Gaining an Edge: Tips from CPA Board Topnotchers in TOA Global

In the last 10 years, only four out of every 10 candidates passed the board exam for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the Philippines. In two of those years, only one out of every 10 who took the exam passed.

When our TOA Global teammates Gieno Ilagan and Jay Ronald Lluvido took the licensure exam in 2013, they were among a batch that numbered 16,061. 

Beyond passing the exam—a feat in itself—Gieno and Jay joined an elite group that achieved the top 10 scores. Gieno had the 8th highest score in the October 2013 board exam. Jay, for his part, had the 10th highest score in the May 2013 batch.  

What can we learn from these accomplishments?

Coming home

When he applied to join TOA Global in 2020, Jay had just returned home to the Philippines after working abroad. 

That decision led to “an amazing path that the client has opened for me,” he told participants of our Philippine Accounting and Bookkeeping Virtual Career Fair in 2022.

“It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

One of the workplace conditions he enjoys most is the consistent promotion of work-life balance, as seen in work-free weekends, minimal overtime, and 21 days of paid leave each year. He appreciates the chance to spend time with family and friends, cook, exercise, and pursue hobbies and passions outside of work.

“It’s quite an amazing setup. In TOA Global, you will get to work with an international client with a different culture and background, and who comes from a country with a different set of accounting practices and taxation rules,” Jay said.

“The exposure that you will get from this will give you an edge and make you a globally competitive professional.”

He started as a Junior Accountant who focused on financial statements and tax returns, then was promoted to Senior Accountant. In this role, he took responsibility for reviewing the work of teammates. As his client’s Team Leader in the Philippines, Jay observed that the team is “passionate about their work and are very hard-working. I am so thankful for them.”

How did he make it to the Top 10 of one of the toughest board exams in the country? For that feat, Jay credits the patience and teaching skills of his university professors, plus divine providence, maybe even destiny.

For aspiring CPAs, this is his advice: “Go for it. The opportunities are limitless. Just take the leap with full-on passion and everything else will follow.”

Taking the time to prepare

After he passed the CPA board exam in October 2013, Gieno went to work as an auditor in a firm in Makati, the financial capital of the country. His exceptional performance—the 8th highest score in a field of 10,396 candidates—stood him in good stead. 
After three years in Makati, he decided to continue building his career back home, in Clark. He now works with a chartered accountants’ practice that is based in Melbourne and has a growing global team. 
For Gieno, the most rewarding aspects of his international accounting career are:

  • being able to add value to his client’s business by providing reports “relevant to their decision-making and lodgments that meet their regulatory requirements;”
  • sharing what he has learned with his teammates and seeing them do more complex tasks and win positive feedback; and
  • continually learning.

Success in the CPA board exam is a long game. “The preparation is not only the 6-month review but the 5-year college program,” Gieno said. 
“I knew that the licensure exam would be gruesome, so I took it to heart and worked to understand all the concepts as much as possible…I focused on my weaknesses: Business Law and Taxation. I would start reading during dawn because this time is the quietest, my brain is rested, and I can absorb information better.” 
If you’re preparing to take the CPA board exams this year, Gieno shared these tips:

  • Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your improvement areas.
  • Go back to the basics. Take to heart the concepts, practice solving problems, and read additional references.
  • Listen to lectures and confirm your knowledge; don’t blindly take down notes and miss the chance to fully learn the topic or gain a new way to understand it.
  • Visualize your goal and be confident.
  • During the exam, manage your time efficiently. Triple-check your answers.

“Lastly, you can only prepare so much— let God do the rest.”

Amplify your career

Before 2022 wrapped up, the Ab² Institute of Accounting signed an agreement with CPA Australia, one of the world’s largest professional organizations. This makes Ab² a recognized training institution that will support accountants seeking to become recognized as CPAs in Australia.

Both divisions of the Humanverse Group, Ab² Institute of Accounting and TOA Global are dedicated to the accounting industry. We connect accountants in different countries with highly skilled and teachable team members in the Philippines and South Africa who can support their growth.

Accountants in the Philippines can qualify to become associate members of CPA Australia if they have:

  • 10 or more years of work experience;
  • A university degree that the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills, and Employment recognizes as being equivalent to an Australian bachelor’s degree; and
  • Have completed the Certified Public Accountants Licensure Exam and is a member of good standing of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Yet your international accounting career can start even before you get your CPA license.

When you qualify for the TOA Global Accelerator Program, you get paid to train for seven weeks so you can firm up your grasp of Australian or U.S. accounting standards. This comes with an industry-recognized certification and a job placement, which then lets you work with some of the best practitioners in the accounting industry, like our CPA board exam topnotchers Gieno and Jay.

Explore the Accelerator Program here.

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