CPA Exam Pass Rates

What Is the Pass Rate for the CPA Exam?

The CPA Exam Pass Rate percentages are released by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and historically average around 45-55%, varying by quarter and section. You can find the most recent CPA Exam pass rates on this page, along with historical pass rates for each section.

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2019 CPA Exam Pass Rates

AUD Historical Pass Rates

Auditing and Attestation (AUD) contains more subjective material than any other section of the CPA Exam and is often considered one of the more difficult exams. Compared to the more memorization-based concepts on the other three exams, the ability to apply concepts to specific situations is the key to passing. Often, there is a “best answer” on AUD multiple-choice questions, as opposed to a clear-cut correct answer.

AUD Historial Pass Rates
2017 48.59%
2018 50.97%
Q1 2019 48.56%
Q2 2019 55.11%

BEC Historical Pass Rates

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) works more with businesses on an organizational level as opposed to the financial level offered by the other three exams. BEC tends to have the highest pass rate in any given year.

BEC Historial Pass Rates
2017 52.99%
2018 59.35%
Q1 2019 58.00%
Q2 2019 59.74%

FAR Historical Pass Rates

Often considered the most difficult exam, Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) historically has had the lowest passing scores of the four exams. The amount of material CPA Exam candidates have to learn for the exam coupled with the combination of memorization and application makes this exam more difficult.

FAR Historial Pass Rates
2017 44.42%
2018 46.22%
Q1 2019 44.43%
Q2 2019 49.37%

REG Historical Pass Rates

While tax applications make up a large portion of the Regulation (REG) exam, tax law and business law are also incorporated. This tends to make the exam more difficult since it’s a fair amount of memorization coupled with the intricacies of dynamic tax law.

REG Historial Pass Rates
2017 47.24%
2018 53.16%
Q1 2019 50.23%
Q2 2019 58.66%

How to Improve Your CPA Exam Pass Rate

The best way to improve your CPA Exam pass rate is to find a CPA Review course that fits your learning style. You should also look for exam materials that give you feedback as you progress through the course, and directly relate that feedback to your potential exam score. Ideally, you would go into the exam having an objective idea of whether or not you would pass, and what that passing score might be.

Each CPA Exam candidate who studies with Surgent CPA Review has consistent access to their ReadySCORE™ which gives them an estimate of what their exam score would be should they sit for the exam that day. A candidate’s ReadySCORE is based on their performance across exam content areas, question types, and topics. Students can also break down their ReadySCORE and analyze how they’re performing in specific areas. CPA candidates with a ReadySCORE of 75 or more across all content areas, topics, and question types pass the exam 88% of the time, compared to the national average CPA Exam pass rate of around 50%. This helps candidates know when they’re ready to sit and pass the CPA Exam as opposed to putting in hours of studying and hoping they’re ready on exam day.

When is the best time to take the CPA Exam?

There are four testing windows to take the CPA Exam in 2019:

  • Q1 2019: January 1 – March 10
  • Q2 2019: April 1- June 10
  • Q3 2019: July 1 – September 10
  • Q4 2019: October 1 – December 10

Any time outside of these windows is considered a “dark period” where exams are not administered.

You can take the exam anytime during these testing windows, and when you take the exam is based on personal preference and timing. However, candidates have historically done better in the Q2 and Q3 windows compared to the Q1 and Q4 windows. This could be due to a variety of factors, including not working during the summer after college (free time during Q2 and Q3 windows), studying and testing during the holiday season in Q4, or studying and testing during busy season in Q1.

How is the CPA Exam graded?

A passing CPA Exam score on each section is a 75 on a scale of 0 to 99; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to answer 75% of the questions correctly to pass.

Questions on the CPA Exam are not equally rated and are scaled by the AICPA based on their difficulty. Scores on AUD, REG, and FAR are based on a weighted combination of scaled scores between the multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. Scores on BEC are based on a weighted combination of scaled scores between the multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and written communication tasks.

AUD, REG, and FAR have a 50/50 weighting between multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. On BEC, 50% of the score is made up of multiple-choice questions, 35% on task-based simulations, and 15% on written communication tasks.

The multiple-choice testlets on all four sections of the CPA Exam utilize multistage testing (MST). All candidates start out with a testlet of medium difficulty. Candidates who do well on the first testlet will receive a more difficult second testlet, while candidates who do not perform well will receive a second testlet of medium difficulty. It’s absolutely possible to pass the CPA Exam even if you receive three medium difficulty testlets.

The last aspect of CPA Exam scoring is the positive grading system, which means you gain points for questions you answer correctly and do not lose points for questions you either answer wrong or don’t answer. This is the opposite of how many of your college exams were graded; in that case, you likely lost points for wrong answers. Not so on the CPA Exam. This means you should try to answer every single question on the exam. If you get it wrong, you won’t be penalized. But if you get it right, you get points.

What Should I Do if I Don’t Pass the CPA Exam?

If you don’t pass a section of the exam the first time, the biggest takeaway is not to stress. You can always retake the section, and in the second round, you’ll be more prepared for the material on the exam. At this point, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your exam review materials and ensure they’re working with your particular learning style.

Many candidates who have previously failed the CPA Exam have had success using CPA review courses with adaptive learning software like Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology. Instead of starting from square one, A.S.A.P. Technology gauges your knowledge across each CPA Exam content area to create a hyper-personalized study program that focuses on strengthening the areas where you’re struggling to design a study program that fills in those gaps. A unique feature of A.S.A.P. Technology is the ReadySCORE feature, an exam preparedness tool that calculates exactly how ready you are to sit for the CPA Exam. Your ReadySCORE is available from the time you complete the initial assessment and is constantly recalculating as you progress through the course. This feature allows you to feel secure and confident going into the CPA Exam that you will pass.

How you approach taking the next CPA Exam section is based on personal preference. You have two options: you can jump back into studying for the exam you didn’t pass, or you can move on to a new exam. The benefit of continuing to study for the exam you didn’t pass is you’ll be very familiar with the material and you’ll essentially be doing another review. However, you may be burned out from the material, or you may have already started studying for a different exam. If that’s the case, just continue studying for your next exam and circle back to the exam you didn’t pass when you’re ready. Remember, Surgent exam materials don’t expire until you pass the entire exam, and they’re constantly updating to reflect CPA Exam changes. So don’t stress about your software expiring.

Surgent CPA Review CPA Exam Pass Rates

Surgent CPA Review students average an 88% pass rate. A big part of Surgent students’ success is their ReadySCORE, which has been proven to be within 4% of students’ actual exam scores. Students reach an average ReadySCORE of 84 once they enter the Review Phase. That’s a 97% improvement from the average Assessment Phase ReadySCORE! Learn more about how we calculate our pass rates.

These pass rates are calculated using exam scores from Surgent CPA Review students via a third-party platform.

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