Alum earns top score on state CPA exam

  Thursday, March 12, 2015 2:00 AM

Pittsburg, KS

Alum earns top score on state CPA exam

The four-part exam required to become a certified public accountant is, in a word, hard.

“The pass rates on the exam, especially for people taking it for the first time, is low,” David O’Bryan, Pittsburg State accounting professor, said. “More than half of those who take it fail. It’s a very difficult test.”

Ashlee PhillipsSo it’s easy to see why PSU accounting graduate Ashlee Phillips was nervous about taking the exam last summer.

“I did have some nerves about it,” she said. “I knew few people pass it on the first try, but I still wanted to do well.”

And do well, she did. Not only did Phillips pass the exam on her first attempt, she was the top scorer in Kansas during the July/August 2014 testing window.

“I was quite surprised when I learned I had the top score,” she said. “We were never notified of that fact. My dad is a CPA, and he gets the Kansas Association of CPAs newsletter. The newsletter listed those who passed the exam, and it mentioned me as the top scorer.”

Not bad for a woman who swore she’d never be an accountant.

“I never wanted to be a CPA,” she said. “Seeing how busy my dad is and seeing how the job can take over your life if you let it, accounting just never appealed to me.”

Phillips earned a degree in family and consumer sciences from the University of Arkansas in May 2011, but she was not pleased with her job prospects after graduation. After returning to Fort Scott and working part-time at her father’s firm, Diehl Banwart Bolton CPAs, Phillips decided to enroll in the accounting program at Pittsburg State.

“I worked at my dad’s firm while in high school, and I worked there after graduating from Arkansas,” she said. “I was always pretty good at math, so I just decided to throw myself into the accounting program and see what happens.”

Phillips, who is currently an auditor at Diehl Banwart Bolton CPAs, finished the degree in three semesters.

“I took anywhere between 21 and 27 hours each semester,” she said. “It was a lot, but most of it came easy for me.”

O’Bryan was immediately impressed.

“Ashlee made it all look easy,” he said. “She is scary smart. I’m not at all surprised that she was the top scorer in Kansas when she took the exam. I would have been surprised if she wasn’t the top scorer.”

Phillips said she enjoys the accounting profession and hopes to one day become an accounting professor.

“My success in the CPA exam has a lot to do with the way the accounting faculty at PSU prepared me for it,” she said. “Once I was in the room taking the exam, it didn’t feel like a huge leap. I was well-prepared, and I’m incredibly grateful for the education I received at Pitt State.”




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