How Thomas Passed His CPA Exams by Changing His Approach

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In this episode you’ll hear me speak with Thomas, who is a SuperfastCPA customer and now a CPA. Thomas struggled with the “normal way” of studying for about a year, and then finally decided to give the SFCPA study approach a try and from there he got 4 passing scores in a row. In this episode we discuss some of the specific struggles he had in the beginning, the breakthroughs he had, specific strategies he used, and all kind of tips & tricks for all parts of the study process.

Podcast Transcript

And I said, you know what, I’m going to do that. I’m going to just kind of like embrace the steady method. And then I passed. And once I pass, bar those my first exam, I pass. I just told myself, like, I’m not going to fail again. Like, I know how to pass these lies. And I didn’t pass the next three in a row.
That’s awesome.

Welcome to Episode 31 of the CPA Exam Experience podcast from SuperfastCPA CPA. I’m Nate. In today’s episode, you’re going to hear me talk with Thomas. Thomas is a SuperfastCPA customer and he’s now a CPA.

And as I listen back on this interview, this is one of my favorite interviews simply because of the point that his story illustrates and the point being, I guess I’ll go back. So one of the main things I get emails about is someone who purchases are our course. They’ve watched the free training. The general ideas made sense to them, and then they’ll watch the full videos, or sometimes they’ll try it for a day or two and then they’ll email me and they’ll be like, this is not working. This is not going to work for me. And the key thing that I struggle with to convey to people is, OK, listen, and this is the same with any approach. Not just this approach. But this gives you a very clear set of steps to follow. However, it’s like the bike riding example. I can tell you to sit on the bike and turn the pedals with your feet. But anyone who knows how to ride a bike knows that there’s a lot more going on there that you can’t really put into words.

There are these like nuances that are just unlocked with balancing, keeping the bike balanced as you pedal that you just have to learn by doing it. And that’s the key point here, is, you know, you can watch the videos and make some determination of for a lot of people. It just clicks and they’re like, this makes so much sense. I’m going to do it. And they go forward and they just, you know, crush their exams and that’s it. And then other people watch the videos and they just they have a really hard time trusting the idea of jumping straight into the questions for any given lesson or, you know, using the multiple choice questions as your primary learning tool instead of the video lectures or the text. And what’s hard for me to convey to people is I usually just make one attempt, you know? If they e-mail me something like that, I’ll be like, OK. Listen, if the general idea made sense to you in the beginning, you owe it to yourself to at least give this an actual try. For two or three weeks, because it is like riding a bike, the nuances or the real secrets of the study process are unlocked to you as you actually put this into practice over two or three weeks. And from there, it will be crystal clear how this works.

The study process will be much, much easier everyday and it will be more effective. And you’ll get through the material faster. You’ll retain it better. And, you know, we have to. I don’t know a number. Hundreds of these reviews people have come back and given us based on the strategies you have all these interviews where person after person describes the same process. But Thomas’s story is just much more clear because he explicitly says in the beginning of the interview, he had our materials from pretty near to the beginning of his study process, but he just could not trust the idea of jumping into the questions first. And so he did things the normal way, you know, watching every video lecture, reading every chapter.

But, you know, he kept failing sections in the beginning. And so as he got to I think he says it was far. He had about two weeks left. Was feeling stressed out about it. He decided to just just try. As a last ditch effort. The questions first approach. So that’s all he does for the last two weeks. He ends up passing that section. So from there, he switches and he says, okay, I’m just going to embrace this study process. This is what I’m going to do from here on out. I’m just going to trust it. And he goes three for three on his remaining three sections. So I love Thomas’s story. The interview is really good. We cover not just that, but again, it’s like the other interviews. We cover a lot of stuff about the study process, including all parts of the study process. The daily main session, the mini sessions, he talks a lot about how he used our audios and his study process. The final review or the lack thereof, when you use this approach that you don’t need a final review. What he would do the last two days before an actual exam. The timelines he was aiming for and test day, just all parts of the study process that you’ll get a lot out of.

