Last week we briefly mentioned Wake Forest's announcement that their graduates had achieved the highest average scores on the CPA exam for the fifth year in a row. Wondering how such dominance could be made possible we decided to get in touch with Associate Professor Dr. Yvonne Hinson to find out. The two main points that is primarily responsible for WFU students' success on the CPA exam that Dr. Hinson impressed upon us were the ambition of the students and the curriculum that they go through. "We bring in very good students through our screening process and the students create an extremely competitive atmosphere," Dr. Hinson told us. To compliment these go-getters, the faculty is always thinking ahead as to how to make the curriculum as challenging and relevant as possible. Here are a few questions we asked Dr. Hinson about the success at Wake Forest:
What helps Wake Forest accounting students be so successful on the CPA Exam especially since these scores are for students without advanced degrees?
I believe that this relates to multiple things including: 1) Innovative curriculum that constantly changes. We teach the basics but try to always stay abreast of the emerging trends in the industry an incorporate those throughout our program where we decide they are relevant and ongoing. An example is out IFRS integration last year which was a full curriculum integration. We received a grant from PwC to complete this. 2) Faculty that are incredibly tied to the profession 3) Small class sizes and a lot of interaction between faculty and students. You can NOT hide in our classes! 4) Strong, motivated students. 5) We use Becker CPA review but the sections are handled my subject matter experts rather than all sections of Becker supervised by one or two people. Our faculty actually teach the Becker review.
Does the faculty make a point of communicating the importance of the exam?
Not really – there is the usual marketing around the results but the students tend to be very competitive and really drive a lot of that themselves. We do stress the importance of trying to get it out of the way before you begin work rather than trying to work busy season hours while also studying for the exam.
What is the biggest key that you (and your fellow faculty members) tell your students with re: to the exam?
Get it out of the way!! You do not want to be taking it while working if possible. We offer the review in May and June in an intensive session so that this is all they are concentrating on at that time.
Do most students take review courses in preparation for the exam?
Yes – Becker
What steps is the University taking to prepare students for IFRS and its eventual inclusion on the exam?
We have already integrated it throughout our undergraduate and graduate curriculum. We feel that the issue has nothing to do with where the U.S. is in respect to IFRS but rather that our students go our and operate in a global environment and are exposed to IFRS issues soon after graduation. Therefore, we have fiduciary duty to the students and to the profession to expose them to IFRS in their program.
Speaking of current topics, we also asked about Wake Forest implementing forensics into it's curriculum, Dr. Hinson was quick to note, "Forensic accounting is also implemented in curriculum here, as this is another important area we recognized that our students would need exposure to." Dr. Hinson mentioned Dr. George Aldhizer who she told us is "not on the leading edge but the bleeding edge of forensic accounting." Indeed, Dr. Aldhizer's most recent publication was "Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Errors: A Ticking Time Bomb that Must Be Defused" for the Journal of Government and Financial Management. We'd say you can't get more current than that. One additional interesting thing we learned is that Wake Forest also offers a "Transaction Services Track" as part of its Master of Science in Accountancy that prepares many students for a career in in the advisory practices of the large firms. So not only is the University taking a progressive approach to the CPA exam, they are preparing students for their careers in public accounting by offering a wide curriculum that will serve them in various areas of the firms. We applaud them in their effort and hope more schools take their lead. Congratulations to Wake Forest on their five-peat (?) and the continued success of their students and faculty.