Factors Contributing to the Success of Palawan State University’s CPA Licensure Examinees


Since the inception of the CPA Licensure Examination, it has been one of the more difficult Licensure Examinations to hurdle. In the Philippines, it has been consistently ranked within the Top 10 of the Hardest Licensure Examinations. When Palawan State University was able to send BS-Accountancy graduates to take the licensure exam, it has been difficult for the said CPA candidates to pass the said examination. Studies in relation to the said topic have been done from the accreditation of a school’s accountancy program, the students’ habits, GWA/GPA and other characteristics were made. This study focused on the review period before the licensure examination of the CPA candidates. This study also identified factors that contribute to the success of a CPA candidate. Results show that two-thirds reviewed at RESA. Their preferred review session is the afternoon session. This study also showed that they spend more than 8 hours in the evening to prepare for the examination. They also understood the concept first before proceeding with practical application. The candidates also used self-assessment to evaluate themselves for the examination.

Keywords: BS-Accountancy, CPA, Strategies, Study Habits, Techniques


Early evidence of the existence of accounting can be traced 6,000 years ago. Discovery of rudimentary accounting records from temples in Lower Mesopotamia. In 1340, the double-entry accounting were discovered in the “Massari Ledgers” of the Commune of Genoa. This was earlier than Luca Pacioli’s “Summa” which was first published in 1494. Since the Massari Ledgers have little evidence of their validity, the Franciscan Friar and mathematician is still universally recognized as the “The Father of Accounting and Bookkeeping”.

Originating in England, the professional accountancy examinations are now standard in all countries recognizing accountancy as a profession. Candidates wanting to enter the profession must show his or her knowledge and proficiency in numerous accounting areas. The exam continues to evolve with the changing needs of the profession. In the future, the changing business and technological environment will demand higher level of skill set from entry level accountants. In the future, the CPA Examination must be designed to assure the knowledge, ability, and skill of the candidates taking the exam, so that the public will be protected and accountancy remain a respected profession (King, D. L., et al., 2017).

In the early 1900’s, the accounting profession realized the need of quality education and accounting work experience. The American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA), the precursor of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), realizing this necessity, developed a uniform CPA exam as an admission requirement to the profession. The giving out of uniform examinations has been adopted in the Philippines and all over the world before one may be admitted to the profession, although examinations may vary and additional requirements such as number of years of related experience may be necessary for admission.

A study reveals that practitioners support (1) setting national uniform requirement for education and job experience, (2) requiring college-level course(s) in ethics, and (3) requiring candidates to have courses in specific areas of accounting and non-accounting disciplines (Demagalhaes, et al., 2014). A study also suggests that auditors with Professional Accounting Education (PAE) background possess higher competency compared to those without. Supervisor, manager, and partner perceptions are better for those subordinates with PAE background. Further, findings supported to a certain extent that PAE has a significant role in enhancing professionalism in auditors (Utami, et al., 2011).

College accounting curricula have always stressed public accounting and the CPA exam. But with the emergence of new certification programs, potential accountants have a wide choice of professional designations to differentiate themselves. Despite the competition, the CPA is still the best recognized brand name among accounting students. But the CIA, CFE, and other certifications are catching up with and in some aspects surpassing the CMA recognition (Brody, et al., 2016).

Consistently, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Licensure Examination has been always ranked in the Top Ten Hardest Licensure Examination locally and abroad. In the Philippines, the Board of Accountancy (BOA) conducts the examination twice a year. Data from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) revealed that the highest exam passing percentage is 48% never hitting the 50% mark.

Since Palawan State University was able to produce accountancy graduates, it has consistently produced CPA Licensure Examination passers above the national passing percentage. There was always a retention policy but it was not strictly implemented during the late 1990s. The adverse result of non-implementation was when the university’s passing rate became lower than the national passing percentage. The lowest point was in the early 2000s when the university at times had no passers in the licensure examination.

The Uniformed CPA Examination is an objective measure that can be employed for evaluation purposes and that accrediting organizations should require disclosure of each accredited school’s UCPAE passing rate as requirement for accreditation. Further, findings also indicate that faith-based CCCU member schools performance is significantly higher than for-profit schools. This is attributable to small class sizes, active learning methods and additional mentoring by faculty at CCCU member schools (Hahn, et al., 2015).

Several studies were made to identify techniques and strategies of successful CPA Licensure exam passers, as well as factors surrounding success in hurdling the said examination. This research focused on external factors such as the review school, habits, techniques and strategies during review.

The objectives of this study are to know (1) the review school the successful CPA examinees enrolled in and what is their schedule; (2) the time of the day and the number of hours the successful CPA examinee study; (3) the number hours the successful CPA examinee sleeps; (4) the techniques and strategies that successful CPA examinee used during the preparation for the licensure examination; and (5) how did the successful CPA examinee assess his/her readiness to take the CPA Licensure Examination.



