How Common is it to Fail the CPA Exam?

How common is it to fail the CPA Exam? Let’s narrow down this question to how common is it to fail one of the four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam? Better yet, let’s drop the term failure. This term has an unnecessarily negative connotation. Just because one does not earn a passing score on an individual section of the CPA Exam, it does not mean that person is less successful towards achieving his or her objective of becoming a licensed CPA. If anything, the person who does not earn a passing score on a specific section on his or her first attempt has been granted the opportunity to dive deeper into the topics covered on that particular section, which can lead to the lifelong benefit of being a well-informed individual. Let’s reframe the aforementioned question using the term having the opportunity to take a section again in place of the term fail CPA Exam or failure on the CPA Exam. Thus, how common it to have the opportunity to take a section again on the Uniform CPA Exam? Much better. It’s time to explore this topic further?

Opportunity to Retake: CPA Exam Pass Rates

For the first quarter of 2016, aspiring CPA candidates such as yourself came out in large numbers to take AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG. According to the AICPA, the pass rates for AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG were 44.87%, 55.40%, 44.74%, and 47.55% respectively. As you can see, these pass rates are not exceptionally high, especially compared to what you would probably expect on a midterm or final. If you assume that taking each section of the CPA Exam is independent and that the true probability is represented in pass rates presented above, then you would expect an individual to pass all four parts of the CPA Exam on his or her first attempt approximately 5.29% of the time. The assumption of independence is most likely unrealistic. As a result, your performance on one section is likely to be dependent on your performance on another section. Understand though that passing all four parts is not an easy feat, and for three out of four of the sections, the pass rate was less than one in two candidates.

Opportunity to Retake: Lessons Learned

So if you have the opportunity to retake a section, please try to using your previous attempt as a learning experience going forward on your next and hopefully last attempt. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Do not let one off test day affect your confidence. You are strong. You will succeed. I have confidence in you. Your family, your peers, and your friends are all of proud of you. Stay confident and as always, remember to breathe.

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  • Andrew

    Andrew helps Magoosh’s future CPAs by letting them know what it takes to pass the Exam, get licensed, and succeed in the accounting profession. Andrew is a licensed CPA and loves accounting (perhaps too much). He graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Accounting. Since then, he experienced the Big 4 Public Accounting Firm life and has begun the Pre-PhD journey at the University of Colorado. If Andrew looks familiar, it is probably because his doppelganger is Harry Potter.

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