How to Pass The CPA Exam | Tips for Passing the 1st Time In 2023 (2023)

How to Pass The CPA Exam | Tips for Passing the 1st Time In 2023 (1)
With an average pass rate of only 53.2% in 2019 with the hardest section being FAR, the CPA exam has a reputation for being challenging – but it’s also a necessary step on the way to becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

This four-part exam consists of 14 hours of testing in:

  1. Auditing and Attestation
  2. Business Environment and Concepts
  3. Financial Accounting and Reporting
  4. Regulation

Fortunately, there are steps you can take before the exam to increase your chances of passing, even if it’s your first time!

From simulations to study guides, from the right CPAreview courses to a good study ethic, here’s a comprehensive review of strategies that can help you beat the odds.

Don’t forget that the CPA exam is a test of all the knowledge you will need in your accounting career – cramming will certainly not be enough.

It’s All About Timing

The CPA exam tests academic knowledge, so it is best taken when the knowledge is fresh in your mind.

It is recommended to take the exam as soon after your degree as possible – it will be much easier to remember the information if the accounting classes are not too far behind you.

When scheduling your first exam, keep in mind that it will take at least 4 to 6 weeks between applying and being approved to sit on the exam.

(Video) How to Pass Your CPA Exams in 2023

It is also advisable to give yourself plenty of time to study before each section of the exam.

CPA Exam Prep Courses

Review Courses

So what kind of materials can help you study for the CPA exam? One of the steps that can really make a difference is taking a good review course.

Review courses tend to focus on the exact areas that matter the most on each CPAexamsection. Consequently, they can save you time and help you study efficiently.

If you’re having trouble organizing your study plan or breaking down the material into manageable chunks, a study guide or a final review course can help you.

The Most Popular CPA Exam Prep Courses:

  • Becker CPA Review
  • Surgent CPA Review
  • Gleim CPA Exam Prep
  • Wiley CPA Exam Review
  • Roger CPA Review (Uworld)

However, CPA review courses are not all created equal. Some are online, some are face-to-face; they also differ in terms of scheduling, location, cost, and quality.

Audio courses can be very helpful in reviewing on the go. Find the learning style that suits you best and choose a course that will focus your efforts.

CPA Exam Simulations and practice exams can be an important part of the revision, so try to find a course that recreates the exam experience to make sure you won’t be caught off-guard on the big day. Verify the pass rates of former students independently and try to find their reviews.

CPA Exam Study Materials

Even if you’ve selected a review course, it’s a good idea to check out other resources. For instance, you should check out the tutorials, study tips, and sample tests on the AICPA website.

Whatever CPA study materials you choose, make sure they are up to date. Regulations can change, so your old college textbooks may be outdated.


However, they can come in handy when you’re struggling to grasp a difficult concept. Therefore, you should keep a reference accounting source nearby to make sure you really understand what you’re learning.

Studying for the CPA exam is estimated to take around 500 hours, with the FAR section taking up the most time. You certainly cannot over-study for this exam – and reading hundreds of multiple choice questions won’t help that much either.

Instead, make sure you understand the topics and concepts. Take the simulations and prepare your mind for working through the difficult questions that may crop up on the exam.

Study, Study, Study

Know Yourself

It cannot be overstated how much knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you prepare for the CPA exam.

Whether you’re a morning or evening person, whether you work well alone or in a group and whether you study better under pressure or not, choose a preparation plan that fits you.

It sounds simple, but learning how to study for The CPA Exam is almost as important as studying itself.

Make sure to take a review course with plenty of interactive and visual aids if that helps you recall information; organize a study group if you prefer talking things over; set milestones for yourself and ask other people for support if you need an extra push.

Find Motivation

Most importantly, hold yourself accountable. Make a plan and stick to it; study intensively for six days and take a well-deserved day off at the end of the week – a reward to keep you going.

Turn to people in your life for support and encouragement.

