Uniform CPA Examination Applicants

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination (Examination) is the examination that an individual must pass in order to qualify for licensure as a CPA in any of the 56 US jurisdictions (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa). The Exam is one of the “Three Es” – Education, Examination, and Experience – that constitute the requirements for CPA licensure. Of these three requirements, only the CPA Exam is uniform (i.e., it is the only exam that is accepted for CPA licensure by all US jurisdictions), while education and experience requirements may vary from one jurisdiction to another. Candidates for CPA licensure must meet all three requirements. As a result, passing the Examination is not sufficient in itself to qualify for licensure. The AICPA’s website, Become a CPA,  is an excellent resource for learning more about the Examination and the path to licensure. In addition, NASBA has an Exam resources page that is quite informative.

The Examinations Section of the Board is responsible for processing Uniform CPA Exam applications and maintaining each candidate’s file until he or she successfully passes the Uniform CPA Examination.

Contacting the Examinations Staff

Phyllis Elliott, Specialist (919) 733-4224

Mailing Address
Examinations
NC State Board of CPA Examiners
PO Box 12827
Raleigh, NC 27605-2827

Fax Number
Attn.: Examinations
(919) 733-4209

Address Changes

Without current contact information (mailing address, phone number, and email address) on file for each Exam candidate, the Board is unable to contact you regarding the Examination or other important issues. Address changes must be made in writing (Board staff cannot accept an oral change of address). Please submit a Change of Address by mail, fax, or email to:

State Board of CPA Examiners
ATTN.: Address Change
PO Box 12827 Raleigh, NC 27605-2827
Fax: (919) 733-4209
Email: addresschange@nccpaboard.gov

Name Change

If an applicant’s name has legally changed and is different from the name on any transcript or other document supplied to the Board, the applicant must furnish copies of the document (marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, etc.) that legally authorize the name change. Please contact Phyllis Elliott or Vanessia Willett for additional information.

Eligibility and Requirements

                                   VIDEO:  Qualifying to Sit for the Uniform CPA Exam as a North Carolina Candidate

In North Carolina, a person is eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination provided that he or she is a citizen of the United States (or has declared the intention of becoming a citizen); is a resident alien or is a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction which extends to citizens of this State like or similar privileges to be examined; is 18 years of age or over; is of good moral character; and meets the education requirements.

The educational requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam is a bachelor’s degree (120 hours) from a college or university accredited by one of the regionally accredited associations in any subject that includes, or is supplemented by, a concentration in accounting.

21 NCAC 08A .0309, Concentration in Accounting, states:

(a) A concentration in accounting includes:
(1) at least 30 semester hours, or the equivalent in quarter hours, of undergraduate accountancy courses which shall include no more than six semester hours of accounting principles and no more than three semester hours of business law; or
(2) at least 20 semester hours or the equivalent in quarter hours, of graduate accounting courses that are open exclusively to graduate students; or
(3) a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses which would be equivalent to Subparagraph (1) or (2).
(b) In recognition of differences in the level of graduate and undergraduate courses, one semester (or quarter) hour of graduate study in accounting is considered the equivalent of one and one-half semester (or quarter) hours of undergraduate study in accounting.
(c) Up to four semester hours, or the equivalent in quarter hours, of graduate income tax courses completed in law schools may count toward the semester hour requirement of Paragraph (a) of this Rule.
(d) Where, in the Board’s determination, an accounting course duplicates another course previously taken, only the semester (or quarter) hours of one of the courses shall be counted in determining if the applicant has a concentration in accounting.
(e) Accounting courses include such courses as principles courses at the elementary, intermediate and advanced levels; managerial accounting; business law; cost accounting; fund accounting; auditing; and taxation. There are many college courses offered that would be helpful in the practice of accountancy, but are not included in the definition of a concentration in accounting. Such courses include business finance, business management, computer science, economics, writing skills, accounting internships, and CPA exam review.

