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The Illinois Board of Examiners Responds to One Provisional CPA Exam Candidate

In my line of work, it's rare that I actually get to follow up on stories I've done. Sure, I might get the occasional email from a former CPA exam candidate or a PRtard pissed at whatever it was I wrote but for the most part, I write it, you guys take over the comments and it's never brought up again. But in this case, I received an interesting email from Russ Friedewald, Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Examiners. You see, Russ didn't really like my answer to the Illinois candidate who wrote us begging for advice on how to handle his provisional status in the state of Illinois. Status which the candidate apparently did not plan on when he decided to sit for the exam before officially meeting Illinois' requirements. When I said the candidate was "not only confused but screwed on top of it," I meant it to say that his plans were poorly thought out at best. Sure, he'll probably be done with the exam by November of 2012 regardless but for the immediate future, he is simply going to have to wait until he actually has 150 units to continue pursuing his exam plans. Like I said, confused and screwed. Anyway, here's Russ' response:

Adrienne, I recently read a post in your column entitled “Provisional CPA Exam Candidate from Illinois is just now realizing what “Provisional” means. I’m think your response to this person’s letter is very unfortunate. You indicated he was not only confused, but screwed, too. The unfortunate part of this response is that candidate’s in Illinois have an opportunity to sit for the exam before they complete their educational requirements. Not all states provide this opportunity. It is a privilege, not a right. Before a candidate in Illinois is allowed to apply for provisional status, they must read and sign an informational document fully explaining the conditions under which they will be allowed to sit for the exam. This includes providing final transcripts within 120 days of having sat for the first section. None of this should have been a surprise to this person, except they failed to read it before they signed it. I think it is great that candidates have a forum in which to raise issues, but often the information that is provided can do more harm than good. You even have one responder that tells people to sit for a state that allows sitting at 120 hours and then transfer over. Most states will not allow this, but people reading it will believe it to be true. I would only ask that your responses be accurate. I can be sympathetic to the person that missed the 120 day rule, but that person signed an agreement that he/she understood the conditions for approval. Thanks for allowing me to “clear the air”.

Now, I see two problems with Russ' thoughts. First, this candidate IS confused and screwed too. My answer is not the unfortunate part, rather, the unfortunate part is that this candidate wanted to cheat the system and failed. That isn't my fault. Second, to say that "the information that is provided can do more harm than good" implies that what we are spitting out here is somehow incorrect. I am very careful (in cases of the CPA exam) to confirm the information I spread around with the source whenever possible. What our comment section does, on the other hand, is outside of our control. My hope here, of course, is that you guys realize that and take what you read there with a grain of salt, or, perhaps a dose of Valtrex. In my view, he is 100% right to say "none of this should have been a surprise to this person" but, sadly, it often is.

How many of you, hell, ALL OF US, have read and signed an "informational document" only to discover that something buried in page 4 screwed us and hard? Yes it's awesome that Illinois allows candidates to sit "early" but can we really trust 22 year-olds to read the fine print? Let this serve as a lesson to any would-be provisional Illinois candidates out there – there's no such thing as a shortcut when it comes to the CPA exam. Seriously.