News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy

Getting a Head Start

Most CPA candidates take the CPA Exam after completing their master’s degrees, yet several of the Adkerson School of Accountancy’s (ASAC) graduate students got a head start this past year by taking all or parts of the exam while still in school.

Aly Goul

“I wanted to get it out of the way. I knew I’d be jumping into work and marriage as soon as I finished school,” shares Aly Goul, who received her MPA May 9, was married May 11 and will begin at Watkins, Ward and Stafford, PLLC June 3, returning to her hometown of Philadelphia, MS.

“I wanted to get as much done as possible before starting my job this July,” echoes Thomas Iupe, who received his MPA earlier this month and will join FORVIS in Jackson. “Starting last summer gave me a full year to pass all the sections instead of trying to fit them all into the spring.”

In January 2024, the format of the CPA Exam changed. Three core sections are required of all candidates: auditing and attestation (AUD), financial accounting and reporting (FAR) and taxation and regulation (REG). The previous format’s fourth section, business environment and concepts (BEC), was replaced by a compulsory new “discipline” section, under which candidates may choose among three options: business analysis and reporting, information systems and controls and tax compliance and planning.

Candidates who began taking sections of the CPA exam in 2023 were able to continue under that structure, even if their planned completion date was in 2024.

Thomas Iupe

“I wanted to be able to take BEC before they changed the format,” comments Iupe. “BEC had been around for a long time, so there were good prep materials available. Less is known about the new format, so there’s been less basis for development of the study materials.”

In addition to balancing a master’s program and CPA Exam prep, both Iupe and Goul have worked as graduate assistants (GAs), proctoring exams, grading, tutoring and providing administrative assistance to faculty members.

“During the summer, it was quieter, so I’d get all my GA work done in the mornings then study for the CPA Exam. Fall was busier, so I’d study later into the night,” says Iupe. “I made sure I got in about five hours on CPA each day no matter how I had to move my schedule around.”

He started out by studying for BEC in June and July and taking and passing the exam in August. However, he learned he needed to quicken his pace to retain what he studied, so he shortened his prep for the other sections to a month each, with more daily study hours. He took and passed FAR and AUD in the fall and REG in the spring.

Goul began with REG, studying for it in July concurrent with her Income Tax II course; she took the exam in August and passed it. Next, she took BEC in December and FAR in February, passing both. She completed the AUD section in March and recently learned she passed.

“One thing that helped me focus is that as soon as I started studying for a section, I scheduled my exam date,” she says. “It gave me incentive to have the date set.”

Laughing, she adds, “I realized I’ll get my final score back on the same day I start at Watkins, Ward and Stafford – so it’ll either be a really good first day of work or a bad one!”

Both students utilized Becker CPA Exam Review materials to guide their studies.

“Becker seemed like it would be the most helpful compared with others I looked at, and it was. I’ve been well prepared for the exams,” says Iupe.

ASAC master’s students take a Becker CPA Exam Review course in the spring, led by Dr. Alan Stancill. The School uses Becker because it is also what the major employers of MSU graduates use. The three credit-hour course includes reading and homework, weekly quizzes and an exam at the end of each section.

“The Becker course provides students structure in preparing for the exam,” says Stancill. “Our schedule works through the three required sections, with about 25 hours of work outside class for each part. The fourth part is up to them.”

For those who had already taken parts of the exam, they found the course helpful with their remaining sections and for tying together their knowledge of accounting.

“Becker helped me correlate what I learned in my graduate and undergraduate courses,” Goul says. “It connected everything so I could see it as a whole instead of as separate individual classes.”

Employers take notice when their future employees have gone the extra mile to complete the CPA exam before beginning work. It assures them they have hired independent, responsible, self-disciplined MSU graduates. When Goul passed her first section, she mentioned it to a friend and future colleague at the firm. Very soon afterward, she received a congratulatory call from a supervisor who told her she had become “one-fourth a CPA.”