Chu Bing Sabrina McMullin, originally from Singapore, received the 2016 Elijah Watt Sells Award after passing all four sections of the CPA Exam on her first attempt with a cumulative average score above 95.
Sabrina earned her China CPA in 2001 and worked for five years for the Singapore office of KPMG. After meeting her husband, she immigrated to the U.S. in 2009 and became a stay-at-home mom to her two boys in Overland Park, Kansas.
Sabrina knew she had to get a U.S. CPA license to rebuild her accounting career. To meet the AICPA’s credit hour requirements, she enrolled in the Master of Accounting program at the University of South Dakota.
“The credit for my bachelor’s degree came over from Singapore but that doesn’t mean I know the U.S. accounting system,” Sabrina says. “I didn’t have that knowledge so had to learn those things when studying for the CPA exam. Another challenge for me was learning the tax system and there are so many rules and exceptions to everything and it was a challenge to understand tax concept.”
Sabrina decided to take her graduate courses as well as prep for the CPA Exam at the same time, which meant she needed the most effective materials to help her quickly catch up with the U.S. accounting concepts. She investigated the myriad of review courses available.
“When I was working for my CPA, I was not working and was very budget conscious,” she says. “I didn’t want to waste money and buy those crazy expensive CPA packages. When I went online with Wiley, they allow you to buy piecemeal and they gave me a student discount on products — that really helped me a lot with my budget.”
During her final semester at school, Sabrina studied for roughly five hours a day — on top of raising her two sons. Needless to say, time management was a major success factor .
Because it dovetailed with her graduate classes, Sabrina really threw herself into studying and learning absolutely as much as she could. “It’s a very rigorous exam and you’re tested on a wide variety of topics,” she says. “You can’t just pick a few and focus on them and hope to get lucky and pass. I studied every topic and every topic has an equal chance of being tested. I didn’t want to lose any points for easy questions just because I didn’t cover a topic.”
With four scores all above 95 – it’s clear Sabrina didn’t let any easy questions get by her. Like most CPA candidates, she found that question review was key to her success.
“The Wiley CPAexcel Test Bank was very helpful for me because it had thousands of questions,” she says. “It would keep track of all my questions and what I got right and wrong and I could go back and see why I got things wrong, which was very helpful.”
Now that Sabrina has both her master’s in accounting and CPA license, as well as the Elijah Watt Sells Award under her belt, she’s keen to start and grow her own accounting business.
“I think the credentials really gives me credibility with clients,” she says. “I’m able to say I have this award and all this experience and that’s how I’ve been getting traction with my business.”
To help other students prepare for the CPA Exam, Sabrina filmed a series of short videos to talk about her experience. She offers some great nuggets of advice — and she gives a nice shout out to Wiley CPAexcel in video #3 (thanks!). Check them out: