CPA Exam Experience Podcast Episode 2: Failing BEC Twice, Ironing Out the Study Process, and Final Review Tips

In this episode, you’ll hear a call between me and SuperfastCPA customer. On this call I’m helping Daniel clarify some sticking points in his study process, and how to essentially guarantee he passes his BEC retake after getting a 74 twice.

I think you’ll get a lot out of this episode because we cover a lot on this call.

Transcript of the episode:

Nate [00:00:08] Welcome to Episode 2 of the CPA Exam Experience podcast from SuperfastCPA. I am Nate. And in this episode, I have a call that I recorded with a SuperfastCPA customer a few months ago and I’m now just getting around to editing it for the podcast. So what this interview was, I got an email from a customer. His name’s Daniel. He had been out of school, a longtime. You know, a lot of our customers are in that situation, or a lot of people taking the exams are in that situation. They come back to the CPA exam after being out of school for a long time. And he works as a senior accountant. And he was kind of struggling with the study process, got a 74 on BEC twice. And so on this call, we cover a lot of stuff on this call, but primarily I’m just trying to help him smooth out some of the bumps he’s experiencing, with the study process. And we go deep into the daily study process what it should look like, and then towards the end we go through some mindset stuff, how to get over the self-doubt of thinking you’re not fully prepared, the self-doubt and kind of the panic during the actual exam itself. And then also how to we really just cover a lot. So I think you’ll find the content of this interview pretty helpful. At the same time, we kind of jumped in and out of the study process just based on the specific parts he’s struggling with. So again, if you’re kind of a first time listener or you’ve never been on one of our study training sessions, that is the best place for you to start. We do these free 1 hour webinars where we walk through what your study process should look like and we frame it as the perfect two hour study session. So you learn how to study effectively. Even if all you have is just two hours a day with your main review course, you can sign up for one of those free sessions at SuperfastCPA.com/training Or you can just text PASSNOW one word to 44222. Or go to our main site and you can easily find a link to register for one of those trainings. All right. So that’s enough of the intro. Let’s get into this interview.

Daniel [00:02:38] Right.

Daniel [00:02:40] So what I was thinking of, I wrote some things down that will give you an idea of where I am and maybe I could go through them before you give me some advice or things to do.

Nate [00:02:51] Yeah. So basically. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s just start with like what’s your kind of CPA journey been like… and yeah, just mix that stuff in. Like what, what have you struggled with or whatever you wrote down. Let’s just go from there.

Daniel [00:03:07] Right. So like I said on my e-mail, I’m forty seven. I’ve been working in accounting since I left college and I wasn’t as strong accounting student, but I’ve always had the desire to become a CPA and have been struggling with it since maybe ten years ago. I decided to take BEC because it was you know, I’d say this let me get my feet wet and maybe try the first one… is that the one the people that say that is the easiest one. But I did struggle. Mainly, I think because of I was not a very good test taker in college or, you know, I was not using the right program with the right method to study. So that being said, now I’m getting… I I took I took the tests exactly one month ago. And by now I’m over the shock of failing it once more. When before, before I used to it used to really hit me really hard. And then I would just stay away from it for more than six months. Go back to my regular routine, doing my sport and basically procrastinating.

Nate [00:04:30] Gotcha.

Daniel [00:04:30] This time on basically over it. I want to get back into it. So while studying, I was following your method, this is the first time that I’ve done the test, within eight to nine weeks. Before I used to take a lot longer. Mainly because I say well I need to learn this stuff since I’ve been out of college for so long. But like you say on your recordings, it’s it’s I’m shooting myself in the foot because I’m taking too long.

Daniel [00:05:03] It’s a, mara… marathon… it’s a sprint Not a marathon. Yeah. So while following your method of study, I saw that I was making progress. Umm… while resisting the urge to move the testing day forward. I have to be honest and say I did not do a lot of simulations or full practice tests.

Nate [00:05:25] OK.

