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        Accountancy, Graduate Programs, Students

        Harbert MAcc Class of 2020 overcomes obstacles to soar on CPA exam

        October 20, 2020 By Joe McAdory

        All News



        Eighty-seven percent of Harbert College's Master of Accountancy Class of 2020 passed the CPA exam on the first try this spring, as compared to a national average of 63 percent. This photo was taken in the Fall Semester, 2019.


        “They have a proven method of success; getting a master’s, and passing the CPA Exam. This is a testament to the way the program is structured.”

        The Harbert College is dedicated to developing graduates who are highly-skilled, professionally prepared, confident, ethical, and globally-minded.

        Visiting family and friends back home in Furlong, Pennsylvania, over spring break, former Harbert College Master of Accountancy (MAcc) student Savannah Masucci was laser-focused on returning to school, completing her graduate degree, and passing the four-part (Financial, Business, Regulation, and Audit) CPA Exam. 

        COVID-19, however, changed her plans. 

        Classes were temporarily suspended – then went remote – and Masucci, now an Assurance Associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta, was left in the northern Philadelphia suburbs without important CPA Exam study guides for the upcoming, and most important, exams of her life. 

        cpa“I had my roommate at Auburn send my regulation (REG) study guide because it was sitting in my apartment,” Masucci said. “I wasn’t planning on bringing it to Pennsylvania. I thought I’d just leave for a couple of days and then come back to resume studying. Auburn had the remaining study materials sent home to me.”

        Caspian Roberts enjoyed the camaraderie that came with being a part of Harbert College’s MAcc Program within the School of Accountancy. Students studied together, prepared together, and kept one another in-check as CPA Exam testing dates approached. “That was one of the best parts of the program … we were in it together,” he added.

        Until COVID-19 made sure they weren’t. 

        “They started closing testing centers,” Roberts, now an Audit Associate at KPMG in Atlanta, said. “You wake up one day expecting to take a test, and then you find out your test is postponed for two months. That really adds additional stress and pressure. COVID threw off the whole schedule. We thought we were going to be finished with the exam before we graduated in May. We managed to keep up our communications with classmates and program administrators though. We had our group meetings online and made sure everybody was on track. We kept each other accountable.”

        “The accounting program had our exam preparation on a schedule. It was structured like, ‘You’re going to do this one day, then do this the next day.’ We knew exactly what we were doing every day to get prepared for the exams.”

        Though exam dates and preparation were thrown for a loop, Masucci and Roberts both passed all four parts of the CPA Exam on the first try. Not only that, an incredible 87 percent of students in Harbert College’s MAcc Class of 2020 passed the Exam – compared to a national average of 63 percent.

        “The pass rates speak to the quality of students admitted to the MAcc program and also to the instructional excellence provided by our faculty.”

        “The pass rates speak to the quality of students admitted to the MAcc program and also to the instructional excellence provided by our faculty,” said Andee Hodo, Director of Graduate and Online Programs at the Harbert College School of Accountancy. “If students didn’t achieve a strong technical foundation in their undergraduate degree combined with the additional skills learned through the MAcc program, they wouldn’t do well on the four sections of the CPA Exam.”

        “COVID had a significant impact on the students taking the Exam in the spring. Most testing centers were closed for weeks or months with little notice to students. We had students discover that their  exams were cancelled a day or two before they were scheduled to sit for them. They studied for weeks and then found out they would not be able to sit when planned. We had students driving as much as four hours to find an open testing center. Because testing centers had reduced capacity, it was hard to find an open spot at the center and/or date that they needed. This resulted in students being delayed a month or more to sit for parts of the exam. Once they were able to find to a testing locations, they had to take the four-hour exams while wearing masks.”

        accWhereas a strong undergraduate education is the foundation for CPA Exam preparation, utilization of the Becker CPA Review – a cornerstone of the MAcc program - guides students step-by-step along the way.

        “Auburn supports working with Becker through all four sections of the Exam,” Masucci said. “During the preparation period, the program is structured to allow you to take fewer classes during that time. Auburn uses a scheduled approach to Exam preparation. You need to have certain modules done at a certain time. The schedule holds you accountable. It’s hard to keep and it’s rigorous, but there is something to be said for that. Becker offers great review books, awesome flashcards, and practice exams that give you everything you need to succeed. Auburn lays this out for you – when you should take the practice exams and when you should be reviewing certain material.”

        Roberts believes in Auburn’s tried-and-true MAcc philosophy.

        “Part of the reason I applied, and one of the things that I found to be true with the program, was they have a proven method of success; getting a master’s, and passing the CPA Exam. This is a testament to the way the program is structured. The core selection of classes, coupled with the professors who teach the courses, was instrumental in me passing the CPA Exam the first time.

        “I had a structure and a schedule. Even though it was thrown off a bit by COVID, I still knew what I was doing, how I was doing it, and that it would result in me passing.”

        Hodo also realizes there’s more to Auburn’s CPA Exam success than Becker or a study schedule. “Their success even during all of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic speaks to the discipline, perseverance, and pride of our students,” she said. “It would have been so easy to give up and slack off on their studying, but they kept it up, updated their study plans and were tenacious on finding open testing slots. Their attitudes stayed positive throughout the ordeal and I couldn’t be prouder.”

        The Auburn MAcc program is accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). For further information about the Harbert College’s Master of Accountancy online option, which launched in 2000, should visit here  or contact Andee Hodo, Director of Graduate and Online Programs, at (334) 844-6207 or