Boston College ranked fifth in the nation among large programs for performance on the 2018 Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination, according to data released by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

With an overall passing rate of nearly 80 percent, Carroll School students well outperformed the state and national pass rates of 56 and 52 percent, respectively. First-time test-takers did even better on the exam: the pass rate for first-time Boston College candidates was 84 percent, compared to 58 percent of the nation’s newbies and 62 percent of first-timers in Massachusetts. Also in the top ten: University of Virginia (2), University of Notre Dame (10), and Brigham Young University in the top spot.

While the number-five position is a leap from the school’s 10th place standing the year prior, Carroll School students have consistently excelled on the CPA Exam. According to data analysis by Ed Taylor, senior lecturer and assistant chair of Accounting, Boston College has made the top-ten list for highest pass rates in the nation every year since 2015. (The 2014 class came in 11th.) These results reflect the exam scores of both undergraduate business majors with an accounting concentration and graduate students earning their M.S. in accounting. 

When asked why Carroll School students perform so well on what is known to be a grueling exam, Taylor pointed to the faculty as well as student organizations like the Accounting Academy, who together “have made our students aware of how to prepare for success on the CPA Exam.” He also noted the addition of advanced electives to the curriculum, including Advanced Federal Taxation and Advanced Auditing. 

Referring to the CPA Exam as a single test can be a little misleading. Aspiring accountants complete four 4-hour sections of the exam over the course of a year.These sections—Auditing and Accounting, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation—include multiple-choice questions and written responses as well as complex task simulations. In 2017, the test was redesigned to place greater emphasis on higher-order cognitive skills such as analytical thinking and problem-solving. While the national pass rate dropped slightly that year, from 48.7 to 48.3 percent, the Carroll School’s overall pass rate went up—from 74 to 75 percent. 

Perhaps most impressive are the eight Carroll School graduates who have earned the Elijah Watt Sells Award since 2012. This distinction is awarded to test-takers who, upon their first attempt, pass the exam with a cumulative average score above 95.50 on all four sections. Of the nearly 86,000 individuals who sat for the exam in 2018, 110 candidates achieved this feat—including Carroll School graduate Johnathan Grimaldi ’18. Recipients of the Elijah Watt Sells Award are announced in the spring for the previous year’s exams.