New Tool for Bolstering CPA Exam Candidates

by Elizabeth M. Kolar, CPA, CGMA | May 30, 2019


Nearly every year for the past decade, the number of accounting graduates across the United States has risen. However, the number of candidates sitting for the CPA Exam has either remained flat or declined. This troubling trend has generated a lot of interest and study into probable causes and contributing factors. A recent AICPA practice analysis, revealed that a strong determiner of whether or not candidates choose to move through the pipeline toward CPA licensure is their college environment and experience. Factors that positively influence students in their decision to pursue the CPA credential include active accounting organizations, knowledgeable professors, public accounting firm recruitment on campus, internships, accounting competitions, exposure to CPA Exam content and questions, and involvement of the state society.


Knowing how critical the university experience is to improving the CPA pipeline, I am thrilled to announce that Surgent CPA Review and the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation have partnered to provide students and faculty at Pennsylvania colleges and universities with a number of resources designed to help support students and encourage them to successfully progress through the pipeline. This new Surgent CPA Review mentor-level sponsorship of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation Student Ambassador Program is the first of its kind in the country.

This multifaceted program includes targeted education aimed at familiarizing students with CPA Exam preparation and testing, classroom solutions to help schools integrate CPA Exam content into curricula, an exam-readiness assessment tool so students can gauge what they’ve mastered, and a range of benefits for accounting faculty.

Targeted education on the CPA Exam process – As part of this new program, Surgent experts will be available to conduct on-campus presentations and webinars for Pennsylvania accounting organizations and classes on a wide range of topics related to the CPA Exam student preparation and application process. In addition, Surgent experts will attend all signature PICPA student events, including chapter networking nights in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to provide additional opportunities to share insights into exam preparation best practices. Surgent will also offer a webinar series covering topics such as how to apply for the CPA Exam, how to complete a task-based simulation, details on any exam content changes, what students need to know about exam day logistics, and more.

Classroom integration of CPA Exam content – An absolutely central element for potential CPA Exam candidates is the accounting curriculum. As an accounting professor, I have seen how helpful it is to integrate CPA Exam content. That’s why I worked closely with my colleagues at Surgent to develop the University Pass learning management system. University Pass makes it easy for educators to add up-to-date, AICPA-aligned CPA Exam content into the curriculum, track and measure student progress, and better prepare students for the CPA Exam.

University Pass includes course templates for seven top accounting courses, as well as lecture videos, slides, and notes; text references; and quizzes and exams. It also gives professors an option to pretest and posttest students, aiding in the measurement of the success of learning outcomes. With University Pass, students get the opportunity to engage with real exam content and educators get access to a toolkit that makes their jobs easier.

Exam-readiness assessment tool that increases confidence – Ready-PASS, Surgent’s CPA Exam readiness assessment tool, contains a set of assessment quizzes for each section of the exam. After completing the quizzes, the student receives a diagnostic report documenting the student’s current exam readiness. The report outlines how the student is performing overall and by topic, identifies specific strengths and weaknesses, and estimates how many study hours will be required to pass the CPA Exam.

ReadyPASS can be especially helpful for recent graduates who are on the fence about taking the CPA Exam. Fresh out of school, they often know more than they realize they know. By seeing an assessment of just how much they already know, many who may have otherwise dropped out of the pipeline may be convinced to pursue the credential.

Continuing professional education benefits for faculty – To help faculty stay current in the profession, Surgent offers professors who use University Pass free access to a Professor Partner CPE package from Surgent. This package includes unlimited access to more than 7,500 credit hours of top-rated online CPE courses.

We look forward to working closely with the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation to bring these programs to students and faculty across Pennsylvania. We are confident it will help reverse declining CPA Exam application rates.  

Elizabeth M. Kolar, CPA, CGMA, is executive vice president and chief knowledge officer, exam prep, for Surgent and assistant professor in the business and information management department at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown. She can be reached at


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