How to Pass the CPA in 3 Months

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In this first episode of the CPA Exam Experience Podcast, I walk through my own CPA exam experience and how to pass the CPA in 3 months, which is what I did. Do I think everyone will pass the CPA in 3 months? No. But anyone can make smart tweaks to their CPA study process and while they might not pass the CPA in 3 months, they can save themselves months of time and frustration by having a solid study routine from the beginning.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

how to pass the CPA in 3 months

Transcript:

All right, welcome to the first episode of the CPA Exam Experience podcast. I’m Nate with SuperfastCPA and I did pattern that name after the Joe Rogan podcast. I love listening to that. The big differences on this podcast, we’re not going to be talking about DMT or hallucinogens or MMA or the UFC or how strong chimpanzees are. We are going to be talking about ideas and strategies that will help you pass your CPA exams faster.

That will be the entire point of this podcast. The reason I wanted to do this. It’s not like the world needs another podcast. However, when I send out emails, you’ve probably gotten some of my emails with my tips on the CPA study process, which as you’ve seen, if you subscribe, subscribe to our emails.

SuperfastCPA Podcast & What to Expect

I’ve got a lot to say on that topic and I’m always kind of limiting myself or saying things in those emails like, you know, don’t get me started on this or I’ve got a lot more I could say that kind of thing. And so this podcast will be where I kind of take a more long form approach to whatever the given topic is based on the episode. So these will be kind of long. If you’re sick of listening to audio notes or be just kind of trying to get in the headspace to get to where you really want to take the CPA exams or the CPA study process serious and you can listen to these on your drive, then that’s what these will kind of before.

So that this first episode I wanted to just go over my CPA story, I guess specifically the study process, how to pass the CPA in 3 months, and kind of how I figured that out and the breakthroughs I made after my first attempt. So I finished my master’s degree. And during the master’s degree, you know, we kind of we went through the recruiting process. So I had a job lined up, kind of a mid-sized firm for when when the master’s program was over and the the program ended in May or whatever, whenever a college gets over.

Starting the CPA Study Process

This has been a few years ago. And then I was supposed to start the new job in public accounting in August and there was a higher group of about ten or eleven of us. I think it was pretty big that we’re all starting at the same firm. And so from May until August, you know, I thought I could pass the CPA in 3 months, so that I could show up day one and say I had passed all 4 CPA exams.

So I start the study process and that dream dies pretty quickly. I had no idea how much information there really was. I I was all always kind of the person that could hate to say this or admit this, but just kind of coast through school showing up to the lectures. And I think most people were like this. You know, you put in a decent amount of study time, but I just never felt like I was just really grinding the gears, you know, studying hard really at all. I would do assignments and just do the basics. And then I could pass most exams. I mean, get A’s and B’s. And then in the Masters, it was more like B’s and C’s anyways. So the CPA content was was a big a wakeup call. When I first got into my review course, I used CPA.

So, you know, you have the study planner, so you type in the dates that you want to complete each exam by. And so like I said originally, I figured out how these, you know, the four test dates could span across the summer with me passing the forth or taking the fourth one before that August. I think it was like August 10th that we were OK. We were all going to start full time on the same day. Something like that. So I typed those four dates in, you know, and it spits out what lessons you need to cover by win.

Then the first few days, that’s when I realized, okay, this is not gonna happen because I have to cover what I figured out was just ungodly amounts of of topics and content each day. And it was taking me like seven or eight hours just to kind of even watch the video lectures for the amount of topics that I was supposed to go through to get through all four sections in this three month timeline. So that’s basically how that happened.

Realizing It’s Harder Than I Thought

So I realigned my goals. When I figure out there’s not a chance in hell I’m going to pass the CPA in 3 months at this point. So for the next two months, I just focus on FAR. Luckily, I maybe I looked up some article or something. I just knew that I was wanted to take the hardest one first. And that was from what everyone said, it was far. So I start with far each day. I would just kind of I was trying to follow the what I call now the normal way of studying. So I sit down, you know, at the beginning of a study day, I start by watching the video lecture the first few times through. You know, I get five or 10 minutes and then realize that I’m completely zoned out, I have no idea what the professor just covered. So I start the video lecture over again.

This happens for like the first 20 or 30 minutes time, like, OK, jeez, just I’m to stare at this professor’s mouth on the screen and I’m going to like mimic outloud every word she says so that I can pay attention. So I just forced myself to watch these this video lecture all the way through. Now, you’ve probably experienced this part.

You can watch the whole video lecture. And and then even then, even if you manage to pay attention to the whole thing, then you go over to the questions and kind of look around, because you think that if if I paid attention to every second of this video lecture, I should hypothetically be able to answer some of the questions. But then you go to the questions for that lecture, which you just watched. And it still doesn’t really make any sense. So at this point and again, this is kind of the average day and I just kind of thought this is how the study process is. This has taken me an hour, sometimes two hours to kind of get through the video lecture alone and then maybe skim through the text and get to the point where I feel like I have a somewhat proficient understanding of of the lesson.

So then I go into the practice questions and I’m still just obviously completely lost. So I would go through some of the questions, then look through some of the practice simulations and then basically think, OK, I guess I guess I’m just going to watch the lecture again because I can’t answer these questions. At that point. I still kind of had the mindset of what most people’s mindset is about questions, where the questions you just you’re kind of conditioned from college to view.

Questions are multiple choice questions as like an evaluation tool, like how well do I know this topic? Whereas when I flipped the study process on its head, I would use the questions as my primary learning tool, but more about that later on. So so this two months, two to three months goes by and I just kind of struggle through the lessons in this in this format. And I’m studying six to eight hours a day and I get to the end. And again, I’m doing this the normal way, what I describe as the normal way. So you just go through each lesson in a linear format.

One lesson after another. You know, now, if you if you look at the blueprints, the AICPA blueprints for FAR or REG, and FAR especially, it contains over 200. I think it’s like over 240 different topics that are listed on those blueprints. So you cover you cover a ton of information. And again, I mean, I studied for two to three months just for this one section. By the time you’re halfway through, you are six weeks removed from the first section of things that you studied. And then by the end of your study session, you know, you’re three months and that doesn’t even matter.

I mean, that stuff’s long gone. At the three month level. But even at like two every two weeks segment was just kind of like gone from my memory. I figured out. So anyways, I go through that process in the linear format, lesson after lesson. You never look back at the other lessons, by the way, which again, was one of my huge realizations. One and one of the first things that I changed about how I studied after failing for this first time. So that’s kind of how this story ends.

I get to the or this is how my first attempt ends. I study in this way for the two or three months I get to where I do a like a two week long final review. And that was the most frustrating part because I’m essentially trying to re learn, recover all that information. All those topics, except now just in two weeks. And it’s not going well. It seems like so. Anyway, anyways, I go through this process, I take a full practice exam twice, which is another thing which I now, you know, teach our clients or customers not to do. I spent two full days doing full practice exams, get to test day, go in, take the test. And also, I should say that because of this is no fault of the review course.

But as soon as I got in the testing center and seeing the real exam in person, I kind of instantly realized I’d made a huge mistake. And that mistake was, you know, you do these, but the final practice, practice exams and the review course kind of spits back out your weak areas. So really that that last the last crucial few days, I took a practice exam or full practice exam. It tells me what my weak areas were. And then I spent those final few days right before the exam. Just focusing on these like three or four specific areas where there’s 200 other topics. I’m just kind of neglecting or just, you know, at this point not realizing that those are just as poor, just as important or just as relevant or just as likely to appear as these four or five topics that I’ve narrowed narrowed in on.

So I get to the exam, the other thing, last thing, and like I said, this is definitely long form content. You’re getting the full story here. No details left out. The other thing was I just kind of assumed that on the test, on the real test, that I would be only seeing the hardest questions. For some reason, that’s just kind of what I thought. That’s what I assumed. So all the way through, I would spend the most time in general on the hardest stuff or spending an inordinate amount of time really thinking that I had mastered stuff like dollar value wife’ll or for some reason the inventory calculations was just one of the most confusing things to me on far.

