How is the CPA Exam Scored?

The CPA Exam is meant to test a candidate’s accountancy knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge as a future Certified Public Accountant. Before walking into the Prometric Testing Center, it is important to know how each CPA Exam section is scored, and tips for how you can perform your best on exam day.

The AICPA scores the Uniform CPA Examination on a weighted scale of 0 to 99, where a 75 or greater is a passing score. Candidates’ target score release dates depend on their “testing window”, or the period in which they sat for the CPA Exam. The CPA Exam score release dates are updated every year by the AICPA, but NASBA (the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) releases the scores to candidates and state boards. View the 2019 CPA Exam score release dates and testing windows.

CPA Exam Sections Breakdown

To better understand how the CPA Exam is scored, let’s take a look at each section. The CPA Exam is comprised of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD)Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). Each section contains multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations, weighted at 50% of the final section’s score, except for BEC. The BEC section is the only section that contains written communication questions. While MCQs are still worth 50%, task-based simulations in BEC are worth 35% and written communication questions are worth 15%. Individual questions are weighted by if the answer was correct or not and the relative difficulty of the question.

CPA Exam by Sections, Time, and Question Type:

Section Section Time Multiple-Choice Questions Task-Based Simulations Written Communication
AUD 4 Hours 72 8
BEC 4 Hours 62 4 3
FAR 4 Hours 66 8
REG 4 Hours 76 8


CPA Exam Scoring by Section and Question Type:

Section Multiple-Choice Questions Task-Based Simulations Written Communication
AUD 50% 50%
BEC 50% 35% 15%
FAR 50% 50%
REG 50% 50%

Scoring by Question Type

How are Multiple-Choice Questions Scored?

The multiple-choice question portion of each exam section is split into two testlets in a multi-stage testing approach. This approach means that question difficulty changes in response to candidates’ performance. All CPA candidates start with a medium difficulty testlet, and, if candidates perform well, the next testlet will include questions from an increased difficulty level.

This does not mean that you must progress to a difficult testlet to pass the exam section, rather answering a more difficult MCQ correctly is weighted more in your scoring than answering a less difficult MCQ correctly. In fact, Surgent’s latest course addition, MyMCQ™, mimics the CPA Exam’s multi-stage testing approach. As Surgent students progress through the course, the difficulty level of the MCQs will adapt to students’ knowledge level similar to on the exam.

See the difference Surgent’s adaptive learning software makes – start a free trial today!

How are Task-Based Simulations Scored?

Task-based simulations are often the most failed part of the CPA Exam, and therefore considered one of the hardest question types. The four main types of task-based simulations are research, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and journal entries. Learn Surgent Chief Knowledge Officer Liz Kolar’s top tips for solving a task-based simulation.

Task-based simulations are graded positively, meaning that you are not penalized for answering incorrectly. It is better to guess, giving yourself a 25% chance of getting it right, than not answering at all. These types of questions generally require candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by solving problems using spreadsheets, researching authoritative literature, and writing memos. All of the tasks required to solve this type of simulation are meant to mimic actual scenarios that new CPAs might face.

How are Written Communication Simulations Scored?

BEC’s written communication simulations are the only section of the CPA Exam that is not graded by a computer. To answer the written communication tasks, candidates must type their answers into a blank Word document. The main point of this type of question is to judge candidates’ communication skills. Candidates should be able to show their knowledge and ideas in their writing.

CPA Exam Pass Rates

The pass rates for the CPA Exam notoriously hover around 50%, so having to retake at least one CPA Exam section is pretty common. That said, Surgent CPA Review students pass the CPA Exam over 88% of the time. We’re so confident that our study approach works, we offer a money-back pass guarantee for students who aren’t successful. Plus, if you failed the CPA Exam while studying with another CPA review course, Surgent has special discounts specifically for you.

Know Your Score Before You Go

Unfortunately, most CPA practice tests just give students a number score without any insight into the topic areas where they performed well or didn’t perform quite so well. That’s why Surgent CPA Review includes ReadySCORE™, an exam-readiness metric. Besides giving students a full diagnostic report showing their stronger and weaker areas during the course, ReadySCORE shows students an estimation of what they would score if they were to sit for the CPA Exam at that exact moment – to within 4% of actual CPA Exam scores.

Find your ReadySCORE today – Buy Surgent CPA Review.