Jake Schafer
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Amanda May

When it comes to CPA exam performance, Tippie students don’t mess around. We talked with Jake Schafer (BBA19), now an associate at PwC in Los Angeles, about just how he managed to clinch an Elijah Watt Sells Award (requiring a 95.5+ cumulative average) and a Capstone Award (top 4 exam results in Iowa) in 2019.

What was your studying regimen?
I typically studied for about three hours a day, which was a short enough time period to keep me engaged and long enough for me to continue progressing through the content. I also focused most of my time studying multiple-choice questions, which I believe translate to the exams quite smoothly. I took the four exams over a seven-month time period, with a one-week break after each test. I found it important to create a plan in advance, so I could hold myself accountable.

Did you have any rituals or superstitions?
I took the Friday night prior to the tests off from studying and enjoyed time with friends. I believe this mental break was an important part of my routine.

What was the most difficult section? On the other hand, what was your favorite section?
The most difficult section for me was Regulation (REG), which encompasses taxation and business law. I didn’t find these topics particularly intriguing, so I knew I was going to have to work harder to understand them. I am thankful that I took Business Law during my final semester at Iowa, which helped prepare me for that portion. My favorite section was Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), which includes content from a majority of the accounting classes at the University of Iowa. I always performed well in these classes and enjoy learning technical accounting.

When did you know that you had crushed it?
My confidence grew over the course of the four exams. The first test I took was FAR, which I initially thought I failed and was very surprised when I got the result back. I took Audit second, which I had a strong feeling that I had passed, but assumed the result would be in the mid-to-low 80s. I took REG and Business Environment and Concepts last, and was much more confident in my scores after taking the tests. Prior to my final test, I knew I had to get a 97 to qualify for the Elijah Watt Sells Award. I felt that I had given myself a decent chance and was ecstatic when I learned that I scored a 98.

Do you remember any lessons learned at Tippie that weren’t on the test?
My Cost Accounting Professor, Ramji Balakrishnan, made an observation one day in class that has stuck with me ever since. He said that he has seen many average academic students perform extremely well in their careers and has seen many high-performing students struggle in their careers. Although I performed well at Iowa and on the CPA exams, I understand that my career is a completely different challenge.


This article first appeared in the 2020 issue of Iowa Ledger