It’s nine in the morning on a Wednesday in June and the students in Professor Ralph Tassone’s Advanced Financial Reporting class have their notes out and laptops open, ready to start the school day.
The previous week, the class wrote their first set of exams as part of the Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting (GDipPA) program at the Rotman School of Management. Today, Tassone is going over the solutions.
I feel a significant improvement in how I approach and structure my cases now.
—Julia Sellathurai (GDipPA ’17, BComm ’17)
He explains, in great detail, some of the accounting issues that students should have identified and discussed on the test. Often, he pauses to answer questions and clarify points of confusion.
“You need to slow down when you’re reading,” he advises one student who admits that she missed an important detail hinting at revenue issues on the exam. “Whether you’re writing the Common Final Examination or working as an accountant, you’ll be under tight time constraints — but you need to be thorough.”
This is a taste of the feedback and guidance that brought these students to the GDipPA, an intensive, 12-week program. These aspiring accounting professionals, who recently graduated from undergraduate accounting programs across Canada, gave up their summer breaks for a head start at earning their Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.
The Rotman GDipPA, which covers four modules of the CPA Professional Education Program, equips students with the knowledge and skills to successfully write the Common Final Examination (CFE) in the upcoming year. From early May to late July, students attend classes on financial reporting, taxation, assurance and control, participate in case competitions and write exams that are intentionally modeled after the CFE.
Case-based approach to learning
For many students, the GDipPA program’s strong focus on cases — a major component of the CFE — was a big selling point for spending their summer at Rotman.
“I feel a significant improvement in how I approach and structure my cases now,” explains Julia Sellathurai (GDipPA ’17, BComm ’17), who will be joining PwC’s Toronto office as a new associate in the fall.
“The professors are really approachable and take the time to go over anything confusing. They want you to succeed,” she adds.
The GDipPA program is taught by professional CPAs who have substantial industry and teaching experience. Many of these instructors have worked with CPA Ontario in developing material for professional development modules, taught CPA courses, and authored cases and textbooks.
The professors in this program have so much industry experience. They can relate cases back to real situations that come up in the field. The additional context gives you a better sense of how to apply your accounting knowledge for solving cases.”
—Jakub Hass (GDipPA ’17)
Sellathurai, who was on the winning team for one of the program’s case competitions, credits her professors and the classroom discussion for enhancing her understanding of key concepts. The program has helped her become more familiar with the CPA Canada Handbook, which test-takers often reference while writing the CFE.
Jakub Hass (GDipPA ’17), who recently earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, agrees.
Hass enrolled in the accounting program so that he wouldn’t be distracted with part-time CPA studies when he starts working as a staff accountant with EY in September. Though he typically heads home to Poland to see his family in the summer months, these past 12 weeks in Toronto have been worth it for him.
“The professors in this program have so much industry experience. They can relate cases back to real situations that come up in the field. The additional context gives you a better sense of how to apply your accounting knowledge for solving cases,” he says.
Making connections and new friends
The opportunity to learn alongside like-minded peers is an important aspect of the GDipPA program.
“It’s a great learning environment. You’re in class with the top students from across the country. The bar is set pretty high and you’re motivated to keep up with the lessons,” Hass explains.
Students also tend to contribute meaningful insights and arguments to class discussions. Outside the classroom, friendships have formed. The students in this year’s cohort have developed a habit of going out as a group at the end of each school week.
“It’s been a great experience,” summarizes Sellathurai. “Everyone in the program is really strong, so it’s always interesting to hear different perspectives and approaches to solving accounting cases. And you also get the chance to meet new people and make new friends.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung