How Michael Overcame Overwhelm & Frustration to Pass His CPA Exams – Episode 15

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In this episode you’ll hear me talk with Michael, a SuperfastCPA customer and now-CPA, about overcoming being frustrated and overwhelmed in the beginning of his CPA study process, to making several key discoveries on his way to passing his CPA exams.


Michael: Well, it turned out to be 85, I like screamed and my wife came out of the bedroom and, “What happened? What happened? I was like, “Oh my God.” I almost smashed my glasses on the table, and hold my face. I’m like, so excited, and my roommate’s like “What, what happened?You guys OK? I turned around and said “I’m finally done… we passed…”

Nate: Welcome to Episode 15 of the CPA Exam Experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate. In today’s interview, you’ll hear me talk with Michael. Michael is a SuperfastCPA customer and now CPA. Like all the other interviews before this, I really like this interview. What I like about Michael’s story is he kind of felt like for him personally in the beginning, that he just wouldn’t be able to pass the exams once he started with the study process. He felt really overwhelmed with how much material there was and really struggled with coming up with a way, or an effective format of learning the material in an effective enough way to actually be able to pass the exams. And so he failed a few sections up front the first time, then at some point came across SuperfastCPA. And he is someone who, you know, a lot of our customers, they don’t even really watch the Study Hacks videos. They just use the tools for the on the go study, which they’re very effective for. That’s what they’re made for. And that’s enough. That gives them enough. That’s all they need. And then there there’s another section of our customers that just really struggle with the study process itself. And that’s kind of what our study strategies are for that you learn in those videos. And so, Michael, as someone, as I was talking with him, I could tell that he had spent a lot of time watching the videos because probably his biggest overall struggle in the beginning was just creating an effective daily process. And I think he’ll kind of say that in his own words. And that is what, that’s what our videos really helped him with, was crafting a daily process that finally worked. And once it clicked for him, he went from feeling overwhelmed and just kind of defeated in advance by the exams going from that to the opposite, where he felt confident, like he was in control. He just knew that passing was going to be a matter of time at that point. And he even describes kind of this idea I’ve talked about in the past where when you really get your study process grooved in and you just know that it’s working and you know exactly what to do each day when you sit down to study, just knowing exactly what you’re going to do, when you sit down to study… That just turns the study process from this awful thing that you dread, to something that you can almost look forward to, because you just know that day after day, as long as you do the daily process, now that you’ve got it figured out, you’re going to pass your exams. And that’s kind of the process that Michael talks through or describes. And you can just see the different light bulbs that came on for him as he kind of talks through the discoveries he made about what needed to change with his daily process. So, again, if you’re going through the study process yourself or you’re gearing up, you’re about to start the study process – anywhere in between. You’ll find this episode very valuable, very helpful in figuring out your own daily study process. Now, one other thing real quick. If you find this interview helpful or you’ve listened to a few of the past interviews, or maybe it’s one of our sample problem walkthrough videos on YouTube. If you found one of our free content things helpful, all we ask is that you recommend them to a friend that’s also working on their CPA exams. I personally think that these interviews with past SuperfastCPA customers, these are some of the most valuable things you can find online about the CPA study process, and they’re completely free. So recommend those to a friend that is working on their CPA exams because they will find them just as helpful as you have. We’ve also been doing these problem walk through videos on YouTube. Those are only on YouTube, so find our YouTube channel and subscribe to those so you know when those videos come out. And I just want to read one of the recent five star reviews we have on the podcast. So if you find these helpful, please take a second and leave a review on the podcast. So this is from Dare Lopes. They said if you’re starting out or still have test to pass in your CPA exam journey, listen to this podcast. More importantly, watch the hour long free video. Nates video is the best thing I did for my studying after spending so many extra hours studying and failing. This podcast outlines the same great study plans as in the video. I subsequently purchased his materials and the app functionality and AICPA standards line notes are great. So thank you for that review. However, you guys watching or listening to this, please take a second, find the podcast, leave a review, because we can see that we’re having thousands of listens to these, but there’s still only right around 15 reviews. So, please, if you’ve found this helpful, just take a second, find the podcast on the podcast app and leave a review.

