How Does the CPA Exam Compare to the GMAT?

Hey there! I am really glad you asked, “How does the CPA Exam compare to the GMAT?” As someone who has endured through both exams (CPA Exam and then the GMAT), I can personally attest to the difficulty of each exam. Now some of you, depending on the set up of your Masters of Accounting program or MBA program, may have taken or will be taking the GMAT prior to the CPA Exam as an entrance exam for your graduate business program. Others might take the CPA Exam first and then the GMAT second in order to enter an MBA program or PhD in Business program later in one’s career. Either way, I have news for you. Both exams are difficult; however, each exam is difficult for a different reason.

How does the CPA Exam compare to the GMAT

Study, study, study!

How Does the CPA Exam Compare to the GMAT: CPA Exam

The Uniform CPA Exam is not one exam but instead is a compilation of four unique competency exams: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Regulation (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section of the exam is then composed of a certain number of multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations or written communication tasks. The table below outlines the timing of each section, the number of questions in each section, and the grading evaluation of each section.

Section Timing Multiple Choice Questions Task-Based Simulations or Written Communication Tasks
AUD 4 hours 90 MC (60%) 7 TBS (40%)
BEC 3 hours 72 MC (85%) 3 WCT (15%)
FAR 4 hours 90 MC (60%) 7 TBS (40%)
REG 3 hours 72 MC (60%) 6 TBS (40%)

In order to pass any given section, you need a scaled score of 75 or above, and pass rates for any given section tend to range from 45 percent to 55 percent. In the end, the goal is to join the coveted 300 club.

How Does the CPA Exam Compare to the GMAT: GMAT

Conversely, the GMAT is a single entrance exam and has four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Each section of the exam has a specific style of question and an associated number of questions. The table below outlines the timing of each section, the number of questions in each section, and the grading evaluation of each section.

Section Timing Questions Type Evaluation
Analytical Writing Assessment 30 minutes 1 Topic Analysis of Argument 0-6

(Half-point intervals)

Integrated Reasoning 30 minutes 12 Questions Multi-Source Reasoning

Graphics Interpretation

Two-Part Analysis

Table Analysis

1-8 (No partial credit)
Quantitative 75 minutes 37 Questions Data Sufficiency

Problem Solving



Verbal 75 minutes 41 Questions Reading Comprehension

Critical Reasoning

Sentence Correction



Total Score 200-800


* Scores above and below interval (#-##) are rare

** 2/3 of test takers score between 400 and 600

For the GMAT, there is not a “passing score.” However, test takers striving for top MBA and PhD programs tend to desire to be part of the 700 club. It is important to note that although the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections do not factor into the total score, doing poorly on these sections may hurt your chance of being admitted into the MBA or PhD program of your choice.

How Does the CPA Exam Compare to the GMAT: Last Thoughts

The CPA Exam and the GMAT are both difficult. Your ability to succeed on the CPA Exam largely depends on your accumulated development of accounting knowledge over your undergraduate and possibly graduate academic career. Your ability to succeed on the GMAT largely depends on your ability to reason. Each exam adjusts the question difficulty based on your previous performance. The CPA Exam does this by giving you a relatively hard, medium, or easy testlet based on your previous testlet. On the other hand, on the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GMAT, each question is selected based on your performance on the previous question. You can either pass or fail the CPA Exam; however, the equivalent notion of pass or fail does not exist for the GMAT. For the GMAT, you can earn your target score or not. Keep in mind, to be successful on either exam, you will need to put in lots of hard work and have determination. For more information about the GMAT, please check out the GMAT blog and say hi to Kevin! As always, remember to breathe.


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