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MBA, MSA and MST: Do They Make a Difference on CPA Exam Performance?

Dennis Bline (Bryant University, USA)
Xiaochuan Zheng (Bryant University, USA)

Advances in Accounting Education: Teaching and Curriculum Innovations

ISBN: 978-1-80382-728-5, eISBN: 978-1-80382-727-8

Publication date: 12 December 2022


This study empirically investigates whether graduate degrees (MBA, MSA and MST) earned by candidates affect their performance on the CPA exam. By examining more than half million first-time exam sittings taken during the period 2005–2013, the authors find that candidates with a graduate degree performed better on each section of the CPA exam than those who only have an undergraduate degree. In addition, the authors find that the type of graduate degree also has an effect on the CPA exam performance. While candidates with an MBA degree generally performed better on the BEC section than those with an MSA or MST degree, those with an MSA degree performed best on the AUD and FAR sections; and those with an MST degree exceled on the REG section. This study contributes to the existing literature on the determinants of CPA exam success. In addition, this investigation provides valuable insights to candidates, academics and regulators. The findings of this chapter should be useful for academic administrators as they revise their accounting curricula to prepare for the new CPA licensure model. Furthermore, the results of this study should benefit accounting regulators in determining education requirements for future CPAs.




The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful comments received from Thomas G. Calderon (editor), two anonymous reviewers, and the participants at the 2019 AAA Annual Meeting. We would also like to thank the NASBA for providing us with access to exam performance data as well as for providing financial support.


Bline, D. and Zheng, X. (2022), "MBA, MSA and MST: Do They Make a Difference on CPA Exam Performance?", Calderon, T.G. (Ed.) Advances in Accounting Education: Teaching and Curriculum Innovations (Advances in Accounting Education, Vol. 26), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-17.



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