CPA Exam Pass Rates

You’ve heard all of your accounting friends, professors and colleagues say it: the CPA exam is hard. Even some of your non-accounting friends shudder at the idea of you taking it (or maybe they’re just upset because studying is about to take over your life).

With section pass rates hovering around 50%, it’s no statistical secret that the exam is difficult. Let’s get a better idea of the CPA pass rate by looking at each section individually and the exam as a whole.


Section Pass Rates

According to score reports produced by the AICPA, BEC has historically had the highest passing rate, and that holds true for both 2015 and 2014. At cumulative passing rates of 56% for 2015 and 55% in 2014, it’s the only exam that has boasted an over 50% rate in the last two years. It’s single-handedly making the “around 50% pass rate for individual exams” a reality.

AUD and FAR have been playing tag team on the lowest passing rate for several years. In 2015, they both had passing rates of 47%. In 2014, FAR had a slightly higher passing rate of 47%. AUD had the lowest passing rate at 46%.

REG likes to hang out somewhere in the middle. It had a passing rate of 49% in both 2014 and 2015.


How Likely Am I To Pass All 4 Parts Of The Exam On The First Try?

While it’s great to look at passing rates for each exam, the ideal situation would be to pass all exams in the first go. The last study on the subject was done in a technical report in 2007. The report looked at pass-fail patterns in the first ten windows of testing (April Q2 to June Q3 of the next year). It’s a lot of information to wade through, so here’s what you need to know:

  • 28% of people who took all four parts of the exam passed.

These numbers may not be completely reliable since they’re from 2007. But since pass rates for each individual exam have remained similar since then, it may be a good figure to consider for today’s pass rates.

When I first learned about this statistic, I freaked out. You may too. It’s understandable. But you can do this. Even if you don’t pass all four parts on the first try, you have that lovely 18-month window to knock them out. You’ve got this.


How Do I Increase My Chances of Passing?

The answer to this question is pretty easy, but implementing it varies from person to person: put in the time. This answer was posted on forums, mentioned in testing materials, and constantly hammered into my brain by professors when I was taking the exam. And it turned out to be true. Studying for the exam is not the place to procrastinate or cram.

Another key to remember is that the CPA exam is all about finding materials that suit you, and studying as long as you need to pass. Some people are visual learners, some are not. Some people may need more hours than others. Find the sweet spot that works for you, the intersection between putting in the hours and feeling confident about passing the exam.


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