In this follow-up interview, Mike shares the lessons he learned while passing his remaining three CPA exams. Mike was on the podcast in episode 96, even though that interview took place two years ago when he had just passed FAR. Mike shares a ton of great CPA exam study tips that will help you pass the CPA exams fast, so don’t miss this interview.
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- 00:00 Mike Paone 2nd Interview
- 02:36 Mike Talks About Updates Since the First Interview
- 03:43 Mike on Passing Audit And REG in Three Weeks
- 05:32 What Mike Used to Pass His Last Exams
- 06:33 Passing All Four Exams on the First Try
- 07:52 What Mike’s Daily Study Process Looked Like
- 09:25 Figure Out What’s Working and Stick to the Plan
- 10:07 How Mike Would Study Throughout the Day
- 11:24 Mike Talks About Work And Referring a Colleague to SuperfastCPA
- 12:10 Mike Recommends Starting the CPA as Early as Possible
- 13:39 Mike’s Review Process Right Before Exam Day
- 15:33 Tips for Handling Your Emotions During Test Day
- 17:18 How Mike Still Had Time to Play Video Games Each Day
- 19:00 The Importance of Mental Breaks When Studying Long Hours Everyday
- 20:56 How Mike Planned CPA Study Around Big Life Events
- 22:11 A Common Tip That Mike Would Give to His Colleagues
- 23:58 What Worked For Mike When Studying
- 26:24 How to Tell if Your Study Process Is Working
- 28:10 How Mike Used Excel to Take Notes on Difficult Topics
- 30:32 Writing Down Topics and Explanations In Flashcards
- 32:02 How Studying Became Easier Once Mike Figured Out the Study Process
- 33:24 How Mike Became a Senior in Two Years
- 35:24 Mike’s Excel Note-Taking Process in Detail
Mike: [00:00:00] But while I was studying though, I was playing video games, I was making time to play video games and to be honest with you, after FAR it went up to maybe like an hour plus a day.
I mean, I, I kind of had that confidence of I know what I’m doing right, I need to just kind of carry it forward, and if anything, with FAR I was, I was, I was totally over studying. So, I kind of toned it back a little bit.
Nate: Welcome to episode 99 of the CPA Exam Experience from SuperfastCPA. I’m Nate, and in today’s interview you’re gonna hear my follow up interview with Mike, who we published his first interview just two weeks ago.
That interview was actually from about two years ago when he had just finished one section, which I believe was FAR, and then he went through the other three section with pretty much no issues has had his CPA for over a year now. [00:01:00] Anyways, recently we did a follow up interview and talked about how the other three sections went for him, and then a few things about life after the CPA exams.
So in this episode, you’ll hear how Mike’s study process progressed after, again, that first interview after passing one section, and the things he learned in the way that his study process changed as he went through passing the other three exams. Before we get into the interview, I just wanna mention two things.
First, our free study training webinars. Every time we publish an episode, I get at least five emails from people asking how should I get started with SuperfastCPA? The free training is where you should start. That will give you an overview of our study strategies from start to finish, and a lot of the ideas will immediately make sense.
And you’ll be able to see how your study process can be much more effective by implementing the ideas from those free trainings. So the link to those trainings will be down in the description, or you can do that on our main homepage at [00:02:00] superfastcpa.com.
The second thing is our free podcast giveaway. Each month we give away three pairs of Power Beat Pro headphones to listeners who have simply entered their email into that giveaway. The idea being that with our audio notes, you can be listening to audio notes all throughout the day when you’re doing things at home, walking the dog, washing dishes, getting ready in the morning, things like that.
So for that as well, the link will be down in the description or the URL is superfastcpa.com/enter. So with that being said, let’s get into the interview with Mike.
Mike Talks About Updates Since the First Interview
Nate: So, yeah, this is the, uh, the first, uh, follow up interview I’ve done. But I, I like that idea, especially where the first one you had just finished FAR, right? Yeah.
Mike: I was, uh, I was maybe a few weeks out from passing FAR, uh, well, once I found out. And, uh, we haven’t really spoke since then. So this is approximately what, like a year and a half later, [00:03:00] maybe even two years.
Nate: I think, I think it’s two, like it’s a full two, two years. Yep.
Mike: Yeah. It’s crazy. It’s crazy. Since then, um, let’s see. Right after I took FAR, we, we were kind of going through Covid, so that’s when everyone was scheduling exams. They were getting pushed back by, by like two weeks, two to three weeks.
