The CPA exam measures your knowledge of public accounting principles and is made up of four parts: Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Auditing and Attestation (AUS), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). You must complete and pass all four sections to be licensed and become a CPA.
There are four two-month testing periods each year and you can take any or all sections of the exam in a particular period. However, it is important that you take enough time to prepare for each section. Candidates who try to spend too much or spread their study time too much may have a difficult time passing their first attempt. Similarly, those who take the exam without the benefit of CPA exam courses may find that they need formal exam preparation to pass.
If you fail one or more sections of the exam, you will have the opportunity to retake those sections during a subsequent testing window. Here’s what you need to know to retake and ultimately pass the CPA exam.
Scoring the CPA Exam Sections
Each section of the exam is scored on a scale of 0 to 99, with different weights applied to specific types of exam questions. Until 2010, a minimum score of 75 was required to pass each section. However, the scoring and weights have changed with the introduction of the Evolution of Computer Testing (CBT-e) exam in January 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Board of Examiners will make a decision. with respect to the minimum passing score in the first months of 2011, after the data from the first evaluation window of the new 2011 exam is available.
Regarding the CBT-e score weights, the FAR, AUD, and REG sections have the same structure: multiple-choice questions account for 60% of the total grade, while task-based simulations are worth 40%. For the BEC section, multiple-choice questions are worth 85% of the final mark, while written communication tasks contribute 15% of the mark.
Publication of CPA Exam Results
Exam probationary periods run during the first two months of each calendar quarter, and candidates generally receive their scores during the last month of the quarter. The results of the CPA exam are published in two waves; the first is approximately one week before the trial period ends, while the second is approximately two weeks after the trial period closes.
However, the AICPA does not issue scores directly to candidates. You submit them to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). Individual councils are responsible for approving and delivering scores to candidates, and each council establishes its own calendar for distributing the results. If you suspect that a particular section failed you, you don’t have to wait for your CPA exam results before rescheduling a new take; however, you cannot retake the same section more than once in the same test window.
Deadline to complete the CPA exam
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, there is no limit to the number of times you can retake the CPA exam. However, you must pass all four sections of the exam within 18 consecutive months. The schedule begins when you take your first exam, assuming you pass at least one section in that window. If you do not pass all four sections within the 18 month period, you will lose credit for the sections you passed at the beginning of the rolling window and the calendar will restart on the date of the next exam section you passed.
If you exceed the initial 18-month window, you will not only have to retake the sections that you did not pass, but also any sections that you previously approved but have already expired. This is why many candidates choose to invest in CPA exam courses to improve their chances of passing the exams the first time and prevent them from being retaken.
Pass the CPA exam
Whether you are preparing to take your first section of the CPA exam or preparing to retake a section, be sure to allow plenty of time for planning and preparation.