Investigating students’ intention towards taking for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) examination in Vietnam

MA. NGUYEN THUY AN (College of Economics, Can Tho University)


The study’s purpose is to identify the factors affecting the attitude of accounting and auditing students affect their intention towards taking the CPA examination based on the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) and the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). By adopting quantitative research, the study applies Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA), Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA), Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) in exploring the drivers of students’ intentions towards taking the CPA exam in Can Tho University and Tay Do University. The outcome reveals that career factor has positively associated with attitude. Moreover, attitude as well as support from university has a significant impact on students’ intention on taking the exam. The study finds no positive relationship between the level of risk acceptance and the intention. The study also gives further suggestion for future research to examine the change of influences on the intention of taking the CPA examination.

Keywords: Certified Public Accountants Certificate, Vietnam, Theory of Reasoned Action, Theory of Planned Behavior, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM).

1. Background

It is believed that becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPA) will expose many career opportunities for accountants and auditors around the world. One of objectives of accounting and auditing strategy of Vietnam to the year 2020 is how to boost accounting and auditing services development in Vietnam and in foreign countries. That requires numbers of CPA need to be increased in Vietnam context these days. Therefore, the accounting profession and the educational institutions are facing with the task of teaching and encouraging them to participate the CPA exam and getting the professional certificate. While most Vietnamese students majoring in accounting and auditing lack of skills and experiences as well as information of CPA certificate that shared from educational institutions, so this seems to be a complicated task for academic institutions and policy makers.

It is obvious that little empirical evidence has been done concerning the attitude of Vietnamese students towards persuading the CPA certificate and the influence of such attitude on intending to sit for the exam. It is due to there have been no studies that explore intention of students in Vietnam to be certified public accountants and potential factors affecting the intention. However, this issue has been seriously concerned by international authors who have explored influencing factors to the intention of students in foreign nations context. Hence, these research would give better understanding for both profession and academic staff if this accounting professional certificate attract more students to take the exam in the future. Consequently, the main research aim of this study is to recognize the factors indicating the attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavior controls of students affect their perceptions towards sitting for the CPA exam. The research focuses on students who are studying accounting and auditing in Can Tho University and Tay Do University in Can Tho city in order to identify the important factors driving the intention of taking the exam.

2. Literature Review and hypotheses

2.1 Theoretical background

The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) is proposed by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) and the theory of planned behavior (TPB) are adopted in forming a conceptual research framework in this study. Specially, TRA is a behavior model which is well-developed and widely applied focusing on personal interest and subjective norms influencing personal behavior. While TPB has been widely adopted in examining behavior that are controlled by intentions, and in turn, there are three factors including attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavior controls affecting intentions (Churchman 2013; Coe, 2014; Hammour, 2018).

A number of previous studies have applied the framework provided by the TPB to explain students’ intension in Indonesia, Australia, the United States…. For instance, Coe (2014) shows that the TPB can signi?cantly give better understanding of the factors in?uencing accounting students’ intentions to sit for the CPA exam. As the result, he ?nds a strong relationship between students’ attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavior control and the intention to pursue a particular career. Hammour also (2018) indicates that TPB components including attitudes and subjective norms affect students’ intention to pursue accounting profession for their careers.

Therefore, some hypotheses below are indicated in this study:

H1: Regulations of the CPA exam in Viet Nam is positively affected with students’ attitudes towards sitting for the CPA exam.

H2: Self-efficacy is positively associated with students’ attitudes towards siting for the CPA exam

H3: Career factor is positively associated with students’ attitudes towards sitting for the CPA exam

H4: Attitudes is positively associated with students’ intention towards sitting for the CPA exam.

H5: Perception of university’s support is positively associated with students’ intention towards sitting for the CPA exam.

H6: The level of risk acceptance is positively associated with students’ intention towards sitting for the CPA exam.

2.2 Research methodology

2.2.1 Collecting data

There were 246 questionnaires collected by interviewing in the year 2019. The sample includes the students who are studying at Can Tho University and Tay Do University in Can Tho City. The questionnaire consisted of 25 items which relates to the constructs of the research model that is shown in table 1. The participants were asked to indicate their viewpoints on a five-point Likert scale basis, in which 1 stands for strongly disagree to 5 which refers to strongly agree for each item. Besides, Structural model was computed by using IBM SPSS analysis and AMOS. Two steps were involved to explore the structural model, including Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and the Structural Equation Model (SEM). The SEM measures the relationship between the factors including both observed and latent variables (Hair et al., 2009). (Fig.1).

