Passing a notoriously challenging, comprehensive exam is an especially significant step on the road to becoming a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA. Most hopeful CPAs put many hours of effort into preparing for this test created and administered by the American Institute of CPAs, or AICPA.
Many candidates who take the test, though, have only vague ideas about how results are actually evaluated and scored. A quick look at the basics could be useful to anyone who plans on becoming a CPA.
Four Distinct Sections
Professional CPAs can be called upon to handle many sorts of duties by their clients. The AICPA exam accounts for this fact by covering a great deal of ground, ruling overly narrow specialization out.
The CPA exam is divided into separate sections, each of which is most often referred to with a three-letter abbreviation. All the Best CPA Review Classes cover each of these sections in depth, ensuring that test-takers will not be left with any glaring weaknesses or gaps in their knowledge. The four sections, each of which involves a four-hour test, are:
· AUD. The Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section of the CPA exam covers everything from basic auditing standards to the finer regulatory points of formal attestation. Even CPAs who do not plan on engaging in auditing or attestation work, later on, are meant to master all the associated material.
· BEC. CPAs are expected to be comfortable in all modern business settings, and that requires more than hands-on experience. The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the CPA exam ensures that candidates are up to date with all the latest norms and standards.
· FAR. The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section of the CPA exam focuses on what many consider the bread and butter of the profession. While some test-takers feel most comfortable with this material, others find it the most challenging to master, thanks to its complexity.
· REG. Every CPA needs to be intimately familiar with the regulations governing many types of financial activity and reporting. The Regulatory (REG) section of the CPA exam is the heaviest with legally relevant material, which makes it especially formidable for many.
Passing Every Section
Anyone of these CPA exam sections can turn into a grueling affair to prepare for and actually pass. Fortunately, candidates are allowed up to 18 months to pass all four sections, and many decide to spread their test-taking sessions out.
Because the difficulty of each exam section varies from one administration to the next, AICPA graders use a curve to help level the playing field. Even so, passing rates vary somewhat from year to year, although they rarely range much below 50 percent or far above 60.
It takes a curve-adjusted score of 75 to pass any section of the test, and that often proves more difficult than it might sound. Many candidates who fail one or more sections of the exam, though, still go on to pass and become successful CPAs.
Properly Prepared Candidates Fare the Best
The CPA exam is such a momentous step for anyone who hopes to acquire this prestigious credential that preparing as well as possible will always be advisable. For most people, that means taking a high-quality exam preparation class, as the best of these can improve the odds of passing significantly.
Being aware of how the exam is structured and what it takes to pass, though, will always help. Fortunately, anyone who is capable of passing the CPA exam should be able to come up to speed with such basics quite easily.