Each section of the CPA exam is comprised of a combination of multiple choice questions, task based simulations, and written communication tasks. But the CPA exam format does vary section by section.
CPA Exam Format by Section
|Multiple Choice Questions||Task Based Simulations||Written Communication Tasks|
Multiple Choice Questions
The multiple choice questions are always the first part of each exam. The questions are broken up into three “testlets” or groups. For example, the multiple choice section of the AUD exam will have 3 different sections, each consisting of 30 questions, for a total of 90. Once you submit a group of 30 questions, you are unable to return to this section. I found it nice to be able to move on from the questions that continued to haunt me in each section, as this is a timed tested, and dwelling too long on one question can make you crunched for time later on.
In each testlet, you are able to flag questions that you want to come back to. I found this tool helpful, as I liked to first make my way through all 30 questions in the testlet, answering those I was sure of, and then returning later on to those that I flagged, meaning I didn’t know or wanted to take a second look at. This was a helpful test taking hack and good way to budget time.
Task Based Simulations
Task based simulations come after the multiple choice questions. They are supposed to be real life scenarios that are testing a specific concept or skill related to that section of the exam. Many times they require you to type in the number yourself, or perhaps select it from a drop down list. They’re usually one long problem with multiple parts, which makes them both time consuming and challenging. I liked to allot myself a fair amount of time to complete this part of the exam, as I almost always found myself completely clueless about one of the questions.
Written Communication Tasks
These tasks only appear on the BEC section of the exam. They require you to respond to a given scenario in either a letter or memo. I found them to be quite easy and so long as you briefly look over the guidelines of what the scorers are looking for in your response, should not be something that takes much of your time. They are designed to help you with communication skills in a work-like setting.
Below is the breakdown of how each of these sections count toward your total scoring in section of the exam: