Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Regular Folk Can’t Be Trusted To Cover the CPA Exam

If you remember, I took issue with certain media outlets' coverage of hipster warehouse American Apparel's fall from financial grace when well-meaning writers called the then-doomed company a "going concern." Little did these fly-by accounting writers realize that "going concern" is actually a good thing (unless, of course, we're referring to this website) and that in the process of writing about things they don't know, they made themselves look pretty ridiculous. No one expects non-accounting writers to understand lease accounting or intangibles or even inventory counts but it would be nice for those who have taken it upon themselves to write about a topic to have at minimum a remedial understanding of said topic.

And look, it happened again.

As far as I can tell, TribLocal is a Chicago Tribune site populated with user-generated content so these aren't exactly professional writers we're talking about. Still, it's sloppy work at best, completely disregarding the all-important who, what, where, when and why of journalism. Read on:

Accounting graduates from Trinity Christian College topped the list for the highest average score on CPA exams for the second year in a row.

The results for the 2011 CPA exam show that Trinity graduates scored an average of 78.08 percent, while the state average was 71.56 percent, according to the Illinois Board of Examiners.

Trinity graduates who took exam sections in 2011 scored the highest average score in Illinois when compared to schools with larger numbers of exam sections taken (25 sections or more), said Dr. Lynn White, professor of accounting in the business department at Trinity. The college also earned the highest average score in 2010 and the second highest in 2009.

“Illinois is fortunate to have some of the most highly regarded accounting programs in the nation,” said White. “Our students are surpassing the performance of these schools on the CPA exam.”

If you didn't know anything about the CPA exam, you might read the above story and say to yourself "WOW, 78.08%, that's pretty amazing." Except you wouldn't realize that the CPA exam is not even graded in percents (first fail) and would have no actual passing score to compare it to (second fail). Sure, you and I know that 75 is passing but that's only because we live and breathe this stupid exam (lucky for most of you, your obsession is temporary; as for me, I haven't even taken the stupid thing and I'm stuck being obsessed with it) and it's assumed most people casually reading the above story would have no idea what any of this actually means.

On top of that, as anyone knows, anything above a 75 is a waste. So what if a school boasts the highest average score in the nation? It would be assumed that said school would then also have a higher average pass rate but the pass rate would be the only number needed in that case. That's like telling people a school averaged the most Prometric locations used, CPA exam review books bought or pieces of paper borrowed from the testing center. In fewer words, WHO CARES?

Just to see if this story actually means anything, I looked up Illinois in the 2011 NASBA Candidate Performance Book and guess what? Trinity had a 62.1% pass rate. That's awesome compared to the national average and Illinois schools in general but it wasn't the highest pass rate in the state. No no, Olivet Nazarene came in at 66.7% and the Illinois Institute of Technology (what?!) pulled a whopping 70%.

FAIL. Trinity did awesome but this story doesn't do them justice. Leave the real CPA exam coverage to the experts next time, mmkay?