So he also mentions that the first thing he came across with our materials was the free one hour training session. So let me give that to you really quick. If this is the first thing you’ve heard of from us, the best place for you to start. We do these free one hour trainings where we go through a summary, but it’s also it’s pretty in-depth. I mean, you get the key ideas of how our study process works so that you can judge. For yourself, the ideas make sense or not. So just from this training session, this will save you months and months of time of frustration, if you will just trust the process. Put it into practice for yourself. You know, like I just described, the secrets, the nuances are unlocked as you actually learn it yourself by doing each day for a few weeks. So to register for one of those free training sessions, you can go to our Web site, SuperfastCPA, EPA dot com. It’s the main link on the front page. Or you could just text pass now as one word to four four two two two. So with that being said, let’s get into the interview with Thomas.

Interview with Thomas

What got you into accounting originally? Do you have parents or anything or relatives that were CPS?
No, I actually went to school to be a mechanic originally. Yeah. It wasn’t the it wasn’t a great career. So I went back for a business and just decided to pick a concentration because I thought there’d be better accounting, finance, whatever I could switch later.
And accounting just kind of stuck.

Yeah. That’s very similar to me. My count me beginning accounting classes and just the general business major were the ones that I just kind of effortlessly got A’s in because it just made perfect sense. A little bit of math, you know, simple math. So. All right. And so after that, you went through school. Did you end up doing a Masters or just 150 hours?

No, I did a Masters degree. My school had a blended program, so I was able to get that done at the same time.

Yes. And when you started studying for the CPA, how did you start off? You just get a review course and open it up and start going.

Yeah. The first family worked and everybody used Roger. So I was told that Roger and had energetic videos. So I purchased Roger, wasn’t able to get to studying right away, but I did purchase a course that had a limited access. So it wasn’t too worried about that. And I kind of started studying the traditional way, even though I actually had purchased your course when I went to go start study and I did start watching the Study Hacks and everything. To be honest, like when it was the question of first approach. And, you know, I just felt that there was there’s no way I could learn just by guessing on questions, reading explanations, figuring out how they were figuring out the concepts. And so I definitely wasted a lot of time to start.

First Study Breakthrough

OK. And then. Well, I guess that’s the the most obvious question. What was your breakthrough for how you figured out how to study?

Well, I actually failed three sections to start. And I knew that I was going to stay determined. I knew I could do this, but I failed FAR. Why? And then I was so close. I got to 73. I watched one of your videos and I said with Iran that 70 to 74 range just hammer multiple choice questions. You’re almost there. Just push through. And I said, you know what?
I’m going to do that. I’m going to just kind of like embrace the study method. And then I passed. And once I pass bar, that was my first exam. I pass. I just told myself, like, I’m not going to fail again. Like, I know how to pass these. Now, this and I didn’t pass the next three in a row.

That’s awesome. And so so I guess what you were saying when you first started trying the question, first approach didn’t really work for you. How did that actually go? Did you. Is that when you failed the three sections? Is that just what you kept trying to do? Or how did how did that work?

I didn’t give myself a full chance to try it. I just felt that I needed to watch these lectures. I didn’t want to go into these questions blindly. I knew that it was really important to focus on multiple choice. The first section I took and I didn’t pass was read. I also got to seventy three. Didn’t even make it through the multiple choice questions, not even once. And I remember sitting in that exam and I’m like, oh my gosh, I had a question. It was kind of like this. I had a question that was kind of like this. If I just spent more time over here, it would have I think I could have passed and going.

I decided to move on to FAR next and I still felt like I had to watch the lectures first.

And I felt like a monitor my progress based on the percentage of videos watched. And I made sure they’re watched completely so I could hit that hundred percent. Yeah. Honestly, for REG, the second time around, which was a year after over a year after I studied it the first time the tax law changed and everything. I didn’t watch any lectures. Same with the audit. Same with BBC. I just if there was a question or two that was from a certain area that was really challenging, I would go back and watch the lecture. Yes. I want to see that only happened a couple times. I really just didn’t even focus on them. I went to question first approach.

OK, ok. Some understanding better. So I. You did you say it was far the first when you passed? You barely missed and then you went to just. Using the question approach, basically, and then you passed and then from there. So from there you were using the question first approach. That’s what you’re saying for the other three or the other three.
A pure question. First approach.

Using the Questions-First Approach

OK, OK. So just for the benefit of anyone that listens to this, because I talk a lot about it, but I’ve been asking this to these people I’ve been doing these recent interviews with, and it is just kind of helps to get other perspectives when you. So. So from that first time where you didn’t want to try the question, first approach or kind of thought, I just don’t like that. I feel like I need to watch the video lectures and kind of trying the question first approach. And then when it clicked for you, when you how would you describe the difference or what what’s your process for using the questions to learn the material? Like, how would you describe how that works?