Daniel [00:05:26] So now, studying now after I failed it a month ago, I feel so lost because I don’t have that structure of studying in the morning and checking off the boxes in Wiley, and just moving on. So now I feel somewhat lost because I just want to put emphasis on the sections that I did not do good on or that I was weaker on.

Nate [00:05:53] Ok.

Daniel [00:05:53] So while studying, for example, on high multiple choice questions, I tend to complicate my life because maybe I don’t understand the stem of the question or I can’t come up with a strategy to solve the multiple choice question or the wording confuses me and I tend to concentrate on the leaves instead of looking at the trees and performing a strategy to to solve complicated questions or simulations.

Daniel [00:06:25] So that being said, while studying and doing well, my confidence level goes up, but when I’m spending too much time on the multiple-choice questions or get stuck in a simulation, doubt starts creeping in, and the preparation experience is not, it’s not so pleasant anymore. Mainly because I know that I won’t have that much time on the test to do to do a similar question or problem. Another thing is when I’m at the Prometric test center, I tend to get too stressed at the testing center specifically if I don’t know if. If I don’t know that topic or I didn’t study well on the topic, I know that I’m deficient in that portion. So that gives me stress, especially… one of the first questions that I that I see is specifically on that topic that really hits me hard and then my confidence level goes down.

Daniel [00:07:33] I think I’m handling the time management well, but encountering a multiple choice or simulation that stumps me will play with my confidence, and I think I’m losing lot of points because of that. Like I said, the last two times that I’ve, that I’ve taken BEC I had a 74 each time.

Daniel [00:07:49] And so my mental state of the moment, I doubt myself a lot. I can’t really, you know…say I can… can I really do this… If I pass the BEC, which has given me so much trouble. How would I pass FAR, and, that’s… That’s where I am right now.

Nate [00:08:08] Yeah.

Nate [00:08:10] Well, okay. So a couple of couple of things have good news. So first, if you’ve gotten a 74, that, I mean honestly like on a different day with maybe a few different questions, you know, that would be a passing score. So so you’re extremely close and yeah…

Nate [00:08:32] I’ll give you some strategies that I’m pretty confident can get you over that hump. And then the other thing is, the last thing you said about BEC, how if you can’t pass BEC how how much would you struggle with FAR? That’s not always true… cuz you work… did you say you work as a controller?

Daniel [00:08:54] No, no… I’m a senior accountant.

Nate [00:08:57] Okay. So… but you work in financial accounting?

Daniel [00:09:01] Yes, I do.

Nate [00:09:02] Yeah.

Nate [00:09:02] OK, so like, that… a lot of FAR will be right up your alley. Stuff that you have just a lot of experience in… and BEC. BEC does… Can be very confusing especially I think you mentioned the corporate governance. There’s just a lot of it’s a lot of conceptual stuff. And it’s it’s it’s kind of similar to audit where there’s so much conceptual material and so much of it sounds so similar that it can kind of just be confusing. I mean, it is… really confusing.

Nate [00:09:38] And so.

Daniel [00:09:39] Right.

Nate [00:09:40] That, that is that is kind of a common experience with with BEC.

Nate [00:09:46] And then the other thing you mentioned. I would recommend like a shorter study window. And again, where you got a 74. I would… when you when you decide to jump right back into this. I would set a… I would set a study window of like honestly like 4 to 5 weeks, and and just prepare mentally that you’re just going to hit it hard every single day. And it is more… View it more of a sprint. Like this is shorter, but I’m gonna go harder each day and that I just think that works much better.

Nate [00:10:27] Spreading it out further. It just really gives you more time to kind of forget big pockets of stuff you’ve studied.

Nate [00:10:39] So…

Daniel [00:10:40] Is that… is that 4 to 5 week window. I will hit harder the sections that I didn’t do well on?

Nate [00:10:47] Not really, no. Here, I’ll give you the full I’ll give you the full… Like, strategy. The only other thing I was going to ask is when you study, are you making your own flashcards or your own…

Daniel [00:10:59] Yes.