The Board may approve an application to take the Examination prior to the receipt of a bachelor’s degree, if  the concentration in accounting is already complete or is reasonably expected to be completed by the end of the school term within which the examination falls; and an applicant reasonably expects to receive the bachelor’s degree within 120 days after the application is received by the Board. However, if the applicant fails to receive the degree within the specified time, the Examination grades will not be released.

The Board accepts degrees from the following regional accrediting associations:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical & Career Institutions
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission of Colleges & Universities
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
  • Council on Occupational Education (formerly Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Occupational Education Institutions)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges

Pursuant to 21 NCAC 08F .0111,  a  person may not be eligible to take the Examination if the Board determines that the person has engaged in conduct that would constitute a violation of NCGS 93 or the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct.

Applications for the Uniform CPA Examination

An individual who is sitting for the Uniform CPA Examination for the first time is considered an “initial applicant” and must complete an initial Examination application. An individual who has applied for and taken at least one section of the Examination and is applying to retake a section of the Examination or to take additional sections of the Examination is considered a “re-Exam applicant” and must complete a re-Examination application. All Examination applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Board’s statutes and rules regarding the Examination before applying to take the Examination as a North Carolina candidate. If you have questions about any portion of the Examination application, please contact Phyllis Elliott for clarification. It is important to include all necessary documentation (passport-type photo, method of contact, official college transcripts (no photocopies or scanned copies), & three (3) moral character references (no family members) when submitting the application. Don’t forget to include all court records and any current or previous charges (including probation) with the application. NOTE:  Please save the application to your computer/tablet/etc. and then complete it and print it.

Candidates are not required to take the Examination sections in any particular order; each candidate must determine which section he or she will sit for first, second, etc. Candidates are not required to pass one particular section of the Examination before applying to take another section of the Examination,  but a candidate cannot take the same section of the Examination more than once in a testing window.

It takes about 15 business days for an initial candidate’s educational eligibility to be verified and Notice to Schedule (NTS) to be issued by NASBA. If you have not received an NTS from NASBA within 20 business days, please contact Phyllis Elliott. A re-Examination candidate’s application will be processed by the Board and an NTS issued by NASBA in about 10 business days. If you have not received a re-Examination NTS from NASBA within 15 business days, please contact Phyllis Elliott. The Notice to Schedule is valid for six (6) months from the date of issue, so a candidate will have a set period of time to schedule and take the Exam section(s).

Uniform CPA Exam Applicants:  Check the Status of Your Exam Application

Special Accommodations

If you require special accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act, please contact Phyllis Elliott for information on the procedure for requesting special accommodations.

Notice to Schedule

Once your application has been processed and it has been determined that you are eligible to take one or more sections of the Examination, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). NOTE:  Make sure you add the email address, CBTNTS@nasba.org, to your contact list and check your spam/junk folder for a message from that email address. One NTS will be sent to you listing the section(s) you are approved to take and enabling you to contact Prometric to schedule an appointment to take each Examination section shown on the NTS. When you receive the NTS, it is critical that you make sure that the name appearing on the NTS is exactly the name on the identification documents that you will use during check-in at the Prometric testing center.  If the information is not correct or the names on the NTS and your identification documents do not match exactly, immediately contact the Board to request a corrected NTS. The Board recommends that you make at least two copies of each NTS: put one copy in your car and another copy in your wallet, billfold, etc.

You must take your NTS to the Prometric test center; without it, you will not be admitted to the test center. Each NTS includes the Examination section identification number for each approved section of the Exam.  This number is also used as the  “Launch Code” (password) for each approved section.  You will enter the Launch Code on the computer as a part of the login process. The Board has determined that an NTS is valid for six months only. During that six-month period, you must schedule and take the Examination section(s). After the six-month period ends, the NTS will expire and all fees will be forfeited.  It is strongly suggested that you not apply for a section of the Examination until you are ready to take to take that section.  If you do not take all sections for which you registered before the NTS expires, you will not be able to extend the NTS or receive a refund of any of the fees you have paid. Again, candidates are not required to take the Examination sections in any particular order; each candidate must determine which section he or she will sit for first, second, etc. Candidates are not required to pass one particular section of the Examination before applying to take another section of the Exam,  but a candidate cannot take the same section of the Exam more than once in a testing window.

