CUW alumnus among nation's elite with CPA Exam scores

A Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus is the recipient of the prestigious Elijah Watt Sells Award, given to individuals who have received the highest scores in the nation on the Certified Public Accountant Exam.

Christopher Biesboer, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Concordia, was among only 75 individuals who qualified for the award out of the nearly 94,000 nationwide who sat for the CPA Exam in 2015. He was one of four recipients who attended a Wisconsin university.

The CPA Exam, administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, is widely considered to be the gold standard of accountants in the nation. Passing all four parts of the Exam with a minimum score of 75 out of a 99 is required for an individual to become licensed in the U.S.

The Exam is known for its arduousness, as historical pass rates hover just under 50 percent, according to AICPA figures. On average, less than one in every 10 people will pass all four sections on the first attempt, and less than one in 1,200 test-takers will be eligible for the Elijah Watt Sells Award.

In order to receive the award, an individual must take each section of the Exam in the same year, pass each section on first attempt and achieve a cumulative average score above 95.5 across all four sections.

Biesboer, a Chicago-area native, said he spent an estimated two to three hours each day over approximately eight months, or more than 500 hours total, studying for the CPA last year.

“A lot of people will tell you they come out of the Exam thinking, ‘Oh I did terrible,’ and that’s how I felt after most (portions) of it,” Biesboer said. “Once I received the actual score, I was very excited.”

Biesboer now works at the Chicago-based audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG. He graduated with his master’s degree from Concordia in 2015.