Daniel [00:11:01] Yes, I am.

Nate [00:11:02] OK. And do you do those in…

Daniel [00:11:04] I’m trying to follow your method as best as I can. Every everything that you say, you say on your recordings and everything that I’ve read. That’s the way I study this same the same way that you to suggest.

Nate [00:11:17] OK, all right.

Nate [00:11:19] So, yeah, let’s let’s just start from the top then. So what, what I would recommend exactly would be… So you you set a test date that’s like… Gives you four or five weeks to study and then each day ideally you’ll study in the morning like you kind of. You’ve done in the past and like a two hour session in the mornings, kind of all you really need to aim for. And in those sessions, I wouldn’t go back lesson by lesson.

Nate [00:11:53] I would work in this format. You do one set of 30 multiple choice questions and kind of generate from all topics. So you’re just generating like basically a practice testlet. So 30 questions pulled from all topics. And you you work through that in test mode. So you’re not seeing the answers after each question… Just at the end. And then you kind of carefully go through the responses and keep making your own flashcards. Do you use a digital like…

Nate [00:12:32] What’s the one? Uhh.. Brainscape? Or no uhhh,

Daniel [00:12:37] Quick, quick,.

Nate [00:12:38] Quizlet. Quizlet.

Daniel [00:12:39] Quick. Yes. Yeah, that one.

Nate [00:12:42] OK. So that’s that’s good. So you keep making your flashcards and the flash cards is the thing where you want it to be an 80/20 type thing where you don’t want to spend… Like, you don’t want to basically rewrite the textbook in the form of flash cards.

Nate [00:13:01] You don’t want to take notes on every single thing. It’s just stuff that you personally you kind of struggle to remember or struggle to understand. And you want to, as you’re sitting there reading explanations, explain it back to yourself like, outloud. Explain it back to yourself while you’re sitting there outloud until you kind of get the idea. And then once you kind of have it for that just right then and there, write out a flash card in your own words. And that’s what will work the best later on. So you go through that process, 30 questions, and then do another set of 30 questions and then follow that with a set of five to seven practice simulations, and that, that you want to get to where you can do those three things. 30 questions, review, 30 questions, review. Five to seven practice simulations and review. You want to be able to do that in that two hour window and you should be able to to kind of do that because by test day you want to be able to go through multiple choice questions, basically one per minute.

Daniel [00:14:23] Right.

Nate [00:14:24] Just to,

Nate [00:14:26] That’s just what you want to shoot for. To leave yourself as much time as possible for the simulations. And it just prevents kind of the overthinking.

Nate [00:14:38] And just jumping back to one thing you said, you just really don’t want to sit during the testing center and and try to evaluate like where you’re at score wise or like, “Oh, I I didn’t know this. That’s like my fourth one I didn’t know. So what’s what’s that gonna make my score?”.

Nate [00:14:55] At that point, everything’s just you know, you can’t do anything about that. You’re in the testing center just just to try to not stress out about that kind of a thing. You just don’t try to evaluate like where you’re at or really just how you’re doing. And don’t sit there and overthink certain questions.

Nate [00:15:14] You just you kind of… you know, if you know something or you don’t. And if you don’t, you basically make your best guess or, you know, and move on. And that’s that’s really all you can do. Once you’re in the testing center. So.

Daniel [00:15:32] Ok… One question.

Nate [00:15:33] Yeah, go ahead.

Daniel [00:15:35] I do… I do study with Wiley, I really like it because of uh. the stats that it gives back. It gives answer on all options and not just the one that you got right or wrong.

Nate [00:15:48] Mm hmm.

Daniel [00:15:49] I do have another uh, method, like Surgent. And since I didn’t do well, let’s say on a separate topic. Would it be a good idea to go to that, um, to that program and do some of the multiple choice questions there or just stick to Wiley 100%?