Nate: And again, he refers to our strategies, the SuperfastCPA strategies, a bunch in this interview. And so if this is the first thing you’re watching from SuperfastCPA, the first thing you’ve come across. The best place for you to start is one of our free study trainings. That’s a one hour training. What we’re teaching you how to do is how to have the perfect two hour study session with your review course. It doesn’t matter what review course you have. It works, the strategies work with any review course. You just take the study materials you already have and you’ll just be using them a little bit differently. But it’s drastically more effective. And our claim with this is when you follow these strategies or this study framework, you can get more done in two hours than somebody studying four or five hours the normal way. Once you attend one of these free trainings and you see the process explained, it will make sense how that’s possible. So to register for one of these trainings, you can just go to the link below and the description, or if you’re listening to the podcast, you can just text the word PASSNOW, one word, to 44222. Or you can just go to our site, SuperfastCPA, it’s easy to find a link. So all that being said, let’s get into this interview.

Michael’s CPA Study Process in the Beginning

Nate: Let’s start at the top. When you started studying, how did that go? Did you just kind of get your review course and just kind of jump into it? Or how did you study in the beginning?

Michael: Yeah, I guess it was in 2017 after I got married. Things start to get settled down a little bit. I say, hey, after seven years out of college, I really want to get the CPA done. At least give it a try. So in the beginning I tried the um, Gleim, the program. I actually purchased a while ago before I, like, decided to really do it. So, yeah, that’s how I started. I only used Gleim for, um, FAR.

Nate: I mean, like, how did that go? Did you when you when you started studying, what was your study process each day? And did you feel like it was working or did you feel stuck a lot or what was it like in the beginning?

Michael: Yeah, totally just very random. I feel like still waking up like 7:00 a.m., I go to work when I come back home. It was six, seven after dinner, everything.

Michael: I’d go to Gleim, do a couple of questions and watch the lectures, and time just passed by so fast. Two hours, and then time to sleep and repeat, Monday to Friday. Yeah, and I’m like, I don’t think… Because Gleim has this deadline, And also you can not move on to next unit until you pass to like 75 or 70% of correctness, I just had so much hard time. I keep falling behind, to reach every 75 percentage, and then that’s just become so frustrating. I schedule the FAr first test in December. It’s actually for five weeks I started and I was still in like the first half of the whole course.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael: I had to, had to push it into March next year. And then finally I couldn’t push later anymore. I’d just have to take it. But I’m just keep falling behind. And then the weekend before the test, I still have the whole government sections still, like, blank. I didn’t even touch the questions, just systematically, so I just looked through all their textbooks real quick, watched a couple of examples, and then just go to the exam. And then really like, I think I got like 52, that was… actually I didn’t feel I did too good or too bad. It just kind of weird. Actually it gave me a little bit confidence because hey, you know, you’re so lost in the review process and you’re out of college for seven years and you got a 52. So, and the other thing I, I feel like I didn’t master the hardest question yet at that point, and I still got 52.

Nate: So you failed FAR, and then and then what happened after that?

After Failing FAR the First Time

Michael: Yeah. So I failed FAR the first time, I think I run into SuperfastCPA… I think I read your story online. I forgot exactly where though.

Nate: Probably. Probably a YouTube ad.

Michael: Yeah, probably Youtube I think so, yeah. And the story really like caught my eyes because I think back then I was really goal driven. I really want to get it done, get it passed. Especially… I feel really overwhelmed. Back during college, some of my classmates, they took the test and it’s still like, they are so smart. I feel like this is only for people who are really smart. They get things at first time and them… only them, they can pass.

