How Hard Is The CPA Exam? How To Pass It With Ease?

How Hard Is The CPA Exam - MyClassTracks

Often, there’s this scary feeling about the CPA Exam, and you might be tense, thinking, “ How hard is the CPA exam? How much preparation do I need for the CPA Exam? Is it really possible to pass it?” 

There comes a time in the journey of every CPA aspirant when these popular questions come their way. And when these questions hit you, you might become anxious! 

In this article, we will explore the difficulty levels of the CPA exam and give an insight into how you can score the best for your exam! 

Make sure you continue to read until the end, as we have some crucial tips that will help you prepare for your exam and ace it!

First Of All, Is CPA Hard?

Yes, it is hard. But does that mean you can’t pass it? NO!

Every CPA aspirant who is dreaming of clearing it must know that there’s no shortcut to hard work. 

We will be discussing in detail the exam’s difficulty down below. But first, let’s have a quick look at what the CPA Exam exactly is.

Overview Of The CPA Exam

CPA is the acronym for Certified Public Accountant, and to become a licensed one, you must pass the CPA Exam, popularly known as Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam). It’s a computer-based exam.

You’ve probably heard about AICPA, Prometric, and NASBA whenever you’ve come across CPA Exam-related discussions. These are the different organizations that administer the exam. AICPA is the owner of the exam, whereas NASBA & Prometric are the partner bodies.

How Hard Is The CPA Exam  - Overview

The CPA exam is conducted 4 times a year. Yet, registration for the same is open throughout the year.

The exam comprises 4 different sections, 4 hours each: 

  • AUD (Auditing and Attestation)
  • BEC (Business Environment and Concepts)
  • FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting)
  • REG (Regulation)

Scores for the exam are calculated on a scale from 0 to 99. A minimum score of 75 is required to pass a particular section in CPA, for which you’ll have 18 months.

Total scores for different sections are calculated as per the following weightage criteria:

Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)Task-Based Simulations (TBSs)Written Communication Tasks (WCTs)
AUD50%       (72 Ques.)50%       (8 Ques.)  
BEC50%       (62 Ques.)35%       (4 Ques.)15%       (3 Ques.)
FAR50%       (66 Ques.)50%       (8 Ques.)
REG50%       (76 Ques.)50%       (8 Ques.)

Further, each section is divided into 5 Testlets as follows:

Testlet 1Testlet 2Testlet 3Testlet 4Testlet 5

Simple to understand, isn’t it?

Now let us look at the part you were so curious about!

How Hard Is The CPA Exam?

Data tells us that the CPA exam pass rate flutters around 50%.

About half of the candidates who take the CPA Exam fail on their first attempt. Additionally, as per AICPA, the national average pass rate is 45-55%.

Also, the latest data shown by AICPA for the CPA exam pass rate for the calendar year 2022 is as shown: 


Q4 is yet to be published.

What Makes The CPA Exam Hard?

There are different factors such as different types of questioning patterns, time limits, scoring patterns, 18-month cycles, etc.

Basically, it’s the various skill levels that you’re tested upon.

The 4 skill levels you’re tested upon are:

  • Remembering and Understanding
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Evaluation.

These four skill levels are tested through the four sections, i.e., AUD, BEC, FAR, REG

Remembering and UnderstandingApplicationAnalysisEvaluation

Near about 570 representative tasks have been identified that are crucial to the newly licensed CPA’s role in protecting the public’s interest.

AICPA chooses the right individuals through the exam to become the U.S. CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS and thus has adopted a skill framework for the Exam based on Bloom’s revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives which classifies a continuum of skills that you’re expected to learn and exhibit.

CPA’s exam toughness ensures the gold standard for accountants.

As a student surfing the internet, looking at reviews, and different analytical reports, you might see many results showing that FAR is the section responsible for the exam’s difficulty, toughness level, etc. 

Different candidates face different issues. Sometimes all these things have such an impact on our minds that we start believing them to be true and applicable to us, too, even when that’s not the case in reality. Who knows, section FAR might be easy for you and not BEC.

It’s just your accounting background and POV that will define the difficulty level for your case. 