So I spent a lot of time on those things. So again, that the general story was I was spending disproportionate amounts of time on a small amount, relatively a relatively small amount of topics, which was a huge mistake because I get into the exam, I start going through the real questions on the real exam. And that’s one of the first things I notice is that I’m seeing a lot of seemingly easy questions just, you know, like one liners where it’s just asking basically if, you know, a conceptual definition or not. And I’m thinking, OK. Easy, easy question. There’s no calculations. You know, you just you see the question. You see it’s like one sentence. And then I’m reading it and you read all the possible responses and two or three of them look like they are.

Right. And then there’s quite a few questions like this. And I’m thinking like, holy shi*, I have I have spent so much time on this hard stuff that isn’t even showing up yet. And there’s all this conceptual stuff that I just kind of ignored and now I just cannot retrieve it out of my brain. So that was big realization number one. And at the time in the test center, I obviously didn’t know if I had, you know, if I was going to pass that day or not. I didn’t think it was looking good the way it was going. But I just made a mental note like, OK, you’ve got to treat all topics with the same level of importance when you go back to studying after this. For the other freeze, three sections or for this one if I end up failing this.

So that was the first big realization and not just topic based or treating all topics with the same level of importance, but basically all types of questions or, you know, whether they were conceptual or calculation based or simulation type content. That kind of thing. And if you know how to read the AICPA blueprints, those those really clear up or they explicitly tell you, you know, for this topic, you’ll most likely see this and multiple choice question format for this topic. You’ll most likely see this in a simulation type question. So use the AICPA blueprints as a side note.

So anyways, I take the test, get to the simulations. The simulations just seem ridiculously hard, even though I’ve gone through a lot of the practice simulations from my review course. Then I leave and then it’s a few weeks before I get my score back. And in those few weeks I had done everything from convincing myself that, you know, I’d gotten the all time low score to know. I probably I probably passed that, you know, I had no idea. So I got my score back. And then this ended up being a few days, maybe a maybe a week or two after I had actually started the job and public accounting.

So I find out that I failed it. It was I got a 74, so I was close. And then the next two days, I spent reading everything I could about, you know, submitting to Nasira or whatever the. For them to rereview your score and everything. But then if you read enough stuff, you end up on their Web site where they explain this, that in like the history of them running Nasira and running the CPA exams, they’ve ended up changing like point zero 1 percent of all scores that have been submitted to them for rescore. And then they basically tell you it’s most likely not going to change. And then you also, if you read more, you find out that the multiple choice questions are obviously instantly scored.

There’s zero chance there was a you know, there was a mistake. The only thing that could have happened is if they happened to have actually published a an error on a question to where what they were asking. And then the possible responses like the right response wasn’t actually there anyways. They basically make it clear that it’s almost zero percent chance that they change your score. That there was some mistake. So I just learned to live with the seventy-four just accept the reality that I’m gonna be retaking this test. And I think I took a week or two off just mentally because it was so much work. I had put so much time and effort. I mean, I didn’t. And that was that was the other thing that was hard to accept is I had not slacked off. I wasn’t working during that summer. I had I don’t know what the. SITUATION was I must had savings or something, but because my my plan originally as well was, like I said, to try and pass off for so studying around the clock and I studied I mean, seven or eight hours a day and just managed to get a 74. So a big part of me was saying, well, what if you can’t even pass these? Because now now you’re working full time. You two weeks into this job, you can see how busy it is.

You know, you’re working like 60 hours a week. You couldn’t pass the test when you had seven or eight hours to study all day, every day. So how in the hell are you going to pass if you have to work all day? I mean, how are you going to find the time to study win dirt, win throughout the day? Are you going to study or are you going to wake up at 5:00 a.m. or you’re going to come home really tired and just, you know, drag yourself through three or four hours of studying?

So I just kind of battled with that mentally for a few weeks. I mean, I knew I was going to go back to it because there was not a chance in hell that I was going to not get the CPA, because the only reason I did a master’s degree in accounting was to, you know, take that stupid test. So there was no chance that I was not going to take the exam. So I knew I would go back to it. But I just kind of, I don’t know, ignored it for a few weeks. So anyways, it comes down to it. I just know. All right. There’s this. This was like a Thursday or Friday.

