Accounting Professor Takes CPA Exam to Become a Better Educator


For many college students who are accounting majors, the next step after graduation is studying for the CPA Exam and obtaining licensure. But as young adults and soon-to-be working professionals, having guidance on what to expect for this career path, especially when it comes to  preparing and passing the CPA Exam, is crucial. 

Which is why Diania McRae, CPA, an experienced accounting instructor and former Assistant Professor in Accounting at Western Carolina University, decided to take the CPA Exam. We sat down and spoke with Professor McRae to learn more about how taking the CPA Exam helped her become a better educator, and why she thinks all accounting professors should do the same.

What made you decide to take the CPA Exam? 

I was at a AAA conference and I met Charlotte Roberts, the Senior Vice President of eLearning at UWorld Roger CPA Review. She and I got to talking about the CPA license because I was transitioning positions, going from community college to a university. I felt that having my CPA license would be something that could help me become a better teacher. 

Why do you think an accounting professor should go through the CPA Exam experience even if they have no intention of putting it into practice?

Because professors play such an integral part of helping students learn accounting concepts, and essentially prepare them for life outside of college, I think accounting professors should be able to not only teach their students, but assist and advise them to prepare for what’s next. I believe going through the CPA Exam can really help add another dimension to myself and other professors as educators. 

Do you feel like taking the CPA Exam has helped you become a better teacher? In what way(s)?

Knowing what the CPA Exam entails has increased the amount of information that I give students about what their options are in terms of accounting careers and what they can expect should they take the CPA route. As I passed each section of the exam, I was able to share more with students about the different topics they could expect to encounter in both their academic and professional lives. This helps them make better, more informed choices earlier on in their lives. For example, they can elect to take classes more geared toward the CPA Exam as opposed to taking classes geared toward taxes. Since my class is typically the first one they’re exposed to as accounting majors, their exposure to this type of information is crucial at the get-go. 

What concepts were you teaching that you saw were really related to the CPA Exam?

Since I taught the Basics of Financial Accounting, what really stood out to me was how everything in accounting is based on the fundamentals, both for school and on the CPA Exam. Every concept builds upon the one before it, so if students don’t get a good foundation from the beginning, they won’t excel at the more advanced topics. This is true for both the classroom and the exam. For example, when you’re working through problems in your advanced classes, you may need to go back to the fundamentals such as debits and credits or a lot of questions that I answered I used T-accounts. 

What do you think are some of the stark differences between students’ experience in the classroom and their experience in taking the CPA Exam? 

In real life and in the classroom, students can easily look up terms and formulas that they’re unfamiliar with or can’t quite recall. But on the exam, they need to know the formulas and know how to get information from those formulas under time constraints and without the help of the internet. 

At the end of the day, what do you want students to learn from your experience in preparing/taking and passing the CPA Exam?

Anyone can do it! I worked full time and was a primary caregiver when I was studying for the CPA Exam. It’s entirely within your grasp if you want it. As Roger Philipp, CPA says, “You don’t have to be a genius to pass the exam.” What you need is to get a good review program like UWorld Roger CPA Review and study, study, study! Repetition is key. 

I also want them to know that I can be a credible resource about the exam if they have any questions since I now have first-hand experience. Additionally, I’m more confident in the relevancy of my accounting knowledge, which makes me feel better about advising students. 

On the flip side, what do you want other academics to know from your experience?

The CPA exam today is drastically different from when most of my colleagues passed the exam. It’s like another world. Since technology and practices are changing so quickly, the CPA Exam is a great way to ensure that your accounting knowledge is up to date.  I want other accounting professors to know that going through the CPA Exam is an important not only because educators should be at the forefront of these changes, but because it establishes a greater connection with their students; a majority of who will pursue the path of licensure.  

We encounter professors who refuse to adopt CPA Review resources into their classrooms for fear of teaching to the exam—how is that statement true or not true? 

It depends on how much the professor relies on the material. It should never replace the curriculum itself, but if the professor is doing his or her job correctly, then it should serve as a supplement to the course. 

I think this is extremely important to do because the quicker students become familiar with CPA Review material, the less steep their learning curve will be when they actually begin studying. It also allows them to be exposed to the type of information and environment they will need to surround themselves with to be properly prepared and successful on the CPA Exam. 

Additionally, CPA Review resources provide an extra level of expertise for professors since they are up to date with exam and profession changes. Professors can incorporate this into their classrooms without having to do all the research to stay on top of how the profession and industry are evolving.  

Did taking the CPA Exam allow for personal growth or opportunity for you in your career? 

Definitely. Although I’m not putting it into practice, it’s nice to know that I can always do so if I wanted to in the future since teaching experience counts toward licensure for me. But perhaps the most growth that it has given me is being personal enrichment to help me become a better educator, which is what I’m always striving to do. 

What made you choose UWorld Roger CPA Review to study for the CPA Exam?

Roger Philipp’s lectures, by far. They are out of this world. I love them and I was never bored. Other review courses could be dry, tricky, or hard to understand. UWorld Roger CPA Review truly prepares you for the exam no matter what types of questions it may throw at you. The course is straightforward and made all the difference between passing and failing for me. When I got to the exam, I felt very well prepared and it showed in my passing scores. 

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