Well, I would just I would still go through in like order one through chapter, whatever, Dataquest your first approach. And I would actually write like almost everything. My hands would be killing me at the end of, like, study sessions. But if I got a question wrong or I guessed I would write it out, if I seen the question before, I would actually stop and I would write out why the answer was right and see if I knew the answer was correct or they’d seen it a couple times. Yeah, I would write out the reasoning of why it’s correct and then I would compare that after I actually made the selection and looked at the explanation.

Gotcha. For calculation, heavy questions. Would you just kind of reaper form reperforming right then and there to kind of get how the calculations worked?

Yeah, I would walk it through my head, like if I had to add this, subtract whatever, I would just go through that whole process. Even if I already knew, especially calculation questions, you could be like, oh, OK, I’ve seen that number before. I know which one is the red one.

So I need to prove that I know how to calculate it on exam day. OK.

And you basically just mentioned this. So you’re you were taking actual notes instead of making flashcards. Is that kind of how you did the.

I actually would make them into flashcards, but I never use them. Oh, really? Yeah. It was like a small fact or something quick. I would use a flash card and I would just write it out. Or maybe sometimes I’d flip it over and after I wrote it out. Kind of how the review of course, provided it. I would flip it over and then write it in my own words.

Key Pillar of the Study Process

Yeah, and see, that’s that’s what I was getting to, is I feel like that is a key pillar that anyone studied process needs to include. Whether you write out notes or use flash cards. But taking things that you don’t really understand and putting them in your own words, you know, is is key. I mean, I feel like it’s something you cannot skip, especially with the CPA exams. And it’s one thing to read the explanation, you know, written by an accounting professor. And you kind of think, OK, I, I get that. But like you said, I had that exact experience on far. You get in there and you’re so close on all these questions. And the main thing that’s missing is you just you didn’t fully understand it yourself. You know, you were just basically trying to memorize words and not really understand, like, how it actually fits together. So, yeah, that’s a that’s a key point. I’m glad I went deeper on that because I have that interaction with people a lot on emails where they will they’ll get the course, they’ll watch the videos and then they’ll they’ll email me and they’ll say this just I can’t possibly go through questions first without watching the video lectures or understanding the background, you know, and I’ll try to tell them. I’m like, okay, I admit there’s there’s some nuance to it. Like, you have to do this process for a few weeks and it will just kind of like the secrets of how to do it. Are are unlocked as you executed each day. You know, it doesn’t make it sounds counterintuitive at the beginning, but I’m glad glad we clarified that. What about Sims? How did you prepare for those?

How Thomas Prepared for the Simulations

All right. Kassem’s Since I did, I wasn’t successful my first couple attempts. I did practice Sims a lot. The first time I think I really needed to know him. And my advice for other candidates is, is definitely practice. If you with your review software, you got to hit that once and that instead of leaving everything blank, they wanted you to enter zero. So then you enter the problem and your data was correct, but you only get 17 percent correct because you left a whole bunch of fields unanswered. And then you kind of get the the pains and you know what to look for and how to break down the question. Other than that, I didn’t practice since I practiced since the first time I took Regg a little bit when I took FA and then when I passed Audit BTC and Regg, I didn’t practice a singleton at all. Multiple choice questions so I can have those concepts ready for the sentence because I think you described it perfectly. And I’ve used your description to my friends saying that The Sims are getting much more challenging and much more different on exam day. Why am I going to spend 30 minutes on a sin preparing for this format? And I’m not going to see that during the exam. I should get the material down.

Yeah, that is that’s a big thing. It’s exactly like you said, you do need to do some practice, Sims, to have a general idea of how they look and everything. And like you said, that’s a good point. There are somewhere they expect you to enter a zero in like 20 fields, even if you if it’s not a number. You don’t just leave it blank. So there is that you you have to have some understanding of how they actually work. But then on the other side, you don’t just relentlessly do practice Sims. You’re much better off. Deeply understanding the concepts, which I think, like you said, multiple choice questions do a better job of overall, are your times better spent doing that? And then the other thing on Test Day is leaving yourself more than enough time to sit there and figure out the sames. And I guess that’s. So you said your first exam, you didn’t even get through the multiple choice questions on the priorities, were you? Oh, it was in the practice software.

