January 11, 2019

CPA Exam Pass Rate

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The CPA exam pass rate has been as low as 45% and as high as 55%. It changes each quarter and from year to year. On average, half of the people who take the exam fail it.

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While the statistics aren't encouraging, there are ways that you can prepare yourself for the CPA exam. The timing of the test may also determine how well you do.

For example, taking the test during tax time if you are a public accountant may not yield the results you wanted simply because work is likely more taxing during this time.

Scheduling the exam during the holidays or any other "busy" time of year may also make it more difficult to properly prepare for the exam.

The AICPA administers the CPA exam each quarter during their "testing windows." You can take the exam up to four times (once per quarter). You can retake any section of the CPA exam as many times as you need until you pass, but you may only do so with a Notice to Schedule from the AICPA, which they provide once you apply to take the exam.

Keep reading to learn the CPA exam pass rates.

What Is the CPA Exam Pass Rate?

The CPA exam has a pass rate of 53% so far for 2018; that's up to third quarter. That's almost 5% higher than the 2017 CPA exam pass rate of 48.3%.

This doesn't mean the 2018 CPA exam is any easier than the 2017 exam. The pass rate depends on a variety of factors, and it generally fluctuates between 45% and 55% throughout the years.

What Are the AUD Exam Pass Rates?

The AUD (Audit and Attestation) section has a pass rate of 51.7%. This section covers auditing, but not in the way you might think. You don't just memorize terms and pass the exam. Instead, you have to know how to apply the concepts.

The exam presents you with problems and tasks, which you must apply your auditing knowledge to in order to pass this section of the exam. The exam includes 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based questions.

What Are the BEC Exam Pass Rates?

The BEC (Business Environment and Concepts) exam has a pass rate of 59%. In this section, you demonstrate your knowledge of business concepts as they pertain to a CPA's job. You'll cover topics that help demonstrate your understanding of the responsibility and professional duty of being an accountant.

Some of the topics it covers include:

  • Corporate governance
  • Economic concepts
  • Financial modeling
  • Information systems
  • Operations management

The BEC exam is 4 hours and contains 62 multiple-choice questions and 4 task-based questions.

What Are the FAR Exam Pass Rates?

The Financial Accounting and Reporting Exam has a pass rate of 46.7%. Many test takers claim that this exam is the toughest. It usually has the lowest pass rate as well. The FAR exam has 66 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based questions.

This exam focuses on the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, including specifics on financial statements, types of transactions, accounting practices for government and non-government entities, and proof of knowledge of the financial reporting skills necessary to be a CPA.

What Are the REG Exam Pass Rates?

The Regulating CPA exam has a 54.4% pass rate. This exam focuses on the law and ethics involved in accounting. Candidates must understand business law, federal taxation, and the ethics necessary as a CPA.

This exam has 76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based questions. The questions are heavy on the federal taxation topic, though.

What Score Do You Need to Pass the CPA Exam?

You need a score of 75 to pass each of the four sections of the CPA exam. This is not a percentage, but the score based on your correct answers. The CPA exam you receive will include operational and pretest questions.

You won't be able to tell the difference between the types of questions, but the pretest questions will not count towards your score. The AICPA uses those questions for future tests based on the answers provided.

Each exam has various "testlets" that you receive. These testlets come in "medium" and "hard" difficulty. All candidates start with a medium difficulty testlet. Depending on your answers, your next testlet may be "hard" difficulty. While the questions may be harder, you'll receive more points for correct answers.

Whether you take the "medium" or "hard" difficulty testlet, you need a score of 75 to pass.

Bottom Line

Don't let the CPA exam pass rate scare you. If you want to take the exam, prepare yourself for it. You should plan to study between 300 and 400 hours to pass. Utilizing the many CPA study programs available today may also help you best prepare. Use the resources available to you and take the exam as many times as necessary to pass all four sections.

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