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Appalachian Accounting Students Have Highest CPA Exam Pass Rate in Nation

BOONE — There’s nothing like being at the top of the class and knowing it’s an honor no other group will surpass.

Appalachian State University accounting majors taking the four-part CPA exam last November had the highest pass rate in the nation when compared to students without advanced degrees from other schools who also took the exam that month.

According to rankings recently released in the 2004 edition of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy publication “Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination,” 48.8 percent of the accounting majors from Appalachian taking the test passed all four parts on the first try. A total of 41 students took the test in November. That places Appalachian in the publication’s top 10, and makes it the only school in North Carolina included on the list.

The publication contains national rankings for the May and November 2003 CPA exams, the last times candidates were required to take all four parts of the CPA exam during a two-day period.

The national CPA exam has since changed to a system that allows students to take any portion of the test at any time at an approved testing site, meaning national rankings will no longer be issued. The exam now is computer-based.

“It’s a team effort,” Randy Edwards said of the approach Appalachian’s Department of Accounting faculty take in preparing students for the exam. Edwards chairs the accounting department.

Students take courses in financial accounting, auditing and accounting regulations prior to taking the exam. In the past, they were “coached” by faculty member Ray Larson who encouraged the students to get up at 5 a.m. to study and complete various accounting exercises each day.

“A big part of the student success is that they would get together and study for the exam as a group. Now, with the new test format, it’s more of an individual process,” Edwards said. “We are optimistic that we are still preparing the students as well as ever, but it’s a totally different process.”

Students in Appalachian’s accounting program have a reputation for scoring well on the CPA exam. Students taking the November 2002 exam had the third highest pass rate in the nation on the auditing portion of the test, the fourth highest pass rate on the accounting and reporting section, and the 10th highest pass rate overall.

That reputation makes recruiting students for the program easy. “We get great students,” Edwards said. “They come here because they have heard about the CPA pass rate.”

Appalachian’s accounting program has approximately 300 undergraduate and 40 graduate students. The department graduates about 80 students each year.