It was absolutely insane. It was madness trying to get a, uh, a, um, exam. Um, I finally got my audit exam scheduled and I was like, All right, great. I’m sitting down in like, you know, maybe it was like April 1st and then two weeks right before then, right before the exam of the world shuts down, and that, that was it.
There was just no shut. That was, uh.
Mike: Taking that exam.
Mike on Passing Audit And REG in Three Weeks
Mike: So then, you know, all, everything got pushed back and up until June I was like, You know what, let me, uh, let me just power through studying. I know I’m eventually gonna be sitting down for these tests. I opened up the audit book. I went through that.
I, uh, I used Becker [00:04:00] for that along with the Superfast, uh, CPA notes, you know, similar to what I did for FAR, I was kind of like supplementing, uh, what I didn’t understand with Becker and that, and what was too dense, uh, from Becker with the SuperfastCPA notes. And then I finished the audit, uh, textbook and the final review.
Um, couldn’t sit down for audit. So I was like, all right, let me just start REG. So I started REG and uh, sure enough, in June, uh, the, uh, the no, uh, the notice to sit and, you know, I usually use the notice, sit to, to book up the, uh, uh, appointment, uh, scheduled my, my appointment for the first week in June for audit, and then the last week in June for REG.
And I was like, oh, like what are the odds that I actually end up going through and sit, cuz they’ve been canceled five times before this. Sure enough, we , I actually sat, um, so I ended up passing audit and REG both within three weeks. But, uh, that was a doozy because, uh, the pressure was on for REG [00:05:00] because as you, I’m sure you’re familiar with, uh, they do updates to REG every, uh, every, every year or so.
So, by me taking it June 25th or whatever it was, the, uh, July 1st cutoff date. Yeah. Uh, they were making, doing that entire change. And, you know, that was a pretty crazy year for the, uh, for the new tax laws. So I’m very thankful that I, I squeezed my exam in right before the, uh, changes.
Nate: And then, so what, you had, uh, BEC left and you just.
Nate: Knocked that out.
What Mike Used to Pass His Last Exams
Mike: Once I found, Yeah. Once I found out I passed audit and, uh, and REG use that little, like, eyeball trick. I don’t know if you’ve heard that before. Yeah. Where like you’ve, Yeah. So if you’ve taken one exam in the previous quarter or the period, whatever, however it, uh, works, you can see, you can click the eyeball to see, you can see your, your past, uh, your past I guess like passing report, if you want to call it.
And they’ll actually tell you if you have credit for that part or not. For the part that you just sat for. [00:06:00] So I saw, I saw credit, credit for, you know, audit and, uh, REG I was like, all right, like, whatever I’m doing is, uh, is good. So, ended up taking, honestly, it took off like an entire month, the entire month of July.
I was like, all right. Like, I just, I just went crazy in June. Uh, so I basically took off an entire month and, uh, and then I then picked up the books for BEC in August. Sat for it in the middle of August, maybe studied for about five weeks, maybe six weeks. Found out I passed that in October and I started to work, uh, in like the middle of October.
Passing All Four Exams on the First Try
Nate: Nice. So you went, uh, you went four for four, right?
Mike: I did, yeah. I, I, I did. Um, And then with, I think the biggest accomplishment is passing audit and REG within like three weeks.
Nate: I know that’s. Yeah. Um, people ask me that a lot. If I, if they should just like try that, like should I just take two and see what happens?
And you know, normally I’m like, no, no, you don’t. [00:07:00] Not to just see what happens. Don’t try to study for two. Yeah, no, no. But some situations happen.
Mike: I’ve had some reasons.
Mike: Yeah, I had some reasons.
Nate: Uh, so your, so it was just relatively, once you kind of had your study process down, it just was, I mean, it’s not, wasn’t easy, but you didn’t really have any big struggles.
Mike: It was a big cookie cutter process. Yeah, exactly, exactly. So once you, once I passed that first exam, I was like, alright pressure’s off. Like I know that what I’m doing is the right process. I know it’s working. I just need to then, you know, make it a cookie cutter process for all the other parts. And it was a matter of simply just, you know, sticking to the plan and putting in the, uh, time.
Mike: You know, it, it all, it all ended up, uh, working so very, very happy with, uh, the, uh, results.
What Mike’s Daily Study Process Looked Like
Nate: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Um, so you, I know you said this in the first interview, but just gimme a [00:08:00] brief overview of what was your daily study process like?
Would you do the main session in the morning or just, just go through that real quick.
Mike: Uh, so it’s, it’s been, it’s been a while. But when I had school, when I was doing the MBA program, I believe I would, uh, I would try to study the Becker program in the morning. I would try to, try to get through that main lecture and then I would use the CPA, uh, Superfast, the audio guide, which is weird as it is.
