The CPA exam is notoriously difficult. In fact, the pass rate is under 50%. So, how can you ensure that you are part of the few who pass the test and go on to become a licensed CPA?
Before the Exam
1. Put in the hours!
The CPA exam is difficult, but not impossible. The most important thing to remember is to manage your time effectively and give yourself adequate weeks to prepare. Everyone will have a different experience preparing for the CPA exam. However, most educators recommend studying for your CPA exam for between 300-400 hours.Therefore, be realistic about scheduling in daily study time. If you are currently working, this also mean factoring in busy season. For instance, if you are working in a public accounting firm specializing in taxation, then you are looking at 60 hour+ work weeks and working on weekends, which will leave no time for studying.
2. Find a good study routine that works for you!
This is a big time commitment, so find a routine that works best for you. You may decide to spread this out over a number of months or you could condense it into a more intensive study period. What works for someone else might not be the best approach for you. It all depends on your study methods and lifestyle.You should also take into consideration your familiarity with the course work. If you work in taxation or auditing, then you may not need to put in as many hours into preparing for the FAR or AUD, as you might have otherwise. Of course, the best way to tell is by doing a practice paper to test your knowledge and going from there.
The bottom line? You need to be dedicated to your studies if you want to pass. This may mean putting aside other responsibilities and free for a while. For a couple of months before each examination part, think of studying as your full-time job. If you are working, this means scheduling in at least 2 hours of study time per day, as well a giving up large chunks of your weekend to focus on preparing. Your lifestyle will need to change, so remind the people in your life how important this process is. All the hours of preparation will be worth it when you get your CPA.
4. Do practice papers
It is also a good idea to do practice papers, available on the AICPA website. On the same page you can also find tutorial videos and other helpful resources that will give you a better understanding of what to expect from the exam.Most CPAs also recommend pounding as many multiple choice questions (MCQs) as possible prior to each exam. They are a good way to test you knowledge, familiarize yourself with the type of questions that are likely to appear in the exam and a god way to check which sections you should focus on for review. In addition to paid courses, there are also many free MCQ sets available online such as through NINJA CPA Review. You could also try borrowing Wiley or Becker study guides from your local library.
5. Familiarize yourself with the CPA exam structure
If you know what to expect from the CPA examination, you are more likely to feel comfortable and relaxed on the day. The AICPA has some great resources available on their website which outline the exam structure. It may also be worthwhile to get an understanding of how the marks are calculated and familiarize yourself with the AICPA’S CPA exam software tutorials.
Each of the 4 sections of the CPA examination contains 18 content areas, and within each area are about 600 tasks. Candidates sit for 1 section of the exam at a time and each exam session has a time limit of 4 hours. Although 4 hours might sound like a long time, you will have a lot of content to get through. In fact, running out of time is one of the main reasons that so many CPA candidates fail the examination.
During the Exam
6. Don’t spend too much time on any one question… keep going!
You’ve studied so hard – you don’t want running out of time to be your downfall. If you find yourself struggling with a question for too long, don’t be afraid to skip it. Rather get through as much of the exam paper as you can – you can always come back to unanswered questions later.
Additionally, you will need to work yourself up to spending about one minute on an MCQ, as that is about how much time you will have on the exam in order to get through all the MCQs and other content. The second MCQ testlet can be harder than the first, so you might need to use 2-3 minutes on each. Similarly, you should also try to dedicate an equal amount of time to each task based simulation (TBS) question. Most past exam takers recommend leaving at least two and a half for TBSs for FAR, BEC and REG. Also each written communication task of the BEC should be allocated about 25 minutes. As we’ve mentioned before, the best way to get this timing down is by working through practice papers as part of your preparation.
7. Take the exam in the order that suits you best.
Candidates can complete the exam sections in any order. The idea that there is one ‘best’ way to go about this is a myth. Some might want to do the ‘easiest’ exam section first, while others may want to get the ‘hardest’ section out of the way.
If you are straight out of college (or if you have just finished achieving the 30 extra credit hours), you may have recently completed a course that is relevant to one of the exams. For example, if you have just completed a financial course and are already in ‘study mode’, it may serve you to take Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) first, while the content is still fresh in your brain. Alternatively, you may have just completed tax. Then it might be best to begin with Regulation (REG).
Take the exam while it is fresh in your mind. The confidence that this will give you can springboard you into the remaining three examination sections. If you have been out of school for a while, you might want to start with a section of the CPA exam that covers less content, like BEC. This may give you a motivational boost to tackle the more comprehensive sections of the exam.
