Leap of Faith

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NOVEMBER 2006 - A little more than a year ago, Steve Langowski, NYSSCPA president for 2005/2006, created the CPA Exam Task Force in response to complaints he had been hearing about the new computer-based CPA exam. At that time, the computer-based test (CBT) was no longer quite so new; students had been taking it for about 18 months, and many were saying that certain aspects of its administration—including scoring, cost, and registration—clearly needed some work.

Less clear, however, was the task force’s ability to affect change. Task force members knew the exam’s administration needed improvement, and that test-takers and professors were getting frustrated. But they had no idea if their efforts would—or could—produce real, tangible reforms. Still, task force members took a leap of faith, came together, and decided to act … to do something … or at least to try.

The task force developed an online survey that was completed by more than 600 test-takers. The results showed that candidates were most frustrated with the way the exam is scored. As I discussed in my May 2006 column, the exam is currently scored on a pass/fail basis, and almost everyone agrees that this system is cryptic, unhelpful, and unfair to candidates. A numerical scoring system, on the other hand, would enable candidates to know exactly how they did on a failed section, so they would be better able to prepare to retake the test in the future.

Armed with this information, the task force drafted a report detailing its findings and recommendations. Not surprisingly, the report’s main recommendation was that the New York State Board for Public Accountancy change the exam’s scoring system from pass/fail to numerical as soon as possible. This report was then sent to the Society’s Board of Directors—where it was unanimously approved and accepted as an official NYSSCPA position paper—and, finally, sent on to the state board. At the very least, task force members hoped the state board would read and discuss the report. But above and beyond that, they hoped their report would inspire the state board to take action.

When Action Leads to Results

Woody Allen once famously quipped that 80% of success is just showing up. He probably didn’t have the CPA exam in mind when he said that, but the sentiment fits perfectly here. About one month after the Society sent the report, the New York State Board for Public Accountancy voted unanimously to recommend that New York begin reporting CPA exam scores numerically, not on a pass/fail basis. The recommendation will now be brought before the New York State Board of Regents for discussion in December 2006 and action in early 2007. If the Regents approve the recommendation, exam scores will likely begin to be reported numerically about a month or two later.

Task force members deserve tremendous credit for their efforts. These volunteers made a Herculean effort without knowing if it would bear fruit. But let’s also not forget the state board. By remaining open and willing to accept constructive criticism, the board demonstrated that its members are out for nothing more than the best interests of the accounting profession. And by voting to approve the move to numerical scoring, the board has done a great service for CPA exam candidates in New York.

It all goes to show that, sometimes, affecting change just takes a leap of faith. Any other members up for a challenge? If you see a problem in the accounting profession, try to fix it! Work with the Society’s leadership to act. You never know—you just might get what you’re after.

Louis Grumet
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA





















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