Pass The CPA Exam With These Simple Tips & Techniques:

Planning, Dedication, Perseverance, and Belief will get you there! A serious and thorough study of an average of 12 -18 months can get you through the CPA exam. 

Here are some dos and don’ts to remember when preparing for your exam. 


  • Dedicate specific hours of the day to study for CPA Exam 
  • Keep everything else aside during study hours
  • Plan a cycle for studying different sections
  • Work on your weaker topics
  • Refer to the CPA blueprint for guidance
  • Practice, practice, and practice!


  • Practice more with the topics you’re comfortable with
  • No attention to the topics you’re comfortable with
  • Memorize questions.
  • Avoid attempting the real exam just because you’re not scoring 100% in practice tests. You can still attempt the real exam with around 80% score in practice tests.

What Is The Time Frame For CPA Exam?

It’s a 16-hour exam which consists of 4 different sections – 4 hours each. 

Besides, a standardised break of 15 minutes is offered roughly midway through each section which is optional.

Though it might appear to you that easy, it doesn’t work that way. Let’s understand it in a more precise manner.

CPA Exam is conducted 4 times a year. It’s a year-round exam known as “continuous testing”, allowing candidates to pass all the sections within 18 months.

Great news! You can retake a failed section.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each section is of 4 hours – 16 hours in all.
  • Take any section you want first.
  • After you’ve passed your first section, a timer of 18 months begins from the date on which you had taken your passed section
  • Pass all the remaining sections in these 18 months.
  • Voila! You’re there.

What If You Don’t Pass Within 18 Months?

If you don’t pass your exam within 18 months, the score of the first section you passed will become invalid.

However, the appearing date for your next section passed becomes the starting date for your next 18-month time.

Let us understand it with a simple scenario:

  • You take AUD on 4 Feb 2010 and pass
  • You take BEC on 4 Apr 2010 and pass
  • Now you must pass FAR and REG on or before 4 Aug 2011 (viz., within 18 months) to retain the score for AUD.
  • If you don’t, the score for AUD expires.
  • If the score for AUD expires, the next 18-month time starts from 4 Apr 2010 (attempt date for BEC). This means you must pass FAR, REG & AUD on or before 4 Oct 2011 to retain the score for BEC.

Tips To Pass The CPA Exam

Here are some tips that you can use to pass the CPA exam with ease.

  • If you are a graduate student and you have the summer holidays on your hands, then instead of enjoying the holidays like other students, you should study for the CPA exam. This will help you build confidence and prepare for the exam in a way that most students can’t. If you can manage to sacrifice your summer holidays, then you should definitely do it.
  • Create a plan for each section of the exam, such as figuring out how much time you would need to give to each section to score passing marks. Take practice tests and figure it out yourself because this will help you with time management for the actual exam.
  • There are many online courses available for the CPA exam that can give you the material you need to prepare for the CPA exam. Take advantage of that and use the practice tests to get better. However, you will need to invest in these courses to get access to all the materials, but all-in-all, it will definitely be worth it.

Related Read:

Is The CPA Exam Hard? Yes! Impossible To PASS? No!

There is no doubt that AICPA has a vision of protecting public interests. It’ll require truly competent individuals to become U.S. Certified Public Accountants and the gateway for the same is not going to be simple.

It’s going to test you on different parameters at every level, like your thinking abilities, your analytical abilities, your administrative abilities, your management abilities, and many more. Start your preparation with these things in mind.

Nonetheless, with the right approach, the right planning, with the right resources, there’s no exam in the world that you can’t pass.

There are plenty of resources available. Choose the right ones, not each and every one. Refer to CPA Exam Blueprints and CPA Sample Tests via AICPA Official Website. Refer for more information on NASBA. Practice as much as you can, but at the same time, don’t burn yourself out.


Can I take the CPA Exam offline?

No. It’s a pure computer-based exam. Also, the scores are fully automated except for the Written Communication Tasks.

Is the CPA Exam available in different languages?

No. It is available only in the English language.

Do I lose marks if I answer incorrectly?

No. You will just get no points for that question. So, you should prefer answering each and every question.

How many times am I allowed to fail a CPA exam?

There is no such limit to the number of times you retake a failed section. It’s just that you’ve to wait to receive your score for the last attempt of the section.

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