How Hard Is The CPA Exam?

 To answer this question, we need to start by understanding

  1. The exam pattern,
  2. The skills tested and
  3. The grading structure.

 

Let’s get to it!

 

  1. The Exam Pattern

The Exam is a rigorous assessment of the accounting knowledge and skills that are directly connected to the work of a CPA. Before you begin your CPA journey, it’s important for you to learn the basics about the Exam. Let’s first look at the 3 types of questions we see on the CPA Exam:

To answer this question, we need to start by understanding

  1. The exam pattern,
  2. The skills tested and
  3. The grading structure.

Let’s get to it!

 

  1. 1. The Exam Pattern

The Exam is a rigorous assessment of the accounting knowledge and skills that are directly connected to the work of a CPA. Before you begin your CPA journey, it’s important for you to learn the basics about the Exam. Let’s first look at the 3 types of questions we see on the CPA Exam

 

  • Multiple-Choice Questions

 

These are the most common forms of questions in the CPA Exam. Multiple-choice questions, give you four options to choose from. Three of these choices are there just to distract you from that one right answer. Multiple choice questions can be tricky to solve because answer choices are based on common errors or misconceptions and you also can’t spend a lot of time on any one question.

 

  • Task Based Simulation

 

These are case study type questions. Task Based Simulations are also objective type questions, like the MCQs. However in a TBS there could be multiple sub questions and more than 4 sub-choices. TBSs focus on real life tasks expected from a CPA such as research, or document correction, or financial schedule/documents/statement preparation etc. TBSs are few in number, but can be time consuming to solve.

  • Written Communication Tasks

 

Along with MCQs and Task Based Simulation, BEC tests how the candidate will respond to a real life situation with writing skill in a business-like manner. Basically these tasks are graded on how you use your writing skills to answer the designated party in the form of a business memo.

 

Each section is divided into smaller groups of questions called Testlets. There are five Testlets in each exam and 4 total exams of 4 hours each i.e. 4×4=16 hours of testing.

 

The first 2 Testlests are always MCQs while the last 3 Testlets are usually TBSs, except in the case of BEC, where Testlet 5 tests WCTs.

 

  • Which Type Of Question is the hardest?

 

Now that you are familiar with the pattern of the CPA Exam, you should also understand what type of questions will be difficult. MCQs require critical thinking – especially when answers are very similar to each other, and written communication also require a lot of time to read and formulate the answers, but Task Based Simulations can be very challenging, especially DRS (Document Review Simulations) and Computational TBSs, which may require multiple calculations.

 

  • Which section of the CPA Exam is the hardest?

 

Even though your individual choice may vary, usually REG is considered the hardest by most students. Regulation or REG mainly focuses on Federal Income Tax, Business Laws and Ethics. It is the only exam that does not cover accounting specifically.

 

Regulation does pull some information from other exams but it mainly focuses on tax and business law. This exam is majorly tax-based and is a good exam to take first or last, since it mostly stands on its own.

  1. Skills Tested on the CPA Exam

The CPA exams test analytical and critical thinking skills. The skills tested in the descending order are:

  1. Evaluation
  2. Analysis
  3. Application
  4. Remembering

 

This order and emphasis of skills to be tested is provided by AICPA’s CPA Exam Blueprint, which is the only official syllabus document.

 

Given that memory/remembering is the least tested skill and that Evaluation is the most tested skill, the focus of the CPA exam is very different from that of our Indian exams.

  1. Grading Structure

The CPA exam is a computer adaptive exam that is divided into 5 testlets (or groups of questions). Your performance in the first testlet will determine the level of difficulty of the second testlet and so on, so forth.

The exam score is determined on a scale of 0-99 by two factors
1. The % of accuracy, and

  1. The level of difficulty achieved

There is no negative marking for getting an answer wrong, however you do get extra weight for answering a difficult question correctly.

A candidate needs to achieve 75 or above on the scale to pass the exam.

  • What makes the CPA Exam so hard?

 

There are several factors that make the CPA Exam extremely difficult, and one of them is that “it covers a wide variety of topics at different skill levels.” It has been seen by most people that the vast amount of information covered in the exam is the primary reason for its difficulty as it requires a substantial amount of study and preparation. Each section of the exam has a variety of questions, time-limitations and multi-stage difficulties.

 

People who become CPAs experience difficult exams, because if you do well in the starting testlets the level of difficulty increases. However, the more difficult your exam is, the higher are your chances of passing since you get extra weight when you answer difficult questions correctly but don’t lose any marks if you get it wrong.

YES! CPA Exam is Hard…… especially if you are passing it.

 

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