September 22, 2018

Candidategate

Let’s Have an Adult Discussion About CPA Exam Scores

Since the last time I dared to bring this issue up I was insulted personally and professionally, I’m going to approach this very carefully. Starting with a few statements of my position:


First, I have the utmost respect for those who first suffer through a college accounting education and then decide to pursue a CPA. It’s not an easy thing to do and the experience only gets worse when you add kids, work and a life to the mix. I get that. I’ve suffered through it at the side of thousands of CPAs in the last four years and, empathetic jerk that I am, I absolutely feel their pain. I’ve been the crying shoulder and the therapist as well as tharing that with CPA exam candidates has been a real joy in my life. Mostly because I’m not the one who actually has to go through it.

Second, I believe 18 months is plenty of time to get through the exam. For those who have struggled 2, 3, even 5 years with this thing, it is not at all unreasonable for me to suggest that perhaps you should find another line of work. That doesn’t mean struggling candidates shouldn’t be offered support but at some point, you have to ask yourself if the Universe is trying to send you a very strong hint. That’s fine, the AICPA is doing their job if not everyone can pass. This isn’t a kindergarten playground exercise in how everyone deserves a trophy no matter how bad their performance, this is a professional license and it is a privilege, not a right.

That being said, I was not expecting the floodgates of CPA exam candidate hell to come bursting forth on Monday when I addressed a note the AICPA wrote to candidates. In trolling NASBA’s Facebook page and getting additional feedback from candidates (beyond the “screw you, AG, you’re not a CPA” comments), it’s clear candidates are livid about this whole scoring thing. There’s no other explanation for otherwise reasonable future CPAs lashing out like they did, since we all know professionals aren’t prone to that kind of behavior out of habit.

So the first thing candidates should be doing instead of snapping at NASBA, the AICPA and me is to write down their thoughts and send them to the AICPA and NASBA. The first three quarters of 2011 are basically practice for a new, improved scoring process the AICPA hopes to debut at the end of the year and if candidates stick to yelling at accounting bloggers, the important people who can really make a change aren’t hearing them. Be clear, be concise and be honest. What would you like to see changed? What do you feel is unfair? How do you feel about this entire process? Try to keep emotion out of it (save that for your therapist, your spouse or your best friend) but be explicit about the stress this has put on you if you feel it is necessary. Remember that complaints are easy but offering solutions or feedback that can help them improve stands the best chance to change things. I assure you all that the AICPA and NASBA are listening, they just might need to block it out if it’s mostly profane vitriol and hardly any common sense. I highly doubt that either agency planned for this to get so ugly, and if they are at all like me, probably didn’t expect it would be the meltdown it was. So keep that in mind when you are yelling at them like the intelligent professional I’m sure you are.

Speaking of which, we caught up with a real live intelligent professional who asked to keep her firm name out of this but wanted to weigh in regardless. A seasoned professional when it comes to the CPA exam from her work as an HR manager for a mid-sized Bay Area accounting firm, she is also a CPA exam candidate and has been vocal in expressing her dissatisfaction with this scoring debacle.

To her, the issue is customer service and communication, or rather lack thereof. She told us:

I advise candidates on everything about licensure (e.g. application process, review courses, changes to the exam, score releases, and serve as the unofficial firm “nag” reminding people they need to get or stay on the licensure path). In both roles, it is my duty to stay informed and I really try my very best to do so. To that end, this is why I felt so frustrated with NASBA’s recent post on Facebook. I didn’t receive the AICPA memo about the delay of scores for Q1-Q3 back in October of 2010. I went through my emails and see I have only received 3 email messages from NASBA and nothing from the AICPA. One was a 11/18/10 email from Prometric and NASBA about adding additional time slots in Q4 of 2010 to accommodate the high volume of candidates scrambling to avoid IFRS, and one on 1/4/11 announcing CBT-e was launched on 1/1/11. The last message contained 6 links, including sample tests, a tutorial, and a link to their October 21, 2010 message [a letter to the state boards that explained the new scoring process]. Obviously, I didn’t click on all the links until today. I was more focused on the tutorials.

Nowhere in the body of the message does it read the scores would be delayed. My bad for not reading the ‘footnotes’ but, in my humble opinion, later scores is a material item that should be separately stated in the ‘financial statements’/email message.

The communications from NASBA need more empathy. These candidates are overachievers who are probably failing at something for the first time in their life; emotions are automatically running high. Candidates are spending a lot of time, money and now even more money because they had to go out and buy brand new materials to be ready for the 2011 exam. We were sold on the idea that these changes would result in faster score reporting – God knows we were already at our wits end that it took so long for a machine to grade the old CBT- and here we are slapped with another round of delays. And they have the audacity to say they told us this back in October. Really?

As of the writing of this post, 9,491 FAR scores and 11,828 REG scores have been released by the AICPA.

The issue continues and we will happily continue covering it here so long as you all care. Any and all input (including gripes and general bellyaching but not insults towards the author or this website) is welcome in the comments.