Frequently Asked Questions – The Latest CPA Exam

We know you have many questions about the new CPA Exam. Below are answers from our Director of Curriculum to some of the most common questions related to the new exam and its format.

How long is the new exam? Are there still four sections?
Yes, the exam is still comprised of four sections:

  • Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)
  • Financing Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG).

However, on the new exam each section has five (5) testlets and is four (4) hours long—for a total testing time of 16 hours.

Will there be any breaks during the exam?
Yes. A 15-minute standard break, at the midway point of each section (after roughly two hours), is now offered. You can choose to accept and it will not count against your total four-hour time limit. You will also be offered breaks between the other testlets, but remember the clock will not stop.

What does the AICPA mean when saying it will be evaluating “higher-order skills” more on the new exam?
Essentially, there are more Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) and more advanced TBSs included in each section—as well as being added for the first time to BEC. This provides the examiners the ability to test your higher-order skills thinking. There are enhanced TBSs that are more complex—providing you with more resources and background information as well. TBSs are used to test your ability to evaluate and analyze various situations and information, and then apply the concepts you’ve learned in a realistic situation as opposed to simply recalling memorized information. Learn more >

Is the new exam harder to pass?
The new exam has more TBSs, more challenging TBSs, and a greater weighting of your total score, likely making it more difficult. This also poses a more difficult time for international ESL (English as a second language) students. Learn more about the exam’s new scoring >

What types of questions are on the new CPA Exam?
In addition to the traditional Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and Task-Based Simulations (TBSs), a Document Review Simulation (DRS) is being used to assess your ability to evaluate and analyze documentation for critical information. This was first introduced on the exams in July of 2016. Get more information about DRSs here >

The BEC section also includes a Written Communications teslet with three writing assignments.

Has Wiley CPAexcel updated its practice exam questions to include higher order questions?
Yes. Working closely with the AICPA and our instructors, Wiley has updated its 2017 course and CPA Test Bank with questions in the latest format and style. It is very advantageous that the AICPA used the Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning to build their taxonomy because it is one that Wiley Publishing has a long-standing mastery of applying—a real bonus to using our materials.

What about pretest questions? How many will there be on the new exam?
The number of pretest questions should stay the same with 10 total MCQs and one TBS (and Written Communication for BEC) per section. Recall, pretest questions are included in the makeup of your exam but do not count in your final score. You will not know which questions are pretest questions on the exam; therefore, do not give this much thought on exam day—every question requires all of your effort.

Do I still get credit for passing sections before the new exam is released?
Yes. You are still required to pass all four sections of the CPA Exam (old or new) within an 18-month window.

Is the passing score still a 75?
Yes. You must score 75 or higher to pass each section of the CPA Exam.

How much time should I devote to the MCQ and TBS sections?
You should aim to spend NO MORE than two hours on the MCQ section. This way, you’ll be able to devote the second half of the exam to the TBS and Written Communication sections, which are now weighted equally to MCQs in the scoring.

Is the content of the 2017 changing drastically as well?
The content is not changing very drastically—the format is changing most significantly. However, the AICPA has evaluated content and removed an insignificant number of miscellaneous topics from the exam. We cover it extensively in this PDF document.

Is there a recommended sequence to take the new exams?
Wiley CPAexcel recommends using the traditional sequencing of FAR first, then AUD, REG, and finally BEC. This is because the AUD section refers to financial accounting concepts and the BEC section includes content from the other three sections. The FAR section is considered by many to be the most difficult section to pass so you want to focus on passing it first. As soon as you pass the first section, you have 18 months to pass all four.

Is partial credit granted on TBS? How are they evaluated?
TBS are evaluated based on your ability to fulfill the tasks asked of you. You do get partial credit for answering various portions of the simulation correctly.

When will I get my scores with the new exam?
There will be roughly a 10-week delay in score release with the initial April-May testing window for the new 2017 exam (expected score release mid-August). The other two testing windows in 2017 should see score release times trimmed to 10 days after the window’s close. In 2018, score release will return to the roughly 3-week average from the day you sit for your exams.

What should I do about scheduling my exams, given the delayed score releases in 2017?  
This is a tough question for which we advise that you turn to the accountancy board of your state. Your state board is aware of this and will help provide you with guidance. You should assume that your state board will act in your best interest and help you reschedule your exams based on your individual situation. Be sure to stay informed and up to date on what is happening with your specific state board.

What should I do if I failed a section in the first quarter and now have to retake it on the new exam?
The best advice we have is to not fret—you can do this! Return to your Wiley CPAexcel materials and study start-to-finish. Consider changing up your study methods, educate yourself on the exam changes, and study as hard as you can. You should also review your performance report, provided by the AICPA, to see which areas require the most focus and attention.

Are there any free resources to help prepare for the new CPA Exam?
Yes. You should be sure to work through the AICPA sample tests, which are freely available on their website at

Also be sure to access our free resources on the 2017 CPA Exam, and try the complimentary 14-day Wiley CPAexcel trial.

2017 CPA Exam Survival Kit: