Now & Then: Classroom and CPA Exam Evolution


A pretty smart man once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken a joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Those words happened to come from one of most well-respected minds of all time, Albert Einstein.

But the quote itself is the perfect way to describe “the art of teaching” as well as the biggest hurdle all educators face throughout a calendar year – “awakening joy” in their students “in creative expression and knowledge.” That right there is half the reason people look to the education space to fulfill a gratifying career and life.

With over 29 years and 35,000 hours in the classroom, I’ve seen the ever-changing landscape of not only the accounting space, but the CPA exam and teaching, too.

As a student back in the day, the CPA exam was taken in a three-day period over about 20 hours with paper and pencil. You had one shot, every six months. Nowadays? The exam is a long-winded process that lasts over 18 months with computers, tablets and on-demand testing throughout nine of those months. OH! Before I forget, you’re also expected to spend six days a week studying.

The CPA exam itself has changed to meet the needs of the accounting profession.

Entry-level jobs have transformed to become more hands-on, client facing roles with some high-level skill sets in various areas of accounting. In order to meet those job requirements, the AICPA has had to adapt accordingly, tweaking every nook and cranny of the exam, and requiring more from the students and, more importantly, the educators!

Being a teacher and going from 32 hours-a-week live classrooms with 100 students where you’re only using a whiteboard to interacting with 400 CPA intenders who have 24 hour/7 day-a-week course access and all their materials are hosted online is a drastic change. For the teacher, it’s their responsibility to continue to adapt and adjust their approach in order to make sure they’re “awakening” each student’s creative expression and knowledge.

This day in age, distractions are the biggest reasons for failure.

I used to take a walk around the block and get a coffee as my study break. Now students devote their free time to social media channels (which could take hours if they’re trying to get that perfect angle for their Instagram), FaceTime with friends and then spend another hour catching up on the news and gossip they’ve missed. Due to all of these distractions, it’s even more important for the teacher to have an entertaining, engaging style and personality in order to avoid losing interest—which could ultimately result in sleepy students instead of “awakening” them.

— Roger Philipp, CEO, CPA, CGMA

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