Want to know how Nate from Accounting101.org passed the CPA Exam in 3 months? Well, he’s our guest blogger this week, so you can read his story below:
Make sure to watch the video first:
As you can see in the image above, I passed all 4 sections of the CPA exam in a span of exactly 3 months.
The funny thing is, I’m not exceptionally smart…. in fact I have very average intelligence (I give a lot of credit to the review course I used…).
And… to be completely honest, I studied for FAR for a few months and failed it once. So yes, all-in-all, it took me longer than 3 months to pass all 4 sections. But, after failing FAR that first time and experiencing the actual exam, I realized I had studied completely wrong.
And after that, I blew through the 4 sections without failing again, and in 3 months.
Keep reading… I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it.
Study Aids I Used for the CPA Exam
First of all, there is a big misconception out there about which review course is “the best”. Just because you hear about a certain review course the most does not mean it’s the best- especially if you are trying to pass the exams and work at the same time.
To me, the biggest disadvantage to most CPA review courses is that you have to repay for access after a year or so. The reality is, in a lot of cases, life happens and passing all 4 of the sections ends up taking longer than you plan on.
I know several people that have had their access run out and they’ve either had to repay or “bootstrap” their studying. That’s ridiculous.
Anyways… back to what I used.
To study, I used two resources:
Why did I choose CPA Excel?
The 2 main reasons I chose CPAexcel:
- Their “Use-it-until-you-pass” Guarantee. Even when they update the course or add new material, you get all the updates for free and never have to pay again- even if it takes you 3 years to pass.
- The bite-sized lessons format. Other review courses have everything broken down into just a few extremely long and tedious lectures and lessons.
There are several levels of CPAexcel, and for me I didn’t need the books or any physical study aids, so that saved quite a bit of money. Every line of text that’s in the books is also included in the online lessons. Once I logged in online I didn’t need to use anything else to study. The online study suite for CPA Excel includes the video lectures, actual past CPA questions on each topic with detailed explanations, proficiency questions, flashcards within each mini lesson, slides from the video, the study text, and a student discussion forum for each topic.
What I Did Wrong the First Time
The main thing I did wrong the first time was spend too much time watching videos and “reading” study text. You know how when you’re reading about accounting you’re not really reading?? Your eyes are just following the words down the page but nothing is actually going into your mind?
Well… it’s extremely hard to make any progress if you do that for 10 minutes, then realize it, reset and cuss yourself out, and then end up doing the same thing again. You’ll quickly become burnt out, and you’ll blow your study time for that day and not get anything done. I banged my head against the wall in this fashion leading up to my first attempt at FAR, which I failed like I mentioned.
Not to mention that if you try to learn it all it’s incredibly overwhelming. It is just so much freakin’ information. Especially FAR and REG.
You should only go back and watch video lectures if it’s something that you really don’t understand.
The other big mistake I made was spending a lot of time on the harder topics. I’ll get more into this and what to do instead in the next section…
The Right Way to Study for the CPA Exam
It’s all about doing questions, baby!
Over and over and over.
The thing I liked about CPAexcel is that when you’re doing multiple choice questions in study mode (which you’ll almost always want to stay in), you can click each answer and see why that specific choice is either right or wrong. Looking at a question and making an attempt at it and then seeing that you’re right or wrong and why is a much, much easier way to learn versus reading or watching videos.
Here’s a big tip: as you go through the multiple choice questions, you’ll come across “key pieces of information”… this might be a type of question that you keep missing, it might be one little rule or formula that would help you answer lots of questions on the topic, or any form of something that you just feel like you should write down.
The problem with taking notes the normal way is that no one ever goes back and looks at their notes. The right way to use these “key pieces of information” is to enter them into Brainscape as flashcards. Brainscape is a free service, and once you’ve created a deck for a CPA exam section, you just need to download the Brainscape app on your phone and any new cards you create or other changes will automatically sync so that you can study on your phone whenever you want. Creating these flashcards of “key info” is a critical step.
Another Secret Weapon: Use the Mobile App!
The “Quick Quiz” feature is money. I liked to have it set to 5 questions at a time. In your app settings, you choose which exam section to pull questions from for your “quick quizzes”, and then whenever you have 5 minutes, you just open a quick quiz and you’re instantly studying.
I mean, the CPA exam sucks… it’s a ton of work and it’s hard. So you need to commit yourself to spending every spare second you have to just studying and thinking about it so that you can get it done and out of your life.
That’s where the mobile app comes in… on the bus, waiting in line, that 5-10 minutes before you actually fall asleep, right when you wake up… do a quick quiz. Or do several.
I really think the mobile app and using the quick quizzes whenever I had a chance made the difference in cementing the topics and questions into my brain.
You do still need the videos…
But, you will still need the study text and video lectures… here’s why: as you go along doing questions, you’ll start to wonder yourself how things actually tie together on a certain topic, or you’ll realize you need to memorize a key piece of information… when that happens, you’ll go to the study text or video lecture to figure it out, but because YOU’RE actually looking for the answer you’ll remember it the first time.
The other time you’ll need the videos and study text is when you run into a topic that you just don’t know yet at all.
My Biggest Secret to Passing So Quickly
In CPAexcel, you can generate practice tests of comprehensive questions. Doing comprehensive practice tests of 30 questions over and over is the absolute best way to spend your time.
The reason is, you end up seeing the questions proportionally.
That means that you’ll see question on topics in the same approximate proportion that you’d see on the real exam. The reason this works so well is that you end up mastering the stuff that is the most likely to show up on the exam. The really hard topics that only make up 2-3% of the questions don’t really matter.
But what most people do is they spend hours trying master the hard topics and that’s not what will make or break your score.
So… again, in CPAexcel, using the test builder, generate comprehensive practice exams of 30 questions at a time and do them over and over. When you’re reviewing your answers, create flashcards of the ones you missed using Brainscape.
Then when you’re about a week out, go through all the flashcards you made and master them, and keep doing the sets of 30-question-practice-exams.
That’s how to pass the CPA exams quickly with the minimum amount of study time.
What to Do A Week Before You Sit
And here’s the final secret. So you’ve plowed through every topic and done hundreds and hundreds of questions and created a deck of Brainscape flashcards.
The week before you take the exam, you need to go through your flashcards and as you look at each one, try to write out the answer. Simply go through your flashcards over and over again until you can write out the answer to every single card correctly the first time. If you go through these steps, you’ll have a much higher chance of passing than if you studied the “traditional way”. I hope this helps or at least gives you some ideas![Original article can be found here.]