After the Exam
8. If you pass…
Congratulations! Now give yourself some time to catch your breath before sitting for the next section of the examination. Burnout is very real and you deserve a break.Two weeks is generally enough time, as you do not want to get out of the habit of studying either.
9. If you fail…
It is OK to fail! After all, the truth is that most CPA examinees don’t pass the first time around. In fact, when you are initially planning out you 18-month window for passing the exam, it is a good idea to factor in time for retaking exams incase it is needed. You deserve to be proud of yourself for trying. When you’re ready, reschedule the part of the exam that you had trouble with for the next window.
10. Don’t leave it too long before rescheduling your exam!
Remember not to leave it too long before rescheduling – you don’t want to lose momentum. Also important to note is that once you have passed the first part of the exam, you have 18 months to complete the remaining three. If you don’t pass all four sections within an 18 month window, your first examination will have expired and you will be required to retake it. It’s easy to become frustrated if this happens to you, and you might decide to forget the whole thing. Don’t let this happen! You’ve come this far!
What is the best way to pass the CPA Exam? ›
- Team up. The first mistake students make, Waldrup noted, is to study alone. ...
- Don't just memorize and cram. Rote memorization is no longer enough. ...
- Be methodical. ...
- Don't underestimate study time. ...
- Allow for setbacks. ...
- Seek help. ...
- Use a CPA Exam review course. ...
- Don't get tripped up.
What is the easiest part of the CPA exam? BEC has the highest pass rate and is considered the easiest CPA exam section.What is the hardest CPA Exam to pass? ›
Often considered the most difficult exam, Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) has had the lowest passing scores of the four exams. The amount of material CPA Exam candidates have to learn for the exam, coupled with the combination of memorization and application, makes this exam more difficult.Is a 75% on the CPA Exam passing? ›
To pass a CPA Exam section, you must score a minimum of 75. Have you ever wondered how the AICPA calculates your CPA Exam section scores? Scores are reported on a scale that ranges from 0 to 99.How can I pass my CPA Exam in first attempt? ›
- Choose a review course. Review courses typically help you pass the CPA exam on the first try, so you haven't stuck re-taking any section. ...
- Time Management. ...
- Cover all sections of study materials. ...
- Use Spaced repetition.
It's definitely harder than the BAR exam and maybe even some medical board exams. And it's nearly impossible to pass once you're a working professional.How many people pass all 4 CPA exams first try? ›
The overall pass rate for each section of the CPA exam hovers around 50%, but how many people manage to pass all four sections on the first try? About 20%. Around 1 in 2 people will pass a specific section of the exam, and about 1 in 5 people will pass each section on their first try.How many people pass the CPA Exam the first time? ›
You've probably heard quite a bit of intimidating details about how hard it is — it's long, it requires hundreds of hours of study time, it's so difficult that the average CPA Exam passing rate for first-time candidates is only 50%.Is the CPA Exam the hardest test? ›
The CPA Exam is widely recognized as one of the most difficult professional exams out there: Many consider it to be harder than the BAR exam, and even rank it as more difficult than many medical board exams.Is it normal to fail CPA Exam? ›
The CPA Exam has a pass rate of around 50%. So, though millions of candidates have passed the CPA Exam, many first faced failure along the way. Remember, not passing the CPA Exam doesn't mean you can't do this. The CPA Exam is a test of endurance, not intelligence.