NASBA allows candidates to reprint any open, unexpired Notices to Schedule through a link on its website.

Scheduling an Appointment to Take the Exam

The  Uniform CPA Examination is generally offered during the first two months (“testing windows”) of each calendar quarter.  Portions of the third month (“blackout month”) of each calendar quarter are used for systems and databank maintenance. The current testing windows are:

In April 2016, testing windows were extended by 10 days. Testing for 2017 is available as follows:

  • Q1: January 1 through March 10
  • Q2: April 1 through May 31*
  • Q3: July 1 through September 10
  • Q4: October 1 through December 10

*Q2 testing will conclude May 31, 2017, due to the launch of the next version Examination. While the 10-day test window extension will be offered through the end of 2017, NASBA will review the continuation of test window extensions (post 2017) with state boards of accountancy.

You should schedule your appointments as soon as possible after you receive your NTS. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) now recommends that you  schedule at least 65 days in advance of  your desired test date(s) to increase the likelihood that you will receive your first choice of date, time, and location. You must schedule your appointment at least five (5) days in advance of the test date.  It is important that you plan accordingly; it is your responsibility to schedule the sections of the Examination you have yet to pass so you do not lose credit for previously passed sections.  You can take any or all sections of the Examination during any testing window and in any order.  However, you may not take the same section more than once during any one testing window.

You must take each section within the time period for which an NTS is valid (before it expires). You are allowed to take the Examination at any one of the authorized Prometric test centers, whether or not the test center is located within the borders of the jurisdiction where you reside. There are six (6) Prometric test centers in North Carolina: Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington. The most current list of test centers may be found on the Prometric website.

The easiest and quickest way to schedule an Examination appointment (as well as reschedule and cancel an appointment, if necessary) is online through the Prometric website.  Using the website provides you 24-hour access to scheduling and avoids any “on hold” waiting time.  Because of this, you have the quickest and most direct access to preferred dates and test center locations.  Additionally, you will instantly receive a detailed confirmation of your appointment (on screen and via email). Before you make your appointments, you must have received your NTS.  Additionally, be ready to identify the dates, times, and locations where you want to take each section. It is not necessary to make all appointments at one time.  If you prefer, you may make one appointment at a time. If you do schedule more than one section on the same day, please be aware the online appointment system does not warn you of overlapping appointment times. It is your responsibility to ensure you have not scheduled overlapping times and have allowed enough time between sections for the check-in process.

After you have made an appointment for a section, you may find it necessary to change or cancel an appointment. Be aware that you may be required to pay a rescheduling fee or forfeit your Examination fees, depending on when you notify Prometric of the change or cancellation.  If you are unable to appear for your appointment, you must cancel or reschedule using one of the approved methods or you will be marked as a “no-show” and you will forfeit your fees. If you cancel, but are unsure of when you will be able to reschedule, be advised that you must reschedule before the expiration date listed on your NTS or you will forfeit your fees.

Tutorial and Sample Tests

It is strongly recommended that all candidates visit the AICPA’s website and complete the tutorial and sample tests. The tutorial is a guided tour of the Examination. It demonstrates the functionality of question types, tools, resources and navigation found in the Examination. The tutorial is not available at test centers and does not contain actual Examination content. The sample tests provide candidates with a preview of the Examination experience. It is a functional replica of the Examination, and provides candidates with an opportunity to become familiar with the Examination’s format, in an interactive environment. Candidates are advised to familiarize themselves with the functionality demonstrated in the tutorial before they review the sample tests. The sample test software allows candidates to answer test questions that represent the question types found on the Examination: multiple choice, written communication and simulation. The sample tests do provide answers to sample questions but are not intended for use as study materials in preparation for the Examination.

On Test Day

The staff at each Prometric test center has been trained in the procedures specific to the  CPA Exam. Center personnel will guide you through the steps that have been developed by the boards of accountancy, NASBA and the AICPA.  Below are things you need to be aware of on test day.

  • You must arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment. If you arrive after your scheduled appointment time, you may forfeit your appointment and Examination fees. Arrive early and be sure to have your correct NTS and required identification. You will not be admitted to the Examination without the correct NTS and required identification.
  • Your Examination should begin within 30 minutes of the scheduled start time. If circumstances arise, other than candidate error, which delay your session more than 30 minutes, you will be given the choice of continuing to wait or rescheduling your appointment.
  • You must place personal belongings in the storage lockers provided by the test center. You will be given the key to your locker–the key must be returned to the test center staff when you leave. The lockers are very small and are not intended to hold large items. Do not bring anything to the test center unless it is absolutely necessary. Test center personnel will not be responsible for lost or stolen items.
  • You may bring soft, foam earplugs with no strings attached for your use. Test Center Administrators (TCAs) will inspect the earplugs.
  • Your ID will be scanned/swiped in the combined magnetic strip and 2D barcode reader. The ID will then be placed on a flatbed scanner which captures an electronic image of the photo ID and uses optical character recognition (OCR) to compare printed and encoded data.
  • You will have a digital photograph taken of your face. A photograph is required to test.
  • All candidates will be scanned via hand-held metal detector wand prior to each entry into the test room, including returns from breaks. Candidates will be required to turn their pockets out, and the scan will be done immediately afterward.
  • TCAs will  inspect any and all eyeglasses, jewelry, and other accessories to look for camera devices that could be used to capture Examination content. You will be required to remove your eyeglasses for close visual inspection.  These inspections will take a few seconds and will be done at check-in and again upon return from breaks before you enter the testing room to ensure you do not violate any security protocol. Jewelry outside of wedding and engagement rings is prohibited. Please do not wear other jewelry, including body jewelry, to the test center. NOTE:  Medical alert jewelry may be worn.
  • Hair accessories, ties, and bowties are subject to inspection.  Please refrain from using ornate clips, combs, barrettes, headbands, tie clips, cuff links, and other hair accessories as you may be prohibited from wearing them into the testing room and asked to store them in your locker.
  • Please review the list of items pre-approved personal items prior to arriving at the testing center.
  • Violation of security protocol may result in the confiscation of prohibited devices and termination of your Examination.  Please refer to “Prometric Test Center Regulations” for more information.
  • A biometric fingerprint-capturing system will be used and is required to test. You will also be asked to provide a fingerprint before and after breaks. If for physical/medical reasons your fingerprint will not be available, you must contact the Board PRIOR to your appointment.
  • You will be provided with two double-sided, laminated, colored sheets called “noteboards,” as well as a fine-point marker for making notations. You will be directed to write your Exam Launch Code (from your NTS) on your noteboards. You will be required to return the noteboards to the test center staff when your Examination is complete. If you need additional writing space, you may request additional noteboards from the test center staff, but you must first turn in the original noteboards you received in order to get a new supply. You must not bring any paper or pencils to the workstation in the testing room.
  • You will be escorted to a workstation by test center staff. You must remain in your seat during the Examination, except when authorized to get up and leave the testing room.
  • Once you enter your Launch Code, you must proceed through the subsequent introductory Examination screens without delay. There is a 10-minute time limit to read and proceed through the introductory screens and, if the 10-minute time limit is exceeded, the test session will automatically terminate and cannot be restarted. In this case, you must leave the test center, forfeit fees, reapply to test in the next test window, and receive a score of 0.
  • If you encounter ANY computer problem, report it immediately to test center staff.
  • When you finish the Examination, leave the testing room quietly, turn in your two noteboards, and sign the test center log book. The test center staff will dismiss you after completing all necessary procedures.
  • Keep the “Confirmation of Attendance” form you receive after the Examination as it provides valuable contact information. As directed on that form, report any examination incidents/concerns in writing to the addresses/Fax numbers provided.