Yeah. Like I always I felt that as long as you made it through the multiple choice questions twice. All the way through. Mm hmm. You’d probably be pretty prepared to pass. Yeah, but I did that first time. I spent so much time watching lectures that I didn’t even see every question. My review of course, had to offer.

Gotcha. Yeah. And so I think the other thing that helps so much with the question first approach is just you actually getting you know, you get like good at answering multiple choice questions, which on test day kind of unlocks the key to The Sims is helping you get done really quickly. Is that I’m guessing you were getting done with the multiple choice questions at the two hour marker earlier on when you took the exams?

Yeah, I had no problem keeping up with the exam pace, and I really felt like that final test cleared up three task based simulations. I had not ample time, but more than average, more than like Roger would a lot for it. I think he said like an hour for the last three and I was having a little bit extra. And that last problem, I mean, I always took it to the wire, but I definitely had more time than needed.

Final Review?

Yeah, I did. Yeah. I think that’s just a huge thing for The Sims. How did you treat the last few days before? Well, let’s contrast the you know, when you are struggling with the exams, what did you do for a final review? I’m guessing you did the normal thing where you take two weeks and try to relearn everything. Yeah. So how did that how did you do the final review before? And then once you started passing your exams, how’d you do a final review?

I never did a final review. Like, I kind of was running out of time there for the first few times that I didn’t pass exams. I thought that I should try at least expose myself to all the material that was on. Those was planning on my part. But then I adopted your approach of starting every day with a random set of thirty multiple choice questions. Yeah. And I thought this about 30 to 40 percent when I was about that far into the material. Then I would start every day. Thirty multiple choice questions of all material that previously studied. And I just did that every single day. And the scores would always be good because I already studied that material. I want to finish the next session and then added on. Added on. And there’s no need for final review because I’ve been reviewing the whole time.

Yeah. So I guess. Right. And that that is what I tell people to do is exactly what you said, because if you are adding in rereviewed daily, that’s the entire point. You don’t have to relearnt everything the two weeks or a week before the exam because you’ve continually gotten better at everything instead of slowly forgetting everything. Would you just go through new material right up until like the day before or like the last two days? Would you do kind of a cram session and just do endless sets of 30, or would you do the, like, last two days before an exam?

Right. Yeah, definitely. The goal is to get to the point where you’re pulling 30 questions from all material available for that section. Mm hmm. As much time before the exam as possible and not too much time you don’t wanna waste. So I would usually get to that point maybe a couple days before the exam. Hopefully at least two days before. And the last two days, it was just pulling from home material as many sets of questions as possible.

Nice. Let’s see. So you were were you taking exams during this covered thing in the last few months during Kove?
Yeah, I just got my finals passing score about a month ago.

And what about your job? Did you go all remote or you still. Yeah.

So the first two exams, I was in the office working full time and then the second two exams, I was at home not working.

Mm hmm.

And did you use our review notes and audios at all, or was it mostly the strategies and you just applying it to your main review course?

Definitely. When I was in the office, I heavily used the audio notes, and that’s definitely what I want to talk about, because through my review course, it provided audio notes. And I definitely I think it’s beneficial to hear information presented in different ways. Mm hmm. But I could not use the audio notes from my review cause they are pretty much just his online lectures, just in audio format. And so you’re you’re imagining he’s in front of a white. We’re trying to follow him, but you’re not seeing it.

Yeah, that’s right.

Using the SuperfastCPA Audio Notes

Yeah, your audio notes. It was just putting out pretty much bullet point backs one after another. A couple of scenarios that were really easy to follow. Definitely. You weren’t reading off a whiteboard and assuming you’re reading off the review notes.
Yes, but I. Right. I have that in mind. Like if someone’s in a car. I can’t walk through all these examples because you can’t follow that. Yeah. So I appreciate the appreciate you saying that.

I definitely listen and listen to him to and from on the way to work. I didn’t listen to him as much when I was working from home, but I listened to him and I found them to be very beneficial. Using that study strategy to cram as much little study sessions in as possible. And, you know, you’re kind of thinking about the material all day, every day. But now that I’m done, like, I don’t worry about the material on. And that’s the point where you want to get.