My modus operandi throughout my whole life has just kind of been what I’m really going to like, dig into a goal. I always start on on a Monday. I think that I think a lot of people do that. It’s almost like, you know, the whole New Year’s resolution type thing, but it’s kind of on a weekly basis. So I would recommit to a goal always on a Monday. So on a Thursday or Friday, I knew I had this weekend I was going to sit down and plan right out kind of a mission statement for myself, like, why am I doing this? Why do I want to pass these exams? What good things are gonna happen to me if I pass? You know, this is going to be my motivation type thing. What kind of bad things will happen or or won’t happen or you know what? Things won’t change if I don’t pass that that whole thing. What are the good sides to passing these exams and what are the bad things that will happen or won’t happen or won’t change if I don’t pass?

So I write out this document. And again, that’s just another way. I’ve dealt with goals my whole life since I was a teenager. I was I guess I was a weirdo, Emel weirdo maybe. And even in high school, I mean, I played all the sports, but I was also like reading Tony Robbins books back then. So anyways, he kind of has that format for getting clear on a goal like why you want to accomplish it. And whatever you have to say about Tony Robbins and all that self-help stuff, that’s been a very effective framework for me to get very clear about why I want to accomplish something. And what are the side effects or the ramifications of achieving a goal or not achieving the goal?

How to Pass the CPA in 3 Months

So I do this whole process. I’m going to jump back into the CPA thing. And then I also spend that weekend just strategizing like, OK, the things that I can’t change is that I’m going to be going to work at like 7 a.m. and I’ll get home at 6 or 7 p.m. That’s just that’s going to happen every weekday. So how am I going to study? So the first realization was, I know I’m not going to have enough time. I just straight up don’t have enough time to study like four hours a day. So that’s that’s out of the picture. And I had obviously given up on the idea of passing off for in some short amount of time. I was just focused on getting one done at a time and kind of seeing how it would go. Although I did have my audit date set and I don’t want to leave this recording window thing so I can’t look up when that was. But I did reset my far retake a week before that original audit date. And I think what had happened is I had paid for all four. And once I recommitted to taking the exams, I pick dates set all for paid for all four.

I’m not really sure on that, but I did have audit scheduled. They know that. And I set the far retake a week before that original audit exam date. So I knew that I had I just knew I wasn’t gonna study well after work because I’d be too tired, just mentally frazzled. So I decided, all right, I’m going to get up at 4:30 every morning and I’m going to study for two hours and the questions. So. So one of the big realizations throughout the study process that I made, I didn’t really act on this the first time, obviously, because I failed far. But one of the big realizations was that take any given lesson in your review course, you can watch the whole the whole video lecture, read the whole chapter, and it covers all the background information, all the ins and outs.

You know, these rules and how they work and why they’re set up the way they are and just all the background information. But most of that stuff won’t directly show up in questions. So you can you can watch an entire video lecture, read the entire chapter. But then if you go to the practice questions for that topic and you go through all of them, you will you will see that the actual questions are really only coming from the same three or four kind of key topic areas within that one lesson. So I had that realization.

So I thought, all right, I’m going to study two hours a day in the morning when my brain is fresh. I’m going to go to the questions first. I’m going to do a questions based. I’m going to I’m going to use questions first study approach. So I would just go through the questions and I essentially just reversed from the normal way of studying where you watched the lecture, read the chapter, do the questions. I would jump straight into the questions. And it is one of those things where there are kind of nuances involved.

Using MCQs as a Learning Tool

You have to get good at it, meaning using the questions as your primary learning tool. There is some of that. You know, it’s like riding a bike. You can take a person that’s never ridden a bike. You can say yes. So you sit on the bike, you put your feet on those pedal things and you just move your feet in a circle and you keep your balance and you know, you that’s how you ride the bike. And that’s accurate. That is how you ride the bike. But there is a big area where that person that has never ridden the bike before, they’re they’re just going to have to figure out what that feels like and how it actually works. And that’s how that’s how this question’s first thing is you have to get good at it. It’s it’s like a skill or it’s like a different form of studying. But once I kind of figured it out, I could go through lessons insanely fast. I could go through the questions. I could get a very good idea of what they were asking. You know, some of the calculation ones I would reperform to where I, you know, knew how to do the calculation or those types of calculations. I was making digital flashcards all along the way for things that I personally struggled to understand or remember.

