CPA exam: what is it and why should you take it?

Congratulations! You decided you want to be a certified public accountant. After all the undergraduate and graduate-level classes in business, law, business law or accounting, it is time for the Uniform CPA Examination. But what is the CPA exam and why should you take it? In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about the CPA test.

What is the CPA test?

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination is designed to assess your skills and knowledge that you need to practice public accountancy. It is the first step toward obtaining licensure as a certified public accountant. The CPA test is recognized by all 55 U.S. jurisdictions.

CPA exam structure

The CPA exam is a 16-hour, computer-based test that contains four separate tests. Candidates have four hours to complete each exam section. Also, you’ll have to pass all four sections within 18 months. The four sections of the CPA exam are:

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
The AUD section of the exam requires you to show your skills in auditing and attestation. You will answer 72 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and 8 task-based simulations (TBS). In this section you will solve questions about 4 categories: Ethics Professionals Responsibilities & General Principles, Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response, Performing Further Procedures & Obtaining Evidence and, at last, Forming Conclusions & Reporting.

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
This section is designed to have you demonstrate that you have mastered the business core which is foundational to success in an accounting career. The BEC section is the only section that includes three written tasks. You will answer 62 MCQs and 4 TBSs in total. The topics in the BEC section are: Corporate Governance, Economic Concepts & Analysis, Financial Management, Information Technology and Operations Management.

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
These sections focus on financial accounting and reporting of for-profit entities. You’ll answer 66 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations. The topics that will be covered are: Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting & Financial Reporting, Select Financial Statement Accounts, Select Transactions and State & Local Governments.

Regulation (REG)
This is the taxation-section of the CPA exam. All the questions are about tax-related topics, such as Business Law, Federal Taxation and Professional Responsibilities. You’ll answer 76 MCQs and 8 task-based simulations.

You can decide for yourself which section you will test first. Of course, you don’t take all these exams on the same day. 16 hours. That would be ridiculous. So, choose the section that you want to take first. There is not one correct order. Which leads us to the following question.

Which part of the CPA test should you take first?

Yes, a good question. As we said before, there is no correct order. Our advice is: consider how much content you will need to learn for each section, base your order on that information and don’t leave the hardest section to the end. Most people choose to do FAR or AUD as their first or second choice. Try to plan all four exams in 12 months. In this way, you’ll take you CPA exam in 1 year and maintain a social life. Just saying.

What is the hardest section of the CPA exam?

The hardest part of the CPA test is Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR). This is because you’ll have to tackle a huge amount of information. The sooner, the better. That is our advice for you. So, plan your FAR-test as your first or second test.

The easiest part of the CPA exam is BEC. The pass rates from this test are being the highest of the four sections. That is why many people choose to take the BEC-section last.

What is the CPA test pass rate?

In 2020, the CPA test rate were 53% to 68%. Of course, it depends. For example, the pass rate among Wiley CPA students is 87%. In another article we'll tell you all about what CPA pass rate was along the years. If you prepare yourself well, you will be ok.

How much does the exam cost?

Yes, the test will (unfortunately) cost you money. You’ll pay for an application fee to start the process that ranges between $100 and $250. After this, you’ll need to pay for each exam. Each exam costs around $210. So, in total, the CPA exam will cost you between $800 and $900.

How is the CPA test scored?

Each section is graded on a scale of zero to 99. If you want to pass the test, you need a minimum score of 75 for each section. The four sections are scored differently, as they have a different number of multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. To learn more about how the sections are scored, we found a great CPA exam section guide that will help you get through it.

So, that’s the CPA exam in a nutshell. Looking for some study-help? We’ve got you! If you are looking for CPA summaries or notes, written by tutors or ex-students, you can find them on our platform. Or maybe you’re looking for a place where you can sell your CPA summaries. Then you are in the right place too. Upload your summaries and start making easy money!