On April 25, more than 60 college accounting students from Kentucky competed in PEAK, the Kentucky Society of Certified Public Accountants' (KyCPA) annual accounting competition. PEAK, which stands for Promote and Encourage Accounting in Kentucky, is an annual Jeopardy-style quiz show competition that tests participants' knowledge of the accounting profession, including questions that appear on the Uniform CPA Exam.
Thirteen teams from colleges and universities across Kentucky vied against each other for the title of PEAK champion at this year's fourth annual competition. Teams went head-to-head on accounting questions in five categories; four categories were directly related to the four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam, and the fifth included questions regarding material on the KyCPA and AICPA websites.
"Regardless of how the team places at PEAK, each participant walks away with a better understanding and preparedness of the CPA Exam, and PEAK exposes students to the many facets of accounting—camaraderie, knowledge, proficiency, pride in a job well done," said Lorri Malone, director of communications for the KyCPA.
But mostly importantly, Malone said, PEAK shows students that the CPA certification, and a successful career as a CPA, is within their grasp.
"The CPA Exam is rigorous, it's tough, and it's essential to licensure. That can be intimidating to students, who may already be fatigued from classroom work," Malone said. "And let's face it, the material can seem dry. But this competition gives them the confidence to know they can best that test and look forward to a CPA career."
Competition organizers certainly didn't soften the material for the student competitors either. Multiple choice questions came directly from the Becker CPA Review) and focused on specific and detailed accounting methods and theories that might give even the most veteran CPA pause. (Becker Professional Education partnered with the KyCPA on the competition.)
A couple of sample questions:
- Douglas Co. leased machinery with an economic useful life of six years. For tax purposes, the depreciable life is seven years. The lease is for five years, and Douglas can purchase the machinery at fair value at the end of the lease. What is the depreciable life of the leased machinery for financial reporting?
- Average daily cash outflows are $3 million for Evans Inc. A new cash management system can add two days to the disbursement schedule. Assuming Evans earns 10 percent on excess funds, how much should the firm be willing to pay per year for this cash management system?
"The most challenging part of the competition was knowing the material well enough to quickly make a decision on the correct answer," said Abigail Parsons, a senior at the University of the Cumberlands. "Questions that gave our team some trouble were questions that were very specific in nature because there was so much material we tended to focus on large concepts, not small details."
The competition may be decidedly "intense," PEAK participants say, but it's also designed to be decidedly fun as well, said competition organizer Becky Ackerman, career development and outreach manager for the KyCPA.
Ackerman said the KyCPA does everything it can to make the game show experience authentic for competitors. The competition is high tech—PEAK questions are broadcast on a mega video monitor, contestants ring in with an electronic buzzer, and game show music is pumped into the hall while contestants mull the "final four" question that will decide their fate.
In basketball-mad Kentucky, a little school rivalry went a long way as well.
"I really enjoyed the competition between the schools," said Curt McKinney, a senior at the University of Louisville. "We put a lot of time in to prepare for this, but that was fun."
Ultimately, Ackerman said, all the intense energy and passion PEAK generates is directed toward one very positive goal: ensuring every college accounting student the chance at a bright and promising career as a CPA.
"The best part of the PEAK competition was getting a sneak peak at the journey most of us are about to embark on," said Shelby Howell, a senior at Eastern Kentucky University. "It allowed me to see that becoming a CPA will be difficult and it will require a lot of dedication, but I know it will be worth it in order to have those three letters at the end of my name."
The 2014 PEAK winners were:
- Champions: Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond
- 2nd place: Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
- 3rd place: University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg
The winning team earned a traveling trophy as well as a $1,000 KyCPA Educational Foundation Scholarship awarded to each member of the championship team. But the real payoff, KYCPA officials say, was the opportunity for students to prepare for the rigorous CPA Exam, and have some fun doing it through friendly competition.