So I was doing that. And then when I came to a really difficult lesson where, you know, you could look at the questions and you just you just kind of know, OK, this is more this is one where I probably need like a I need the background information. There’s some kind of framework here or, you know, there’s these concepts that this whole thing’s based on that I’m not really getting from just reading these explanations. So in those I would go through the questions, still get an idea of what things I was seeing the questions on, but then I would go back and watch the video lecture after doing that and doing it in this reverse way, the lecture would magically make so much more sense the first time, because I kind of had these questions in my mind of what I was trying to figure out. I kind of knew exactly what I was trying to learn from the lecture.

Zoning Out on Video Lectures

Whereas when you just watched the lecture the first time all the way through, it’s just kind of like it’s like if someone just gives you a presentation in a foreign language, I mean, you’re not even really sure what you’re hearing. That’s kind of how what watching the video lecture cold the first time is. So going through the questions first completely changed the study process for me. I found it honestly almost easy once I made this change and I went through the lessons this way. The other thing that I added in was I would and I was only studying two hours a day. I mean, I know I said that, but I was actually only studying 90 minutes a day for the new material. And I would reserve the last half hour of the day to I would generate one set of 30 questions pulled from all the topics that I’d studied up to that point.

So if you have like, you know, let’s say today I finished less than 10, hypothetically less than 10 different review courses structure their lessons and their numbering way different. But say today I finished less than 10, meaning in the last few weeks I’ve gone through lessons one through nine. So today I finished lesson 10. I would generate 30 questions from lessons one through 10. And then tomorrow, if I spend the 90 minutes going through lesson eleven, then that would save the last half hour and generate 30 questions from lessons one through eleven. Because remember I said earlier that one of the biggest failings of the normal way of studying is putting all this new information as you go through a new lesson into basically your short term memory. And then the next day you sit down, plow through another four hours of brand new material, and that just pushes out everything you studied yesterday, essentially. It’s just very hard. And that’s that’s even that’s just in one day, basically.

Each new day you’re replacing in your short term memory what you spent four hours on the day before, you know, you might remember 10 or 20 percent of it. That’s essentially what’s happening. And it gets much worse as if you look at things on a week to week basis in a or a month to month basis. So that was one of the other big realizations I had is like, okay, I need to build in rereview to my daily study process. So that’s how I did that. I did. Questions first approach. And I would study a little bit differently on the weekends. I would spend more time with practice simulations or if I had fallen behind on the study plan from my study planner, I would spend the weekends catching up so that I never, ever made it to a Monday where I wasn’t on par with where I was supposed to be in my study planner. And and doing that worked extremely well.

Once I got close to those two exam dates, so I had my FA retake then the audio exam and it was actually I believe a Monday and a Friday. So it wasn’t even a week apart, it was in the same week, day, the same week. And my senior at work told me that was completely idiotic, that I should not do that. He’s like, you’re just you’re being overambitious. I really think you should change those. And I mean, he’s probably right. But I went in, took far and by the, you know, four days later, went to take audit. I obviously didn’t know how I had done on far, but I did feel way differently about it as I went through it. Anyways, I ended up passing that far retake and I ended up passing audit. I didn’t take a single day off as soon as I took audit.

The next day I was on to I believe I took BEC next. I took REG last, I’m pretty sure, and I was just onto the next one. From there I just I really had the study process figured out. I had it grooved in. I just knew what to do. And I passed the last two. And it wasn’t until I got my CPA score report back that I realized once I’d taken that far retake, I had passed the CPA in a 3 month period. And I was pretty shocked by that because I don’t know in real life terms like I was new at the job. The first three months, it was a lot it was it just it seemed like it had been longer than that is what I’m trying to say.

Finding Out I’d Passed All 4

So it’s just kind of funny that my original goal was to pass the CPA in 3 months during the summer before I started the job. And then I I didn’t bomb far the first time. I mean, I got to 74, but I felt like it was kind of a major failure based on how much time I had had to study every everyday but simply out of necessity. I just changed things around. Went from studying seven or eight hours a day to studying two hours a day. Now, I was I was doing a lot of stuff on my phone. And that’s that is how super-fast C.P.A started because the study tools made for mobile just sucked. But and I was messing around with like trying to read a word document on my phone. I had purchased review notes or like focus notes from other vendors.

