AICPA Honors Top 2012 CPA Exam Performers

By Deanna C. White

To be named "top of the class" is always an honor. But when you're named one of the top 39 candidates in a pool of 92,000 contenders, that honor is especially impressive.
 
That's exactly what happened for 39 CPA Exam candidates this spring when the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) announced the winners of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award on March 26.
 
The Elijah Watt Sells Award is bestowed on candidates who have obtained a cumulative score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination, completed testing during the 2012 calendar year, and passed all four sections of the exam on their first attempt. 
 
"On behalf of the AICPA, I would like to congratulate this year's winners on their outstanding performance on the CPA Examination and wish them the best of luck as they continue their careers in the accounting profession," said Craig Mills, AICPA vice president of examinations.
 
The award program, which was created in 1923 by the AICPA to recognize outstanding performance on the CPA Examination, was established in honor of Elijah Watt Sells, one of the country's first CPAs under the provision of a New York State law enacted in 1896. Sells was active in the establishment of the AICPA and was a leader in advancing professional education in the profession. He was a founder of the New York University School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance.
 
Jill Aoki, a Utah State University graduate with a triple BA in accounting, finance, and economics and a Master of Accountancy, is one of the winners of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award. She is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Salt Lake City, Utah.
 
Aoki said she is honored to achieve the award and to follow in her father's footsteps as a CPA. Watching her father at work, Aoki said, made her "a true believer in the saying that 'accounting is the language of business'."
 
"My dad is a CPA, and I found the diversity in his career fascinating. He had to understand not only accounting, but also industry know-how and business operations," Aoki said. "I decided to pursue my CPA designation because I felt that accounting was an excellent field for understanding business in all sectors. As a CPA, I hope to add value to businesses and help them improve their operations."
 
Aoki said she was nervous because the actual exam seemed much harder than her practice exams, and the three hours allotted to take the test "just seemed to fly by." To calm her nerves, Aoki said she consistently reminded herself how well she had prepared for the exam and told herself if she was experiencing some difficulty with certain questions, others were likely experiencing the same difficulty as well.
 
 "I just kept telling myself as long as I did my best, I should be OK," Aoki said.
 
As it turns out, "OK" was an understatement.
 
Aoki obviously did extremely well on the exam, but while she is honored to have passed this career milestone with flying colors, Aoki says she knows being a truly excellent CPA transcends mere test scores. 
 
"I believe a quality CPA needs to have a good understanding of general business and how market factors impact operations. Accounting is more than just numbers; it's about making sense of a complex world. The better a CPA understands that environment, the better the CPA can serve the business," Aoki said. 
 

Jill Aoki's Exam Prep Techniques

Jill Aoki, one of the 39 winners of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award, said she did the following to prepare for the CPA Examination: 

  • Used the Becker CPA Review as her primary study program. 
  • Took detailed, handwritten notes from the review course materials to aid her memory.
  • Created electronic flashcards, then imported those flashcards into a mobile app to study on the go – in checkout lines, waiting for classes to start, etc. 
  • Took practice exams and treated them as real exams; i.e., no breaks and no phone calls. 
  • Made a list of all the "fun" things she wanted to do once exams were over to keep her motivated.
 
She also believes effective accountants need to develop a certain fluency to explain that complex world in a manner that is useful to their clients – a skill, she knows from watching her father, comes from real-world practice, not any study guide.
 
For more information on the exam, visit the AICPA website
 
Following is the complete list of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners. Winners are listed in alphabetical order, followed by their state board affiliation, education, and present employer:
 
Jill Aoki (Utah), a Utah State University graduate with a triple BA in Accounting, Finance and Economics, and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Salt Lake City, UT.
 
Blake Applegate (Illinois), an Indiana University graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with KPMG in Chicago, IL.
 
Bradley Bowen (Texas), a Texas A&M University graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Dallas, TX.
 
James Braun (Texas), a University of Texas at Austin graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Houston, TX.
 
Alan Burton (Kansas), a Fort Hays State University graduate with a BA in Accounting, is employed with Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chtd. in Great Bend, Kansas, KS.
 
Andrew Buss (Minnesota), a University of Wisconsin - Madison graduate with a BBA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Minneapolis, MN.
 
David Canedo (Wisconsin), a University of Wisconsin - Madison graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Professional Accountancy.
 
David Carlson (Massachusetts), a Bentley University graduate with a BA in Accounting and an anticipated Master of Financial Planning in August 2013, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Boston, MA.
 