I, I use the audio guide in the car, driving to class, or I’ve already then kind of listened to the material twice. I would get home from school, try to then burn through any multiple choice questions, sims. And then if I had availability, I would then get through a second module and then I would kind of squeeze in homework, like wherever possible.
But it, you know, homework really wasn’t my main focus cause it was kind of like, alright, like, yeah, I could do homework in like half an hour. It’s not nothing crazy. But, uh, in terms of studying, and I knew that was gonna [00:09:00] be the, you know, the, the main focal point of what’s gonna be eating up my time during the uh, day. So, um, and then when I wasn’t in school, I was just, I was overstudying like a, um, a mad and I was kind of like, all right, I’m not in school. I can focus like fully on this right before work. I’m just gonna fully commit myself and whatever happens, happens. So I was studying crazy hours, like eight to 10 hours a day, like, like almost, almost every single day.
Figure Out What’s Working and Stick to the Plan
Mike: I mean, towards the end I kind of, you know, like tailed off and, you know, Saturday, Sunday I would, you know, maybe do half studying, maybe just do something light like a practice test or some multiple choice. Maybe even like make up some flashcards over like, you know, uh, problems that I was, I was really, that weren’t really like sticking and I, you know, maybe I, maybe I, I got a multiple choice question wrong a few times and, you know, make up a quick flashcard over that.
Um, you know, so the weekends I tried to keep somewhat light towards the end. Um, but you know, like I was saying before, once that, once it kind of like [00:10:00] figured out what was working, it was a matter of just, you know, sticking, sticking to it, I would make a schedule and just, you know, repeat every single day.
How Mike Would Study Throughout the Day
Nate: Yeah. Yeah. That’s basically, basically how it goes. Uh, and then what was your, uh, so you said you would use the audios and stuff, You just kind of throughout the day, if you weren’t in front of your review course, you just kind of do the mini session type idea, right?
Mike: Yeah. I mean, I, I use the Audi, the SuperfastCPA audio. audio guide as a supplement, and basically whenever exactly like you just mentioned, whenever I wasn’t sitting down actively, you know, doing a Becker module, I was then listening back to that audio file. So it sounds crazy, but it, it worked for me and I just continued to do it throughout my, uh, process.
So in the car, um, in the gym a few times, and I would like go out for a walk or even like, go running. Um, I, you definitely would’ve caught me in the pool floating, listening to, listening to the audio [00:11:00] files too, a couple of times. Not often, but a couple of times.
Nate: Yeah. That’s funny.
Mike: You know, I, I really did obsess over it, but, you know, at the end of the day, you know, I got the end, end, end result that I wanted, so.
Nate: Oh yeah.
Mike: Would not, would not change. The other thing, I’m definitely happy that, you know, my CPA studying is done, you know, while working cause working can get pretty, pretty crazy. So I’m definitely thankful that’s all, uh, wrapped up then. Yeah.
Mike Talks About Work And Referring a Colleague to SuperfastCPA
Nate: And so with your work, are you now, or did you, are you in public accounting?
Mike: Yep. I’m, I’m at a big four public accounting firm. I am, um, actually officially a senior starting friday.
Nate: Nice. That’s awesome.
Mike: Yep. Yep.
Mike: And time, time’s absolutely flied by. Thank you so much, appreciate it.
Mike: Appreciate it. Mm-hmm.
Nate: Um, and then how like, well, I know. We got back in touch cuz you referred, uh, I can’t remember her name.
Mike: Isabel a, uh, coworker. She was, uh, telling me how she was, you know, working through, [00:12:00] um, working through, you know, her CPA exams as she was working and, you know, I’m gonna have to leave it at that. I think you should reach out to her and listen to her story to see how she’s, uh, doing.
Mike Recommends Starting the CPA as Early as Possible
Nate: Yeah. Um, but how, how does it go when you, you know, as you see new, uh, new what do you call ’em? Staff or associates come in?
Yeah. Is it like 50/50 that some are done before they even start, or a lot of ’em are working on them, working on the exams as they start? What’s kind of the mix would you say?
Mike: I’ve seen a lot of interns, you know, start starting earlier, which is always good, and that’s something that, that I would preach.
You know, I started studying during my, my senior year basically, of college, my, my last year before I started to go of, uh, you know, work full time. And I, I would recommend that to every single person who’s thinking about the, the taking, sitting down for the CPA. Um, you know, the earlier you start, the better, um, it, you know, you can’t [00:13:00] do any harm.
