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Let’s Understand the CPA Exam Format

In order to score a passing grade on all four sections of the CPA exam, you first need to understand the format of each.

The Uniform CPA exam is comprised of four sections. The exam’s four sections include Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).

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Each of the four sections of the CPA exam have slightly different formats. Although each are comprised of four-hour exams and all sections include both multiple choice questions and task-based simulations, there are some nuances to each that all candidates should be aware of.

The Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) section of the exam is solely made up of multiple choice and task-based simulations whereas the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section is also made up of a written communication component. The details below reflects the design of the CPA exam by section and question type:

Multiple-choice questions (MCQ’s):

Each of the four sections contain two multiple-choice testlets and will be graded as 50% of your exam score for all four sections. The first multiple choice testlet will always be classified as a “medium” testlet, meaning that the questions you see on the first testlet will be slightly easier than a “hard testlet.” The second testlet is distributed based on the candidate’s performance on the first testlet. If the candidate scores highly on the first testlet, then a hard testlet will be distributed for the second. So, take note, the aim here is to see harder questions as you receive your second testlet. This means you scored highly on your first.

Task-Based Simulations (TBS):

After the first two multiple-choice testlets, you will receive either two or three task-based simulations (TBS) tesetlets. The AUD, FAR, and REG section will each be graded as the remaining 50% of the candidates score, and similar to the multiple-choice section, the exam will distribute both medium and hard testlets based on the candidates prior testlet performance. These testlets are designed to test the candidate’s ability to think critically and work through real-life situations in which a licensed practitioner could see in practice. These are often considered significantly more challenging than multiple-choice questions, so it is important that you have a CPA exam review course that properly prepares you for this section.

Written Communication (BEC only):

This section is exclusive to the BEC section of the exam as the other three sections do not test the candidates with written communication tasks. This section first has the candidate read a memo that describes a business situation and they subsequently must write a response. This situation could not solely be BEC related topics as you might see concepts and topics that you might have seen in other sections such as FAR or the auditing section.

There are around 600 required tasks that the AICPA wants to see from a candidate’s performance to ensure that all licensed CPA’s are equipped to protect the public’s best interest. The examiners combine the applicable content knowledge and required skill in the exam’s context so that newly licensed CPA’s are ready for practice.

Each section of the Exam has a section introduction and a corresponding section blueprint.

Jeremias Ramos is a CPA working at a nationally recognized full-service accounting, tax, and consulting firm with offices conveniently located throughout the Northeast. Jeremias specializes in tax and business consulting with focus areas in real estate, professional service providers, medical practitioners, and eCommerce businesses.

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