Whether you’re a high school student considering an accounting career or you’re looking for a career path change, you probably know the value of attaining your Certified Public Accountant credential. The CPA credential denotes you as an expert in the field of accounting and finance, and will help you start out in a great entry-level position and grow throughout your career, whether you work for a small business or in a big four public accounting firm.

If you’re in college, about to start college, or are thinking of going back to college, using a bachelor of science in accounting or master’s degree program to help you pass the CPA Examination is a good bet. The top American accounting programs know the value of the CPA credential and focus heavily on helping students pass while in the program, or retain information well enough to help students pass after the program.

Through modernization, globalization, and engagement, degree programs are helping students attain much higher scores compared to candidates who study on their own. Below are six ways the best accounting programs are preparing students for CPA Exam success.

1. Programs catered to the CPA Exam

With the implementation of the 150 credit hour requirement, more students are considering a business school Master’s Program after their undergraduate degree to help them pass the exam and meet the education requirements in one go. Many college of business Master’s Programs integrate with review courses or encourage students to study for the CPA Exam alongside their core program courses.

Some programs also have a pre-set curriculum that lines up with specific review courses. For example, classes on taxation might align with study time and materials for the REG exam. Other programs use specific review courses to help monitor student progress. For example, professors can utilize Surgent’s University Pass to monitor student progress and success as they work toward a specific test date.  

2. Utilize actual CPA Exam content

The biggest way professors and accounting degree programs are preparing students for CPA Exam success is by introducing actual CPA Exam content through review materials. The format and questions on the CPA Exam are unique, and professors can increase pass rates by exposing students to this content and helping them get comfortable with answering actual CPA Exam questions. Surgent’s University Pass is a breakthrough in CPA Exam learning and allows professors to introduce up-to-date, AICPA aligned content to students. By using University Pass, professors can provide a comprehensive exam review while also monitoring student progress as they head into individual sections of the exam.

3. Correspondence with accounting experts

Accounting programs with the highest CPA Exam pass rates consider top faculty and expert guest speakers to be one of the best features of the program. The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs MPA Program within the college of business, which has had the highest CPA Exam pass rate for the last 12 years, notes that student access to exceptional faculty is regularly noted as one of the reasons students want to attend the business school. Programs with professors who are researchers and trendsetters within the accounting field, who create an engaging learning environment, and who go out of their way to develop their students all contribute to higher passing scores among individual students.

Many programs have also realized the value of guest speakers who are experts within the accounting field. Interacting with accounting professionals allows students to realize exciting careers and goals within the accounting field, and encourage them to take and pass the CPA exam. It also allows students to stay on top of ever-changing industry topics and standards, preparing them for life outside of the classroom.

4. Increased information retention through engagement

Engagement is one of the most powerful factors of information retention, and the best accounting programs are using modernization to allow students to tackle real-world problems and advanced accounting topics before they start their careers. Students are encouraged to work in smaller groups and engage in more hands-on projects related to current industry standards and practices, even within a bachelor’s degree program.

Top programs provide students with insights into an increasingly globalized world, and help them stay up-to-date with changing standards in regulations and technology within the field. They may provide a deep-dive into solving problems related to managerial accounting, financial accounting, tax preparation, or information systems. Solving real-world problems and working with real-world accounting methods helps students relate CPA Exam content with actual learning experiences, helping them retain information and tackle CPA Exam questions.

5. Emphasize soft skills

Through engagement, accounting programs are also helping students develop soft skills that will not only help them pass the CPA Exam, but help them land a career they enjoy. The use of smaller, collaborative projects helps students learn how to connect with others, and teaches them the value of their own authenticity. Through real-world learning, they also learn to manage their time and respect the time of others while developing critical thinking and research skills to tackle difficult problems.

Research and critical thinking skills are paramount to CPA Exam success, especially on task-based simulation and research questions. Time management and flexibility directly translate to the exam as students have to develop strategies to maximize exam efficiency.  

6. Changes in learning methods

Traditional, one-size-fits-all learning methods have been replaced with more adaptive methods. These methods help students to relate ideas and engage in learning, promoting information understanding and retention. Professors can also use CPA Exam learning materials to measure the progress of students and know if they’re ready to sit for the CPA Exam. Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology utilizes the ReadySCORE™ feature, which helps modern accounting programs analyze student progress throughout the course and program to help them assess when students are prepared for each of the CPA Exam’s four parts.

Accounting programs and CPA Exam success

Utilizing an accounting program, whether through a community college or state university, may be your ticket to passing the exam. Before choosing a program, make sure you do your research and find programs that cater to the CPA Exam, utilize adaptive learning materials, and help you engage with real-world accounting problems.


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Ryan Hirsch serves as a Director of Market Development at Surgent CPA Review, focusing on Surgent’s curriculum solution, University Pass. Ryan previously worked at the National Association of State Boards and Accountancy (NASBA) where he managed the Ethical Leadership Training and Development Division. Ryan has a master’s degree in leadership and organizational performance from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and a bachelor’s degree in mass media arts from Clark Atlanta University.