The research used descriptive quantitative method of research. It described the factors contributing to the success of PSU’s CPA Licensure Exam candidates covering the period from 2013 to 2017. It was conducted with graduates of Palawan State University who successfully passed the CPA Licensure Exam covering the period from May 2013 to October 2017. The respondents will be the total population which were the successful passers of the CPA Licensure Exams for the said period.


The participants of this study are the successful candidates of the CPA Licensure examination covering the period from May 2013 to October 2017. The questionnaires were distributed to 108 CPAs who successfully passed the CPA board examination in the said period. Out of the total population, 55 or 51% replied.

Data Collection

A survey questionnaire was distributed to the respondents. The said questionnaire was sent thru Google Survey and Facebook to all respondents including those located outside of Puerto Princesa City and Palawan. The list of respondents was acquired from the records of the Department of Accountancy of Palawan State University. To summarize the results of the data gathering, tables and figures were used.

Statistical Analysis and Variables

Data were analyzed using the descriptive statistics embedded in the IBM Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 19. The study used the frequency count percentages to describe the responses. The frequency count was used to find out the number of responses given to a particular question. Percentages were used to convert the frequency counts. As for the other data, tables and figures were used to show the results of the data gathering.


I. No. of times took the CPA Licensure Exam

The descriptive statistics below show 55 valid responses with no missing entries or respondents. As illustrated below, a great majority (n = 39, 70.9%) of them took the CPA Licensure Examination once, (n = 12, 21.8%) took the exam twice, and the remaining (n=4, 7.3%) took the examination thrice.

Table 1. Number of times the CPA board exam was taken.

II. Review Center

Table 2 shows the frequency and percentage distribution of the respondents’ preference as to Review Center. A great majority of the respondents (n = 44, 80%) enrolled in RESA for their review. The second with most number of respondents (n=8, 14.5%) is CPAR. Other review schools has the third most respondents (n=2, 3.6%) while PRTC only has 1 respondent (n=1, 3.6%).

Table 2. Review centers enrolled in.

III. Review Session

As reflected in Table 3 shows the frequency and percentage distribution of respondents’ preferred review session. Great majority of respondents (n = 40, 72.7%) suggests that they preferred the afternoon session of their respective review school. The next preferred schedule by respondents (n=9, 16.4%) is the morning session. The remaining respondents preferred to enroll in the evening (n=4, 7.3%) and the weekend (n=2, 3.6%) sessions, respectively.

Table 3. Review session enrolled in.

IV. Preferred study time

As illustrated in Table 4 below which illustrates the respondents’ preferred time to review and study, it appears that most of the respondents (n=22, 40%) preferred 6 pm to 12 am as the time to study. The second most number of respondents (n=17, 30.9%) chose 6 am to 12 pm to review while the remaining respondents (n=8, 14.5%) are equally distributed to 12 am to 6 am, and 12 pm to 6 pm, respectively.

Table 4. Preferred review time.

V. Hours spent for Study

Table V below shows how many hours the respondents spend studying for the CPA Board Examination. All respondents study for more than 2 hours. Most respondents (n=23, 41.8%) study more than 8 hours, other respondents (n=20, 36.4%) study from 4 to 8 hours while several respondents (n=12, 21.8%) study from 2 to 4 hours.

Table 5. Hours spent reviewing per day.

VI. Hours spent for Rest

Demonstrated in the table below is the average number of hours of rest by each respondent. Majority of the respondents (n=41, 74.5%) takes about 4 to 8 hours of rest per day while almost a dozen respondents (n=11, 20%) choose to rest for more than 8 hours. Only few respondents (n=3, 5.5%) choose to rest for less than 4 hours.

Table 6. Hours of sleep per day.

VII. Place of Review

Demonstrated in the succeeding table is the preferred place of review by the respondents. Almost all respondents (n=45, 81.8%) chose to review at home or at their boarding house. Other respondents (n=7, 12.7 %) study at the review center while other places has the fewest number of respondents (n=3, 5.5%) chose.

Table 7. Preferred place to review.

VIII. Review Materials Used

In Table 8, this table illustrates the type of review material that CPA examinees choose to use. Considering that they are in review, respondents (n=26, 47.3%) use review center handouts. Second most preferred by respondents are reviewers (n=16, 29.1%) while personal notes (n=7, 12.7%) come in third and least preferred by respondents are textbooks (n=5, 9.1%).

Table 8. Preferred review material.

IX. Review Structure

The Table below shows the respondents’ preferred review structure. Most respondents (n=37, 67.3%) study by understanding the concepts first before they proceed to practice. Several respondents (n=15, 27.3%) study by doing the same simultaneously. Fewest respondents (n=3, 5.5%) chose to study by answering the problems first before understanding concept.

