Imagine you just spent months studying hard, doing everything possible to prepare for the next section of the CPA exam. Testing day arrives and as you start taking the test, you’re feeling very confident about how well you’re doing. You go home feeling really optimistic about the experience and can’t wait to see your score. Time passes, your test score gets released…and it’s not what you expected. Maybe you got a 74, just slightly under the minimum passing grade of 75. After the initial shock wears off, you find yourself thinking there must be some kind of mistake.
For many people, this scenario isn’t too hard to imagine because it’s actually happened to them. It’s very common for people to fail at least one section of the CPA exam on their first attempt. NASBA estimates that only 1 in 5 people pass all four sections on the first try. Over the first three quarters of 2016, the cumulative passing rates for each section ranged between 46.37% and 56.55%. But is is possible that some of those failures really were mistakes?
If you truly feel like there may have been a mistake in grading your exam, you do have options. You can either request a score review or request an appeal. However, neither of these options are free or have a high rate of success. The AICPA takes quality control very seriously and grades each exam twice before sending results to your state’s Board of Accountancy, so mistakes are very unlikely. According to the AICPA, less than 1% of all score review requests they’ve received in the time since switching to a computer-based test have successfully resulted in a score change.
Requests and Appeals
Requesting a score review does not mean your test is rescored or that you can see your answers. During the review process, your exam is evaluated by an independent third party to ensure the proper answer key was correctly used to grade your responses to simulations and multiple choice questions. They also make sure all your written responses have been scored.
Appeals are more involved than a score review. During an appeal, you review your incorrect answers at NASBA’s Nashville office with with a Board of Accountancy representative present. You will not be able to change any of your answers, but if you would like to challenge a question or simulation, you can submit a written statement defending your response and explaining why you take issue with the question or simulation.
Note that the appeal process only applies to multiple choice questions and simulations, not written response questions. Appeals are not available in: California, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Montana, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia.
Whether you’re interested in requesting an appeal or a score review, fees are involved. The exact costs of requesting a score review varies depending on the section of the exam, but typically costs between $150 and $200.
Appeals are more thorough and more expensive. Simply requesting the appeal costs $500 per section. If you want to challenge any of the questions, you will have to pay $100 per question. Since appeal sessions are only held at NASBA’s office in Nashville, you will also have to pay travel expenses unless you happen to live in or near Nashville.
Between the low success rates and the fees involved, it’s generally agreed that retaking sections of the exam is more worthwhile than requesting a review or appeal. However, if you are interested in pursuing a review or appeal, contact your state’s Board of Accountancy as soon as possible. You only have a small window of time to make your request, so act quickly.