How Is the Exam Scored?

The AICPA provides a non-technical overview of scoring in this document. It is a jargon-free explanation of the scoring process, providing insight into how MST (Multi-Stage Testing) works and including some basic facts about IRT (Item Response Theory).

Score Reporting

After the Exam, candidate responses are forwarded to the AICPA for scoring. The responses are identified by Exam Section ID only. When advisory scores and performance information become available, the AICPA forwards them to NASBA for processing, which involves matching the scores and performance information to individual candidates.

Score reports include the following basic information: section name, section ID, date, section score, result, and credit status with respect to other sections taken. In most instances, scores are reported in numeric form. The numeric scores are reported on a scale of 0-99, with 75 as the passing score. The scale does not represent “percent correct.” A score of 75 indicates performance that reflects sufficient knowledge and skills to protect public interest. This information illustrates a candidate’s relative strengths and weaknesses in the identified areas. The sole purpose in providing this information is to help a candidates focus on his or her weaker areas when he or she studies to re-take an examination section. Performance information is not provided to successful candidates.

The Board may grant candidates credit for passing other parts of the Exam in another jurisdiction. To be considered for credit, the passing grades must meet the Board’s conditioning requirements. To transfer credit, the candidate must file an application for transfer of credit with the Board prior to sitting as a North Carolina candidate.

Online Score Retrieval

North Carolina Exam candidates may utilize the North Carolina page of the NASBA Gateway to retrieve scores within 24-48 hours of NASBA receiving the scores from the AICPA. NASBA and the Board use Twitter and Facebook to announce when the AICPA sends scores to NASBA. Candidates will continue to receive paper score notices by mail from the Board, but the online score retrieval allows candidates to know their scores more quickly. Because there is a lag time between NASBA posting the scores online and when the Board receives notification of the scores, letters to candidates are not immediately available. If a candidate does not receive a passing score on a section, he or she may submit a re-Exam application for that section and will be issued an NTS for that section.

 Conditioning Requirements

21 NCAC 08F .0105, states that a candidate must pass all sections of the examination with a grade of 75 or higher on each section. A candidate is subject to the following conditioning requirements:

  • A candidate must obtain a passing grade (75) on all sections of the Exam within an 18-month period;
  • A candidate may sit for any section of the Exam individually;
  • A candidate may sit for each section of the Examination up to four times during a one-year period, but not more than one time in a three-month testing window; and
  • Credit awarded by the Board for passage of a section of the Exam is valid for an 18-month period beginning on the date the section is taken, not the date of the score notice.

A candidate who is on active military service shall not have the time on active military service counted against the 18-month period unless the candidate applies to take the Exam during the active  military service in which case each month a candidate sits shall be counted toward the 18-month period.

Successful Exam Candidates

An individual who passes all sections of the Exam within the 18-month period is considered a successful Exam candidate and will receive notification from the Board that he or she may begin the process of applying for licensure as a North Carolina CPA. A successful Exam candidate’s Exam scores do not expire.

Score Review and Appeal Processes

Score Review

Score review is a service to Uniform CPA Examination candidates offering additional assurance that operational quality controls in the scoring process were complete and the scores are accurate. Score review is NOT a re-grading of the Examination, or an opportunity to find additional points, review content, or to have alternate responses considered. It is simply an independent verification of a candidate’s Uniform CPA Examination score.  The verification for the multiple choice questions and the task-based simulations involves making certain that the approved answer key was used and that it was applied correctly; the verification for the written communication tasks involves making certain that each of the submitted responses was scored. NOTE: Your entire Examinations are not accessible, and the correct answers to the incorrect questions are not provided. The original incorrect responses are also not provided during this process.

It might be helpful for you to know that all reported scores are subject to routine quality controls and are, in fact, scored twice before they are reported to the Board. As a result, the likelihood of a score change following score review is less than 1 percent of all requested score reviews since the inception of the computer-based test.

