Two Alumni Score Among Best in Nation on CPA Exam

Calculator and pencil on financial statement report.

Two UConn accounting alumni have earned among the highest scores in the nation on their CPA exams.

Timothy Pratico ’20 MSA and Matthew Zalewski ’15, ’16 MSA were among only 89 exam-takers nationwide to receive a cumulative average score above 95.5 across all four sections of the exam on their first attempt. In total, some 75,000 candidates participated in the CPA exam in 2020.

The two are part of a proud UConn tradition, earning the American Institute of CPAs’ Elijah Watt Sells award for their achievement. UConn alumni also earned that distinction in 2017 and 2018.

“It’s pretty cool honor and a unique achievement,” said Zalewski, who works for Deloitte in Hartford. “I can’t say it enough, all the faculty and staff in accounting are awesome. They all come together not only to prepare the students academically but also to help students get great jobs.”

Pratico, who works at EY in Boston, enrolled in the UConn MSA program after completing his undergrad degree at Bentley. Finishing his master’s degree while simultaneously studying for the exam was beneficial, he said. While many test-takers struggle, particularly with the tax exam, he was well prepared.

“I studied quite a bit, I treated it like a full-time job,” he said, adding that it was an investment in his career. Pratico, a native of Falmouth, Maine, said a high school accounting class established his interest. At Bentley it became his passion, and he’s never regretted the choice.

Professor George Plesko, head of the accounting department, said the faculty is thrilled with their former students’ success.

“Our department attracts a group of highly qualified and motivated students who are sought after by all the national and regional firms,” he said. “It is always gratifying to see some of them gain special recognition. That these awardees were graduates of our MSA program speaks to both the rigor of our curriculum, and the talent of our faculty.”

To pass such a rigorous exam is commendable, but to score so well is exceptional, said professor Amy Dunbar, who heads the MSA program and taught both students. They are both extremely bright and have promising futures, she added.

“I like the broadness of the accounting field and all that it offers,” Pratico said. “You can go into audit or tax, it is the language of business and can expand to many areas so easily.”

Zalewski initially delayed taking the exam to concentrate on his job and to serve as an adjunct professor teaching managerial accounting at UConn in 2016. “It was one of the best times in my entire life. I miss it all the time,” said Zalewski, who grew up in Terryville and now lives in Burlington, Conn. “Part of me wanted to be a teacher. My career allowed me to have my cake and eat it, too. I knew I’d enjoy it but not as much as I did.”

Asked if they had any advice for future CPA test-takers, Pratico said he would encourage them to preserve through tough concepts because it all makes sense at the end.

“My only advice is if you’re going to UConn, you’re in really good hands there,” Zalewski said.