“I Failed FAR with a Bad Score, Now What?” Episode 4 of the CPA Exam Experience Podcast

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In this episode you’ll hear a coaching call with Tracey, who found out she failed FAR and wanted to approach her retake following the SuperfastCPA study framework.


Nate: All right. Welcome to Episode 4 of the CPA Exam Experience with SuperfastCPA. So in this episode, I’ve got another call with one of the, one of our SuperfastCPA customers, Tracy. And she went in, spent a lot of time on FA studying first time went, took the exam, and then found out that she failed it and had done a lot worse than than she thought she did. And that’s a pretty common experience. A lot of very smart people that I knew personally when I started working at the firm had the same thing happen to them. They didn’t get, you know, like a 74, or a 72 – they got more like a 45 or a 50. And that happens. It’s a very common experience. So my advice on how to restudy when this kind of thing happens is a lot different, you know, than if you got a 73 or a 74. So that’s what you’ll hear as cover on this call. If you’ve found these episodes helpful, or if you find this episode helpful, please take a second, go to the iTunes app or your podcast app and leave a review for the podcast as it’s new and the reviews only help. So let’s get into this interview.

Nate: So what… How many sections have you taken?

Tracey: Just FAR, I’ve only… I’ve only studied for FAR. And I’m just, that’s the one I want to tackle first ’cause I I agree with your approach.

Nate: Yeah,.

Tracey: Audit to me would be the easiest in my opinion. And I, and I, I did agree that after I tackled and conquered FAR, that I would go to BEC next… oh no, not BEC, it was REG, REG because it just seems like the next most difficult one.

Tracey: So you were like, I mean, of course, you’re smart and you passed… them all right together and you…

Nate: Well, I did, I did fail – I failed FAR once, too.

Tracey: I know but you… You must be a smart guy because you still did all three within three months. I think you must know what you’re talking about. I still think that you’re smart, even though you failed FAR the first time.

Nate: Yeah.

Tracey: You can whip out all those out… in the space of months.

Nate: Well, so. Yeah, so the thing I can tell you is, I mean, I’m definitely not a genius or anything. It really comes down to kind of mastering the the daily study process. And once you once you have, you know, kind of just a repeatable process that you can do each day, that that is like the big. I mean, that’s like the biggest difference maker. And a lot of people just kind of assume that you just have to… it’s a matter of kind of putting in the time. And it is, you know, you have to put in a certain amount of time.

But there are a lot of people, you know, you see the pass rates and the pass rates are like 50 percent. And so most people that are taking the exams are putting in the time. But you still have 50 percent of people, you know, failing any given section that they go in and take. And so the difference would be how are those people studying? So the study process is really what matters.

That’s just what happened with me. I, like you said, it’s that first time studying for FAR, I was trying to learn every single thing. I was trying to… I just kind of had this idea that, like, you need to know the topics front to back, backwards and forwards. You. You should be able to explain it to somebody else as if you were like a professor yourself. And there’s just so much information. It covers so many topics that you just can’t do that.

That’s not the way this works. You really just need to be able to answer the questions that you’re going to see on the exams. And so the approach to, to those two avenues is completely different. If all you need to do is answer the questions on the exams, the way that you’d study most effectively for that, is completely differently than if you were trying to literally memorize every single aspect of every single lesson. So that’s kind of what… yeah, I mean, that’s what the Study Hacks course is based on. So you’ve taken FAR once then, right?

Tracey: Yeah, and I got a 41 as you can see I put in the email that was pretty bad. And I’m like nowhere near a 74… 74 even though I think I would’ve killed me more if I got a 74 and was one point away. I just want to jump back into it so that I can still build on what I did know to to sit for it and pass it and not wait months and then not have interest anymore.

Nate: Right.

Nate: Yeah. And that’s that’s definitely the best thing is to if you fail the section, get back into it immediately because this stuff is very technical. It leaves your memory pretty quickly is what I’m trying to say.

Tracey: Do you recommend… for “planting the seeds”, are you suggesting to start with doing questions first and then on the if it’s something that you don’t get, you use the video first approach?