The option to apply for a score review is available only for a short period of time after your score has been reported to you. Each score review cycle begins at the start of the following testing window. For example, the score review cycle for scores reported for the January/February testing window begins at the start of the April/May testing window. Each score review cycle is for scores reported for the most recent testing window only. For example, the April/May review cycle is for scores reported for the January/February testing window only. If you apply for a score review after the deadline date, your request will not be processed. The score review fee is calculated on a per-section basis.  Score review fees are non-refundable.

For additional information and to request a score review, please visit the NASBA Exam Score Review page of the NASBAstore website. You may also call 1-800-CPA-EXAM. After your request is submitted by NASBA to the AICPA, and the AICPA reviews your score, the AICPA will report the result through NASBA to the Board and the result will be transmitted to you.

NOTE:  The submission of the score review generally does not prevent you from re-applying for the same section(s) in the next testing window.

Appeal Process

The appeal process provides Uniform CPA Examination candidates with the opportunity to appeal failing scores by enabling candidates to view the multiple choice test questions or objective simulation problems that were answered incorrectly together with their responses, and to submit comments online. The appeal does not include the written communication.

You should consider requesting an appeal only if you want to review your incorrect responses because you believe that there is a question or simulation problem that you would like to challenge. Please be advised that historically, a score has never been changed as a result of a Score Appeal.

When you review the questions or simulation problems that you have answered incorrectly, you may decide to challenge the validity of one or more items. If you decide to do so, you must be prepared to present a cogent, vigorous, and compelling defense of your incorrect responses. Please note that you will not be able to submit new responses during an appeal. However, you will have the opportunity to challenge question(s) or simulation problem(s) and defend the response(s) you provided at the examination.

The option to apply for an appeal is available only for a short period of time after your score has been reported to you. Each score appeal cycle begins at the start of the following testing window. For example, the score appeal cycle for scores reported for the January/February testing window begins at the start of the April/May testing window. Each score appeal cycle is for scores reported for the most recent testing window only. For example, the April/May review cycle is for scores reported for the January/February testing window only. If you apply for an appeal after the deadline date, your request will not be processed.

The same security measures adhered to at a testing center are also required at the appeal session. Therefore, appeal sessions take place in NASBA’s office located in Nashville, TN, under highly secure conditions and in the presence of a representative of NASBA. All travel costs associated with an appeal process are the responsibility of the candidate requesting the appeal.

The appeal fee is due when you submit your appeal request. Subsequently, you will be charged a separate fee for each item (question or simulation problem) that you decide to challenge; those fees are paid during the score appeal session.  Score appeal fees are non-refundable.

For details on the Score Appeal process and to request an appeal please visit the Score Appeal section on the NASBAstore website or call 1-800-CPA-EXAM. After placing your order, you will be contacted by a NASBA representative to schedule your appointment.

After the session, the AICPA will review your responses on the section you are appealing, consider the online comments you submitted, and verify your score. The result of the appeal will be forwarded through NASBA to the Board and the result will be transmitted to you.

NOTE:  The submission of an appeal request generally does not prevent you from re-applying for the same section(s) in the next testing window.

 FAQs

Q. Can I extend my Notice to Schedule beyond the six (6) months from the date it was issued?

A. No, the expiration date for a Notice to Schedule cannot be extended.

Q. Is the Exam scored on a pass/fail scale or a numerical scale?

A. The passing score is 75 on a 0-99 scale. The scale of 0-99 does not represent “percent correct.” A score of 75 indicates examination performance reflecting a level of knowledge and skills that is sufficient for the protection of the public. North Carolina candidates receive numerical grades. The Exam is not graded on a curve.