Finding SuperfastCPA

Michael: I definitely, I’m not those kind, and I read your story – you say you, you took one, I think it was FAR and failed by two points and then you passed the rest in 3 months… I said hey, I definitely want to check it out. So I think I watched your video, it really make a lot of sense to me. I still remember after I watched the first training for 30 minutes, I took a lot of notes. Just you told us briefly, how your – what was your theory. And I told my wife, I said, hey, I’m pretty sure I can pass these tests. Because if I can have a blueprint or a blueprint or something, people show me what they done and they did it, I’m pretty good at following and I won’t give up. I feel like, hey, this is really making sense to me. I really want to follow this guy’s theory, and that’s how I get into SuperfastCPA.

Nate: So then, how did you, kind of apply the strategies, like how did you, how did how did your studying change after that? Like, what did you do?

Michael: Yeah. So the first, at first I watched, at first I watched all these supplementary video, as you suggested, before I jump into anything. And then the first action I did was to wake up early. So I started instantly try to wake up at five. At beginning I made some mistake like here and there in terms of how to use the software. The main course software, and SuperfastCPA. But the one thing I did was I consistent – consistently wake up at five a.m. that gave me a lot of time and energy, just 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. nobody bothered me. That’s just beautiful. Like, helped me so much.

Nate: Yep.

Doing Mini-Sessions with the SuperfastCPA App

Michael: And the other thing is since I live in New York, I take the subway every day. That’s easily like an hour each way. So sometime I listen to your audio – I put it to 1.5x speed or 2x speed. When I, every day do that, and during my breaks, walk to the bathroom, walk to – walk outside a little bit, just hold my phone, read one page of your notes or do five questions. I remember everywhere I go, I do that, reading in line, do five questions and read some notes like all the time. Constantly. Yeah.

Nate: That’s it. That’s… yeah. And you, I mean I feel like that helped to just kind of keeps it on top of your mind and you just… eventually start realizing, ok, I’m understanding this stuff?
Michael: Yeah. And one thing especially after I failed FAR the first time… One thing you point out is that you want to master the topics like generally, you do not want to focus on just one thing, like the hard thing. For example, the earnings per share, or diluted earnings per share.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael: Because you never know, maybe you don’t get tested on that. Or, one or two questions. And then you forget the most basic conceptual questions.

Nate: Yes.

Nate: So that give me the idea that, I want to read the notes or the audio, listened to it over and over, because your notes is very like tight, which is very like… how do you say, like make me feel like if you read over and over and over, give you a lot of confidence. It’s like a frame… You have a big picture in your mind and beginning and then you feel like this is something you can do it rather than you look at a textbook like 300 pages. You feel like this is so overwhelming. I can never totally understand and memorize 300 pages.

Nate: Right.

Michael: Of charts and examples. So for me, if you gave me this frame, I feel very confidence. I know this is the big frame. I just need to admit, or like, you know, keep practice into each part. That gave me lot of confidence, that sort of thing is mentally and then, over and over and over, you started getting it, especially as you, your theory is to do the questions like every day in the morning.

Nate: Yep.

Michael: And you will know which part you don’t understand. And then once a while, you read the notes. Oh, that’s why I got that wrong. That’s why I did understand. Now, I do. So it is really helpful.

Nate: Nice. So then what happened you… did you retake FAR, was that your first one that you? Or where do you go from there?

Passing REG and Then FAR

Michael: So I think, I took the second time, I still didn’t, like, dive into the material from SuperfastCPA that deep yet, but I know the overall concept. I, I thought I knew, but I still didn’t though. I took the second time for FAR, I got a 72 I think. And then since I already register for REG, so I have to take the REG, and then I happened to pass REG in the first try which is 77.

Nate: Nice.

