By Meg Killian, vice president - member relations
More than 3,600 candidates took at least one section of the CPA Exam in Pennsylvania in 2016. That was a five-year high, and maybe not surprising given that an updated version of the CPA Exam was scheduled to launch this year. Regardless, more is better. Let’s review the numbers:
- There were 936 successful candidates (SCs), a 7.5 percent increase over 2015.
- A record number of 2,741 new candidates entered the exam process. Nationally, the new candidates number almost doubled from 42,439 to 78,178.
- The Pennsylvania pass rate fell a few points from 49 percent to 47.3 percent. This is likely due to the number of candidates, but it was not as low as the last candidate surge in 2011 when the pass rate was 38.8 percent. Ouch. The national pass rate decreased also, from 49.8 percent to 48.7 percent in 2016.
- The average score in the state also fell slightly, from 71.8 to 71.2 There was a similar decline nationally, from 71.9 to 71.5.
- Nationally there were more female candidates than male candidates, but in Pennsylvania the reverse is the case. About 46 percent of candidates were female, a percentage that hasn’t changed much over the past five years.
As I reported last year, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s candidate performance reports now include cohort tracking, which looks at candidate performance based on the year in which they started the exam process. In Pennsylvania, 316 candidates passed their fourth part within 12-18 months after taking their first part, and 272 candidates passed the final part more than 24 months after taking their first part.
Fifty-three candidates passed within six months, which represents 5.7 percent of all Pennsylvania successful candidates in 2016. This is a bit lower than the national average of 6.3 percent of successful candidates who did the same.
I need to include a shout-out to Pennsylvania schools and colleges who continue to produce strong CPA Exam candidates. The Elijah Watt-Sells Award winners were announced as I was writing this, and six out of the 58 went to schools in our state. Check out the full list here. Congratulations to all the winners!
Our work is far from done. Last year saw a surge because of the new CPA Exam launch. While early number of 2017 successful candidates are coming in pretty good, history has shown that every time the exam changes there is a significant decline in candidates. The gains of 2016 could be offset if that trend continues. Couple that with a few lean years prior to 2016, and that means less candidates in the pipeline. We need to continue with our mission of educating students and their influencers on the benefits and opportunities of obtaining the CPA credential. In this time of transition that message is more critical than ever.