Q. Who sets the passing score for the Uniform CPA Examination?

A. The passing score is determined by the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE). Like most other significant BOE decisions, the passing score decision is supported by a strong collaborative effort among the examination partners. The standard-setting process followed for the computer-based test (CBT) was rigorous, and performed with input from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), state board members, and several consultant psychometricians. In setting the passing score, the BOE considered many factors, including standard-setting study results, historical trends, any changes in examination content, and input from the academic community and the profession. The passing score is the basis of the pass or fail decision recommended to boards of accountancy on the advisory score report

Q. Is the Examination scored by a computer?

A. Scoring is fully automated for all examination components except the written communication portion of simulations. Some written communication responses are scored by a network of readers (CPAs), while others are scored using an automated process. All scoring routines–whether automated or not–are verified at various stages of the scoring process.

Q. What scoring method is used to score the  Examination?

A. The AICPA uses IRT (Item Response Theory) for the objective portion of the examination. IRT is a well-established psychometric approach to scoring used by licensing and certification examinations that administer many different test forms. IRT scoring ensures that scores and pass or fail decisions based on scores from different examination forms are comparable. Based on the large amounts of data that are collected in pretesting, the difficulty level as well as other statistical characteristics of examination questions are known and taken into account in scoring.

Q. What are the component parts of the Examination?

A.  The Examination consists of four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD):  This section covers knowledge of audits of issuer and non-issuer entities, attestation engagements for issuer and non-issuer entities, preparation, compilation and review engagements, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
    • Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and General Principles
    • Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response
    • Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence
    • Forming Conclusions and Reporting
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC):  This section covers knowledge of general business environment and business concepts that candidates need to know in order to perform audit, attest, accounting and review services, financial reporting, tax preparation, and other professional responsibilities in their role as certified public accountants, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
    • Corporate Governance
    • Economic Concepts and Analysis
    • Financial management
    • Information technology
    • Operations Management
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR):  This section covers knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles for business enterprises (public and nonpublic), not-for-profit entities, and state and local government entities, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
    • Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting and Financial Reporting
    • Select Financial Statement Accounts
    • Select Transactions
    • State and Local Governments
  • Regulation (REG):  This section covers knowledge of federal taxation, ethics and professional responsibilities related to tax practice, and business law, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
    • Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and Federal Tax Procedures
    • Business Law
    • Federal Taxation of Property Transactions
    • Federal Taxation of Individuals
    • Federal Taxation of Entities

A complete overview of the content areas covered on the CPA Exam is provided in the Examination Blueprints.

Q.  What does the Examination look like? How does it function? 

A.  The sample tests and tutorial available online provide an introduction to the format, content and functionality of the Examination. Candidates are responsible for reviewing the Examination tutorial and sample tests. Thorough familiarity with the Examination’s functionality, format, and directions is strongly encouraged before candidates report to test centers. Failure to review the directions provided in the tutorial and sample tests, including the directions on how to respond, may adversely affect candidate scores. To access the tutorial and sample tests, click here.

Q.  What is the delivery model used for the Examination?

A.  A multistage adaptive test delivery model is used for all multiple-choice testlets. This means that the first testlet presented to the candidate is at a level of moderate difficulty.  The subsequent testlet – at the same or slightly more difficult level – is then chosen automatically based on the examinee’s performance on the first testlet. The task-based simulations presented in AUD, BEC, FAR and REG, and the written communication tasks in BEC, do not follow the adaptive model. They are not selected on the basis of prior performance.

Q.  How many hours is the Examination?

A.  The entire Examination is 16 hours. A candidate has four hours to complete each Examination section.

Q.  Are breaks permitted during the Examination?

A.  Yes. Candidates are offered a standardized break approximately midway during each section of the Examination. During this break, the testing clock pauses for 15 minutes. Candidates are also permitted to take optional breaks between each section testlet, but the testing clock will continue to run. During any break, the candidate must adhere to the rules of the testing center.

Q.  Must all four Examination sections be taken at the same time?

A.  No. Candidates may take any sections of the Examination in any testing window and in any order they wish. However, candidates may not take any single section twice in the same testing window.

Q.  What types of questions are included on the Examination? 

A. Each of the four sections of the Examination are composed of five testlets – groups of multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations (TBS or simulations). In the case of the BEC section, there are also written communication tasks.

