Sometimes the only thing more stressful than taking a test is waiting to see how you did on it.
Did I answer every question? Did I show my work correctly? Oh god, what if I forgot to put my name on it somehow? We all get these anxieties whether we we’re taking a spelling test in middle school or waiting to see if we’ve finished college, and this can go double for the CPA exam.
One of the most well-known gateway tests in any modern profession, the CPA exams can be a huge source of alternating pride, stress, and anxiety during various steps in the process. Other than good preparation (which is what we like to think we help with here), one good way to try and take some of the stress out of the process is to understand exactly how everything on the CPA exam is scored and weighted.
Just like any other test, the CPA exam has different criteria that need to be met before a passing grade is offered. Let’s take a look at a few of the different things that go into your CPA exam score:
- A passing grade is considered a 75 or above. In order to pass each of the test’s four sections – Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) – each section needs to receive a score of 75 or higher. Now, it’s important to remember that this score doesn’t mean 75% correct answers. The board that regulates the CPA exams designates a score to each section, between 0 and 99, and your score has to get to 75 on that scale before it can be considered passing. This could very easily mean your score is actually higher or lower than 75% correct depending on the number of questions in each section and how they’re weighted.
- Multiple-choice questions count for half of every section. For the first three sections of the test (the AUD, the FAR, and the REG), half of the score is taken from the presented multiple-choice questions. Each of these sections consist of multiple choice questions and other practical assessments, and the multiple choice questions will count for exactly 50% of your grade for that section. No pressure!
- The other 50% is broken down by section. After you finish the multiple choice section, each of the different sections has a different second half to complete. The AUD, the FAR, and the REG segments all contain task-based simulations that try to simulate the daily jobs you’ll run into. The final section, the BEC, is a combination of multiple choice (50%), task-based simulations (35%), and written communications tasks (15%) that all add up to your total score. Understanding how these break down will go a long way to helping you visualize your final score.
- Each section has a different ratio of tasks and questions. Even if the multiple choice sections count as 50% of the overall score, each section has different amounts of questions while maintaining 8 simulations (aside from the BEC). The FAR section has 66 questions, the AUD has 72, the REG section has 76, and the BEC, ever the odd one out, has 62 questions, 4 simulations, and 3 written communications exercises. Suddenly that score of 75 is starting to make a little more sense, isn’t it?
Hopefully the mysteries behind how the CPA exam is scored are a little more clear for you now. With some study materials like a CPA review, some patience, and maybe a little coffee, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about before or after you take the exam.