overachievers

Exclusive: Inside the Mind of an Elijah Watt Sells Award Winner

Back when I worked in HR for a public accounting firm, it was common to receive and send out requests for best practices in employment policy.  Such information is often shared freely across non-competing firms all in support of advancing people initiatives within the profession. Most often I was (and still am) a Go-Giver in […]

Here Are Your 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Winners

*waits anxiously for Becker press release saying 42 of the 39 winners prepared for the exam using Becker products* The AICPA has announced 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners or, as the haters call them, the overachievers who got a cumulative average score above 95.50 their first attempt. More than 92,000 candidates sat for the […]

This Guy Who Emerged From a Coma to Pass the CPA Exam AND Run a Half-Marathon Is Making Everyone Else Look Lazy

You may have never heard of Bryan Steinhauer but this 26-year-old's story is about to make you feel guilty for every single stupid excuse you ever gave for not being able to pass the CPA exam. You see, Bryan was beaten into a coma back in 2008 when he got into a barroom brawl with […]

Becker Still the Choice Among CPA Exam Overachievers

Serious question: when did they start handing out nearly FORTY Elijah Watt Sells awards a year instead of 10? Is this like what they started doing in elementary school when they would hand out trophies to all the kids on the soccer team, even the big fat losers? Anyway, the AICPA announced 37 Elijah Watt […]

(UPDATE) Is It True You Get $20,000 From the Big 4 For Getting the Elijah Watt Sells Award?

Have a question for GC's exclusive team of underachievers? Get in touch and we'll do our best to do the research for you. Hey GC Team (Adrienne/Caleb/MIA freelancer),   I'm a CPA candidate starting with the Big 4 this fall. I'm potentially in line to get the EWS award (FAR-94, AUD-96, REG-98, BEC on 8/14) […]

Somehow, They Figured Out 2011 Elijah Watt Sells Winners Already

Wait just one second… didn't they just announce the Elijah Watt Sells Award winners for 2010? I guess the AICPA wasn't kidding when they said the 2011 exam would be graded faster than ever. Somehow, we've got 2011 Elijah Watt Sells winners in record time. Here they are for your shaming. Of 90,000 candidates who took the […]

Is Anyone Surprised That Becker Swept The Elijah Watt Sells Winners?

This press release should come as a surprise to absolutely no one: Becker Professional Education, a global leader in professional education and a part of DeVry Inc., announced that all 19 of the 2010 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners prepared for the exam with Becker's CPA Exam Review. Since the American Institute of Certified Public […]

Here Are Your 2010 Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners

It's that time of year again where we celebrate the achievement of those CPA exam candidates who really overstudied. That's right! The Elijah Watt Sells award winners have been announced and whether or not you admire their accomplishment or feel compelled to make snide, resentful remarks, there's no denying that these 19 individuals did far, […]

New Zealand Race Car Driver Still Shows Up to His Accounting Job After Big Win

Twenty-three year-old New Zealand race car driver and accountant Ant Pedersen called his big weekend win "chaotic and cool" but it apparently was not cool enough to convince him to ditch accounting. That, my friends, is dedication. Pedersen managed to win the feature race at Hampton Downs at the weekend. But despite the win it […]

Here Are the Colleges with the Best CPA Exam Performance

Did I mention I'm enjoying this? These 2010 CPA exam stats have to do with first-time testing events taken by candidates without advanced degrees. The cool part is this is all broken down by section; the not that cool part is the same few schools absolutely killed it on every part. Wake Forest ranked first […]

Here Are Some Random CPA Exam Facts You Didn’t Know You Wanted

It seems everyone is taking off of work this week (at least half my neighbors are) and unless the DoJ decides to bust a huge fraud in the next two days, I got nothing. So you guys get bizarre CPA exam statistics that you may or may not care about. All of these are courtesy […]

CPA Exam Pass Rates (Mostly) Up For the Third Quarter

According to the AICPA, the news from the CPA exam front lines isn’t all that bad.


Did I read that right? BEC has the highest pass rate?!

Satan definitely ice skated to work on the day this data came out. Nice work, people.

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me You Can Earn Gold and Silver Medals on the CPA Exam?!

OK, this is new to me. I’ll admit I don’t know everything about the CPA exam but I try to keep up on as much as I can without actually subjecting myself to that level of masochism. With the deepest respect to those of you who do subject yourselves to that as always, I assure you.

Anyway, what’s this about getting medals for CPA exam scores?! Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

From the Oklahoma State Spears School of Business:

When she received a gold medal for her scores on the Certified Public Accountant exam, Lauren Gorman saw the result that made all of her hard work pay off. Gorman, who is working on her doctorate in accounting, said the award was important in a number of ways. “Receiving the gold medal was important to me because it recognized all of the hard work and months of studying I put into the exam,” Gorman said. “My brother, Ryan Gorman, earned the silver medal on the exam, so I also enjoyed beating him and receiving the gold.” Gorman’s brother took the exam a few years ago. Out of the thousands of students who take the CPA exam, only those who complete all four parts of the exam within one or two testing windows and earn a high score are awarded medals, according to a Spears School of Business press release. Three Oklahoma State University accounting students received the honors. Lauren Gorman and Anne-Marie Lelkes earned gold medals, and Dawn Kruckeberg earned silver.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think they are referring to the Elijah Watt Sells medals, which isn’t at all clear in the article. A gold medal means A) you studied way too hard and B) you beat out every other candidate testing that year. It also means that you took the exam back when it was paper and pencil, as I’m pretty sure they eliminated the medals post-2004, am I totally wrong?