Nate [00:16:12] Oh uh, if you have access to the other one. Yeah. I mean, just to get maybe a different variation of some of the questions like. Yeah. You know, work that in as well. And then for your for your weaker topics. So here’s where…

Nate [00:16:27] So. So that’s basically your weekday routine. You know, you you work full time and everything. So on weekdays you just are kind of aiming for that two hour session in the morning. 30 questions, 30 questions.

Nate [00:16:39] Five to seven practice simulations. And doing that like that. That alone, just that kind of cumulative review.

Nate [00:16:50] I’m not a big fan of spending huge amounts of time on just like your quote, unquote “weaker areas” because you can and you will forget stuff from the other areas.

Nate [00:17:04] I think what works best is coverage of all the topics… Just hitting all the topics just over and over and over and over. And that’s what those sets of 30 questions will do for you. Then on the weekends when you have more time. So on Saturdays and Sundays, aim for a longer study session like four to six hours. And that is where, so start that study session by the same thing, 30, 30 and then some practice SIMs, and that should take roughly 90 minutes to two hours and then the rest of that study session. You can go back. And if there’s still just some things like, again, maybe the corporate governance, then spend some time going deeper in some… Of.. your, your absolute weakest areas or things where because I’m I’m looking at the blueprints right now and corporate governance essentially just is basically about COSO and the internal control framework.

Nate [00:18:10] And just to kind of go, it’s kind of this set of broad ideas that a lot of questions could come out of. Or there… There’s a lot of ways they can ask questions on this kind of stuff. So those are the kind of topics where a video lecture can be pretty helpful, where you’re getting this kind of base understanding of these broad, kind of deep ideas that a lot of questions can come out of. And it is a pretty like it’s 17 to 27% of the BEC exam. So it’s it’s a pretty big portion. So on Saturdays and Sundays, that’s when you spend some time going deeper into the your, your “problem topics.” But yes, uh, for a restudy, the first thing you want to do or the main thing you want to do is those sets of 30 questions, 30, 30 and then a set of practice SIMs. And that just really kind of helps you practice kind of the same format you’d see on test day. You know, testlets and then some practice SIMs.

Daniel [00:19:16] Got it.

Nate [00:19:19] And you’re making your own flashcards as you do that.

Nate [00:19:22] And then you you you still want to do the many sessions throughout the rest of your day, like as many as many times as you’ve listened to the audios or whatever. Keep listening to those when you drive to work. When you drive home, do some mini quizzes throughout your day. And then the big thing, though, is our is our review notes. You just read the review notes whenever you have a chance to pull out your phone for like three to five minutes and you just read those from start to finish just over and over and over as many times as you get ’em.

Daniel [00:20:00] Right. Should I spend some time doing full practice tests?

Nate [00:20:07] See, I’m not I just I’m not like a… To me that’s just like an “if you want to” type thing. I just I don’t think that gives anyone a huge benefit or not. And these these sets of 30 questions that you’re doing daily, that’s essentially a testlet, and you’re doing them in test mode. Again, you don’t see the answers till after you’ve done all you’ve done all 30 questions. And that’s basically and you do the practice SIMs the same way. So it’s it’s just like a testlet on test day of SIMs. I just, to… to then sit there for, you know, torture yourself and do a four hour full practice practice exam unless you were having like major issues with the time management, I just… I don’t think that’s that important as far as a final review goes, this this will help you a lot as well, if at all possible. Set your test on a Monday and then then you have Saturday and Sunday before. I mean, if if you’re able to take two days off work, you know that the two days before your test date, then that can work as well. But if not, you set your test on a Monday and then you just spend all day, Saturday and Sunday just doing a massive cram session. And all you’re gonna do is just even more of the same format, 30 questions, 30 questions or meaning multiple choice, 30 multiple choice, 30 multiple choice, one set of practice simulations. And you just go through that format. You keep making your flashcards and then… So let’s say that Saturday and Sunday night you’ve studied… I don’t know, from 8:00 in the morning till like five at night. I’m not saying go like clear until 10:00 PM. I mean, take somewhat of a break… also, as far as work for every hour, work in like these 50 minute chunks where you’re absolutely uninterrupted. And then if you need to, just take ten minutes where you like physically get away from your computer or look away from the screen or whatever. But then once you’re 50 minutes starts again, you know, you your phone is on silent. It’s turned on face down. So you can’t see alerts or anything or set it across the room. Just so you are 100 percent, 50 minutes out of every hour is completely uninterrupted. You know, high quality study time.

