Guam can now officially say that it is “Where America’s Testing Day Begins ” with the April 5 opening of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Guam Computer Testing Center.

The new center is set to bring huge numbers of candidates and millions of dollars to Guam. A grand opening is set for June 4 at its location on the 4th floor of the Bank of Hawaii building in Hagatna.

It offers CPA accountancy examinations and a range of other nationally recognized tests as well as making testing conditions more comfortable.

Guam’s center is one of 350 in the United States and its territories where the CPA examination will now be delivered on behalf of boards of accountancy. The Guam center is the eight largest with New York Chicago Dallas and Los Angeles being slightly larger which puts Guam on the map with larger metropolitan cities.
Prior to April 5 more than 55 000 people across the nation took the paper-and-pencil-based exam twice a year in May and November. On Guam last year over 5 500 people came from countries in the region such as Japan Korea Taiwan and Hong Kong to take the examination. It was administered simultaneously at packed hotel ballrooms and the University of Guam Fieldhouse.

Penelope A. Vernon manager of the center told the Journal “With the Guam Computer Testing Center we can accommodate up to 78 CPA candidates a day in a well-lit air conditioned highly secure environment to take the newly introduced computer based test. With the computerized format the exam is available almost year-round and candidates may choose to take the exam’s required four sections individually or at different times. Now candidates have 18 months to pass all four exam sections which takes much of the strain and pressure of this rigorous examination off the hopeful candidate.”

But what makes the new center a true winner for Guam is that now over 150 other American certified professional tests are available including the popular Graduate Records Examination — needed for entrance into graduate school and the Graduate Management Admission Test required for graduate management school Vernon said.
“In just the few weeks that we have been open and performing testing functions we have been receiving about 100 calls per day from people throughout Asia asking for information about what tests are available and scheduling information ” she said.
The CPA exams are presently administered five days per week on a two-month-on one-month-off cycle for scoring of tests by the AICPA.

“We only started April 5 with the CPA exams but the third week in May we will have opened up a third shift as we will be testing from 9 in the morning to 11 at night — mostly with candidates from Japan. We are beginning to get people from the Philippines to take other tests especially the Test of English as a Foreign Language which is required by international students wishing to move on to an American university to prove they are proficient enough in the [English] language to understand college level lectures and study materials.”

“We were the first to administer the CPA exam in the world [on April 5] while others waited to see how things would work because Guam is a day ahead and we are very proud that everything came together like clockwork.” Vernon said signs of the economic potential of the testing center had already begun to show. “Imagine there has only been the posting of press releases on the Internet and calls are pouring in. Marketing is going to be increasingly important especially as the doors to China begin to swing open.”
The conversion to a computer-based test is a collaborative effort of the AICPA the NASBA and Thomson Prometric.

The center will draw candidates because it serves the Asia-Pacific region. Vernon said “NASBA created this site [on Guam] to facilitate administering the CPA examination for candidates coming from Asian areas such as Japan Korea Hong Kong and Indonesia.”
Thomson Prometric also administers hundreds of other exams. In the course of setting up the test center and becoming a licensee of Prometric the center received the authority to administer and certify hundreds of other American certification tests and examinations. They are all generated through a master server in the United States.

Mack N. Ezzel executive director for the Guam board of Accountancy told the Journal in a previous interview (See “CPA test goes hi-tech ” in the Oct. 6 issue of the Journal) that “the CPA industry had become so computer-orientated using computers in practices that it made sense to test people’s computer skills and their ability to find information on the Internet the ability to access information and to do problems on the computer and the Internet.”

Previously when the examination was a paper and pencil process the average pursuer of the CPA designation coming to Guam travels 3 031 miles and spends $1 654 on transportation lodging and food during their stay. The exam was taken over two days. Some applicants stay about four days arriving and leaving around test time; others extend to shop and see something of Guam.

“When you multiply the number of applicants we had in 2003 which was 4403 by the $1 654 you come up with more than $5 million that is added to the Guam economy ” Ezzel said. “With the testing center this is going to blossom into its own niche tourism artery helping to feed Guam’s economy.”

According to the Guam board of Accountancy the figure for dollars spent by visiting CPA test-takers is $5.68 million per annum. A positive factor for those choosing to take the U.S. examination in Guam is that Asians are able to travel to Guam with few restrictions. Ezzel said “Japanese can come to the U.S. easily. They get an automatic visa and Koreans are involved in the Guam-only visa waiver program so they can come here but not to the rest of the U.S.”

Ezzel said that while the local board its affiliated members and proctors will miss the twice a year[paper—pencil] ordeal they had been administering for over two decades but that everyone understands that the future is here and the economy is going to benefit greatly.

Ezzel commended the 27th Guam Legislature and Gov. Felix P. Camacho for acting quickly to change local law so that computer testing could be allowed. Public Law. 27-58 was enacted Dec. 19 2003.

Vernon said she believes there are opportunities for tour companies to profit by setting up throughout the year Guam account testing packages that will include air-fare lodging and on-island sightseeing trips.

“The Chinese want to take the CPA exam very badly but until the right clearances are in place it is not happening. Once it does — look out — we will be expanding quickly and we have an option on space here so that we can accommodate the increase in CPA examination and other computer testing opportunities participation with relative ease while maintaining the high level of security examinations of these caliber and nature requires.” MBJ