AACSB and AAA Write to NASBA on CPA Exam Pass Rate Change

Friday, January 14, 2022
AACSB and AAA express concerns about NASBA’s decision to pause reporting on CPA exam pass rates.

Re: Cessation of the publication of the Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination Book

Dear Colleen,

The American Accounting Association (AAA) and AACSB International (AACSB) are jointly writing this letter to express our concerns about a recent announcement from NASBA. We represent the interests of both the accounting professoriate and the 190 business schools that hold supplemental AACSB accounting accreditation.

We understand that NASBA has recently announced it will no longer compile and print the Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination book. According to NASBA FAQs, this decision relates to the number of resources needed to launch the new CPA exam in 2024. NASBA has also stated that the earliest such statistics might be reported could be in 2025, and that statistics under the current CPA exam will not be comparable to statistics under the CPA Evolution model.

The AAA and AACSB have received multiple emails and calls from concerned business school faculty and department chairs over this decision. We offer three reasons why we believe this decision will cause great harm to accounting programs, students, the profession, and the public:

  1. Loss of external validation by students. Many universities pride themselves on their candidate pass rates (as presented in the Candidate Performance Book) and often use these rates as an external validation measure. Students seeking to identify accounting programs with verifiable track records of graduating students who become successful public accountants often look at programs’ CPA exam pass rates. Not having this external validation hurts students by not providing them with a way to evaluate the quality of schools they may be considering.
  2. Loss of benchmarking from a school perspective. Schools frequently use candidate pass rates as a quality indicator in their recruiting strategies, supporting students in their search and evaluation process. If schools no longer provide this metric, students are unable to effectively validate the success rates of accounting programs. With more student choice than ever before, this component is critical to both student evaluation and school differentiation. Additionally, data over many years shows that students who graduate from an AACSB-accredited accounting program significantly outperform graduates from non-AACSB accredited accounting programs. Without these metrics, schools will no longer be able to demonstrate this important distinction of accounting accreditation, which has also served to strengthen the pipeline of students choosing to take the CPA exam.
  3. Loss of connection of student learning outcomes to accounting program mission. Accounting programs often use the exam section pass rates from the Candidate Performance Book to inform their curriculum effectiveness. Knowing where they have lower pass rates can assist them in improving those areas of their program. Not having this information will significantly impact accounting programs making significant efforts to support their students on the CPA exam at a time when accounting majors and CPA exam candidates are declining.

On a personal level, both authors of this letter spent decades supporting the public accounting profession in prior capacities of overseeing large and very successful accounting programs (Wake Forest University and the University of South Florida). Both of us were deeply involved in university accounting education when the CPA exam was significantly changed in 2004, 2011, and 2017. Undoubtedly, statistics were not comparable between those versions of the CPA exam. However, to our knowledge there was no lapse in reporting pass rates. We simply understood there was a line of demarcation and adjusted accordingly.

Additionally, during our time overseeing these programs, each of us made concerted efforts to encourage accounting students to consider public accounting as a career path. The success we saw from that pursuit is due largely to having the objective outcomes data to share with students. The decision to no longer publish CPA exam outcomes, even if for only a few years, is a great detriment to students, universities, the public accounting profession, and the public at large. To not have the pass rates will be devastating to the programs going forward.

The AAA and AACSB sincerely hope that NASBA will reconsider this decision and support CPA exam-focused accounting programs by continuing to publish the Candidate Performance Book.


Yvonne Hinson
Chief Executive Officer
American Accounting Association
Stephanie Bryant
Executive Vice President and Global
Chief Accreditation Officer
AACSB International