How is the CPA Test Graded?

At this point, you are probably well aware of the structure of the Uniform CPA Exam. However, if you are green to the CPA Exam process or if you want a quick refresher, let’s take a look at the structure of each section of the CPA Exam under the current version and the new version. If you are a CPA Exam pro, feel free to jump down to the section that is titled How is the CPA Test Graded: Item Response Theory.

How is the CPA Test Graded: AUD Structure Changes

AUD Structure Changes

Current Version

Multiple Choice Questions 90 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 60 percent
Task Based Simulations 7 simulations
Task Based Simulations Weight 40 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 4 hours

New Version (April 1, 2017 and Beyond)

Multiple Choice Questions 72 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 50 percent
Task Based Simulations 8-9 simulations
Task Based Simulations Weight 50 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 4 hours

How is the CPA Test Graded: BEC Structure Changes

BEC Structure Changes

Current Version

Multiple Choice Questions 72 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 85 percent
Task Based Simulations N/A
Task Based Simulations Weight N/A
Written Communication Tasks 3 tasks
Written Communication Tasks Weight 15 percent
Time 3 hours

New Version (April 1, 2017 and Beyond)

Multiple Choice Questions 62 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 50 percent
Task Based Simulations 4-5 simulations
Task Based Simulations Weight 35 percent
Written Communication Tasks 3 tasks
Written Communication Tasks Weight 15 percent
Time 4 hours

How is the CPA Test Graded: FAR Structure Changes

FAR Structure Changes

Current Version

Multiple Choice Questions 90 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 60 percent
Task Based Simulations 7 simulations
Task Based Simulations Weight 40 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 4 hours

New Version (April 1, 2017 and Beyond)

Multiple Choice Questions 66 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 50 percent
Task Based Simulations 8-9 simulations
Task Based Simulations Weight 50 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 4 hours

How is the CPA Test Graded: REG Structure Changes

REG Structure Changes

Current Version

Multiple Choice Questions 72 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 60 percent
Task Based Simulations 6 simulation
Task Based Simulations Weight 40 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 3 hours

New Version (April 1, 2017 and Beyond)

Multiple Choice Questions 76 questions
Multiple Choice Questions Weight 50 percent
Task Based Simulations 8-9 simulation
Task Based Simulations Weight 50 percent
Written Communication Tasks N/A
Written Communication Tasks Weight N/A
Time 4 hours

How is the CPA Test Graded: Item Response Theory

In short, the CPA Exam is evaluated using a theory known as Item Response Theory (IRT). What is IRT? According to a Journal of Accountancy article, How the CPA Exam is Scored, “IRT is a class of mathematical models used for exam development and analysis, making it easier and more efficient to compare candidate scores when they are based on exams that have different questions.” The articles goes on to say, “Three statistics are used to describe the questions: difficulty—whether the question is easier or more difficult for candidates; discrimination—how well the question differentiates between more able and less able candidates; and guessing—the chances of candidates answering the question correctly just by guessing.”

So no, there is not some magic number of multiple choice questions, task-based simulations, and written communication tasks that you need to get right to receive a passing score on the CPA Exam. Instead, you need to prove to the Exam that you are capable of answering questions that are difficult, that will differentiate you from other candidates, and that are harder to guess correctly by chance. This does not mean that you should try to gauge each question received and attempt to determine if it is an easy, medium, or hard question. You should, however, attempt each question with your best effort within a reasonable time frame. Knowing when you don’t know an answer to a question is important so that you can make an educated guess and move on. As always, remember to breathe.

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