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Here we’ll go over a full review of the BEC exam including exam content, format, questions, and scoring and how to study for the BEC CPA exam to pass on your first try.
The BEC exam is comprehensive and includes written communication tasks. Passing the exam requires having a solid study plan and sticking to it. So, let’s talk about the best study tips for the CPA BEC exam and tips for passing on your first try.
Having a proper study plan can ease your anxiety when it comes to taking the CPA exam. And having a solid study plan is also what will help you master the material and pass!
Some cornerstones of a good study plan include:
You can also always take the guess work out of studying for the BEC exam by using a CPA Review Course. Most CPA exam test prep providers, like Wiley CPA, will give you a customized study plan and access to a lot of helpful study materials like video lessons and practice exams.
In addition to creating a study plan, there are a few other BEC CPA exam tips you can use to pass your first time.
BEC is the only section of the exam that tests your writing skills, so make a point to know how much time you need to complete writing tasks. Some people can bust out memos and letters quickly, while others need a bit more time to organize their thoughts.
Either way, a good starting place is to aim to complete written communication tasks (WCTs) in 25 minutes or less. WCTs are tested last on the BEC exam, so make sure you allot enough time for them.
There are a few steps you’ll need to go through to apply for the CPA exam.
The BEC exam includes material from the other 3 exam parts, so that makes it a good section to take either first or last. Taking it first means you have a working knowledge of the material covered on the other exams before you take them.
And taking it last means you have already mastered and been tested on material from the other three exams, perhaps making studying easier and also giving you a better chance of passing your first time. Taking the BEC exam first or last is a personal decision, but most CPA candidates do take it last.
Taking practice exams is a crucial step in helping you pass the real CPA exam. Practice exams help you test your knowledge, apply your skills, understand your strengths and weaknesses, build endurance, practice your time management, and more.
And mock exams that mimic the exam interface will help you become familiar with the look and feel of the real CPA exam and help ease your anxiety on test day since you know what to expect. Some practice exams will even contain past BEC CPA exam released questions.
Studying for and taking the CPA exam is no small task, so taking care of yourself is crucial to ensuring you make it past the finish line. This means making sure you are getting adequate rest, eating well, staying hydrated, and getting some movement in throughout the day.
You will have to make some short-term sacrifices in order to earn your CPA license, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon basic forms of self-care. Set yourself up for success by taking care of yourself—you’ve got this!
So, what is on the BEC CPA exam?
There are 5 main content areas tested on the BEC exam and each subject is tested to varying degrees.
These topics are meant to cover fundamental business concepts and prepare CPA candidates to understand the business environment that their clients operate in. It also prepares CPAs to evaluate the impact of that environment on professional services provided to clients.
Within these topics, Business Environment and Concepts CPA exam questions will test on capital budgeting and project evaluation, all kinds of costs including direct, indirect, joint and separate costs, foreign currency, liquidity vs. solvency, outsourcing, financial risk management, enterprise risk management, business processes, business cycles, planning techniques, capital structure, working capital, cost accounting, variance analysis, and more.
The BEC exam also tests the candidate’s ability to work with information technology, as it is becoming an increasingly important aspect of accounting.
Candidates will be graded on their ability to demonstrate skills in remembering and understanding, application, and analysis in the following percentages.
The BEC CPA exam structure will start with a welcome message and general information. It will then continue into the actual exam that is divided into 5 testlets.
Between Testlet 3 and Testlet 4, there is a 15-minute break that does not count towards your 4 hours of total testing time.
Multiple-choice questions will be presented as a couple sentences or a short paragraph asking a question. You will then have 4 answers to choose from.
The first MCQ testlet on the BEC exam is of ‘medium’ difficulty overall. If you do well on this first testlet, your second MCQ testlet will have questions that are, on average, more difficult. But if you don’t do well on the first MCQ testlet, the second testlet will remain at ‘medium’ average difficulty.
It is not a disadvantage to get the harder second MCQ testlet because correct answers to difficult questions are worth more points than correct answers to easier questions. And you are not penalized for wrong answers.
