How Does My School Choice Affect My Performance on the CPA Exam?

How Does My School Choice Affect My Performance on the CPA Exam
Image source: Michael Sean Gallagher, Flickr, Creative Commons.

If you aspire to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you’ll inevitably have to take the CPA exam. The test is notoriously difficult, but having the right preparation can help you succeed – and that preparation starts with choosing the right accounting school.

About the CPA Exam

The Uniform CPA Examination is a four-part test administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Its difficulty prompted Accounting Today to call it “one of the most difficult professional credential examinations” and noted that “the average passing rate is one of the lowest in any professional qualification test.”

All in all, the test is a grueling 14-hour assessment, though test takers typically take just one part of the test at a time. The only requirement in most states is that test takers complete all four components of the CPA exam within an 18 month period.

The CPA exam measures candidates’ skills in auditing, business concepts, financial accounting and reporting and regulation. Today’s test takers complete the exam on computers. Question types range from multiple choice to essay format, with some “simulations” designed to imitate real-world business and accounting problems, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) reported.

There’s one piece of good news for aspiring CPAs: more test takers are earning a passing grade than in previous years, Accounting Today reported. The exam isn’t getting easier, though. Today’s test takers simply begin the exam more prepared, according to the AICPA.

CPA Exam Pass Rates

So, just how hard is the CPA exam? Throughout the 2000s, only about 30 percent of test takers – all of whom were required to have at least five years of college-level study in accounting and many of whom had accounting work experience – passed. Even today, the increased passing rate still means just half of the students who take the test succeed, Accounting Today reported.

The test’s infamous difficulty is precisely the reason many publishers of college rankings – and the NASBA– pay close attention to the CPA exam pass rates of various accounting schools. While school choice is far from the only factor that impacts your test scores, the logical assumption is that a school whose graduates achieve a higher passing rate than the average likely prepares its students well through a strong curriculum and effective teachers.

How Much Does School Choice Matter in Passing the CPA?

Choosing a school that will provide you with a solid accounting education is important. It’s hard to understate the impact of having knowledgeable accounting instructors and opportunities to develop your business and accounting skills in the classroom and beyond. When choosing an accounting school, it makes sense to consider the CPA exam pass rate in your decision.

However, your school isn’t the only deciding factor. By investing in the right review and study materials and sticking to a study schedule, you can prepare yourself to succeed.

Also see:

Top 10 Best Online Master’s of Accounting Degree Programs 2015