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I know you’ve heard this probably from me because you obviously get our emails and, you know, listen to the course videos and everything. But that’s one of the main things that I try to. Or just a mindset to give people is like, listen, if you just make this all consuming, you think about it. You listen to this stuff throughout the day or you read the notes throughout the day or take quizzes throughout the day. In addition to your main study session, I know that doesn’t sound fun, but do you really do you want this to stretch over like multiple years or would you rather just get done, you know, in a few months?

So, yeah, that’s that’s kind of the tradeoff. Well, cool. Yeah, that was I think we went through everything I had. I mean, the last thing would be if you were to give your biggest tip to somebody studying or maybe your top three things from your study experience. I mean, what what would that be?

I would definitely just set realistic expectations, kind of go into the process, if you’re going to watch the lectures, if you’re going to do the questioner question the first approach and set reasonable goals. I would kind of say, OK, my course offered fifteen hundred questions for this section. I can get done with 100 a day or 60 a day of new plus what I’m gonna do for review. Kind of map it out. Have a plan. Stick to a try and be ahead of schedule. And then just when you find something that works or use the Study Hacks that are provided by superfast CPA, I tell a bunch of my friends that I graduated school with it. You don’t take as long as I did when. Let me only show you that there’s a better way to do this. And you can kind of learn from my mistakes. And I think most candidates even working full time. It’s not unreasonable it in six months or less easily.

Yeah. Glad to hear that. You went four four four after it all started. Click And that’s awesome.

Yeah, it was. And the scores kept going up and, you know, it was good. I’m really happy to get it all done. And I don’t know if I would have ever. I think I got it got it done still. But it might have been more frustrating if I didn’t actually know about better ways to study and didn’t look a different way, because if I never looked outside towards a supplemental, I would’ve never seen like some of these kind of like Study Hacks. And like, you have a lot of the same ones as like Ninja CPA review. I listened to Jeff talk on line two and, you know, to hear him talk about Sims and you guys are kind of saying the same thing. So it really helped to click that, you know, this is definitely a good approach.

Yeah. Just out of curiosity, do you remember? Was it like a YouTube video? What was the first thing? How did you find SuperfastCPA online?

OK. It’s been like two years probably. But I think Facebook was good. I mean, there could have been that long ago. I think I was like my thornber always saw me looking at of DU courses and I think SuperfastCPA yay, you know, they track software. It popped up somewhere. So I signed up for one year free hourlong things. Gotcha. And I was like, okay, I think this could be beneficial, but I kind of just, you know, didn’t get it right away and saw the sales were coming around. And one time the sale happened had the money. And I was like, you know, I think this will definitely help. I actually bought it first. I actually sent you know, and I asked, like, are you gonna provide even more multiple choice questions? Because I know Roger doesn’t provide the most Multiple-choice. Yeah, I think the responses at some of them might be the same, but they were different, but they were a lot easier to go through. And quickly, like I felt like when I was studying Roger, like, I mean, to be analyzing them. And I think his questions are great. They really helped prepare you. But I couldn’t do five of his questions waiting in line. And supposedly I could be five years.

Exactly. And again, yeah, all of our tools that we keep that in mind like that is the point. They need to be usable. Or you just people end up not using them. Exactly what you said. If you get stuck. The first few times you use, you know, the review course app, the next time you’re in line somewhere, you’re just you’re just not going to use it anymore. So. Right. Yeah. All right, buddy. Well, I appreciate the time and. Yeah, congrats on being done. That’s awesome. Thanks, man. All right. Have a good one.

Learn the SuperfastCPA Approach for Free

All right. So that was the interview with Thomas. If you’ve listened this far, I am confident you found that very helpful, very insightful. And you probably got us a few strategies you can add into your own study process again, if you haven’t yet. I would highly recommend that you take an hour or invest an hour in watching one of our free training sessions. You can get the link to that view. The upcoming Times at our website on the home page at SuperfastCPA.com. It’s the main thing at the top of the page. Or you can just text pass. Now one word to four four two, two, two. And we will text you back a link to register for a session if you found this episode helpful. I would just ask two things. One, that you find the podcast in your podcast app where you’re listening and leave a rating and review. And then second, that you share this with someone who is also studying for their CPA exams. I feel like these interviews are the best free resource besides study material itself. These interviews are the best free resource available anywhere for people that are trying to figure out their own daily study process, because that’s what these interviews are about.
They’re completely free, but they take a lot of time and work to produce and publish. So please take a second. A rating and review. Share it with someone else who’s also working on their CPA exams. Thank you for listening. And we’ll see you on the next episode.

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