Fig.1 The conceptual research framework

Fig.1 The conceptual research framework

3. Empirical results and discussions

3.1 Empirical results

Table 1 presents the value of Cronbach coefficients (α) of all scales in the research model. It is supported that a stricter minimum requirement for scale reliability is 0.70 but in some cases, a liberal minimum requirement of 0.60 is also accepted as well (Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994). Besides, the value of Corrected item-total correlation is required higher than 0.3 (Hair et al., 2009). Therefore, after processing reliability test, the variable EXPE3, EXPE4 of Expectation scale are eliminated to ensure the reliability level in the scale.

Table 1. The values of Cronbach’s Alpha for the constructs and the result of EFA

Table 1. The values of Cronbach’s Alpha for the constructs and the result of EFA

Table 1. The values of Cronbach’s Alpha for the constructs and the result of EFA

The results of Exploratory Factor Analyses for two sub-models by adopting Principal axis factoring with Promax Rotation are also shown in the table 1. There is a mixture of two variables including EFFI3 and EFFI4 joining in CARE construct. The reason may be explained in case of whether participants could misunderstand the questions related to their perception on self- efficacy and career attitude. Also, ATTI4 and RISK2 are eliminate because the value of factor loading of this item is lower than 0.5 (Hair et al, 2009).

* Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and Structural Equation modeling (SEM).

After EFA is processed, the data was computed using AMOS for the Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). In this analysis, all the 6 constructs with their 20 items were treated as latent constructs. All items in this model after using CFA have standardized regression weight of higher than 0.5 (Hair et al., 2009), 20 items remained for the SEM. As a result, the model had fit values.

This study uses the method of the maximum likelihood in SEM was employed to test the proposed research model and hypotheses. This analysis involved the model specifications between the constructs of CARE, REQU and ATTI as well as the relationship of ATTI, UNIS and INTE that based on the theoretical justifications. The model obtains more reliable relationships between exogenous constructs and inter-construct correlations (see fig.2). As the fig.2 also shows that the constructs have quite fit values of ?2 = 304.063, (df) = 159, ?2/df = 1.912 and p = 0.000, with GFI (Goodness of fit index) = 0.895, CFI (Comparative fit index) = 0.912, TLI (the Tucker-Lewis index ) = 0.895 and RMSEA (Root mean square error of approximation) = 0.061. These value suggests there is a fit model in this analysis. The significant statistics imply that the model fit is perfect in the population. Figure 2 also shows the standardized path estimates of proposed models.

Fig. 2 The result of SEM

Fig. 2 The result of SEM

Table 2: Standardized Regression Weights

Table 2: Standardized Regression WeightsThe table 2 shows that Career factor (CARE) is found to have significant relationship with ATTI at the standardized regression weight of 0.765 (p = 0.000). This means that H3 is supported, however the model also proves that H1 and H2 are rejected due to p value is higher than 5%. The ATTI squared multiple correlation (SMC) is 0.669, indicating that the predictors of ATTI explain 66.9 percent of its variances. In the second relationship, it is assumed that both social influence and attitude have impact on intention while the level of risk acceptance is found to have no positive relationship with the intention to sit the CPA exam. Particularly, attitude towards sitting for the CPA exam has a positive relationship with intention at the standardized regression weight of 0.609 and the support from university also influence positively on intention at the standardized regression weight of 0.418. As a result, it indicates that H4 and H5 are supported and there is 51.5 percent of variances explained while H6 is rejected.