Nate: Yeah, yeah. Let me explain that better. So you work in these two hour chunks, right? So on… Any given morning, if you if it’s a work day or whatever and you just have the two hours, then that’s just what you would start with, is two hours. The first 90 minutes is what you’d use to go through new information with this idea of planting the seeds. So the way the planting the seeds should work is, you’re gonna go straight into the questions for that topic and you want to do them in practice mode so that you can see the answer for any given question right away. You’re not trying to take a quiz or anything. And what you’re what you’re trying to do with this is, because, the idea behind this is for any given lesson, you can watch the lecture or read the whole chapter and it covers everything, right? It covers all the background information.

Nate: But if you then go into the questions for any given less than what you’ll see is that 90 percent of the questions are going to be from the same like three or four main ideas from that lesson. And so that is what you’re trying to figure out up front is, ok: from this lesson, this is what I’m really going to be seeing questions on. And then so you’re looking through the questions, you know, at this point. You haven’t you don’t know anything about the lesson… hypothetically, whatever lesson it is, you don’t know anything about it. So you’re not trying to get the answer right. And there’s also not really any value in spending time like trying to figure out the question from the beginning. You’re basically reading the question to just see what it’s asking and then submitting it to see what the answer is. And you just kind of go through 10 or 20 questions and sometimes a topic, it’s a bigger topic, and so it’ll have like 50 or more questions from just one lesson. So you’ll need to go through more on those kind of lessons and then other lessons are smaller, so there might only be 10 questions total.

Nate: You just go through the questions pretty quickly and you read what it’s asking and you’re just trying to get an idea of, OK, this is what these questions are gonna be about from this lesson. And then, you do read the explanation and you’re just trying to piece together, okay, this is the question. And then this is the solution. And you look through the other options and you read those explanations as well as to why they were not correct.

Tracey: Okay. Okay.

Nate: And just to classify lesson difficulties, you know, some lessons we could say they’re relatively simple. Like the example I use is the lesson on how FASB sets new accounting standards. All that is, is a series of steps that you essentially need to memorize.

Nate: Right? There’s not a whole lot of figuring out or hard things to understand about that. It’s pretty cut and dry. Those are the steps that they take to create a new accounting standard. So you can go through just a few questions on that topic and read the explanations. And the explanations will more or less have, you know, list out the steps and you could make a flashcard for that. And you essentially move on. So that that lesson, if it’s an easy lesson like that, you know, you go through the questions, you get the main idea by reading some of the explanations and you can kind of just move on. Then a medium, you know, medium difficulty lesson might have some calculation aspect and some conceptual stuff. But you you basically do the same process. You read through the questions. If there’s a calculation type question, you re-perform it several times so that you can get back to that same answer. And, you know, if if you go through multiple questions that are calculation type questions in re-perform the calculations, make some notes on some flashcards about the formulas you need to know or just the framework for using or for performing those kind of calculations. And then unlike a harder lesson, it might be referring back to some kind of framework or some maybe multiple formulas… it’s clearly harder for you to understand. You still want to go through the practice questions and kind of get a good idea of what specific things you’re seeing questions on, and at that point, if you’re just not getting it from reading the questions and the explanations on those ones, you would go back and you would watch the full lecture. And when you do it that way, you already are starting the lecture with an idea of what you’re trying to learn from that lecture, so it will make a lot more sense the first time after you’ve kind of gone through the questions and you have an idea now of what you’re trying to learn from that video lecture. Does that make sense?

Tracey: Yeah, it’s like, um… cuz what you’re seeing is the more difficult ones are the ones that you’re going to have to use the videos. But then the ones that you get, but you have to… but you should still start off using the question – doing the question approach so you can…

Nate: So that you have context of what you’re trying to learn from that video.

Nate: Yeah. Yep. So the approach is the same starting from the beginning. And you know, you won’t really know upfront which lessons are easy, medium or hard.

Nate: I mean, it kind of depends on your personal background and you know, whatever… What wherever you’re at with these topics, you’ll see that you’ll start each lesson the same way you start each lesson by going through the questions, and, some of the lessons just to you, will be more simple and you’ll you’ll pick up on it faster… and for those ones, you’re just kind of getting an idea. You’re kind of trying to get a base understanding of “ok, for this lesson, these are the types of questions I’m seeing, I more or less know how to answer these,” make a few notes on some flashcards and you can move on. Now, if the lesson is a little bit harder than that and you’re not really getting it, even after, you know, reading the question, re-performing some of the calculations, then you would go back and you would find or you would go back to the video lecture and watch the whole lecture. And the lecture will make a lot more sense doing it that way.