When procrastination knocks, make sure there are no distractions – switch off your phone, keep the lure of social media out of reach, block the sites that help you procrastinate.

(Video) How to Pass the Audit (AUD) CPA Exam in 4 Weeks with Becker- 2023 *First Try*

This may sound extreme, but it can do wonders when it comes to your time management.

If everything else fails, write down why you want to pass the CPA exam – why this qualification is important to your life, your career, or your personal sense of achievement – and remind yourself of it every day.

Study Efficiently

It’s not just about the number of hours you put in, it’s also about how you spend these hours. Good planning and a good review course will help you focus on the right areas.

To make use of the time you spend commuting, jogging or doing chores, choose an audio review course or download exam materials on your phone or tablet. Flashcards and a whiteboard can also help you recall information in an efficient manner.

Studying for the CPA exam can seem daunting, so make sure to break down the material and set small studying goals for yourself. Reward yourself when you reach these goals with a little time off.

Most importantly, take care of your well-being throughout this time. Preparation for the CPA exam can take many months, so make sure you sleep well, have a healthy diet and keep exercising, as this will reflect on your ability to study.

Avoid the temptation to pull an all-nighter before the exam – a good night’s sleep will help you much more than a few hours of last-minute cramming.

Keep your head up

Although some concepts and questions can seem difficult, passing the CPA exam is not about being smart – it’s about not giving up. Hard work will pay off eventually – so try your best and don’t be disheartened when simulations seem difficult.

The CPA exam is notoriously difficult and the passing score for each section is 75 – this is not an easy achievement; it is meant to take time and effort. It’s all about persevering until you succeed.

It may also help to remember that you can fail an entire testlet or sub-unit on the exam and still pass the section.

Many questions are purposefully difficult and won’t make a great difference to your score – so don’t lose confidence even if things do not appear to be going as well as you’d hoped.

(Video) How to Pass the FAR CPA Exam in 6 Weeks with Becker- 2023 *First Try*

Improve Your Study Habits

Your attitude toward studying can affect how efficiently you study. If you stay positive and avoid catastrophic thinking you will make it easier for yourself to get started on revision – and getting started is often the hardest part.

Make sure to take breaks often – you will remember information better if you study in shorter blocks. However, the breaks shouldn’t take up most of your study time.

Stick to your schedule; even if you fail to study as much as you wanted in a given amount of time, don’t beat yourself up! Instead, remember that now is always a good time to start improving your habits – rather than dwelling on the past.

Use everything that motivates you to your advantage. Look for a quiet place, add post-it notes on your wall, put on some study music, or drink a cup of coffee. If you’re tired, nap or exercise for a bit and come back to the material with renewed energy.

And finally, focus on your goals more than on the difficulties. After all, being able to say that you passed the CPA exam is no small feat indeed!

You are now hopefully ready to start and brimming with excitement. Now, take the first step towards enhancing your career with that impressive CPA title!

Keep these basic tips in mind:

  • choose your CPA exam review course carefully
  • use up-to-date materials and take simulations until you feel confident
  • organize your time well and don’t allow yourself to procrastinate
  • use your strengths
  • study efficiently and in-depth
  • be confident
  • don’t forget to sleep and eat well

Although a pass rate of 49% may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be.

There are plenty of resources at your fingertips:

  • review courses
  • college classes
  • study guides
  • simulations

As long as you give yourself enough time and succeed in staying motivated, there is no reason not to achieve your goal.

Working towards a CPA qualification takes commitment, hard work and determination – and the CPA exam is just a stepping stone. But as a prospective CPA, you surely know all about the worth of overcoming a difficult obstacle. Ultimately, maintaining this attitude will put you in good standing for the CPA exam and your future career!

(Video) 2023 Update: Why You Should Study for the CPA Exam NOW! // PASS THE CPA EXAM IN 2023

First Hand Tips on CPA Exam Prep

A woman shares her experience and offers tips on how to pass the cpa exam while working.