3.2 Discussions

The relationships of attitude, subjective norms and intention towards sitting for the CPA exam are found in this study which is going to extend the current literature in Vietnam context. Firstly, the study indicates career factor has a significant impact on attitude towards participating in the CPA exam while there is no significant association among CPA exam regulations, self-efficacy and attitude. It is obvious that person who have a strong responsibility and their strong capacity with their choice of career, he or she will have a positive attitude towards the professional certificate. Follow that, attitude affect their intention towards sitting for the exam. This result is in line with Coe’s study (2014) that indicated students’ career viewpoint affects their intention. It is also consistent with the previous studies in confirmation of a positive relationship between the attitude and the intention (Churchman, 2013; Wen et al., 2015; Hammour, 2018). Besides, this study’s finding indicates there is no considerable impact of Vietnamese CPA exam regulations on students’ attitude. The reason for that can be explained by the Vietnamese regulations related to the CPA exam seems to be difficult in students’ belief in this sample. Moreover, the study explores a positive relationship in which the intension could be influenced by subjective norms that supporting from university construct used in this research. In fact, students who receive more useful instruction and strong encouragement from their lecturers at academic institutions have a higher attitude for accounting professional certificate. Thus, they are more likely to have more motivation to participate in the exam and towards decision to take the exam. The result is consistent with the other studies such as Solikhah (2014), Coe (2014).  As the result, the outcomes support for the application of TRA and TPB and that relationship was also proved by Churchman (2013), Coe (2014), Wen et al., (2015), Hammour (2018).

However, this study fails to find evidence for supporting the relationship between perceived behavioral controls which is reflected as the level of risk acceptance construct and intention to enter the exam. It can be explained that students who are second -year students and third-year students think that it is too early to think about the CPA exam. Therefore, accepting to receive bad results may have no effect on their intention. This is the same with Hammour’s study (2018) in indicating that there is no relationship between perceived behavior controls and intention.

4. Conclusions

The empirical study explores the factors influencing attitude and intention of accounting and auditing students to sit for the CPA exam. Overall, the relationship between career factor and attitude, among attitude, university’s support and intention towards taking part in the exam are recognized. Predominantly, the research highlights the positive relationship between attitude towards behavior, subjective norms, particularly, support from university and intention to participate in the exam have a significant relationship. More importantly, the study supports for the importance of the application of TRA and TPB which are sufficient for investigation of personal behavior. This study’s findings can contribute to the literature of examining of students’ behavior towards professional certificate in Vietnam. Overall, the study brings valuable outcomes for validation some significant factors affecting on students’ intention to sit for the exam and towards decision to take the exam in the future. However, there is also limitation arising from this study. For example, the study has used small sample size students from Tay Do University. Particularly, the sample consists of a majority of students of Can Tho university and not focusing on other students from other universities in Can Tho City and other cities in Viet Nam, and accountants and auditing assistants as well. Therefore, further studies need to be done with larger sample size of students, accountants and auditing assistances to explore significant factors affecting the intention of participating in the CPA exam.


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  2. Coe, M., (2014). Factors That Influence a Student's Intention to Sit for the CPA Exam. Western Illinois University.
  3. Hair, J.F et al., 2009. Multilvariate data analysis, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall International.
  4. Hammour, H., (2018). Influence of the attitudes of Emirati students on their choice of accounting as a profession. Accounting Education, 27(4): 433-451, DOI: 10.1080/09639284.2018.1490913.
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Khoa Kinh tế, Trường Đại học Cần Thơ


Mục tiêu của nghiên cứu này nhằm xác định các nhân tố liên quan đến thái độ, tiêu chuẩn chủ quan và kiểm soát hành vi nhận thức của sinh viên ngành Kế toán và Kiểm toán tác động đến dự định của họ đối với việc dự thi lấy chứng chỉ kế toán viên và kiểm toán Việt Nam dựa trên lý thuyết hành vi hợp lý và thuyết dự định hành vi. Bằng việc áp dụng phân tích nhân tố khám phá, phân tích nhân tố khẳng định và mô hình cấu trúc tuyến tính để xác định các nhân tố ảnh hưởng đến dự định hành vi của nhóm sinh viên Trường Đại học Cần Thơ và Trường Đại học Tây Đô của thành phố Cần Thơ. Kết quả cho thấy, yếu tố nghề nghiệp có tác động tích cực tới thái độ của việc dự thi; nhân tố thái độ và sự hỗ trợ từ Trường Đại học có ảnh hưởng tích cực đến dự định dự thi của sinh viên. Ngoài ra, nghiên cứu không tìm thấy được mối quan hệ giữa mức độ chấp nhận rủi ro và dự định hành vi dự thi. Tác giả cũng đề nghị hướng nghiên cứu tiếp theo để đánh giá sự thay đổi của các nhân tố tác động đến dự định này.

Từ khóa: Chứng chỉ kế toán viên và kiểm toán viên Việt Nam, lý thuyết hành vi hợp lý, lý thuyết dự định hành vi, mô hình hồi quy cấu trúc.