Michael: And then at the same I took the REG in July, and then I took FAR again in September. And then that time I got 81 or something, I think, for REG and FAR, the questions from Superfast like on the app, like every five questions, that helped me a lot. I think those two sections, I really used a lot of these, one is the audio from you, and then the questions. Yeah, and for the third one, I take, I took audit. Audit, it was kind of challenging. I thought you could be a one time pass, but actually I failed with a 71.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael: I was kind of frustrated. And I re- actually re-watched your training video about how you use the material. And then I find out, and you also mention that to read the notes more than listening to the audio or something like that. But um, maybe not, but some somehow it just clicked to me. And I started reading the notes a lot. Like for audit, I just keep reading the notes over and over and over. The second time I took audit, I got like seventy nine. So I passed that.

Nate: Nice.

Michael: For BEC, the same way. The most important, as you mentioned before, in the last weekend before the test, I always took test on Monday, as you suggested – Monday morning. Take a half day off and do that.

Nate: That helps a lot.

Michael: So yeah, I remember the audit the second try, the Saturday or Sunday, I will spend two hour in the morning, at home, 5 to 10, and eat breakfast and go to a Starbucks near me, carry my laptop here. Just keep generating, I think was how many questions. It was 50 questions at one time or twenty…

Nate: I mean, I normally say 30, but…

Michael: 30, yeah, 30 yeah, it’s been a while. All right. I just keep doing 30 questions over and over, until I just couldn’t do it no more. Yeah, really. From 11am to like 4pm, I said, this is it, I cannot do no more.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael’s Final Review Strategy

Michael: Repeat on Sunday and then Monday morning on the train, I would look at the notes, the flash cards I generate myself. As you said, whichever you don’t understand, make flash cards. I read that and do a couple rounds of questions on the app before I just go into the test center. But yeah, there’s so many things I did. I followed your tips. I just trying to remember them all.

Nate: Yeah. No, that’s awesome, and I mean, it’s good to hear because I just I think it’s just kind of a formula of, you know, getting up early… What that kind of does is as long as you do it each day. It just kind of guarantees that you’re consistent with your main study session. And then for me, studying from my phone throughout the day, that was just the only way that I had to fit in another whatever it was, one, two, three hours, you know, listening to audios when I could, doing questions on my phone. And I had review notes from somebody else and they were like a word document. And I had to download this other app just to try and look at it. So anyways, that was honestly why that’s kind of how I came up with these tools for SuperfastCPA was like, I need, I want mini quizzes that are five questions at a time. Review notes that just work right in the app. And then audios obviously… And it’s kind of all those things put together. Yeah. Each part is just as important as the other part. And then like you said, writing the flashcards for, that is how you really start to understand the things that you personally struggle with.

Michael: Right. Right. I think there’s not really. I also tried like the flashcards from Becker in the beginning like for FAR. So I purchased their flash card. But the thing is that since it’s not yours, it like covers everything.

Nate: Yep.

Michael: Especially that one hour before you step in the test center, you have like 200 flashcard from Becker, it’s kind of hard to, like, grab anything. It kind of only makes you nervous because you have 200, and you only watched 10. What are you… it has nothing on these ten, but rather you make your own flash cards, and you can even favorite whichever one you, you want to review later. So that’s, that’s really great. And easy accessibility to the phone for SuperfastCPA, I think is so crucial. I tried so many things. I tried like another seventy one, but I just feel it’s kind of.

Michael: I mean, SuperfastCPA is way more easier to access,

Nate: Right.

Michael: And make you wanted to actually do it.

Nate: Yep.

Michael: Yeah.

Nate: And that’s something that we don’t talk about because it’s not, you know, talking about usability is like something the person’s not like interested in, but, even if there’s like studies on this for when you’re designing an app. If, if it takes like more than five seconds or 10 seconds to get into whatever it is the app supposed to do, people will not use it, you know, because it just takes too much time. So that’s yeah. That’s why we made it so it’s like it opens, you press what you want to do: review notes, audios, or take a quiz. Anyways, I… yeah. Appreciate you bringing that up. So let’s. So one thing I’ve been asking people is what do you think was kind of the big, just the thing that kind of changed things for you when you really started to make progress versus when you were struggling in the beginning?