E -even if you can’t sit for an exam yet, you know, maybe in like January of your senior year, just crack open a book, start study. You know, any little bit helps.
But, um, in terms of the associates though, just to kind of double back on that, I am seeing some associates come in with, you know, all four parts pass for the most part.
There are a handful that are, you know, actively sitting, sitting for them and, and working on them. And, you know, it, it is a long process and all you gotta say is as, as long as you’re actively studying and, and you’re, you know, giving it your all, then you know, you just gotta wish for the best. Cuz those, those exams are, uh, tough.
Mike: They’re tough.
Mike’s Review Process Right Before Exam Day
Nate: Uh, and what was your, going back, what was your test day experience with, with all the, um, MCQ practice? Did you kind of cruise through the MCQs and then you just had plenty of time to sit there and figure out the sims? Is that kind of how each one worked?
Mike: I, I would honestly leave an entire [00:14:00] week before my, uh, exam, my actual like sit, my sit date.
I would leave one entire week and I would just simply burn through practice tests, burn through every single mock exam. Um, and then whatever I got wrong, I would, you know, spend the hour to review, review the multiple choice questions. And, and, and the, uh, sims I feel like a lot of people kind of skip the sims.
They think, you know, like, oh, I don’t really need to practice sims or like, watch the sim videos with the guides. But they really, they really do help cuz there’s only a certain amount of ways they can present the the sims. So over time you’re gonna see the same, the same format with just different.
Different numbers, different and different scenarios. And then of course, you know, as I was, you know, as things weren’t sticking in, I was able to quickly find out what I was, what the problem areas were, and then supplement through, you know, flashcards more review or the SuperfastCPA, uh, lectures or, uh, notes.
Yeah. But, um, you know, sitting down, I really, I don’t really don’t remember ever like timing myself because [00:15:00] I was at a point where I was studying so much and taking so many practice exams that I was kind of just like flowing through the multiple choice questions and I was confident that I, I would be able to get through them with ano and then, and then leave enough time for the, uh, sims.
Yeah. But of course I wouldn’t, you know, spend too much time on any problem questions. I would flag it and then towards the end of the, uh, towards the end of the, uh, testlet, I would go back to the flag questions. And if I had to take an educated, an educated guess, I, I just would.
Nate: Yeah. Now, is that on, um, actual test day as you go through the.
Tips for Handling Your Emotions During Test Day
Mike: Actual test day yep. There was maybe, I wanna say anywhere from like five to 10 questions per testlet that I was like, this could be this, this could be, you know, one of two answers. Um, and I think it’s key just to, just to flag it. Don’t rack your brain and then definitely don’t stress out about it. Cuz I think it’s easy to look at a question and be like, oh, and be like, oh man, this is my fifth question I flagged in a row or, or flagged in this testlet [00:16:00] like something’s not right, you know, but you really gotta just stay focused.
Like some of the questions are, um, they’re like test questions pretty much. So they might not even count, right? So why, why, why stress about it and why stress about it one, and then you’re gonna potentially then, you know, mess up the rest of your exam. Two, You know, why waste the time?
Yeah. So just flag it if you have to go back to it, you know, make an educated guess as best as you, at best as you can. And, uh, you know, pick an answer and just move on. Just. That’s it.
Nate: Yeah, and that’s just a, that’s just a good philosophy, just kind of the idea of, okay, I’m in here, this is the real thing. But if I don’t know something like, I don’t know it, I can’t freak out during the test because I don’t know something or I don’t know.
Nate: Yeah, just, uh, maintaining your emotions is a big thing.
Mike: For sure. Yeah. Composure is a, a huge part of it. And you know, like if you, [00:17:00] if you’re sitting, sitting for the CPA exam, you gotta tell yourself, like, you know, you put in, you put in the work already. Like, don’t, you know, don’t get stuck in one question.
Don’t, you know, panic if you don’t know one answer, you know, it’s not the end of the test. It’s not the end of the, you know, the world even. So it’s, you know, it’ll all, it’ll all, you know, work out.
How Mike Still Had Time to Play Video Games Each Day
Nate: Um, and so what going kind of along those lines, one thing I was gonna ask. I think this was you, did you say that in our, that first interview you made time to play video games for a half hour a day?
Was that you?
Mike: Yes. Yeah. That was my, that was my one kind of, uh, it’s sad to say, but like, as almost my social activity because especially during Covid like no one was really hanging out, so I was playing video games with all my friends and I was like, looking forward to that time. You know, put the notes away.