Should you answer every question on the CPA Exam? ›
You don't lose points for answering incorrectly. You only get no points. Therefore, you should ensure you always answer every question within a testlet before moving on. If you leave questions blank, you'll be certain to remain on the “medium” track, which will hurt your score.How many times can you fail CPA? ›
You may take any unpassed section of the Uniform CPA Exam year-round. Your only restriction is waiting to receive your score from a previous attempt of the same section. Additionally, there is no limit as to the amount of times you may repeat a failed section.What school has the highest CPA pass rate? ›
- University of Pennsylvania: 90.9%
- Rice University: 90.8%
- University of Texas – Austin: 89.5%
- Brigham Young University: 89.4%
- Wake Forest University: 88.8%
There are several reasons why the BEC section is considered the easiest section of the four. In addition to the fact that it covers the least material and is of the shortest of the four exam sections, BEC also does not have any simulation questions; however, it does contain 3 written communication questions.What happens if you fail CPA 3 times? ›
Deregistration. A student will be deregistered 45 days after the release of the results of their third unsuccessful attempt at either Core 1, Core 2, Capstone 1, Capstone 2 or the CFE. For elective modules, after three unsuccessful attempts, no further attempts for that module or examination can be made.What is a decent CPA score? ›
According to the AICPA a high CPA exam score is anything over 85. Since less than 50% of candidates don't get above a score of 75, a score of 85 is in the top 10 percentile. Remember, the CPA exam isn't scored on a percentage basis. It is a standardized test that is scored on percentiles.Can average people pass CPA? ›
The overall CPA Exam pass rates hover slightly below 50%. This makes passing the CPA Exam a difficult, but achievable, goal. You'll need to study wisely, set a strategy for managing your time, and call on your support network, but with the right plan and good study materials, you will conquer it.Can I pass CPA in 1 year? ›
If you don't have 150 credit hours of education, your university coursework will take 5-6 years. Studying for and passing CPA exam sections can take 1+ years, but many have passed in 6 months or less.Can I pass the CPA in 6 months? ›
Passing the CPA Exam in 6 months
Students, recent graduates, and people with plenty of time to study should aim to sit for and pass all 4 sections of the CPA Exam in about 6 months. This would have you taking an exam every 6-7 weeks and studying about 22-26 hours each week.
We recommend that you spend approximately 150 hours studying for the Financial section, 120 hours studying for the Regulation section, 90 hours studying for the Auditing section and 90 hours studying for the Business section. Here are tips for stress while studying for the CPA Exam.
What is the pass rate for CPA by age? ›
The highest pass rates are among those younger than 22 at 68.4%. Candidates aged 35 and older had the lowest pass rate of 37.1%. Among them, the male candidate pass rate is 39.3%, and for the females, the pass rate stands at 35.7%.Do you have to be smart to pass the CPA? ›
Have Self-Confidence. As Roger Philipp, CPA always says, “The CPA Exam isn't an exam of intelligence–it's an exam of discipline. If you study, you will pass.” Remember that these words are true.What is harder CPA or law school? ›
So, more Bar Exam candidates pass the Uniform Bar Exam vs. the CPA Exam. Therefore, I conclude that based on pass rates and the length of testing time required, the CPA Exam is harder than the Bar Exam, depending on where you take your Bar Exam.What is the pass rate for Becker exam day ready? ›
The pass rate for the CPA Exam with Becker users is about 94%. To be more precise, the CPA pass rate with Becker users who are “Exam Day Ready” is 94%. In short, these users have watched at least 80% of the lecture videos in their course and correctly answered 80% of practice questions.Which state has the highest first time pass rate for the CPA Exam? ›
In 2019, the jurisdictions with the highest pass rates were: Utah (66.0%), Wisconsin (63.4%) and Iowa (62.2%). Performance metrics also indicate 83,017 candidates took the Examination in 2019 (of which 63,034 were new candidates) with 23,407 candidates passing their final section of the Examination.Does the CPA Exam get harder if you are doing well? ›
If a candidate performs well on the first testlet, he/ she will get a more difficult second testlet while those who do not perform well on the first testlet will receive a second medium difficulty testlet. This testing process is called multi-stage testing (MST).What happens when you pass all 4 CPA exams? ›
After successfully passing all four sections of the CPA Exam, the next step is to complete the other requirements for obtaining a CPA license in the state in which you plan to ultimately practice as a CPA.Can you get a 100 on the CPA Exam? ›
The goal for CPA candidates is to pass all four sections of the CPA Exam within 18 months. CPA exam scores are evaluated on a scale of 0 to 99 and to pass you must get a minimum of 75 points in every exam section. However, the CPA Exam is not scored based on percentages.What is most heavily tested on far CPA Exam? ›
- Area I: Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting, and Financial Reporting 25-35%
- Area II: Select Financial Statement Accounts 30-40%
- Area III: Select Transactions 20-30%
- Area IV: State and Local Governments 5-15%
If you scored below a 70, then set your test, your re-test 4 weeks away. That's perfect amount of time for a re-study if you were below 70. But if you were above a 70, so a 70 or above, somewhere between a 70 to a 74, then you only want to wait 2-3 weeks. You can do a huge amount of re-studying and be very effective.