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD):  72 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations
  •  Business Environment and Concepts (BEC):  62 multiple-choice questions, 4 task-based simulations, and 3 written communication tasks
  •  Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR):  66 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations
  •  Regulation (REG):  76 multiple-choice questions and 8 task-based simulations

Q.  What are task-based simulations?

A.  Task-based simulations (TBS or simulations) are condensed case studies. In a TBS, use of knowledge is tested through a variety of tasks, some of which require searching databases, completing written communication tasks, or working with spreadsheets and forms. The skills that TBSs are intended to measure are: application, analysis and evaluation of the body of knowledge, and written communication.

Q.  What are the written communication tasks?

A.  In written communication tasks, candidates are presented with a situation and instructed to write a letter or memorandum on a specific topic. Written communication tasks are scored on the basis of three criteria:

  • organization (structure, ordering of ideas, linking of ideas one to another);
  • development (presentation of supporting evidence); and
  •  expression (use of standard business English).  Responses that do not address the assigned topic are not scored.

Click here for more information about written communication tasks.

Q.  In what order are the test questions presented in each section?

A.  Auditing and Attestation (AUD):

  • Testlet 1: 36 MCQ
    Testlet 2: 36 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • Testlet 1: 31 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 31 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 2 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 Written Communication Tasks

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • Testlet 1: 33 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 33 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS

Regulation (REG)

  • Testlet 1: 38 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 38 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS

Q.  What is the percentage value of each Examination component?

A.  In Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG), multiple-choice questions account for 50% and task-based simulations 50% of the score. In Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), multiple-choice questions account for 50%, task-based simulations 35% of the score and written communication tasks account for 15% of the score.

Q.  Must questions be answered in the order in which they are presented?

A.  Within each testlet or task-based simulation, questions may be answered in any order. However, the sequence in which testlets are presented does not change.

Q.  Is it possible to return to a previously completed testlet/simulation?

A.  Candidates may review and revise their responses only as long as the testlet remains open.  Once they complete the testlet and move on to the next, it is not possible to return.

Q.  What are the rules regarding new accounting and auditing pronouncements?

A.  Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Examination in the later of: (1) the first testing window beginning after the pronouncement’s earliest mandatory effective date or (2) the first testing window beginning six (6) months after the pronouncement’s issuance date. In either case, there is a simultaneous introduction of content related to the new pronouncement and removal of content related to the previous pronouncement. Changes in the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code, and federal taxation regulations may be included in the testing window beginning six (6) months after the change’s effective date or enactment date, whichever is later. For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six (6) months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one (1) year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.

Q.  What databases are available to candidates completing simulations?

A.  For the research portions of simulations, candidates have access to some sections of the AICPA Professional Standards (in the Auditing and Attestation section), FASB Codification (in the Financial Accounting and Reporting section), and Tax Code (in the Regulation section).

Q.  Is this what is referred to as authoritative literature?

A.  Yes, the reference materials consisting of AICPA Professional Standards, FASB Codification, and the Tax Code are referred to collectively as “authoritative literature”.

Q.  Do candidates take the same or different Examinations?

Candidates take different, equivalent Examinations.  The questions presented to candidates are drawn from a pool of test questions according to defined specifications.  Although candidates take different tests, the specifications ensure that the results are comparable.

Q.  With candidates taking different Examinations, how is it possible to ensure that each candidate is being correctly assessed?

A.  The test assembly method and expert reviews ensure that all tests meet content specifications.  All test questions are classified according to their content and statistical properties before they are administered on an operational test.  The moderate and more difficult testlets meet equivalent content specifications.  Test administration software at the test center selects the difficulty level of multiple-choice testlets based on the candidate’s performance.

Q.  Will the Examination change in the future?

A.  Yes. The AICPA keeps Examination content current and aligned with professional practice.  Additional changes in test length, structure, and content may be made, subject to the same process as was used to propose and approve the current test format.  Changes based on regular practice analyses are part of a critical ongoing program of continuous improvement.