My, my day was done. I was, you know, relaxing, putting my feet up, playing some video games and, you know, just ultimately turning that, turning your [00:18:00] brain off. I think that’s a huge part about studying too, is, you know, uh, even if you’re having those long, those long study sessions back to back, to back, like, like I was like, you know, eight to 10 days, eight to 10 hours per day is a lot.
Uh, it’s definitely crucial. You know, put the notes down, shut the laptop and just, you know, enjoy, enjoy yourself, talk to some friends and family and just hang out for, you know, a little bit per, uh, you know, every single day.
Mike: I would say.
Nate: Yeah. And that’s, I mean, ideally, or I guess that’s, I think in our PRO videos now is, uh, as long, if you nail the process, you know, most people are working when they’re trying to do these.
And so if you do the two hour session in the morning, , you do the mini sessions throughout the day and you’re obviously at work. Once you’re done, if you’ve nailed it for the day that like, yeah, like you just said, a complete mental break, you know, is just almost as important as the study process itself. I mean, as long as you actually did study that day.
Mike: Definitely, [00:19:00] definitely.
The Importance of Mental Breaks When Studying Long Hours Everyday
Nate: Did you keep that going through your other three sections? The uh, like intentionally, maybe not video games or maybe it was, but just some unintentional break everyday
Mike: I did, I did. I mean, cuz you know, I, I was studying very, very intensely, you know, like I said, like crazy hours.
So, um, you know, after I passed FAR and after I passed audit, I was kind of like, All right, like, I’m doing something right. I’m good. And then I had, I sat for REG very shortly after audit, and then I just took a break. I was like, all right, Like, I’ve been, I’ve been grinding really hard. I, I, I’m, you know, I’ve passed these three exams so far, I have, you know, I was looking at my timeline before I started to work.
I’m like, even if I failed BEC one time, I can still, I still have time to retake it. Like, I shouldn’t really stress about it. I, I, and then I just took a, uh, took an entire, entire month off.
Mike: But while I was studying though, I was playing video games. I was making time to play video games and to be honest with you, after FAR it went up to maybe like an hour [00:20:00] plus a day.
I mean, I, I kind of had that confidence of I know what I’m doing, right? I need to just kind of carry it forward. And if anything, with FAR I was, I was, I was totally over studying. So, I kind of toned it back a little bit.
Nate: Um, yeah. Oh, one thing you said, I was, what was I gonna say? Did you, Was the month off in July, Was that just like, this is like the month of summer or did you have like family trips or you just, just because of how hard you’ve been working, you just wanted a month off?
Mike: Yeah, I just took the month off. I, I thought, you know, I was working really hard. Um, the results were there, the process, you know, I knew, I had, knew I had nailed down, so I was like , you know, I, I should just enjoy the summer, I should enjoy the sun, get outside, hang out with some friends, which I haven’t hung out in a, uh, you know, several months.
Yeah. And, um, just enjoyed it.
Nate: And what was.
Mike: Just enjoyed it.
How Mike Planned CPA Study Around Big Life Events
Nate: Did you know, um, what was your, let’s see.[00:21:00] Did you know when you were gonna start your job at that point? So you kind of knew.
Mike: I did.
Nate: And when was that supposed to be?
Mike: It was like October 15th. Okay. Call. Something like that. So I ultimately, you know, when I was thinking about, you know, BEC for my last part, I was like, let me work backwards and try to make a timeline.
So I, I scheduled BEC with enough time where I could retake it in like three weeks or whatever the timeline was right before I, uh, uh, started.
Nate: So you must have only studied for BEC for, like four or five weeks.
Mike: Really short.
Mike: Yeah. It was four or five weeks, to be honest with you. I, I didn’t find the material too dense as compared to REG and FAR, and, um, I really just, I really just grinded the, just grinded the lectures.
Grinded and grinded the notes, made my flashcards from my problem, problem areas. And, you know, the, the big thing was that, uh, during that, that one week leading up to the exam, I did go through every mock [00:22:00] exam, every practice test, and I really grinded any problem areas. I figured out how I can, you know, make a mnemonic or a flashcard or something just to help it stick for the, uh, one week.
A Common Tip That Mike Would Give to His Colleagues
Nate: Yeah. Um, let’s see. And oh man. I had another question in there. Well, what about one another thing I wrote down. Looking back, what would you say, is there, are there any big misconceptions about the study process that, or maybe even in your, at your own, you know, the firm you work at the, as you’re hearing new staff kind of talk about the process.
Do you find yourself giving out like a common tip over and over?
Mike: Uh, one common tip, it would, it would have to be, uh, find what works for you and then just keep doing it because, you know, not every study method is the same and what works for me might not work for, for you or [00:23:00] for someone else listening for, for that matter.
