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“At Auburn, students are set up to be successful. That's how the program is designed.”
Impressive CPA Exam pass scores don’t just happen. In the Harbert College of Business’ School of Accountancy, they are earned.
“At Auburn, students are set up to be successful – that’s how the program is designed,” said Caroline Forbes, 2017 Master of Accountancy (MAcc) graduate and auditor at EY in Atlanta.
Harbert College’s Master of Accountancy program announced that the Class of 2019 earned one of the highest CPA Exam overall pass rates in school history: 94 percent compared to 54 percent nationally. The pass rates – no less than 92 percent on each of the four sections of the Exam – are the byproduct of a rigorous undergraduate curriculum and a graduate program dedicated to preparing students for the Exam.
“Auburn is unique in that we are one of the few programs that embeds the Becker Review Course and the CPA Exam into the graduate program,” said Andee Hodo, Director of Accounting Graduate and Online Programs. “Most other MAcc programs require the students to navigate the Exam on their own. We walk our students through the entire application process, make sure their respective state-by-state requirements are met, and remove the extra stress from the equation. All they have to worry about is passing the Exam.”
“Auburn is unique in that we are one of the few programs that embeds the Becker Review Course and the CPA Exam into the graduate program.”
Will Ousley, an Assurance Associate at PwC in Atlanta and 2018 Auburn MAcc graduate, admitted that all exams make him nervous. “However, I knew Auburn’s curriculum and study schedule prepared me for test day. When you put the effort in to studying, you know how to execute the problems,” he said.
That’s the beauty of Auburn’s accounting program. It prepares students for arguably the most important test they’ll take.
“Our undergraduate program is rigorous and high-quality – and that’s where much of the preparation for the CPA Exam really happens,” said Duane Brandon, School of Accountancy Director. “We have dedicated high-caliber faculty. Many of them have been formally recognized for outstanding teaching, with quite a few professors winning college and university-wide teaching awards.”
Much of the information tested on the CPA Exam is taught at the undergraduate level. Once students enter graduate school, they are able to focus on refining their skills and expanding their accounting knowledge.
“I have friends at other schools who were completely on their own with the CPA Exam. They didn't have a supportive group to help them get through it. Auburn has a program with structure.”
Hodo noted that the MAcc program utilizes the Becker Review Course. The entire class studies and prepares together. “Our students are all on the same schedule – it’s very regimented. They sit for each section on the same day. This peer-based support system is unprecedented compared to other MAcc programs.”
“I have friends at other schools who were completely on their own with the CPA Exam,” Ousley said. “They didn’t have a supportive group to help them get through it. Auburn has a program with structure.”
Forbes said Auburn’s MAcc program’s format improved her study habits.
“You have a test every two to three weeks, so courses are kind of set up like the CPA Exam schedule,” she said. “You are in that mindset of preparing for the next test. I even had some professors who used recycled CPA Exam questions in their lectures. It introduced you to the language used on the Exam.”
The in-class preparation is just the beginning, as students must make sacrifices during their CPA Exam semester. “Aside from taking classes and working as graduate assistants, they often study for an average of 40 hours per week,” Hodo added. “It’s a tough semester.”
In addition to bragging rights, there’s financial incentive to pass all four parts of the Exam on the first attempt. Many firms reimburse young accountants the full $1,000 CPA Exam fee when they pass. On top of the reimbursement, bonuses are often involved.
Forbes considers the CPA Exam semester one of Auburn’s “key differentiators.”
“Having the CPA Exam out of the way before you start work helps you focus on your first two years of your career,” she said. “I see peers who haven’t passed the Exam juggle the deadlines of work and their study schedules, which keeps them from being fully committed to their job.”
That’s not a problem for Auburn MAcc alumni.
“Auburn students know the value of hard work, which is in our Creed,” added Ousley, who is actively involved in PwC’s campus recruiting efforts. “That sets Auburn apart from other schools.”