Daniel [00:22:37] Got it.

Nate [00:22:38] Anyways, so. So those two days, and then the in the evenings of those two cram days before your exam. That is where you will get your flashcards you’ve been making this whole time and you’ll start going through those on your phone just using the quizlet app or whatever, and you just go through those over and over and over again. And then try to fit in reading through our review notes like from start to finish, one time. That probably only takes like an hour, really, like they’re really not that long. And then test day morning, get up early. Let’s say your test was at 10:00 a.m.. I just really liked getting up early and just keep the cramming going because like I said, it’s a sprint and there is so much information. I think it’s very beneficial to have as much of that stuff just floating around in your short term memory as possible. So like the weeks before, that’s all the time spent trying to actually, you know, learn the material, have it kind of burned into your brain as much as possible. But it’s not all going to be committed to long term memory. And then just this week before your exam, and especially those two days and the morning of as much cramming as you can do, it’s just going to help once you actually get to the testing center. So get up. Try to do another set of that 30 multiple choice, 30 multiple choice, a set of practice simulations and then try to get to the testing center like an hour early. And I would just sit in my car and I would go through my flashcards one last time. And like every time I did that, I would go in because essentially if you’re doing the flashcards things right where you’re only kind of writing down things that you keep forgetting or missing or you struggle to remember or understand, those flashcards are going to contain the answers to your weakest areas. Right. So going through the flashcards that one last time, like right before you walk in the testing center, I would go in and I would like you said I would I would see something like the first few questions just seemed like straight off what I had just reviewed and my flashcards. And I knew it because I had just done the flashcards.

Daniel [00:25:11] Right.

Nate [00:25:13] So. Yeah. So. So those things. That’s that’s like the perfect, perfect formula for a restudy. And you having a 74, if you just, if you executed that every day, I mean I would bet a lot of money that you can beat a seventy-four by just doing that exact thing for four or five weeks.

Daniel [00:25:34] We have a lot of that to you. I will do it. I will do it.

Nate [00:25:40] Yeah, so uh…

Daniel [00:25:41] I really I really appreciate you taking the time to point it out to me. I will put it into practice, and will set a date as soon as I can.

Nate [00:25:55] All right mean yeah…

Daniel [00:25:56] In four to five weeks.

Nate [00:25:58] Yeah.

Nate [00:25:59] I think I was kind of writing some notes while you were talking. And I think I covered everything. Do you have any other questions about anything?

Daniel [00:26:13] No I think we’ve covered everything. I got to figure out by myself how to get rid of the fear and just be confident when I go in the test center. And not second guess or doubt myself, just going with whatever I have and be confident that I’ve done the work.

Nate [00:26:35] OK. So, yes.

Nate [00:26:38] So you you saying that. Minds me of one. There’s a couple like, I don’t know, kind of concepts or conceptual ideas that it’s kind of hard for me to explain to people through typing something out or on some of my emails. And one of them is is basically what you just said, where as you go through all this practice and you’re you know, you’re spending just 90 percent your time on practice problems. It can kind of feel like like I’m not sure if I’m even though you’re towards the end, you’ll be getting most of the questions. Right. And if you’ve been doing this every single day, you’ll probably have seen a lot of these questions, you know, multiple times by then and again. So, you know the answers to the questions.