How do I pass my CPA Exam for the first time? ›

The Best Way to Study for the CPA Exam
  1. Take a CPA practice test to see where you stand. ...
  2. Make a CPA exam study plan and stick to it. ...
  3. Let your friends and family know you're taking the CPA exam. ...
  4. Take care of yourself. ...
  5. Find a CPA mentor. ...
  6. Begin studying for the CPA exam as soon as possible. ...
  7. Join a CPA study group.

Is the CPA Exam changing in 2023? ›

The revised exam will be rolled out in January 2024. The last day to take current CPA exams is expected to be Dec. 15, 2023. The association said that the blueprints are based on the knowledge and skills required of a newly licensed CPA to be able to do their job.

How hard is it to pass the CPA Exam on the first try? ›

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%.

What is the easiest CPA Exam to take first? ›

What is the easiest part of the CPA exam? BEC has the highest pass rate and is considered the easiest CPA exam section.

Which part of the CPA Exam is the hardest 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.

Can I pass 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.

Will new CPA Exam be harder? ›

Basically, the CPA Evolution initiative means that the CPA Exam will change by January 2024. And since you will need to demonstrate your skills in the core content areas plus a sub-discipline, the CPA Exam could become much more challenging.

Which CPA Exam to take first 2023? ›

First CPA Exam – Choose Your Strongest Section

If you are a bookkeeper then FAR would probably be your best bet, if you've been doing tax returns for the last 6 months then REG would most likely be your strong suit, and if you have been working in the finance sector then BEC would likely be a good fit.

Which part of the CPA Exam should I take first? ›

Actually, the order in which you take the CPA exam is optional, but we do recommend a particular order for taking the exam. FAR takes approximately 160 hours of study time and it's the largest section to the exam. It also tends to give students the most difficulty, so we suggest taking this first.

How many people pass all 4 CPA exams on the 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.

Is a CPA harder than a BAR? ›

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.

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.

Which state has easiest CPA? ›

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.

How long should I study for one CPA Exam? ›

The AICPA recommends that candidates spend between 300-400 hours to study for the entire exam CPA exam.

What is the shortest CPA Exam to study for? ›

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 is the most difficult subject in CPA? ›

It is important not to underestimate Financial Reporting – it is the hardest subject in the CPA Program and requires you to complete at a time when your other commitments are manageable.

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.

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.

How many hours a day should I study for CPA Exam? ›

Recommended study time per testlet/CPA section is 15 to 20 hours per week, studying as consistently as possible. Plan to take a day off from your CPA study so you don't burn yourself out.

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.

How fast can you finish CPA? ›

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 new CPA Exam harder or easier? ›

Take FAR section last

It is likely that the 2024 FAR core will be less difficult and contain less content than the 2022 or 2023 FAR exam you will take. The CPA Evolution Blueprint has moved some of the more difficult FAR topics (e.g., governmental accounting, derivatives, consolidation, etc.)

Do you have to be smart to pass the CPA Exam? ›

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.

How common is it to fail the CPA Exam? ›

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%.

What is the hardest to easiest CPA Exam? ›

Among the four sections, FAR has a reputation for being the hardest. It typically has the lowest pass rate. BEC is often thought to be the easiest.
CPA Exam sections—hardest to easiest
  • Remembering and understanding.
  • Application.
  • Analysis.
  • Evaluation.

When should I start studying for my CPA Exam? ›

The AICPA, along with most CPA course providers, recommends that candidates study between 80-100 hours for each CPA exam section. Thus, the best time to start studying to take the CPA exam is about 8-10 weeks before your CPA exam date.

Is it better to take CPA Exam in morning or afternoon? ›

The best time to take the CPA Exam is when you're going to be most alert. If you're a morning person, schedule for the morning. If the afternoon is your prime study time, taking the CPA Exam then will ensure you're not distracted by fatigue.