Um, so whether you, you have to figure out like how to study and what I mean by that is do you, do you learn, do, do you retain the, retain the material best if you, you know, watch, do, uh, watch the video and then, and then take, then hand write notes. Do you listen to the lecture and type up notes? Do you just ditch the lecture completely and read the book on your own?
And, and highlight, at highlight as you go? You know, there, there’s so many different ways to study and try to retain that, that material that I’d even say the first three weeks of studying, you can’t really count because you’re, you’re gonna be, you know, trying different methods. Trying to figure out what works best for.
And you know, that material, that process, especially if you fail on your first go, you know, maybe take a look at your, your study process and, and if you haven’t tried something, a different method, you know, give another method a go. You know, if you hand write notes, try typing them. I know typing them worked best for me.
What Worked For Mike When Studying
Mike: I ended up making an Excel [00:24:00] spreadsheet and, and I had, uh, uh, every single tab was a different chapter, so I, and what worked for me is that I was able to type it up and then use the control a feature to actually find, you know, topics in my notes that I had, uh, typed up about, because I found when I was writing the notes, yeah, it might have, like, you know, at first sunk in a little bit more, but I wasn’t referring back to my notes as frequently as I was when I was typing the notes because of that, you know, find feature.
Mike: So I’m sure you can relate, you know, if I’m sitting there scrolling, you know, trying to swipe through my notebook of 60 pages of notes, you know, at the end of the day it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s insane where I can just, you know, control+f and find exactly what I was looking for.
Mike: Well it’s, that’s just what worked for me. And, you know, moving forward, somebody, you know, anybody listening who’s, you know, having a hard time studying, you know, give other methods a go and just do some research and maybe something will, will, uh, stick.
Nate: Yeah. On the digital side. I, uh, whenever, I mean, whenever someone asks me, I’m like, well, I [00:25:00] would do, I would do digital flashcards and like digital notes, just because like you said, it’s all with you.
Anywhere you go on your little phone, like you can create the flashcards in another tab while you’re sitting there doing your main study session and then you leave. And the, uh, obviously, everyone knows how the cloud works. Like those flashcards are just in your phone with you.
Mike: They’re right there with you at all time. Yeah, for, for sure.
Well, let me ask you, how did, how did you study when, uh, you, uh, uh, passed? Did, uh, were you writing notes, Were you typing notes? Like what was your go-to study?
Nate: Yeah, so I, I, I mean literally the, you probably don’t remember the specifics of like the PRO videos or they were probably called the study hacks videos back when you went through, but that was just top to bottom, exactly what I did. So when I described the flashcards, that’s exactly how I did it.
Uh, so I had one follow up question to what you were saying when you were, your [00:26:00] big tip was, you know, find what works for you.
So that’s a very common question and I want to hear your answer to this is, uh, someone can be putting in a lot of time right? And then they go all the way to taking an exam and fail it. And I mean, obviously in my position, I just get emails all the time from people that have, like I keep scoring a 72 or 73 on audit or whatever it is.
How to Tell if Your Study Process Is Working
Nate: So if you were to describe to someone, okay, figure out what works for you, but what would you tell them about how do I know that my studying is actually working.
Mike: I mean, if you’re scoring anywhere from like a 70 and above, that’s, that’s a matter of we’re, we’re talking like two or three multiple choice questions, maybe.
Yeah. Maybe like one answer on a sim it you’re, you’re like, you’re right there. And I mean, some, sometimes these sims are just, they’re just out of this world, so you can’t get discouraged. You have to just retake the [00:27:00] exam. I think what you’re doing is pretty good. If you’re scoring a 70, like you’re, you’re right there.
You’re, you really are so close, you can’t get discouraged. Retake the exam. I would say, you know, maybe make an extra few days for your final review and, you know, go through the prac, practice exams as well as the sim videos through, through finer comb. And then, you know, really drill in the areas and the questions that you’re getting wrong.
And if there’s anything. Becker’s not explaining to you. And if you’ve gotten multiple trust questions wrong, like more than I would say more than two times, you need to then uh, I would, what I would do is I would refer back to the SuperfastCPA notes and I would just look up the topic and see how it’s described there.
Cuz all more often than not, it’s broken down a lot simpler and more straightforward without all the extra, you know, fancy words and pink pages. It’s plain black and white text. We’re right there.
Mike: Um, so you know, that, that, that would be my one piece of advice is if you’re, if you’re at a 70 and [00:28:00] above, just keep up, keep up what you’re doing, add a little bit of more review, uh, and re and really drill down to the things that you’re getting wrong more than, you know, two times.