Michael’s Biggest Turning Points

Michael: I would say the uh, small, well, first of all, the most important is, for me, is to wake up early, to follow your lead, to say, like, wake up early, you secure your daily session, and then the feeling that 7am, you walk out the door, if you’re like, the main sessions behind you, you feel very good. Otherwise, you worry the whole day, hey – there’s a meeting or there’s a deadline to do overnight – overtime tonight. So maybe I cannot study for the CPA, so you just have to get it done the first thing and you feel so good. It’s like going to gym or something in the morning. It’s done. And then the rest of the day, you just, five minutes here, five minutes there. And actually it’s fun and it builds momentum.

Nate: Exactly.

Michael: Yeah. And then make me feel kind of looking forward to the next day rather than, oh my God, I have to study again tomorrow. You, kind of for me, looking forward to the other day. Yeah. So that’s really big thing. It’s the phone, I think, because the phone is always with you. And you can always do some questions, read notes. Yeah. All the time.

Nate: Yeah, man, you’re like you’re saying all my ideas. That’s exactly. Yeah. And it’s… That’s awesome. Glad to hear that.

Michael: And another thing I think is the mentality wise. You mentioned one time before you study, you are studying for the exam. Your goal is to pass the test. Your goal is not to, like, become a college professor. I forgot which…Yeah, which section, I think it was audit, because audit, after I failed the first time, I feel like, oh, this is like no good. I feel so frustrated and everything. Because maybe I tried to really, like, become a college professor, that way of studing, I need to understand this, I can teach the class of this part. But hey, all you need for me back then was do 30 questions at one time over and over for review, for the second time. And that’s made me pass on audit the second time.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, to make a mental decision like you are study to pass and, at least I did at this moment. You will learn everything, but like through your career.

Nate: Yes.

Michael: No like you pass the test. Hey, I can do everything now. I’m an expert at everything, it’s not like that.

Nate: Exactly. Yeah, and that’s such a, that is such a big mindset, mindset shift for people. But it is, it’s like you can get good at answering questions. And the way that you see questions is just like contextually or conceptually different than if you were trying to explain an entire topic. And that’s not you know, you go in on test day. You don’t give a lecture on it. You have to just answer the questions you’re going to see. And so the way you prepare for that, those are two different things.

Michael: Right. Right. Yeah, that’s a big point for me.

Nate: Yeah. I mean, you’re a… yeah you’re basically just rehashing all the ideas I’m always saying in these emails. So that’s that’s good to hear. So what was it like the day you got your 4th passing score? Do you remember that?

Michael: Oh, yeah, I remember. I think I was eating dinner, every time I did some names online. Like when you check the score, you’re kind of excited but you are scared. That was totally me because I was, if I fail that BEC, I’m afraid because I passed the FAR and REG in the same quarter, I’m so afraid I’m going to lose those big ones at one time. But, it turned out to be 85. I like screamed and my wife came out of the bedroom and like “what happened, what happened?” I’m like, “oh my God.” Like I almost smashed my glasses on the table and hold my face. I’m like so excited. My roommate’s like what, what, what happened? You guys ok? And I turned around and I said, “I’m finally done, this is, like, we passed.” Yeah, I because I feel I, I thought I could fail BEC just because, I don’t know, really. Took the test, you’re unsure. Especially those writing, writing assignments. I mean essays. But hey, so I pass and I feel just happy, really happy, and I call my mom, tell her, then she’s really excited for me. Yeah. Because passing the test is one… the biggest part for me, but then I still have to work on the education hours, and then work on the work experience requirement.

Nate: Yeah.

Michael: But this is definitely the biggest achievement for a long, long, long time. Most important is I feel your methods or mentality not only apply for CPA, but apply for a lot of other. If I were to take let’s say, CMA or CFA, as I email you one time before, I’ll definitely use your same methods.

Michael: Yeah, because it’s just reconciled everything.