What questions should I ask at my first CPA Exam? ›

Questions to ask an accountant
  • What records should I keep? ...
  • How should I prepare for tax season? ...
  • What business expenses can I deduct? ...
  • When should I pay estimated taxes? ...
  • How can I better manage my cash flow? ...
  • What is my break-even point? ...
  • How can you help me grow my business?
Jan 21, 2021

What order should I study for the CPA Exam? ›

You will likely hear many different opinions on this, but here is the order we recommend at Surgent CPA Review: Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR); Auditing and Attestation (AUD); Regulation (REG); and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC).

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.

What college has the highest CPA pass rate? ›

Schools with Highest CPA Pass Rates
  • 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%

What happens if you fail one of the CPA exams? ›

If you did not pass a section of the CPA Exam, you have to wait until the next testing window to retake that section. There are four testing windows each year. The testing window is the first two months of each quarter and the first 10 days of the third month of each quarter.

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%.

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? ›

There are 4 main content areas tested on the FAR exam and each subject is tested to varying degrees.
  • 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%

Can I do CPA in 6 months? ›

You can pass the CPA test minimum of 6 months, but yes, it totally depends on the individual. If you truly want it, you can get through it, but it will require a lot of planning, commitment, ongoing discipline, and practice.

What is the average age of a CPA? ›

56.8% of all certified public accountants are women, while 43.2% are men. The average age of an employed certified public accountant is 43 years old.
Certified Public Accountant Gender By Year.
8 more rows
Sep 9, 2022

What state pays CPAs the most? ›

New York

Which city is best for CPA in USA? ›

18 best cities for accountants
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Denver, Colorado.
  • Los Angeles, California.
  • Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • New York, New York.
  • San Jose, California.
  • San Francisco, California.
Feb 3, 2023

Is it easy to find a job as a CPA? ›

Robert Half says the job prospects for experienced and newly minted CPAs are good. Skilled accountants are in short supply, keeping unemployment in the field low. Organizations are recruiting CPAs for a variety of jobs, including auditing, tax accounting and compliance with financial regulations.

How many hours a day should you study for an exam? ›

Study Every Day: Establish a daily routine where you study in one place a minimum of 4 -5 hours each day. There are different kinds and 'levels' of study discussed below. What is important is that study becomes the centerpiece of your day and the continuous element in your work week. Do not wait for exam-time to study.

How can I pass CPA easily? ›

12 Tips to Pass the CPA Exam
  1. Create a plan. All four sections of the CPA exam need to be completed within an 18-month window. ...
  2. Consider the sequence of sections. ...
  3. Study early and often. ...
  4. Use study tools. ...
  5. Get rest. ...
  6. Take practice exams. ...
  7. Streamline practice-exam time management. ...
  8. Build a support team.
Jun 15, 2022

Can I take CPA Exam without studying? ›

Regardless of whether you did well in your accounting and finance classes in school, it's very difficult to pass the CPA exam without studying. You will be tested on a lot of different topics and must memorize a lot of those concepts – concepts that you have not looked at since you were in school.

What should I study first for CPA Exam? ›

Which CPA Exam to take first? Here is our recommendation for the CPA Exam order: start with BEC, before the CPA Exam changes in 2024. The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section will experience the biggest change between the current CPA Exam and CPA Evolution.

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.

What is the toughest subject in CPA? ›

What is the Hardest Section of the CPA Exam? Students often report that Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) is the most difficult part of the CPA Exam to pass, because it is the most comprehensive section.

What is the shortest CPA Exam? ›

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.

How many hours a day should I study CPA? ›

CPA prep courses recommend studying for the exam anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a day depending on how recently you were in college, how much experience you have, and what job you are currently doing.

How many hours should I study per CPA Exam? ›

The AICPA recommends that candidates spend between 300-400 hours to study for the entire exam CPA exam.

How many pass CPA Exam first time? ›

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 months should I study for CPA? ›

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.

Does CPA have age limit? ›

Age Restrictions:

All the 55 licensing jurisdictions need a minimum age requirement of 18 years to apply for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant exam.


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