Table 9. Preferred review structure.

X. Review Strategy

Illustrated below is Table 10 shows the preferred review strategies by the respondents. Majority of the respondents (n=29, 52.7%) chose self-review as review strategy. Some respondents (n=15, 27.3%) combined the review strategies while the remaining respondents (n=11, 20%) chose the pace of the review center as strategy.

Table 10. Preferred review strategy.

XI. Review Evaluation

The following table below show how the respondents assessed their readiness for the CPA Licensure Examination. Majority of the respondents (n=36, 65.5%) use self-evaluation to assess themselves for the board exam. The second most number of respondents (n=17, 30.9%) use the pre-board examination to assess their readiness while the remaining respondents (n=2, 3.6%) chose other means to assess themselves.

Table 11. Readiness to take the licensure examination.

XII. Review Techniques

Review techniques are the methods and means used by the respondents during their review for the CPA Licensure Examination. The figure shown below shows the different techniques utilized by the respondents to successfully pass the CPA Board Examination. Respondents were able to use different techniques as shown below. The most utilized techniques are Reading and Making Notes (n=49, 89.1%) followed closely by Practice Questions (n=48, 87.3%), next is the preparation of Outlines (n=38, 69.1%) and the utilization of Formulas (n=36, 65.5%. To round the preferred review techniques by the respondents, the least preferred is Highlighting (n=32, 58.2%), Memorization (n=25, 45%), and Mnemonics (n=25, 45%).

Figure 1. Review techniques used by the examinees.


Related researches have been done but studies which focuses mainly with Bachelor of Science in Accountancy program has been limited. It is common knowledge that BSA graduates feel incomplete when they do not pass the CPA Licensure Exam. Hence, with this research identifies several factors, indicators and habits which contribute to the success of an examinee. The findings are significant to both students and teachers alike. Considering that the study identifies certain habits that should be developed by a student to successfully pass the licensure examination and that may also be useful during their student life.

Usually, the larger, more well-known schools has more number of sections passed. The percentage passing rate per student is a better indicator of a candidate’s success than total number of sections passed. Further, several non-accredited institutions have the highest passing rates. (Heslop, G., et al., 2014) Achieving and maintaining requirement for separate AACSB accounting accreditation is a challenge for administrators and faculty of accounting programs. The decision for an accounting program to seek accreditation is a challenge for administrators. But study shows that CPA candidates from AACSB accredited business schools achieved higher overall passing rates and higher average scores for 2012 and 2011 compared to non-accredited schools. These suggest that the former attracts better quality and better preparing the students for the CPA exam. (Bunker, et al., 2014)
As for demographic profile and status, the examinees are mostly female, young, scholar, from families with low monthly income, with good GWA, and coming from prestigious review schools. Student and family factors greatly affect their performance while school factors have average influence. Student scholarship, GWA, and attendance to prestigious review schools are positive factors in passing the CPA board while the examinees profile as to age, gender, and family’s monthly income shows no significant relationship (Herrero, 2015).

Demographic profile of college students has drastically changed in recent years. Economic conditions, and other relevant factors has increased non-traditional students. Majors such as accounting has presented as a challenge to non-traditional learners but enrollment still increase due to the promise of job placement and above-average salary. However, these students test on exams, and professional exam, like the CPA exam is a difficult hurdle for these learners supported by the declining passing rate with the increase in age. Thus, to increase the formers chances, it becomes necessary for programs to adjust methods of content delivery and preparation (Franklin, et al., 2016).

We found that beyond general intelligence, and important predictors such as personality type, working in public accounting, and preferring the audit discipline over tax. It is also likely that Fiery Red personality type may not successfully pass the CPA Exam compared to Cool Blue personality type. Incentives and penalties offered by accounting firms also contribute to passing the exam. But knowing one’s personality type can be of advantage to a candidate considering that he/she may use it to maximize his/her strengths to pass the CPA examination (Burton 2014).

Findings suggest that a student’s successful board exam can be predicted by the GPA and pre-review grade. It also suggests that since pre-review and GPA can predict the outcome of the CPA Board exam, pre-review course can be integrated in the curriculum. (Tamayo, et al., 2014)Study also shows that CPA exam passing rates of women are generally lower than male. In addition, passing rates decrease with age but it is more pronounced in females. (Franklin, et al., 2017) Based in literature review, the current structure of the CPA Exam with more objective type questions favor males’ information processing tendencies, while simulations support females’ information processing tendencies. (Myers, 2018). The study also supports that a young male candidate from an accredited college or university having to take one exam section had higher probability for success than any other candidate (Trinkle, 2016). A study also found that graduate degree candidates have higher pass rates compared to candidates who earned undergraduate degree (Menk, et al., 2017).