Prior to the computerized exam, the AICPA would award gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three performers on the CPA exam. When the exam went computerized, thereby allowing more flexibility in testing, they changed it to give the award to 10 of the highest scores in the country each year. To qualify, candidates must score in the very very high 90s on the first attempt (no retakes). Winners receive a plaque and the recognition that comes with being a bad ass high performer (even though no one asks what you got on the exam anyway).

So really… what medals are we talking about? Oh, duh, the Oklahoma State Society of CPAs issues them. It would help if the article mentioned that, I got all excited for a minute there.

Anyway, congratulations and all that.

Another Future Big 4 Associate Wants Advice on How to Best Ruin Their Life Prior to Starting Work

Welcome to the cancel-your-holiday-in-Libya edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, another Fall 2011 Big 4 associate would like to nail down a certification in addition to the CPA before starting work. Can I keep my head from exploding long enough to formulate a coherent response?

Caught in a ethical jam at work? Need a shredding service-provider that also has a knack of taking care of “problems”? Want to challenge your firm’s dress code but need an objective opinion? Email us at advice@goingconcern.com and we’ll make like Anna Wintour.

Back to our overachiever du jour:

Caleb,

I am about to pass the CPA exam and have 8 months until I begin at one of the “Big Four” firms in Florida. I am excited to start at the firm as it was my first choice however, I am not certain I will be in public accounting for the long run (like most people). My question is, being uncertain about my career path, what other certification should I obtain before I start in 8 months?

I have considered the CISA, CFE, CMA, CFA, Six Sigma but, I am not sure as I am not certain of my long term path. I want something that will give me an edge if I leave the firm and/or switch careers.

What certification would you recommend?

Any suggestions are helpful.

Dear Overachiever Du Jour,

After murdering the remainder of Stranahan’s in the house, I’m better prepared to answer your query.

I appreciate your ambition and we definitely think that obtaining additional certifications is a good idea for those that move on from public accounting but I fail to see how this benefits you now before you have an inkling of what kind of career you want. HOWEVER, I’m here to help sort you out as best I can, so I’ve put aside my judgments for two.

Based on your “considerations” listed, you seem to have a case of accounting certification ADHD which is fine but there’s no clear pattern as to what your interests are. I’m not going to recommend you do something just because it may be a hot area (forensics) or in-demand (information systems) but I am going to recommend you rank these certifications based on your level interest. Want to eventually be a CFO? Then go for the CMA. Want to pile up the financial reporting bodies? Get the CFE. You get the point. The important thing is to pursue a certification you find interesting rather than one that will just puts a few letters behind your name that may (but probably not) impress someone.

But really, do you want to spend the summer prior to starting work studying for a test? Get the band back together, take a trip, something.

How Do I Prioritize Taking the CPA Exam, Finishing a Masters in Accounting and Getting a Job?

If you have a career related question that also involves the CPA exam (like “should I take it before I try to get this awesome job at x firm?” or “Will I still get hired if I have a CPA and therefore scare the crap out of recruiters who want me to be as moldable to their whims as possible?”), please email me directly. Emailing advice@goingconcern.com will just mean you getting trapped in Caleb’s inbox for weeks.

Now then, today’s reader question comes from a finance world immigrant looking to elbow his way into public accounting:

I graduated in 2005 with a Finance degree, I spent one year as a Staff Accountant then moved onto to become a Corporate Financial Analyst for the past 4 years. I am interested in making the change to public accounting and began the MSA program last year to get the requisite hours, I’ll be eligible for the CPA at the end of the Spring Semester but won’t quite be finished with the MSA program. There is the background…

…now my question is would I be better off staying in my current position and finishing the master’s program before I take the CPA and find a new job? Or would it be more beneficial for me to attempt to find a lower level job at a firm during the spring semester to start getting some experience, then attempting to take the CPA next fall? I’m eager for a change, but I would like to know what the best course of action might be and if it’s realistic to think I could find a CPA firm job before I have finished the master’s program or taken the CPA exam. Thanks for your help.

Here’s the obvious disclaimer: I am heavily biased towards the CPA designation for many reasons.

Firstly, having one obviously makes you more employable because it shows a level of dedication that employers salivate over. Forget all that junk about a CPA showing that you know your stuff, getting one shows that you have the ability to grind through months or even years of studying your ass off, which employers are into because it means that you might just show the same sort of dedication to ticking and tying.

Secondly, having a CPA allows access to a professional network that cannot quite be accessed from the fringes (read: unlicensed fringes) and puts you in a different caliber. For someone trying to break into public accounting, having a CPA (or being darn close minus the work experience) right off the bat can put you on the fast track to career advancement that might otherwise be out of reach were you to both come from another industry and lack a CPA. Just my 2¢.

All that being said (possibly in more words than were necessary), yes you can find a job with a CPA firm before you have passed the exam but the best avenue to take is always to tackle the exam as early as you can before you get involved in life, work, family… you know, all that stuff that will turn into excuses for not having time to study later. Even your best-laid plans don’t always turn out as well as they appeared on paper, so that low level gig at a firm (if you can get one) might turn into a longer-term position that you can’t or won’t walk away from. Ask anyone who has studied for the CPA exam while grinding out their first year in public accounting if you need more clarification on just how large a pain in the ass that plan can be. You know, if you’re planning on having a life.

My suggestion: take the CPA exam as soon as possible and put your feelers out in the job market. Don’t bank on a CPA firm position landing in your lap but if you find one, it will be best to have as much of the exam done as you can get before you actually start. Good luck!