Nate: Nice. Yeah. That’s awesome, man, I, uh, I’m glad it could help, you know, in whatever way it did. And that is a, that’s like a top three moment for sure, is like was getting my fourth passing score because it was just so much time and energy going into it that… and it’s just such a relief to know that you’re, you’re done. And it’s that’s like the reason you did a Masters or whatever. You’re, all your graduate credits, whatever you did. There’s a lot of requirements just to be able to take these exams. And so. Yeah, yeah, passing them is… a big moment.

Michael: Yeah. And just want to have those three letters, three letters after your name. That’s that’s so cool.

Nate: It is. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And people and kind of in the accounting world, you know. You know what that means. Or like at… at any firm. There’s just all the staff are always talking about, it’s just different. The people that are CPAs, you know, and then you know, the ones that aren’t… It is, it’s just a big difference. All right, man. Well, we kind of went through everything. Do you have any other tips like test day tips or any last words for anyone else that’s still working on their exams?

Michael: Maybe I can say just based on my experience, CPA exam is really the whole process is very overwhelming. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, almost like at any point even you pass one parts, two parts, like for me I passed FAR and REG I feel like, oh, these two are the hardest. The other two is an easy pass. But audit gave me a hard time. So most, most importantly, I think, is your study methods. You have to stick into a, stick to one plan that works, and worked for other people, and to try the proven method. Rather than you try to figure things out yourself. One thing I regret is if I really dove into SuperfastCPA as early as from the very beginning. One thing I could, I would change is to like shorten the, like scheduled exam closer to each other.

Nate: Oh, yeah.

Michael: Yeah sometimes I schedule exam like three months out. And during the second months, I would feel like, oh, I still have to wait for one more month. I just want to take it like tomorrow.

Nate: Right, yeah.

Michael: This is so many things I wish I could change so that I could pass FAR faster. That could change a lot of things to follow your plan. So yeah, I think that’s the tip from my experience. Try to plan, read the, how to study, the plan from SuperfastCPA at the beginning, and then stick to that. And I think the whole process will become much more smoother and you will feel less overwhelmed. That’s how I felt.

Nate: Yeah. Well, thank you for saying that and everyone listening. Take his advice, because I get a lot of emails even from people that have purchased, you know, the course and everything. And they asked me a lot of things that are, that are in those videos. And so most customers get a welcome email that should say the first thing you should do is watch all the Study Hacks videos first, because that’s where I’ll, you know, the whole framework is like in those videos. So. Yeah. All right, Michael. Thank you for being on here. I think this will be really helpful to people that are still working on the exams and…

Michael: Yeah I’m glad, thank you.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was really it’s especially helpful because you basically, like I just said, a lot of people will email me stuff and I’m like, OK, that that’s in the videos. And so I just, it’s really good to hear somebody that. You really, watched everything. And I could tell you, like, internalized kind of what how I say to go through it and then it actually, you know, it really helped. So it’s yeah, it’s good to hear. And I’m, you know I’m glad it helped. That’s, that’s awesome that you got done.

Michael: Yeah. Yeah. Me too.

Nate: Ok man, I appreciate it. Thank you for doing this.

Nate: OK. So that was the interview with Michael. Like I said, like I’ve said on all these other interviews, if you have listened this far or you watch the whole thing on YouTube, I am guessing that you found that pretty helpful. There was a lot of good insights that he had going through the study process. And again, just the process of going from being – feeling stuck, overwhelmed, like it was too much like he couldn’t possibly pass these four exams to just making some small tweaks. You know, there was there was nothing absolutely revolutionary in there, but it was just making these small discoveries, these small tweaks that took him from, you know, that feeling stuck and overwhelmed, like it was impossible, to feeling confident and in control of his study process and then just knowing it was just a matter of executing the daily process. And he knew he was going to pass his exams. So, again, if you would like the specifics of the study strategies he keeps mentioning from us, the best place to go is one of those free one hour webinars.

Nate: You can get that at superfastcpa.com/passnow, or find the link below in the description or just text the word PASSNOW to 44222. Thank you for watching and listening and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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