like one that I got hired with in a year [00:28:00] in, she was clearly like the best audit, like staff, like she was, as far as the job went, she was better than the rest of us, like hands down.

Nate: But she like really, really struggled with the CPA exams. So it was like one of those things. And uh, anyways, but yeah, and that’s the thing is like, I think in most firms it’s, you know, they send out an email once in a while or they ask you in a review like, You know, how’s it going? Or they might even send like a passive aggressive email.

Nate: It doesn’t like name anyone. But you know, like you guys that are still working on these, you really gotta find a way to get these finished. But the other side is there’s usually no resources provided. It’s like, obviously get all this work done. We’re assigning you and figure this CPA thing out on your own time.

Nate: So that’s awesome. Your company helped you out like that.

Marisa: Yeah, [00:29:00] for sure. I know. I’m like, it would’ve been nice to get promoted without it, but like overall, I’m grateful that I took the time and sacrificed what I did to, to get it, so.

Nate: Yeah. So, okay, so after that, cuz you know, um, sometimes there’s like someone I interview that they, uh, Before they even fully started studying, they saw our videos or whatever and had our course and they just passed the exams in like five or six months.

Nate: And like in their mind, obviously it was, you know, had to work on it every day. But it wasn’t this huge like life event thing that took years, you know?

The Sense of Relief of Finally Passing the CPA Exams

Nate: So with what you went through, how does it feel to be done?

Marisa: It’s crazy. It’s really crazy. Like when we, when I found out, like, I didn’t even know it was crazy. But it’s like, it took so long for me and it [00:30:00] was like, like my boyfriend and I, we just, it was bad for a while and he wasn’t allowed to propose.

Marisa: So when we found out, he was like, I gotta call my mom. And I’m like, I’m still not engaged yet but he, uh, it was like every single weekend I was like, oh, can you do anything? You know, I’m doing this, doing that. And when everyone tells me now too, they’re like, oh, your like persona’s so different. And I’m like, it’s a huge weight off my shoulder.

Marisa: Like it’s crazy. And like I, when I put it on LinkedIn, it got like the most likes out of like anything ever. Because a lot of people know like how long it’s been for me and like, I don’t feel like I sacrificed my whole life, seven years to it. Like I don’t think that I did that, but I feel like it was always on my shoulders.

Marisa: Like it was always.

Nate: Exactly.

Marisa: Like, [00:31:00] should I be doing this or should I be studying? Like it had that always like constant, ugh. Like I hate this every time someone passed around me like it was so hard to congratulate them. It was hard to like read the emails that someone passed. Like, I almost like avoided it at all costs. But like now I’m just like, and even my mom too, she’s like, Marisa, like, don’t be afraid to like post it now that you are passed. Like, you have to like celebrate your accomplishment. And I’m like, yeah. Like I get that and like, I do want to be like that. But like, I also know like, like, I want to do a post that’s like, go at your own pace. Don’t ever compare yourself, you know.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: But not like so braggy, I guess. I dunno.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. Um, the, that’s the thing is, uh, that’s, I mean, that’s exactly it. It’s, uh, Even if, you know, you’ve kind of taken [00:32:00] breaks and you’re like, okay, I’m just, I’m gonna forget about this for a couple months cuz this is stressing me out so bad.

Nate: Like you said, you still, it’s just always weighing on you until it’s like done because, and uh, like you said, you can even go and do like fun things or like go on a trip or something. But if it’s like not done, you’re just kind of thinking about it all the time. Yeah. And it’s just bugging you. Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.

Marisa: Yep. But it was good to have Superfast because like I’d be at a ski trip and I’d be like sitting in a room of people that like, you know, I like, but like I’m not really like friends with and I’m there cuz it’s my boyfriend’s friends and I’m on my phone and I’m just, running through exam questions, you know?

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: And then lot people are like, oh, like you’re on your phone, but I’m like studying, so I felt like I wasn’t like sitting there studying.

Nate: Right. Yep. Yeah. The, the studying from your phone is a, uh, just most people, I [00:33:00] think before they actually try it a lot, they discount that idea. Like, you know, the CPA material is complicated.

Nate: It’s hard to understand in general, so, How much can you really get done in like three minutes at a time on your phone? But I did that relentlessly. I mean, when I found out I failed my first exam, I was, I had already started my first public accounting job and had felt like I had no time. So I was like, okay, I can do two hours in the morning.

Nate: And then I have this stupid phone that I look at constantly throughout the day. So I’m gonna figure out how to like, make this count. Anyways, that’s like how the whole thing, it’s just our study tools are exactly what I wish I would’ve had. Um, because it’s just so effective and it just makes sense. You can.

Marisa: Yeah.

Nate: You can be studying, chipping away at this just all the time, cuz you always have your phone no matter how busy you are otherwise.

Marisa: Yeah.

Nate: Yeah. So, well, I’m glad it helped. Um, [00:34:00] so let’s see. We kind of went through everything you mentioned, your notes process, um, and your kind of how your day went. You would just do the two hours in the morning, the mini sessions thing throughout the day. And so did that kind of give you, like you said, things were bad, you know, like relationship wise, cuz I’m just guessing cuz you would work and study constantly.