Then I had audio notes from another vendor. The audio notes were way too long. It was like 40 hours just to cover far once. So by the time you listened to it all once, it means the same problem as the review course is just so much information over such a long time period that you’re just kind of lost in a sea of information.

So anyways, but I did I did kind of use any free time I had. I would listen to those audio notes. I mean, I didn’t like him that much, but I use them. I would listen to those things relentlessly. I would read the review notes on my phone. I would take quizzes even though the review course app was using like full strength questions, which if you’re just standing in line somewhere, it’s just impossible. When these full strength calculation questions, an entire income statement pops up on your phone and you know, you’re supposed to do some sort of evaluation on that. But anyways, I would just struggle with those. And the whole SuperfastCPA side of things was it was a few years after I passed the exams and had been working at the firm awhile where I was. I turned into the CPA exam guru at work. Like everyone is asking me how to study and I was help. I was like coaching people with their study process because I had passed mine so quickly.

So that that is basically. Well, that’s not basically that’s kind of the full story. It’s taken me over 30 minutes to walk through that. So I guess the big takeaways were when you tweak your study process, there are different ways of doing things much faster. And I wouldn’t necessarily call it cutting corners or taking a shortcut because there aren’t really shortcuts. I mean, whatever your study process is, you have to go in there to the testing center and prove that you can score at least to 75, you know.

How to Pass YOUR CPA Exams Faster

So how you study isn’t really important. I mean, there is no questionnaire or, you know, no one asks you, well, how did you study? I mean, that part doesn’t matter. You just have to go in and prove that you know the material well enough to score 75. So I drastically changed my study process. It was much more effective, much more efficient, obviously. And those strategies are kind of the basis of how we teach our clients and customers to study and and then our study tools are meant for those throughout the rest of your day where, you know, you can be making up a lot of study time or packing in a lot of extra study time, listening to the audio notes, reading the review notes, taking the mini quizzes.

All of those are designed primarily with the idea in mind that people are going to be using these on their phones, you know, in these little five minute chunks. That’s why our questions are modified with round numbers so that you can do them in your head but still be practicing calculations. The walk through practice examples within the review notes are the same way anyways. So that is kind of the the story of my CPA study process. Hopefully, as you listen to that, you’ve found some you know, you got some good nuggets from a strategic point of view or an even practical point of view, like how to actually hone your own study process, shape it to something that’s more effective for you. And I guess we’ll stop there for this episode.

Now, before we get off of here, officially, I do want to mention also that we have a one hour free training and this is in webinar format. So you can get on, you spend an hour and we will walk you through for free the ins and outs of the study process that we recommend to our clients or customers. And this these trainings are free, but they’re in webinar format, so they’re only on certain days. And what you will learn from this training is, well, the title of the training is how to pass your CPA exams fast and avoid failing sections, even if you are extremely busy and have limited time to study. Now, specifically, what we will be showing you on the training is the perfect two hour study session.

So on weekdays, all you need is two hours with your main review course. Now, if you have more time than that, you can do two of these two hour study sessions back to back. So if you have four hours, you would do two of these blocks. So what we’re teaching you is how to study in these two hour blocks. And it contains a specific sequence. The first 90 minutes, you doing a certain thing and then you end with a specific rereview exercise the last 30 minutes.

This will turnaround your CPA study process. It will make an absolutely huge difference in the results you’re getting from your day to day study process and just dramatically reduce the stress levels throughout this whole process because you will now know exactly what to do when you sit down to study. Now, to register for one of these trainings, you can go to www.superfastcpa.com/passnow, choose a session that works for you where you can sit and watch the whole thing.

This is one hour that will literally save you months and months of time and frustration and likely hundreds of dollars from avoiding retakes. You can also get a link texted back to you by texting PASSNOW, one word to 44222. So again, you just open up your your texting app. Text the word PASSNOW to the number 44222. Let’s pass. Now one word. So do that. And I hope to see you on one of these upcoming sessions.

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