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The most recent 2021 pass rates are available for Q1 and Q2.
CPA Pass Rates 2021:
It takes a lot of study and practice to pass the CPA exam, but it’s achievable. Below we breakdown pass rates by section, year, and quarter so you can get an idea of how you might fare.
Overall, nearly 50% of candidates passed the exam in all sections in 2019 and 2020, with some sections having much higher pass rates closer to 60%.
In 2019 and 2020, the CPA rates show that more candidates passed the BEC section than any other, with FAR having the lowest CPA exam pass rates across the board.
Thus, you may conclude that FAR is the hardest section to pass and BEC is the easiest, but it is to be noted that the AICPA highlights one reason BEC is higher is that it is the section most commonly taken last.
This means students are better at studying and test taking after completing other sections. Keep that in mind as you schedule your exam and decide whether to tackle the hardest or easiest CPA exam section first, and consider building a personal schedule that takes into account that the FAR section has the most study content.
When you’re ready, check the 2022 CPA Exam Schedule to help you choose when to schedule your CPA exam.
2020 Pass Rates:
2019 Pass Rates
|2019 CPA Exam Pass Rates|
In 2021, cumulative pass rates for the CPA exam ranged between 45-63% for the four different sections of the exam.
The CPA exam sections by highest pass rate in order:
We can look at specific pass rates of each section of the exam to understand how they relate to different sections and the exam overall.
In 2021, 49.7% is the average cumulative pass rate for the AUD CPA exam section.
The overall 2021 CPA exam pass rate is 54%, so AUD falls slightly below that and has the second lowest pass rate of all four sections of the exam in 2021.
The BEC CPA exam section has a 62.84% average cumulative pass rate in 2021.
BEC is typically considered the most straight-forward section of the CPA exam with the least amount of material covered.
It also varies from other sections of the exam because it includes written communication tasks and fewer task-based simulations. This could be why it is known to be the least difficult section of the exam and consistently has the highest pass rate.
The average cumulative pass rate for the FAR CPA Exam section in 2021 is 44.7%.
That gives FAR the lowest pass rate out of all four sections of the CPA exam. This follows typical trends as FAR has consistently had the lowest pass rate over the years and is considered to be the hardest section of the exam because of how comprehensive it is.
The REG CPA exam section has a 59.03% average cumulative pass rate in 2021.
REG has the second highest pass rate out of the four sections of the CPA exam in 2021, coming in second to BEC (which has a 62.84% pass rate).
The overall pass rate for each section of the CPA exam hovers around 50%, but how many people manage to pass all four sections on the first try? About 20%. Around 1 in 2 people will pass a specific section of the exam, and about 1 in 5 people will pass each section on their first try.
Learn more about how hard is the CPA exam.
CPA exam pass rates vary by age, with younger people (recent graduates) faring better than older candidates—sometimes by as much as 20%.
This is likely because older candidates have been out of school longer and have not been in the mindset to study and take tests in quite some time. But, if you have been out of school for a while, fear not! Older candidates who study with Wiley CPA do just fine on the exams, it may just take a little extra studying and practice time.
Here’s a breakdown of three years of pass rates based on the age of the candidates so you can see where you might fit in.
It’s important to understand how the exam is scored so you can plan your CPA exam prep for each section and learn how to pass the CPA exam.
For each section of the exam, your score will be between 0 to 99. To pass a section, you need a minimum score of 75.
Note that your CPA exam score is not a percentage, and it should not be interpreted as such. CPA scores are also not curved.
Additionally, your scores for the AUD, FAR, and REG sections are a weighted combination of scores from the multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs), while your BEC section score is a weighted combination of scores from the MCQs, TBSs, and written communication tasks.
|Multiple-choice questions (MCQs)||50%||50%||50%||50%|
|Task-based simulations (TBSs)||50%||35%||50%||50%|
|Written communication tasks||n/a||15%||n/a||n/a|
For more information read the CPA Exam Frequently Asked Questions.
For more insights into how candidates have done historically on the CPA exam, check out the charts below for data from 2018 and 2017.
For 2018, BEC is consistently again the section with the highest pass rate, with the second quarter also performing well overall. It should be noted that for all sections, the second and third quarter had higher pass rates than their first and fourth counterparts.
While scores can vary from year to year and quarter to quarter, it can be helpful to see the overall picture of CPA exam pass rates by looking at trends. This can give you a more accurate view of what your chances are of passing.
Overall, from 2017 to 2021, AUD and REG pass rates increased slightly each year, while the BEC and FAR sections had larger jumps between 2017 and 2018. They leveled off and then increased again in 2020 (likely due to factors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic like less candidates taking the exam).
Now that you’ve seen what the pass rates look like, you might be wondering, when is the best time to sit for the exam to get the best CPA exam results? Some quarters have historically performed better than others; however, the game has changed now that the CPA exam testing windows have been replaced with continuous testing (as of July 1, 2020). So, the best time to take the exam will be more of a personal choice–work schedule, life schedule, etc.
Some highlights About Continuous Testing:
Retake sections while content is still top of mind—this may shorten time needed to pass all four parts of the exam.
Overall, passing the exam will come down to your chosen CPA Exam Review Course and how much effort you put into studying and preparing—as those are the best indicators of success. For more on Continuous Testing and scheduling your CPA exam, visit our CPA Exam Schedule Guide.
National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) reports information on the top universities with large accounting programs and the highest CPA pass rates. Those CPA pass rates by school are:
According to the AICPA CPA Exam Pass Rates, in 2021, only 49.7% of candidates passed the AUD section, 62.84% passed the BEC section, 44.7% passed the FAR section, and 59.03% passed the REG section. However, 9 out of 10 students who used Wiley CPA Exam Review Courses passed all 4 sections of their CPA exam—that’s 90% and way above the average!
Wiley’s CPA Review Courses are taught by expert instructors and come with FocusMe TechnologyTM, an adaptive feature that identifies your problem areas and helps you address them as you move through practice problems.
Plus, with more test questions and task-based simulations than any other course provider, our CPA review mimics the actual exam and provides unique, customized questions to improve your scores.
With Wiley CPA Review Courses, you get:
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about CPA exam pass rates.