Marisa: Yep.

Studying in the Mornings Freed Up So Much Tme

Nate: But did it help with that more when you studied in the morning and didn’t have to do so much of it in the evening?

Marisa: Yes. Yep. Definitely.

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: Yeah. I feel like work in general is just always going on. Um, but I have no kids. I have no pets. Living alone with my boyfriend. Like, we lived in Somerville, so like, it’s like a very like hipster city, town, you know?

Marisa: So like, everything was walkable [00:35:00] distance. We actually just bought a house this year. But, um, like I feel like during the time in like, that I had. I had time to study and work and you know, like it was just me. But it was also hard because like people, like my mom and Max’s parents didn’t see that I was like studying and working all day.

Marisa: So like from like their perspective, they were like, oh, like are you still like studying? Like, oh, you’re studying again and again, again, again. And I’m like, yeah. What do you mean studying? Again? Like, I would like pass one exam and like my parents just like, or my, my mom just didn’t understand and I’d be like, oh, like I have an exam like next week.

Marisa: And she’s like, I thought you were done with that shit. And I was like, I didn’t, but.

Nate: That is funny.

Marisa: But yeah, so like, it was hard because like other people couldn’t see it, but Max knew how [00:36:00] hard I worked and he was like really good with it. And I do think that switching to Superfast and even like, not that I don’t wanna like make your branding crazy good or like give you an ego, but I do think that like just the word Superfast and like the mentality and like the psychology behind it, like helped Max like, be like, all right, let’s get this done super fast. Mm-hmm. You know, like, and I’ll be like, like let’s get it done. So I feel like that helped too. But I’m lucky cuz Max is really understanding and I don’t even know. It’s crazy?

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: I’m like to study, but could be worse. I could have kids.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah.

Nate: No, I mean, you only know what you know, right. So, and like because you know, because your situation is the way it is. You probably were just taking on more work than someone who would [00:37:00] otherwise, you know, there’s just, yeah. Everyone’s situation is not anymore hard or easy than someone else’s. It’s just, these are hard for everyone across the board.

Nate: Um, so yeah. Well, we kind of went through everything that I can think of.

Top Tips for People Studying for the CPA Exams

Nate: So the last thing I always ask, what would be, uh, your, after your whole journey, what would be your top three tips to someone that. Well, I, I guess it’s the same thing. If you could like go back knowing what you know now and talk to yourself like your first year of studying, like what would you tell yourself top three things.

Marisa: Say to focus on one exam at a time, cuz that was a big switch when I just bought one at a time.

Marisa: And to go at your own pace and to not, I don’t know, compare yourself to others, I guess. [00:38:00]

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: Um, yeah, it was like, it’s hard because like you’re sitting there and you know, like everything that’s like what people tell you, right? Like, just get it done, study and do this and do that. And it’s like, for me, I’m like, I know what I have to do.

Marisa: Like I don’t need to like, listen, or like, I don’t know, like do more of like, I know that like I need to get up, I need to do it. It’s just like getting actually into the routine and like I watched like a video on like actually like making something a habit and like that I think changed too because like it was almost like, like the rebel in me that was like, I don’t wanna study because like people keep telling me to study, you know?

Nate: Yeah.

Marisa: And I’m like, and that’s like, it got it really like, ate at me, you know? And then Superfast was like, wait, I can get this done like super fast, you know, without having to like sacrifice [00:39:00] so much.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. Um.

Marisa: I guess think of a more like advice, advice like.

Nate: Well, so when I, uh, I cannot remember what you said.

Nate: I mean, we’ll have this on the recording, but at this moment, I can’t remember what you said. So like, basically like you’re explaining when you’re trying to put time into this and you’re just, you’re kind of getting like vague tips from people, you know, like, yeah, just get it done or put in the time. It’s like, okay, well I just sit in front of my review course for, I mean, all day, and it still seems like I’m not like learning this.

Marisa’s Main Strategy Shift in Her Learning Process

Nate: So, tell me again what was like the main strategy shift, like as far as when you sat down to study what were like as far as the tactics of trying to learn the info that, um, like made the difference to where you just felt like, okay, I’m starting to get this.

Marisa: Yeah, I think it was the [00:40:00] full flow chart picture that I would draw.

Marisa: Because when I’m sitting there and I’m like, okay, I think of one subject or one topic, and I’m like, what are all the pieces to it? What are all the possible questions I can get on it? If one piece is removed from that question, then am I gonna get a different answer? And that’s when I felt like I was picking it up more because.

Marisa: Like you read a multiple choice and then you get an exact same multiple choice and they take out one word. And you’re like, okay. Like, and then they give you an answer of like what that answer is. But then you’re like, well what if you put that word back in there? What’s the answer now and what’s the response?

Marisa: So then I would like write that down and then when I would see it again, I would add to it. Um, and I feel like getting the full picture and even doing like, The flow [00:41:00] chart and figuring out like how things are related to each other. And each, uh, section helped with like the simulations. Like that was one of the things that I felt like helped solidify that too for me.

Marisa: Cuz I would do one simulation and there would be various different parts to it. And then I would just write down the whole simulation in like a flow chart and connect it to my notes. And that was like, you know, a really big connecting factor for me.

Nate: Um, yeah. Okay. So basically what you’re, what you’re saying, cuz one thing, again, you didn’t have these back then, but like our PRO course videos that kind of just go deeper into each part of the study process.

Nate: One thing I say in those a lot is, uh, you have to kind to like deeply understand these topics to where you have like this functional, uh, control or a functional use of it in your mind for test day. It [00:42:00] has to come through like layers. So the first time you kind of look through a lesson or a topic, You get a certain amount of it, but you just, you are not gonna understand it end to end the first time and then the next time you come across a question, it adds like a little bit to that understanding.

Nate: And so it sounds like your flowchart pictures was that same idea, like a literal representation of that. You would have one piece when you saw simulation and it added something else. You’d go back to that certain thing and write it down and it was like just kind of this growing, uh, um, you know what I mean?

Nate: Right. That’s basically how it worked.

Marisa: Yep. So when I would look at one thing, I’d be like, okay, what were all the questions that I remember that were important or that I needed to go over for that definition or that area?

Nate: Yeah, that’s, yeah, that’s a good idea. Um, let’s see. Well, yeah, we’ve gone through everything.

Nate: I guess one other thing I ask is what was specifically the most [00:43:00] helpful part about SuperfastCPA specifically. And it sounds like for you, I mean, correct, correct me if I’m wrong, but from what you’re describing, it sounds like it was just having the study tools that were kind of simplified that just kind of always let you have a, I don’t know, kind of.

Nate: Gave you a foundation for each topic to build on that you could use whenever throughout the day. Is that basically it?

Marisa: Yep. Yeah, I feel like all three of the materials I used pretty consistently. Um, the testlets were great and, uh, the audio notes, I listened to them on 1.5 speed and I felt like, you know, if I can get through these 20 minutes drives here and there.

Marisa: And it was great and I really was able to connect the dots I feel like, between them. Um, but yeah, there were parts where like I would be reading the [00:44:00] lecture and then I would have the lectures in front of me and then I’d get a multiple choice and I’d be like, wait, this isn’t in here. And then I just added in where I felt best fit.

Marisa: But yeah. Um, I feel like that practice though, was helpful for me just to be able to understand terms and terminologies. And I feel like working in practice I had a little bit of an advantage just because I knew certain things. Like I knew language differences between like nonprofits and stuff like that, and that’s just like stuff that I’ve memorized.

Nate: Mm-hmm.

Marisa: Um, but being able to apply multiple choice questions cuz multiple choice are the hardest for me. I dunno why I can answer a BEC prompt essay question. Write everything that’s included in it. Explain what it is, why it’s important, what it’s used for, right? But I can’t answer multiple choice on the same question.

Marisa: And it’s just because like the trigger words are like the [00:45:00] small little changes that they make and that’s like the things that I would note and try to keep track of.

Nate: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s true. There’s just, there’s a lot of things about it. There’s like, again, that’s why just using questions so much is so important because not only do you have to know the material, the question context that you’ll see it in is different.

Nate: And then there’s just all the like nuances of like test taking, right? Like you have to get familiar with those anyways, yeah, there’s just a lot that goes into it.

Marisa: Like my COSO and my own ERM components, I’d put them side by side and I’d be like, these two are the same, but one word is different. These two are the same, but this has the end controls at the end.

Nate: Mm-hmm.

Marisa: These two are totally different. These two are both monitoring the same, you know, and I would like lay ’em side by side and draw arrows knowing that, like, which ones are the same and different between the two, you know? Cause I’d be like, what’s gonna stand out? Oh, the one that I circled, cuz it’s strategy and it’s [00:46:00] only on rm.

Nate: Yeah, man. Well, um, yeah, I mean, I, I loved getting your email. I’m glad you sent me that. I wouldn’t have known, you know, I wouldn’t have known your whole story otherwise. So I appreciate you, uh, sending that and then, you know, doing the call and I’m glad everything helped that you feel like it helped and that you’re, that you’re done.

Nate: It sounds like kind of a nightmare journey, but congrats on being done.

Marisa: Yeah, no, I am grateful for this program. It really, really did push and pushed me to, you know, wanna get it done and kept me motivated. So I appreciate it.

Nate: Yeah, yeah. Happy to hear it.


Nate: So that was the interview with Marisa. I’m sure you found that very motivational and insightful and hopefully helpful from a strategic point of view as well.

Nate: If you did find it helpful, please take a second to share this [00:47:00] episode or the podcast in general with someone, you know, who’s also working on their CPA exams because these interviews really are the most helpful free resource available anywhere for someone trying to figure out their own CPA study process.

Nate: So thanks for watching or listening and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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