How Mike Used Excel to Take Notes on Difficult Topics
Nate: Yeah. Okay. And then another question about what you said. So you had an Excel workbook. And, uh, several people have described that exact same thing. Tabs for every topic or chapter.
Mike: It works.
Nate: And it’s, it’s all digital and yeah, it’s, you know, accountants very well versed in Excel in general, so it’s just, it’s always there anyways.
Um, but what about, so making notes in that, and then you said you did make flashcards as well, right?
Mike: I did. I actually made handwritten flashcards. Cause I was like, all right, if I’m making a flashcard that means something is really wrong with, you know, I’m not understanding this, this concept at all. Like I’ve gotten the question wrong several times.
Um, so I’d make the flashcard and, and the small deck of flashcards that I did have, it was my emergency. Like, I [00:29:00] need to know these topics. I need to know these mnemonics and stuff like that.
Nate: Okay. Yeah. And, and that’s, again, that’s, uh, that’s something I explain all the time is you don’t want to necessarily rewrite your textbook in flashcard format. Like when you first do a lesson, a lot of it is going to seem new and you might think you want to make a flashcard and everything, but it’s best saved for those like daily sets of 30. Or when you’re, like you just said, if you’ve seen a problem three or four times and miss, you’re missing it, or just forgetting how it actually works.
So that sounds like that’s what you would do then. You would take the time to write out a flashcard and yeah. So, so if you’re saving it for your must, uh, whatever you call it, your, uh, this is like the must have or this stuff I keep forgetting, how many flashcards would you end up with typically at the end of a section?
Mike: Um, I mean, to be honest with you, [00:30:00] I probably would make like a hundred of them, but towards the end, because I would, I would go through them in small groups and once I, once I nailed the topic down, I would just get rid of the flashcard, like that. That was it. But I, at all times, I would only probably keep like 20, maybe, maybe 25.
And it was like my, my, you know, my most difficult areas that I, I need to nail down and know. Tried to keep it slim, but obviously if, you know, if you, if have had a problem, problem with, with, with a module, there’s more than not, than a handful of, uh, flashcards.
Writing Down Topics and Explanations In Flashcards
Nate: Yeah. And would you kinda write the flashcard, like the explanation side almost in something only you would understand or like the one key piece?
Or would you make it a very, uh, technical flashcard like you would almost get with Becker? Definition and the full explanation are, were you putting stuff in almost your own shorthand type thing?
Mike: Yeah. No, I don’t think I, I don’t think I ever wrote out a flashcard similar to Becker. It was every single [00:31:00] time it was in a way, or it was in a way or tailored towards the question that I got wrong, or the topic that I was, or the part of the topic that is specifically having problems with.
So it, it was always like tailored right to what I, right to the problem area. , you know, it’s difficult to narrow down, like, what’s the sticking point? And so sometimes they simply couldn’t remember the mnemonic. So I had to create my own mnemonic and, and make my own, you know, little flashcard. And I think I even had like a flashcard with like a picture on it and like, that’s how I remembered the, uh, mnemonic.
Yeah. Something crazy.
Nate: No, that’s, I mean, that’s, that’s the, that’s the right answer. I mean, in my opinion, it’s just, it seems obvious, like if you’re gonna take the time to write out a flashcard, It should be like a very personal version of, like you said, it’s not a full flashcard that you could give to someone.
It almost, it almost shouldn’t make sense to someone else. It’s just whatever little sticking point.
Mike: Definitely. Definitely, definitely.But the whole process [00:32:00] takes time and you just gotta, just gotta grind it out.
How Studying Became Easier Once Mike Figured Out the Study Process
Nate: All right. Yeah. And, uh, so on that, I, they think this might be my last question. So, uh, did you find that you just got really good at the study process itself. You knew what you were doing was working, so did, were you able to spend less time like on BEC or were you still doing the full 10 hours a day? Did, did the process itself just get easier as you went?
Mike: I, I wouldn’t say it got easier. The process was a grind through every single exam, but I just took what, what was working for, what worked for FAR.
And I just spent a little bit less time. So instead of going, you know, instead of going, you know, seven days a week, eight to 10 hours going crazy, I just was, I would probably go, you know, I would cut down on the time. There were certain weeks where I only maybe studied six days a week, maybe five and a half, stuff like that.
So it was a matter of kind of dialing it down. If that makes sense.
Nate: Yeah. Yep. Awesome. All right, Mike, [00:33:00] well I appreciate you doing this, uh, this second call. It was fun chatting with you again after the fact.
