Accounting Alum Earns Top CPA Exam Recognition


Matthew Brooks did not follow a traditional path to his current job as a tax consultant for Deloitte in Dallas. After changing his major a few times, Brooks completed his undergraduate degree in French Studies at Brigham Young University, then worked for several years as a banker before coming to the Naveen Jindal School of Management to pursue an MS in Accounting degree.

Unconventional as it may be, Brooks credits this combination of career exploration and prior work experience — along with his JSOM professors — for his success in his graduate program and on the certified public accountant exam, where he passed all four sections on his first try with a high score that earned him a prestigious award from the American Institute of CPAs.

Matthew Brooks winner of the Elijah Watt Sells Award
Matthew Brooks

“I was not as focused as an undergraduate, but after a few years working and going back to school, I had a greater understanding for what you learn in classes and how it helps in the real world,” said Brooks, who graduated in August 2018. “I began to not just study to pass a test, but to truly grasp concepts and ideas, which further helped me when it came time to take the CPA Exam.”

Brooks was awarded a 2018 Elijah Watt Sells Award in recognition of obtaining a cumulative average score of 95.50 across all four sections of the exam on his first attempt. Each section is scored on a scale of 0 to 99, and only 110 of the 86,000 who sat for the CPA Exam in 2018 met the criteria for the award. The recipients were announced in April.

Professors noticed Brooks’ efforts and study skills throughout his time in JSOM, according to John Gamino, clinical professor and director of the BS in Accounting program.

“Brooks always demonstrated an exceptional level of maturity with laser focus and discipline, along with being very personable,” Gamino said. “People in the profession understand what a rare and amazing accomplishment this award is.”

Matthew Brooks is the third Jindal School accounting graduate to win the Elijah Watt Sells Award. The other two are Liang-Han (Han) Wuu, Ms'25, and Gabriel Vaughan, BS'02, MBA'04, MS'05. 

Brooks was already working full time at Deloitte during most of exam preparation, coming home to study in the evenings and then 12 hours on Saturdays. He advises future exam takers to work with the time they have and take the exam seriously.

“Passing the CPA exam itself is a landmark for the career and gives you the ability to keep moving forward in the profession,” Brooks said. “The award is extra validation for me personally of my career choice and that I can understand the concepts of this field and be successful.”

Caryn Berardi

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