Task-based simulations are multiple-part problems that test how you would respond in certain scenarios. The answer format varies, and it could involve fill-in-the-blank, matching, research, journal entries, or another answer format. You will always have to type in or select your answer, and practicing many TBSs will help you become comfortable with the variety of answer formats.
Written communication tasks (WCTs) are unique to the BEC exam, so you won’t see this type of question on AUD, FAR, or REG.
WCTs are written response questions that will require you to address a scenario with a letter or memo. They are meant to test your writing skills and not necessarily your understanding of the presented topic.
In general, your WCTs will be graded on how well you organize your response, develop your points, and appropriately express yourself in a professional way. A good WCT answer will clearly introduce, discuss, and conclude the topic, it will be succinct with appropriate detail and examples and will be written with proper sentences and correct grammar.
You will have a total of 4 hours to complete each part of the CPA exam, including the BEC section of the exam.
There are 62 MCQs, 4 TBSs, and 3 WCTs on the BEC exam that you will need to get through within the allotted time. These 69 questions are divided into 5 testlets, so it’s a good idea to have a personal time management goal for each testlet. Practice exams are a great way to time yourself to make sure you’ll keep up a good pace on exam day.
A good starting place is dividing the exam into 3 different 1-hour-and-15-minute blocks: 1 hour and 15 minutes for the two MCQ testlets, 1 hour and 15 minutes for the 2 TBS testlets, and 1 hour and 15 minutes for the WCT testlet. This gives you 15 minutes of wiggle room, and you can add or subtract time to your plan based on how quickly you get through the different question types on your practice exams.
Each section of the CPA exam is scored within a range from 0 to 99. And the minimum passing score is 75. This is not to be confused with a percentage, as your score is based on a weighted combination of your MCQ, TBS, and WCT scores. You can get less than 75% of the questions right and still pass the exam. And it’s also important to note that your grade will not be curved.
For BEC, MCQs make up 50% of your score, TBSs make up 35%, and the WCTSs make up the remaining 15%.
BEC Exam Scoring by Question Type
|Question Type||Number of Questions||Percentage of Score|
|Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)||62||50%|
|Task-Based Simulations (TBSs)||4||35%|
|Written Communication Tasks (WCTs)||3||15%|
There are two main strategies to consider as you choose when to take on the BEC section of the CPA exam.
Taking BEC First – Some candidates take BEC first so they can get an early win (as BEC has the highest pass rate) and be exposed to some of the material that might appear on later exams.
Taking BEC Last – Most candidates choose to take BEC last. Since it’s comprehensive and includes material cited in the other 3 exams, taking it last means you have already demonstrated your mastery of a lot of material and your test-taking skills have been perfected. Another reason to take BEC last is because it has the highest pass rate. Seeing as you need to pass all 4 exams in an 18-month window, saving the “easiest” for last can help if you are approaching the end of that window.
Average pass rates for the BEC exam hover around 60%. In 2021 the average pass rate was 62.84%, and in 2020 and 2019 the pass rate was 65.56% and 59.98% respectively.
BEC consistently has the highest pass rates of all 4 CPA exam sections. This could be because it’s straight-forward, covers the least amount of material, and includes less task-based simulations in exchange for written communication tasks. In addition, most CPA candidates take the BEC exam last and benefit from being exposed to some of the subject matter in other sections of the exam.
2019 – 2021 BEC Exam Pass Rates
|Year||Cumulative Pass Rate|
|*based on Q1 & Q2 of 2021|
BEC may have the highest pass rate, but you still need a robust study plan in place to master the material and be part of the 60% that pass. Many CPA candidates choose to take the guesswork out of studying by using a CPA exam review course. Wiley’s course is specifically designed to help you gain a deep understanding of the material all while fitting into your busy schedule. Time management tools that you get in your Wiley CPA course include:
These resources help you stay motivated, avoid procrastination, and save time by making your study plan manageable and efficient. So, reduce your stress and anxiety surrounding preparing for BEC, and enlist the help of the best CPA test prep provider on the market.
Have some lingering questions about the BEC exam? Here are quick answers to some frequently asked questions about this CPA exam section.