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CPA Exam Structure

The computer-based exam is broken down into four separate exams (referred to as sections):

  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD) – The AUD CPA exam covers general principles, ethics, professional responsibility, assessing risk, developing a planned response, and forming conclusions, among other topics.
  2. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) – The BEC CPA exam covers topics such as Corporate Governance, Economic Concepts and Analysis, Financial Management, Information and Technology, and Operations Management.
  3. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) – The FAR CPA exam tests conceptual frameworks, financial reporting, transactions, financial statements, and state and local governments.
  4. Regulation (REG) – The REG CPA exam covers federal taxation, ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and business law.

To learn more about the sections, including the weights for each exam, please check out our Guide to the CPA Exam Sections.

What types of questions are on the CPA exam?

There are 3 different types of questions on the CPA exam:

  1. Multiple-Choice Questions – The first two testlets on each exam contain the multiple-choice questions.
  2. Task-Based Simulation (TBS) – TBS questions appear in all four sections and are condensed case studies that present a scenario or “situation” along with a specific task to complete. TBS’s are intended to test both content knowledge and higher order skills that include but are not limited to critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical ability.
  3. Written Communication – The BEC section concludes with a testlet containing three written communication tasks that will require you to read one or two paragraphs describing a situation and write a related “constructed response.”

When is the CPA Examination offered?

Previously, the exam was only offered four times throughout the calendar year. However, the exam is now offered through continuous testing, meaning candidates can sit for the exam at any time and then retake it again as soon as their score is released.

However, do note that after you apply to take the exam, you will receive a Notice to Schedule that will allow you to officially schedule your exam. But the Notice to Schedule expires after 6 months in most states, so don’t delay.

For more information on the Notice to Schedule, how to apply for the exam, and scoring and retesting, read 2021 CPA Exam Schedule, Score Release &What’s Changing.

How do I know if I’m eligible to take the CPA exam?

Eligibility requirements to take the CPA exam vary by jurisdiction. Please check with your desired accountancy board for their specific education, experience, and ethics requirements.

How do I register for the CPA exam and where do I take the exam?

The CPA exam is provided through the cooperative efforts of three organizations, all of which you will need to communicate with in order to register for and take the exam:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) – Develops and scores the examination
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) – Maintains the National Candidate Database
Prometric – Delivers the exam at authorized test centers

Learn more about applying for the CPA Exam with our CPA Exam Application Guide.

How much does the CPA Exam cost?

There are several fees when it comes to the CPA exam.

There is an initial application fee to start the CPA Exam process, which is generally in the range of $100 to $250, depending on your state. There is also a re-application fee or registration fee if you need to apply again for additional tests.

Additionally, each state charges slightly different exam fees, but each exam costs roughly $210. This is about $800-$900 in total exam fees.

What is the CPA Exam pass rate?

The pass rate for the 2020 CPA exam were 53% to 68% The pass rate among Wiley CPA students is 87%.

Learn more about how hard is the CPA exam.

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