Why do most people fail the CPA Exam? ›
The first reason, and perhaps one of the most obvious for anyone conquering any feat, is not being prepared enough. The AICPA recommends a study time of 1-2 hours for every hour of lecture time.Is passing the CPA a big deal? ›
Yes, the CPA designation is one that is viewed as very prestigious by the business community. Having these three letters next to your name represents a thorough knowledge of accounting processes and a dedication to the profession.How long does it take to pass all 4 CPA exams? ›
How long does it take to pass all 4 CPA Exams? Although you must pass all four parts within an 18-month window, some candidates find that it takes them several years to study and retake the exam sections to meet this goal.Do Cpas make mistakes? ›
Accountants are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us. The bad news is that when they do, it can cost you. Depending on the nature of the mistake, there can be legal and financial repercussions, and you could end up paying for an error that wasn't your fault.What happens if you don't pass all CPA exams in 18 months? ›
If you don't pass all four parts within the 18-month window, you lose credit for the first part you passed, and the 18-month window rolls up to the next part you passed; this cycle continues until all four parts are passed within the time frame.What happens if I fail core 1 CPA? ›
You have three attempts to pass a Core or Elective module-end examination. If you are unsuccessful on your third attempt of either the Core 1 or Core 2 examinations, you will be removed from the CPA PEP. For Cap- stone 1, if you are unsuccessful in the module, you will be required to repeat it.What states pay CPAs the most? ›
|State||Annual Mean Wage|
|Rank||StateUS Average||Best States for Accountants and Auditors (Avg=1)1.00|
Certified Public Accountant Gender By Year.
Colorado's (CO) CPA exam requirements are possibly the most advantageous of all the states. It does not require 150 hours to sit. With no requirement to be a US Citizen, a resident of CO, or a certain age, it makes Colorado one of the easiest states to sit for the CPA exam and become licensed.
Can you finish CPA in 3 months? ›
You may wonder, can you really pass all four sections of the CPA exam in 3 months? The answer is yes, you can! While the preparation will be tedious, it's definitely doable.Which CPA subject to take first? ›
Which subject should I choose to study first? There is no set order, though many candidates elect to study Ethics and Governance first. Please note, you can't enrol in Global Strategy and Leadership until you've completed all other compulsory subjects.Is the CPA Exam hard to pass? ›
About half of the individuals who take the CPA Exam don't pass on their first attempt. According to the AICPA, the national average pass rate is 45-55%. Cumulative pass rates reported by the AICPA for the calendar year 2021 show that FAR had the lowest pass rate at 44.54% and BEC had the highest pass rate at 61.94%.Is it difficult to pass CPA Exam? ›
The CPA exam is difficult because of the following reasons: It covers a wide range of subjects and topics that tests the candidates at various levels. It assesses all the candidates in the form of questions that give them real-world experience.Is the CPA Exam the most difficult? ›
The CPA Exam is widely recognized as one of the most difficult professional exams out there: Many consider it to be harder than the BAR exam, and even rank it as more difficult than many medical board exams.How long should it take to pass the CPA Exam? ›
How long does it take to pass the CPA Exam? The average CPA candidate may need 6-12 months to pass the entire CPA Exam. This could vary depending on: How familiar you are with the material.Is it normal to fail the CPA? ›
The CPA Exam has a pass rate of around 50%. So, though millions of candidates have passed the CPA Exam, many first faced failure along the way. Remember, not passing the CPA Exam doesn't mean you can't do this. The CPA Exam is a test of endurance, not intelligence.Which subject is difficult in CPA? ›
According to the survey conducted by NASBA, most of the people said “FAR is the hardest part among all the CPA exam sections.” The CPA-FAR Exam section covers topics like financial transactions, financial statements, GAAP, reporting for nonprofits.What exam is harder than CPA? ›
Keep in mind, the Bar exam has much more difficult requirements to even sit for the exam—you need to go to law school, which is quite a commitment, both financially and in terms of time. While the CPA requires accounting experience and coursework, there's a lower bar for entry for this test.What is the hardest to easiest CPA Exam? ›
CPA Exam sections—hardest to easiest
- Remembering and understanding.
How many hours a day should I study for CPA Exam? ›
Because it's the CPA Exam, you should commit to studying for 1-2 hours per day, as you'll need about 140-150 total study hours per exam section. The faster you'd like to pass your exam section, the more study time you'll have to fit into each week.Which CPA Exam takes the longest to study for? ›
You have 18 months from the time you pass your first section to complete the remaining sections, and FAR takes most candidates the longest to study for. If you aim to pass FAR first, you have all the time you need to study because it doesn't count against your 18 months.