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All you need to know about the CPA ®

Exam structure

The CPA Exam is a computer-based test comprised of four sections. You may take each part in any order you choose, as long as you complete all four parts within 18 months.
Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
Multiple-Choice Questions 66 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 8 Simulations
50% of Section Score

4 hours

Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
Multiple-Choice Questions 72 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 8 Simulations
50% of Section Score

4 hours

Regulation (REG)
Multiple-Choice Questions 76 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 8 Simulations
50% of Section Score

4 hours

Business Environment Concepts (BEC)
Multiple-Choice Questions 62 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 4 Simulations
35% of Section Score
Written Communication 3 Written Responses 15% of Section Score

4 hours

Exam content

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

Financial encompasses the largest volume of information, which can make it challenging. However, most students take several classes relevant to this section of the exam during their degree program, so it is also likely to be relatively fresh. Candidates should expect some questions focused on key differences between financial statements prepared on a U.S. GAAP basis versus those prepared on an IFRS basis. In addition, if you had the opportunity to take a course in governmental and/or non-for-profit accounting, that will be an advantage in taking this section.
  • 17-23% Conceptual Framework
  • 27-33% Financial Statement Accounts
  • 27-33% Specific Transactions, Events and Disclosures
  • 8-12% Governmental Accounting
  • 8-12% Not-For-Profit Accounting

Auditing (AUD)

Auditing encompasses the entire audit process, other services including compilations, reviews and attestation engagements, and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. If you took your auditing class during your final semester and/or you'll be working in the audit practice of a public accounting firm, Auditing might be a great place to start. On the other hand, you may find it beneficial to take the Auditing exam after Financial since a strong understanding of U.S. GAAP and IFRS will help you answer many of the questions in this section.
  • 12-16% Engagement Acceptance
  • 16-20% Understanding the Entity and Its Environment
  • 16-20% Performing Audit Procedures and Evaluating Evidence
  • 16-20% Evaluating Audit Findings, Communications and Reporting
  • 12-16% Accounting and Review Services Engagements
  • 16-20% Professional Responsibilities

Regulation (REG))

Regulation is the combination of federal taxation and business law, including ethics and professional responsibilities. Students who are familiar with tax, whether personal, partnership or corporate, should be comfortable with the Regulation materials. The areas covered within the business law portions are straight out of most university business law core classes. And, since the Regulation tests U.S. tax law and business law, it is effectively immune to IFRS. If you will or are working in a tax practice, Regulation might be a place to start to gain confidence.
  • 15-19% Ethics, Professional and Legal Responsibilities
  • 17-21% Business Law
  • 11-15% Federal Tax Process
  • 12-16% Federal Taxation of Property Transactions
  • 13-19% Federal Taxation of Individuals
  • 18-24% Federal Taxation of Entities

Business (BEC)

Business can be a challenging test because of the breadth of the material, including operations and strategic management, economics, financial management and information technology. Many students find it helpful to take the Business exam after Financial and Audit because issues related to auditing (e.g. internal controls) and financial accounting (e.g. IFRS, working capital, and debt/equity financing) may be tested as part of the corporate governance, economics and financial management sections. A significant component of the BEC exam is the 3 written communication tasks; 15% of your score will be based on your ability to effectively communicate in writing. If you are a capable writer, this may prove a great advantage in succeeding on this part of the exam
  • 16-20% Corporate Governance
  • 16-20% Economic Concepts and Analysis
  • 19-23% Financial Management
  • 15-19% Information Systems and Communications
  • 10-14% Strategic Planning
  • 12-16% Operations Management

Type of question

The CPA Exam consists of 3 different components:

Multiple-choice questions

These questions appear on all four parts of the CPA Exam and are based on the topics described in the Content Specification Outlines (CSOs). Each exam section includes three multiple-choice testlests or groups of questions.

Task-based simulationss

Simulations use real-life work situations to test your in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular subject area. Some tasks you may be asked to perform include searching databases or working with spreadsheets and forms. Task-based simulations are presented after multiple-choice questions and appear on three of the exam parts: Financial Accounting and Reporting, Auditing and Attestation, and Regulation.

Written communications tasks

Appearing only in the Business Environment and Concepts exam part, these tasks require you to respond in either memo or letter format to a scenario based on the topics outlined in the CSOs. You will have access to word processing to prepare your answers.

Grading the CPA Exam.

To become a certified public accountant, you must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA Examination. Each of the four parts of the examination is graded on a scale of 0 to 99, using a rigorous scoring structure. The minimum passing score is 75.

Pass Rate

Uniform CPA Exam Passing Rates for the complete year 2016 are as follows:


AUD section


BEC section


FAR section


REG section

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