Mike: Happy to help out. Yeah, happy to help out. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Nate: Yeah, and I wasn’t aware of your, uh, I mean, it sounds like you just cruised through the other three.
I I mean, I knew you had once you sent me that email the other day about Isabelle, but, uh, yeah. Yeah, I was wanting to hear like the full version, so that’s awesome.
How Mike Became a Senior in Two Years
Nate: And congrats on becoming senior.
Nate: Is that just after your first, That’s just after your first year then? Right?
Mike: Uh, it’s two years.
So I went from an associate level one then, and then the following year I was, I was an, an experienced associate, you can call it a, you know, an associate level two. Then after year after that, then, so I’ve been on, I’ve been with the firm for about two years now. Nice. Moving up this to a, uh, senior role.
Nate: Awesome. Are you, uh, real busy as a senior?
Mike: Um, it’s definitely picking up, but I, you know, as you progress more and more throughout the firm, you get more responsibility. It’s a matter of, you know, how much [00:34:00] do you want, like, if you want to be want, if you want responsibility, it’s, it’s there.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Definitely. Seniors are the workhorses in the firms, man. I mean, at least from what I saw, thats, yeah.
Mike: They definitely orchestrate things and keep, keep everybody at check at, at all levels from, you know, interns all the way up to the managers and partners.
Nate: Yeah, definitely. All right. Yeah. I appreciate you taking the time and yeah, again, congrats. I’m, I’m glad you’re, It’s awesome to have you as a success story.
Mike: Not a problem. Would it be, would it be helpful if I tried to dig up the Excel template that I was talking about?
Like had, does have, Is that, has anybody sent you theirs before? No, but yeah, I mean, like with, with the tabs, with the module, I’m gonna, I’m gonna clear out my notes out of it because to be honest with. One, they’re not gonna make sense to anybody else. Cause it’s, it is shorthand two, the material is like, it’s, you know, at this point, two years old.
Mm-hmm. . So it might not even be tested. I have no idea. But, [00:35:00] you know, as an example, I can shoot you over a photo of it or screenshot or the file itself. I’ll try to figure out something.
Nate: All right. Yeah, if you could send the file and then I could turn it, I mean, if you don’t mind, I guess what I could do is turn it into a, uh, Google Docs.
That’s like a template.
Mike: it actually is a, uh, Google sheet cuz I would access it on my laptop, then I’d access it on my phone and just be searching through stuff.
Nate: Yeah, yeah. That’s what’s so nice. Yeah. I, yeah. Anyways. Yeah.
Mike’s Excel Note-Taking Process in Detail
Mike: But it is, you know, it is built around Becker, so it’s, it’s following the Becker modules and, and so each tab let’s us call tab one would be chapter one and you know how there’s modules within better, So there’d be chapter one and then, then I would have rows you know, call it, you know, one through a hundred would be module one.
I would then hide that only showing the, the, the, the first row saying module one. So at the end of the day, it was like a thousand rows long, but I would hide everything. So it, it only showed each module individually. Gotcha. And then I had [00:36:00] my notes in the first few columns, and then the next few columns ahead, uh, practice questions, and then the next few columns I had multiple notes for multiple choice questions and practice practice exams pertaining to that module. Yeah. So it was like throughout the entire process I could, I could track, you know, module one and then I would, uh, then I would have my textbook notes, my practice, uh, questions and my notes from that, my multiple choice questions, and then the, uh, notes from all of my practice exams and all that.
Mike: So it’s, it’s very, it’s a, it’s a lot. But at the end of the day, that’s what, that’s what worked for me. And, and like I said, I was able to use, use the Control F feature and just find stuff and, Yeah.
Nate: Yeah, no, that would be, because, uh, I mean, it’s still by far the most common, you know, from our customers, like most people are using Becker, so.
Mike: For sure. For sure. I mean, the, the, the template is just a, is at the end of the day, it’s just a concept. It [00:37:00] can be applied to any, any study guide platform, you know, so.
Nate: Right. And people could easily change like the tab names or numbers or whatever, so.
Mike: Yeah, totally. Totally. Yeah. Totally.
Nate: Yeah, that would be awesome. So, yeah.
Nate: So that was the interview with Mike. I’m sure you found that very helpful and motivating to see how we went through the remaining three sections of the CPA exams.
If you found this interview helpful, please take a second to share it with someone you know who’s working on their CPA exams, because these interview are the most helpful, free resource available anywhere if you’re trying to figure out your own study process.
So thanks for watching or listening, and we’ll see you on the next episode.