Tracey: And see and that’s the mistake that I made yesterday, because when I started doing the questions, the statements of cash flows, and, and… I, I did the questions. I went to the questions and I answered them like I went through the questions on the study mode for a CPAexcel. But I, I mean, I wasn’t sure until I spoke to you… That I, should if I should, just looking at the question and try and look at the answers, because if I get it wrong, then I have to go through each one until I get it right. So am I just looking at it anyway, just to see why it’s wrong and then why the answer is right, which you explained already, yes, I should do that. And then and then, so I was taking it from a mindset of me trying the question, and then if I don’t get it right to seeing why it was wrong. But that takes, it took… It took a lot, it took a lot of time. So I said, “I don’t think this is what

Nate is trying to say that I should do, so I should ask him that.”

Tracey: And then I wanted to know, if, should I go in sequence from the beginning of the book, or, or their syllabus and go through it like that. Because I was looking at I was picking out areas that were topics that were harder for me versus ones that I could, because like conceptual framework is not as difficult as something like earnings per share or bonds or, or statement of cash flows, as I said. But I kind of thing that you don’t you don’t really think it matters what is difficult or, or easy. You should just…

Nate: Yes, yeah. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. Yes. And that was again, that was one of my big mistakes. The first time when I took far is, I also I kind of skipped over… the, the lessons that seemed kind of simple and easy, I kind of skipped over those because I just assumed that the test would be full of those hard calculations like you just mentioned, like diluted earnings per share and stock option calculations. But then you get into the exam and it’s not really like that. They, you know, the questions are asked evenly from all topics. And if you just kind of skip over the seemingly easy conceptual questions… In the exam, I mean that the questions are tricky like, they… Even if it’s simple and it’s just one sentence and there’s no calculation… it’s still you’ll see like two or three of the responses that seem like they’re right. And it’s asking things in such a specific way that unless you really spent time on that lesson, you, you know, it’ll be confusing. And that was that was exactly what I realized, when I took FAR the first time, and that’s why I changed how I studied completely after that. So, based on what you were saying. Yeah, that is my recommendation is to… You want, you want to spend the well, you don’t want to spend equal time on every lesson, like I said, but you want to give each lesson equal consideration. And again, if it’s more simple, you still want to put in the time to make sure you you kind of get it. And you, you go through the questions and you understand the types of questions you’re going to be seeing and make a few notes on it. But you won’t have to spend as much time on those simple lessons, but you do need to cover them adequately, because the exam is not just going to be the hardest questions, on… you know, earnings per share or business consolidations and combinations. It’s not… it’s spread equally among all these different topics. Yeah, you want to give each lesson equal consideration even though you won’t spend equal time because some lessons are easier than others.

Tracey: So start from the beginning of the syllabus and don’t… just start from like the beginning. Go to the end, use, use that order and then, but… but use your approach with just doing questions and looking at the answer.

Nate: Mm hmm. Yeah. So the, the summed up approach is: go through the questions, get an idea of what questions you’re actually seeing or what stuff you’re being asked, and then read those explanations. Just get kind of comfortable with, “ok, these are the questions I’m going to see. These are the answers to these types of questions.” Make notes on a few, you know, make some of your own flashcards, in your own words, so that you understand what you’re actually writing down. You, you want to end each study session with that thirty, that set of thirty multiple choice questions. And you’re you’re generating those, now, what you’re doing right now is you’ll be doing a FAR retake. So you could still generate just 30 total random questions from the whole section because essentially you’ve been through the topics once. I do think though where you know you where you got a 41, you probably need more base… you, you need more base coverage. So I would actually in your circumstance, I would go through it as if you were starting over. I would just start from the top, go through each lessons in the way that we just, you know, covered, and you want to end each session, each two hour block, the last 30 minutes being those 30 multiple choice questions that you generate using the quiz builder or whatever. I think, I can’t remember what, what CPAexcel calls that, but, every review course can do that. You create a custom quiz and you just you choose the topics that it’s pulling from.

