Computer-Based Format Boosts Chance of Passing

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Accountants who are struggling to pass their Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exams may have less to worry about now that the exam is delivered in a computer-based format. A survey from the Boston Institute of Finance shows that accounting professors think that the recently implemented format change will benefit test takers, and also may alter the way students actually prepare for the exam.


“The exam is now broken up into four pieces, and you have 18 months to pass those four pieces,” said Ben Carcio, vice president and general manager, Boston Institute of Finance. “It used to be that you had to pass all four pieces. Otherwise, you failed the examination. Now, if you’re poor in one section and you fail, you can come back, improve in that particular section, and not have to retake the whole exam.”


The Boston Institute of Finance provides an online test-prep program and sponsored the survey, which shows that the new exam structure makes it easier for students to focus, and the computer-based format allows students to experience a greater sense of familiarity, particularly if they take advantage of online test prep opportunities. “Students can study in a number of ways,” Carcio said. “They can use books, offline, classroom-based—even hire private tutors. We think it will change things because it’s on computer. It’s important for people to become comfortable and confident taking questions and examinations on the computer. Before, using a book didn’t penalize you necessarily because the test was paper-based. Now that it’s computer-based, it’s really important that students gain that kind of confidence using the computer. Most test-prep products will give you education and training specific to what you’re trying to learn, but what they really do is they help you build confidence and build your ability to handle questions. When you take the examination on a computer, it’ll be more comfortable and familiar to you.”


Some 77 percent of the professors who responded to the survey said that after testing, students are well-prepared for the rigors and demands of the marketplace. “I think that really boils down to the professors and their confidence in graduating their students into this profession,” Carcio said. “I think that most professors don’t view themselves as a prep course for the CPA, so I think that this computer-based testing delivery method is really exciting their confidence in their ability.”

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