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Behind the boards: CPA topnotchers share exam preparations, experiences

DLSU found itself once again as the top performing school in the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Licensure Exam released last May 27, with 84.72 percent of its exam takers making the cut as opposed to the 16.46 percent national passing rate.    

Aside from this, not one but two DLSU graduates, Josemaria Fontillas (BSA, ‘18) and Geraldine Papa (BSA, ‘18), tied for the number one spot—the first time in 10 years; Conrad Lee (BSA, ‘08), the previous DLSU topnotcher, was number one in the May 2009 board exams.

Successes such as this is nothing new to the University. In fact, in the past five board exams, DLSU’s passing rate was never less than stellar, and its ranking among top performing schools was never lower than second best.


Working under pressure

Both Fontillas and Papa credit the modular program in helping them prepare for the exam. The academic system, which is implemented by the DLSU Accountancy Department, requires students to focus purely on accounting subjects for a given set of terms. Notorious for its fast pace, students are often required to take an entire course in as little as two to three weeks.

The brisk nature of a modular term hardened both Fontillas and Papa to handle the pressures of the exam. As Fontillas explains, “That familiarity with pressure and the ability to grasp a concept in a short amount of time made it much easier for me to deal with [it], which I think is one of the hardest parts of the exam besides the knowledge.”

Fontillas coped with these pressures by placing a quota on the number of questions he answered everyday and raising it whenever he felt comfortable. “Basically ‘yung approach ko is I took both quantity and quality! Answer a lot of questions but still study a lot of the concepts behind the problems,” he explains.

Similar to Fontillas, the hectic schedule forced Papa to come up with an effective study routine. “Because of its fast pace, you have no choice but to plan your review in order to be both efficient and effective,” she says.

Part of her study routine is to solve a set number of problems everyday, which she described as “sort of like making my own Kumon [worksheets], but with accounting problems.”

Life without a scientific calculator

One hurdle for Fontillas, Papa, and all their fellow board takers is the controversial rule of the Professional Regulation Commission to ban the use of programmable scientific calculators for licensure exams, a decision made last year at the behest of the chairman of the board of Civil Engineering, Engr. Praxedes Bernardo.

This, however, did not deter Fontillas, as he had grown used to other calculators, further adding that the exam did not have complicated functions that may require the device. But he believes that the impact of the rule change is more on the exam taker’s psyche rather than their performance. 

He recalls, “I think it made a much bigger impact on the examinees during the days leading up to the exam. Grabe ‘yung panic noon. Everyone was mad and they were venting it out through social media. Pero ayun, we accepted it and just went with the exam.” 

(The panic then was insane.)

On the other hand, the rule change slowed down Papa who was not used to having to change her calculator. But as the results of the exam showed, this was not too much of a burden. “As long as you have a good grasp of the concepts, you’ll be able to answer the problems no matter what calculator you use. Thankfully, the board exam is not a race,” she notes.

Not a solo flight

Apart from the modular program itself, Fontillas credits his professors in helping him prepare, saying, “They’ve been a big factor in what [has] lead us to where we are now. They prepared us by teaching their subjects [then] making us familiar with the pressure of the exam. Bigla kong na-appreciate lahat nung paghihirap because yung paghihirap pala would help talaga sa exam in the end.”  

(I now appreciate all the hardships, because these hardships would really help with the exam in the end.)

Papa, meanwhile, feels a sense of fulfilment and surprise from topping the exam. “I honestly didn’t know that I would top the board exam. All I know was that I really loved accounting so I gave my all without expecting anything in return. And I feel nothing but gratitude for the results,” she shares.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who failed the board exams, and with a low passing rate this year, many test takers will need to start over. However, to Fontillas and Papa, failure should not be a deterrent to try again.

As Fontillas emphasizes, “For those who failed, I’d want to tell them that the fight isn’t over. They have to relax and regroup and recover from reviewing from the last exam. But the fight goes on. They have all our support and [are] welcome to ask help from us both in [terms of] mental support and actual help with questions. ‘Di kasi ito solo flight.” 

(This is not a solo flight.)

By Deo Cruzada

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