Nate [00:27:20] But then when you’re away from your material, like walking around during the day, you’re kind of have these thoughts of like, “I’m not sure I really, like deeply understand all this stuff or all these topics or like if I had to get up and give a lecture on COSO, I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Nate [00:27:40] And so there’s that kind of self-doubt or that idea. And it’s that goes back to what I’m always talking about, where you’re not trying to become an accounting professor through this process, you just need to be able to answer questions on test day. And so just kind of trust when you sit down and you start seeing questions and you can answer them all, that’s all you really need to know how to do.

Nate [00:28:07] And uh,.

Daniel [00:28:08] Right.

Nate [00:28:09] Yeah, all the all that second guessing, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Because I would think like I can answer the questions when I’m sitting there studying.

Nate [00:28:17] But I really feel like I don’t have like this deep grasp of, you know, from back to forwards, like the whole topic or all the lessons.

Nate [00:28:28] Or I couldn’t, like, explain it to someone piece by piece. But I can answer the questions when I get a question. And, you know, so you don’t worry about that whole other side of like I couldn’t write a textbook about COSO. You don’t need to be able to, you know, you just need to… you just need to be able to answer the questions as they come. And so doing these sets of 30, 30 and then practice SIMs every day for four or five weeks, you will get very, very good at answering questions, which again, that’s all you’ve got to do on test day.

Nate [00:29:04] So, yeah… don’t, don’t worry about the other side of or just let the self-doubt kind of cripple you or affect you in any way.

Daniel [00:29:16] Okay. So one less day and then I think I should, I’ll call it a day.

Nate [00:29:21] All right.

Daniel [00:29:21] I don’t want much of your time. When I’m studying and I’m faced with a complex, multiple choice question, and…

Daniel [00:29:32] Is it a good idea to just spend the time trying to figure it out on my own, umm, thinking that by working through it and pushing myself through it, I will gain the knowledge that I need to be able to do it quicker later on? Or should I just go ahead and look at the answer. And, see I feel like if I look at the answer, I’m not really doing anything, but if I push myself through it, although I’m taking it a long time. There will be some benefit to that. Am I right or wrong?

Nate [00:30:04] Yeah. So it’s it’s it’s some of both. So let’s say that it’s like a calculation heavy question. And I guess there’s two different answers to two different scenarios. If it’s your first time through and someone’s doing like, you know what, I tell people the question first approach. If you just don’t even know where to start, then you don’t really sit there and try to struggle through it because. Yeah, you don’t know where to even begin. But what you do want to do is look at the answer and then you sit there and you recalculate it yourself multiple times until you understand it.

Daniel [00:30:45] Got it.

Nate [00:30:46] So that’s what you would do. There’s not a whole lot of benefit to sitting there and struggling for 10 minutes, if you just literally don’t know where to start, you know, there’s no point in doing that. So look at the answer right away.

Daniel [00:30:58] But what I would say is then, “wow, this has taken me so long now, imagine at the test center so… that’s right, it really helps.

Nate [00:31:06] Yeah. Yeah. Yep. If it’s. Yeah. Some big hairy looking problem and you don’t really know even what to how to really dissect it or figure it out, just look at the answer. But then, with the answer in front of you, and then cover up the answer and you try to get back to the same answer, you know. And if you can’t do it the first time, then look again and be like, okay, this is where the calculation… that’s the step I missed. Then you cover up the answer and force yourself to work through it from start to finish, until you can get that same answer.

Daniel [00:31:41] Got it, got it. Well, thank you very much, Nate. I really appreciate it.

Nate [00:31:46] All right. Daniel Yeah, it was nice talking with you. Let me know how everything goes.

Daniel [00:31:51] I will, and I will schedule this as soon as possible right now. I’ll shoot you an email when I get a 85 on it.

Nate [00:31:58] All right man, k.

Daniel [00:32:00] Thanks. Appreciate it, have a good day.

Nate [00:32:02] Yep, you too, see you.

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