But the measure of success usually lies in the student. It was found that majority of accounting students perceived their intrinsic goals as measure of success than extrinsic goals. It was also found that accounting students, and who would later become professional accountants, were not sufficiently aware of the importance of thinking/judgment skills. Thus, accounting education should integrate more unstructured and problem based learning materials to the accounting curriculum. Further, accounting students rely on their own abilities and blame themselves for their failure. Hence, accounting schools should facilitate initial orientation and provide avenues to develop self-management and methods on how to prepare for their lessons. These will help students in building confidence in the way they approach their studies. (Sugahara, et al., 2014) There is significant relationship between intrinsic motivation and students’ academic performance. In addition, extrinsic motivation shows positive outcome where students are eager to get reward or achievement. Besides that, self-efficacy also has significant relationship with academic performance. High confidence levels assist students to perform better in their academic performance. Further, learning styles are proven to exert significant relationship with students’ academic performance. This indicates that study techniques play an important part in the learning process to ensure better results. However, gender and prior academic performance have no significant relationship to present academic performance (Remali, et al., 2013).

The study also shows students of Accountancy program view the program as stepping stone for them to achieve the desires they want to attain. Hence, they have favorable attitude toward it despite its difficulty. The CPA license is the achievement and students persist toward that goal thru studying hard while in college, coupled with positive attitude and behavior towards accounting. The positive attitude toward accounting with effective study habits might lead to higher grades, graduate, and later pass the board examination. Freshmen should also have passion, because no matter how effective other factors is, what will make them successful in the field of accounting is their love for the said field. Further, students are weak in Practical Accounting and this can be attributed to lack of hands-on experience on the real life aspect of accounting. But generally, good academic performance, positive attitude and effective study habits give an assurance of passing the CPA board exam (Ballado-Tan, 2014).

Further, the results of this study revealed that 70% of the respondents took the CPA Licensure Exam once and the rest are repeaters. The preferred review school is RESA with CPAR as the next most enrolled in review school by the respondents. The ideal review session is the afternoon session which garnered 72.7% of the respondents followed by morning session with 16.4%. The preferred review time of the respondents is somewhat distributed with 38.2% studying around 6 pm to 12 am, 32.7% studying around 6 am to 12 pm, and 14.5% for those studying around 12 am to 6 am, and 12 pm to 6 pm. As for number of hours spent in studying, 41.8% of the respondents study more than 8 hours, 36.4% of the respondents study between 4 to 8 hours, and 21.8% of the respondents study between 2 to 4 hours. It is also found that the respondents prefer to study at home (85.5%) while others study at the review center (12.7%).

With regards to the study structure, 65.5% of the respondents understood the concepts first before going to practical questions while 27.3% of the respondents study simultaneously both concepts and practical questions. Most preferred review materials are Review Center Handouts (46.3%) and Reviewers (31.5%). Majority (49.1%) of the respondents do self-review while the rest is with review school (21.8%) and combination review (29.1%). The studying techniques are arranged from most preferred to least preferred in the following: Reading and Making Notes (89.1%); Practice Questions (87.3%); Outlines (69.1%); Formulas (65.5%); Highlighting (58.2%); and, Memorization (45.5%) and Mnemonics (45.5%).

Lastly, the respondents on assessing their readiness for the CPA Licensure Exam, 63.6% self-evaluate themselves and 32.7% of respondents evaluate themselves thru the Pre-Board Examination results.


The present study aims to find factors that contribute to the success of Palawan State University’s CPA candidates. The study identified the preferred review center and session the former enrolled in. In addition, other factors such as hours of studying and resting, as well as the time of the day the respondents prefer to do the aforementioned. Lastly, strategy and techniques were also identified and how many times it took for the candidate to pass the CPA Licensure Examination. Data gathered thru Google Survey was analyzed using SPSS Version 19.

The findings showed that more than two-thirds of the successful examinees took the exam only once and were enrolled in the afternoon session of RESA Review School. As for studying, they prefer to self-review at home and spends more than 8 hours in the evening studying. Successful examinees also understood the concept first before applying the same in practical application and the preferred review techniques were reading, making notes and answering practical questions. To assess their readiness for the licensure examination, they conduct self-evaluation. As for determining if they have enough rest, the respondents may have under 8 hours but the difference is not that big if compared to normal hours of sleep.


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Cite this article as: Chua, Peterwille T. (August 11, 2018). Factors Contributing to the Success of Palawan State University’s CPA Licensure Examinees [Blog Post]. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from

By Chua, Peterwille T.

The writer is a faculty and a former chair of the Department of Accountancy of the Palawan State University. He is a practicing Certified Public Accountant with BOA Accreditations in both Academe and Public Practice. He also holds a Masters in Management degree earned at Palawan State University.
At present, he is a earning his PhD Major in Commerce degree at the University of Sto. Tomas as a CHED scholar.

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