Certified Public Accountant Exam (CPA Exam)

Definition

The term Certified Public Accountant Exam refers to a test that assesses the candidate's knowledge of financial accounting and reporting principles.  The Certified Public Accounting Exam, or CPA Exam, is developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and administered through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).  The purpose of the examination is to ensure individuals have the knowledge and skills needed to work independently in the accounting profession.

Explanation

In the United States, local state boards grant an individual a license to practice accounting.  The Uniform CPA Exam is accepted by local state boards as the way to ensure qualified individuals become licensed Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).  The examination is a 14 hour, computer-based exam administered in open test windows occurring in the first two months of each quarter.  (The exam is not administered in the months of March, June, September and December.)

The examination uses a combination of multiple choice questions, essays, as well as simulations to assess the candidate's knowledge and skills.  The test is divided into the following four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD):  the length of the examination is four hours and consists of 90 multiple choice questions and seven task based simulations.
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC):  the length of the examination is three hours and consists of 72 multiple choice questions and three written communication tasks.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR):  the length of the examination is four hours and consists of 90 multiple choice questions and seven task based simulations.
  • Regulation (REG):  the length of the examination is three hours and consists of 72 multiple choice questions and six task based simulations.

Candidates may take the above sections in any order and there is no minimum number of sections that must be completed in any test window.  Individuals do not have to pass a section to be qualified to take another.  Generally, a passed section is valid for 18 months; effectively setting the timeframe to pass all sections.  Scores are reported on a scale that ranges from zero to 99; while a passing score for each section is 75.

Reports are released by the AICPA to NASBA twice each testing window. The first release is typically in the middle of the second month of the testing window.   Pass rates for each section range from approximately 45 to 50%.  Examinees are permitted to take each section once per testing window.

Related Terms

CFA Exam, CFP Exam, CFS Exam, ChFC Exam, CICCIMA, CMT, CLU Exam, CFE Exam