Devin Davidson (Washington), a Brigham Young graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Davidson Farms LLC in Basin City, WA. 
 
Angel Davis (Oregon), a University of Oregon graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Precision Castparts Corp. in Portland, OR.
 
Dodge Docheff (Missouri), a University of Central Missouri graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with BKD, LLP in Kansas City, MO.
 
Codie Dull (Wisconsin), a University of Wisconsin - Madison graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accountancy, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Milwaukee, WI.
 
Martha Everett (Michigan), a University of Michigan graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Plante Moran in Clinton Township, MI.
 
Alan Gnegy (Virginia), a West Virginia University graduate with a BA in Accounting, is employed with Pillar Innovations LLC in Grantsville, MD.
 
Michael Gorter (Minnesota), a Dordt College graduate with a BA in Accounting and Finance, is employed with Deloitte and Touche LLP in Minneapolis, MN.
 
Yun Guo (North Carolina), a Minzu University of China graduate with a BA in Economics and Finance and a Master of Accountancy from Wake Forest University, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York, NY.
 
Laura Hilby (Iowa), a Buena Vista University graduate with a BS in Accounting and Corporate Mathematics is employed with McGladrey LLP in Des Moines, IA.
 
Stephen Hruby (Ohio), a John Carroll University graduate with a BS in Business Administration and Accounting is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Cleveland, OH.
 
Kevin King (Indiana), an Indiana University graduate with a BS in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Indianapolis, IN. 
 
Tyler Kleppe (Wisconsin), a University of Wisconsin - Whitewater graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Professional Accountancy, is employed with Smith & Gesteland, LLP in Madison, WI. 
 
Veronika Krasteva (Florida), a University of Miami graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Accounting, is employed with Deloitte & Touche, LLP in Miami, FL. 
 
Brian Krogol (Florida), a University of Florida graduate with a BS in Accounting and a Master of Professional Accountancy, is employed with Grant Thornton in Miami, FL.
 
Anthony Lemon (Utah), a Utah State University graduate with a BS in Accounting and a Master of Accounting, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Salt Lake City, UT.
 
William McGauran (Virginia), an American University, Washington D.C. graduate with a BS in Accounting, is employed with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP in Arlington, VA.
 
Andrew Napolitano (California), a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate with a BA in Business Economics, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in Los Angeles, CA. 
 
Eliza Nesvog (Washington), a University of Washington graduate with a BA in Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Seattle, WA.
 
Bradley Ostendorf (Minnesota), a Minnesota State University - Moorhead graduate with a BS in Accounting, is employed with McGladrey LLP in Minneapolis, MN. 
 
Brighton Ranney (Missouri), a University of Wisconsin - Madison graduate with a BS in Computer Science who holds a Master of Accounting from the University of Missouri - St. Louis, is employed with Moneta Group in Clayton, MO. 
 
Glenn Rice (New York), a Hofstra University graduate with a BA in Accounting, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in New York, NY.
 
Anthony Salomone (New York), a Boston College graduate with a BS in Accounting and Finance, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in New York, NY.
 
Brent Schmidt (Ohio), a Miami University - (Oxford Ohio) graduate with a BS in Business Accounting, is employed with BKD, LLP in Cincinnati, OH. 
 
Kimberly Shriver (Georgia), a University of Georgia graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy, is employed with Ernst & Young LLP in Atlanta, GA.
 
Mark Stankevitz (Massachusetts), a University of Chicago graduate with a BA in Economics and a Master of Accounting from Boston College, is employed with Grant Thornton, LLP in Boston, MA.
 
Jennifer Tindle (Texas), a Southwestern University graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy from Vanderbilt University, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Houston, TX.
 
Mingyuan Wang (Illinois), a Beijing Language and Culture University graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is employed with Constantin Associates LLP in New York, NY. 
 
Kevin Warbis (Ohio), a Miami University graduate with a BS in Accounting, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Columbus, OH.
 
Adam Wright (Texas), a University of Texas - Austin graduate with a BBA in Accounting, is employed with the Texas State Auditor's Office in Austin, TX. 
 
Po-Feng Yu (Colorado), a National Taiwan University graduate with a BA in Accounting and a Master of Accountancy from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is employed with Deloitte & Touche LLP in Taiwan. 
 
Ning Zhu (Texas), a Georgetown University graduate with a BS in Business Administration, is employed with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC in Houston, TX. 
 

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