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CPA candidate performance declines slightly.

Just over 20% of first-time CPA candidates in 1990 passed all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, a slight decline compared to recent years, according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). More than half the first-time candidates failed to pass a single section (see the exhibit on page 27).

NASBA's recently released 1991 edition of CPA Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination analyzes the performance of 143,572 CPA candidates (a record number) who took the two exams in 1990.

Passing rates declined slightly for repeat candidates as well, although, as usual, they scored better than first-timers.

Accounting practice and accounting theory were the sections in which first-time candidates did best, followed by business law. Auditing ranked last.

Despite a 1% increase in total candidates in 1990, the estimated number of new CPAs is down 4.5% from 1989--a direct result of the decline in passing rates in 1990.

Graduate degrees. The percentage of candidates with advanced degrees was up slightly from 1989 in both May and November 1990, but lower than 10 years ago. NASBA called for further emphasis on postbaccalaureate training in the 1990s to achieve the profession's 150-hour goal by the year 2000.

Work experience. In 1990, first-time candidates were more likely than 1989 candidates to have had one or more years of accounting work experience--especially if the work was in industry or government. Significantly, 28.1% of the candidates sitting for the November 1990 exam had one or more years of experience in industry, compared with 25.9% of those taking the November 1989 exam. A lesser increase in industry experience was reported by candidates taking the May 1990 exam compared with the year before.

The number of first-time candidates reporting public accounting experience declined in May 1990 (compared to 1989) but increased in November 1990 (compared to 1989). The percentage of repeat candidates with at least one year in public accounting declined from 1989 to 1990.

Coaching courses. How well do CPA coaching courses prepare candidates? When first-time and repeat candidate performances are weighted and considered jointly, the advantage of having taken some type of course was about 3%. In other words, the likelihood of a candidate's passing all four subjects increased from 22% to 25% if a CPA exam coaching course had been taken.

Copies of the 213-page report can be purchased for $95 from NASBA, 545 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10017-3698.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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