Updated May 21, 2019

CPA Exam Pass Rate

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The CPA exam pass rate varies from 45% to 55%. That means on average, half of the people who take the exam fail it. What's the current pass rate and what factors boost your chances? Read on for the answers.

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The AICPA administers the CPA exam during "testing windows" each quarter. You can take the exam up to four times (once per quarter).

The test has four sections:

  • Audit and Attestation
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulating

Despite the discouraging statistics, there are ways to prepare. You can also retake any section of the exam as many times as needed to 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.

Timing matters: Always schedule the exam when you have adequate time to study. If you're a public accountant, that means avoiding tax season when you're likely overwhelmed with work.

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.

What Is the CPA Exam Pass Rate?

The CPA exam pass rate was 53% in 2018. 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%.

What Are the AUD Exam Pass Rates?

The AUD (Audit and Attestation) section has a pass rate of 51.7%. This section of the exam consists of 72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based questions. You need to apply auditing principles to solve them.

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. The section covers topics that help demonstrate your understanding of the responsibility and professional duty of being an accountant.

These 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%, the lowest of all sections. For this reason, many test takers claim that it's the hardest part of the CPA exam. It consists of 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
  • 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 heavily focused on federal taxation.

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 a score based on your correct answers, not a percentage.

The CPA exam you receive will include operational and pretest questions.

The pretest questions will not count towards your score, but you won't know which are which. The AICPA uses pretest questions for future exams.

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, though success does take a lot of preparation.

You should plan to study between 300 and 400 hours to pass. Using the many CPA study programs available today may also help you best prepare. You can take the exam as many times as necessary to pass all four sections.

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