Tracey: OK, OK. So that’s that’s good advice. Thanks. So many things… So when, when I’m listening to the audios, should I, should I go in order as well then? Just go from… from the first, from the first from conceptual through like, yeah…

Nate: Yes. Yeah. Now with. Yeah, with our products… So what we just went through is, you know, it’s like your main study session when you’re sitting in front of your review course and then the rest of your day with our products on the app, just start from the top and move through those over and over and over from start to finish because they’re more simplified, they’re easier to understand, you know. And so you’re just you’re just kind of building on your understanding of all the topics. Little by little, as you go through the the notes, read through the review notes from start to finish, listen to the audios from start to finish. You don’t need to try to keep your mini sessions in line with what you studied just that day with the mini-sessions you just that’s what… That’s your other part of the whole, the re-review.

Tracey: OK

Nate: You’re… Where you’re hitting just everything over and over. So our review notes, the audios, and the quizzes… that’s how they’re designed is to be, just kind of aid your understanding and comprehension of everything and you just filter through those over and over and over through your study window.
Tracey: I mean, it just helps a lot. I mean. I was trying to get you know, I was sure I was hopping all over the place. And even yesterday I was like, I was going to just watch this, the videos, listen to the videos all over again. But the how to study one and, uh, helps out a lot. And it really.

Nate: Yeah.

Tracey: I was emailing you, by the time I went through all the videos, you said a lot about what I was thinking anyway. I mean, I’m, I’m hoping to pass this thing, I don’t know if I can go from 41 to a 75, but I’m still… it doesn’t mean I won’t either. So…

Nate: Yeah. You you know you definitely can and but like you said, I mean even if, you know it’s always possible you go into the testing center, you’re either going to pass or fail the section and it’s definitely possible to go from a 41 to passing. I mean it’s definitely possible. But even if you went from, you know, 41 to like a 65, that’s a huge improvement. And you would do, you know, one more cycle basically of what you just did to, you know, go from a 41 to a 65. And then the next time you would for sure go from a 65 to a 75 or an 80. You know, so the the actual… You don’t need to put a ton of pressure on like, you know, this time has to be the one, especially since you’re just, this is your first section, and that 18 months only starts when you pass the first one.

Tracey: It would it would be nice to have, but I don’t, I’m just..

Nate: Umm, so one more one more word on the on the study process itself, like, as you try to implement these that strategy each day. Well, it’s a lot like teaching someone how to ride a bike. You know, the steps to ride a bike are very simple. You… Like my 5 year old. She just learned how to ride a bike this year. You can tell tell the kid, “Ok, you sit on this bike, you know, see these two pedals, you put your feet on the pedals and then you just balance and you pedal.” And, you know, that’s an accurate description of how to ride a bike. But for the person that’s learning, there’s a lot more going on that they just have to kind of figure it out, just figure out how that feels, you know, what it really feels like to actually balance and ride the bike. And so doing this approach that I just went through, there, it’s kind of like that where it might seem confusing at first or you might think, how is this really how does this really apply? Now, that I’m actually trying to study? You have to do it for a few weeks in a row. Keep referring back to those “how to study” videos inside the course. And a lot of times if you have kind of a rough study session, you can go back and watch that video and you’ll hear things that you didn’t really catch the first time, but… As you kind of figured this process out, and again, the end goal is getting to where you’re confident in your own daily study process. Because once I got to that point, I yeah, I passed all four in a row. And so that’s really what it is about is just getting to where. Okay. I know how to do the daily study process, whether this is an easy lesson or a more difficult lesson, like I know how to kind of dissect this lesson and figure out what I need to figure out and move on to the next one.

Tracey: I mean, I mean, just I mean, thanks so much. I just, I’m just going to approach it this way, doing this system. And I just wanted to not give up, dust myself off and try again with this, with your approach. And also, I’m not saying your approach is going to give me the thing, but it’s it’s to help me. It’s not for me. It is not without my work, not without my effort.
Nate: Yeah, yeah, definitely. And then the a… that is what will be so nice about spending a portion of your day always hitting the stuff you’ve already covered and doing the constant rereview with our products is, you don’t have that pressure at the end of trying to relearn everything. Because when you do this correctly, you will slowly get better at every topic along the way so that you’re kind of at your peak understanding by test day instead of going one lesson, one by one. But you never look at it again until your final review and realizing, like you said, how much you’ve forgotten. Whereas with this approach, you are building that re-review in every single day so that you’re continually getting better and better and better at all the, all the material.

Nate: So yeah…

Tracey: Ok well thanks so much Nate, I mean, I don’t take a lot of your time and I really but I mean it was it was, it was really helpful. And I thank you for the time you took out to chat with me.

Nate: Yeah, no problem.

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