What Order Should I Take the CPA Exams In?

What order should I take the CPA Exams in? The good news is that assuming you take and pass each section one time, you only have 24 potential options. Don’t believe me. Let’s take a look at the different combinations.

CPA Exam Order: Combinations

ID

First

Second

Third

Fourth

1 AUD BEC FAR REG
2 AUD BEC REG FAR
3 AUD FAR BEC REG
4 AUD FAR REG BEC
5 AUD REG BEC FAR
6 AUD REG FAR BEC
7 BEC AUD FAR REG
8 BEC AUD REG FAR
9 BEC FAR AUD REG
10 BEC FAR REG AUD
11 BEC REG AUD FAR
12 BEC REG FAR AUD
13 FAR AUD BEC REG
14 FAR AUD REG BEC
15 FAR BEC AUD REG
16 FAR BEC REG AUD
17 FAR REG AUD BEC
18 FAR REG BEC AUD
19 REG AUD BEC FAR
20 REG AUD FAR BEC
21 REG BEC AUD FAR
22 REG BEC FAR AUD
23 REG FAR AUD BEC
24 REG FAR BEC AUD

BTW, a nice shortcut to calculate the number of options is 4! AKA four factorial, which 4*3*2*1=24.

CPA Exam Order: My Order

From experience, the order that I went with for the CPA Exam is probably not the best order. Specifically, I took FAR on October 23, 2014, BEC on October, 31, 2014, AUD on November 13, 2014, and REG on November 29, 2014. This combination equates to line item number 15. Although I passed each section on the first go, passing REG was incrementally more difficult in part because of the non-stop studying from the previous exam. This incremental difficulty is what I like to attribute to CPA Exam burnout.

CPA Exam Order: Better Order

To help prevent CPA Exam burnout, I would go with combination number 14. This combination means that you would take FAR, AUD, REG, and BEC in this order. Why? First, starting out with the most difficult section and passing the most difficult section will give you the added boost of confidence needed to succeed on the other sections. In other words, it’s all downhill from here. Second, giving yourself ample space between FAR and REG will help you help yourself not be confused on transactions with different financial and tax accounting recognition. Third, ending the CPA Exam on what some people consider the easiest section the CPA Exam, BEC, will allow you to coast to the finish line without suffering from a case of CPA Exam burnout.

If you find one of the other orders to be more conducive to your study schedule and your preferences, use that order. You are in the best position to determine which order will work best for you. Stick to your plan and give yourself an ample amount of time to prepare for each section. As always, remember to breathe.

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2 Responses to What Order Should I Take the CPA Exams In?

  1. John Karwacki June 8, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    Andrew,

    Interesting piece. I’ve chosen line item 9: BEC (07/02*) => FAR (08/30) => AUD (10/01) => REG (11/TBD)

    *Already scheduled.

    My line of thinking is to cycle the volume of content and perceived difficulty, and to start with a ‘introduction’ to the exam testing process by hitting the exam content I am most academically and professionally comfortable with (BEC). I’m aware that this doesn’t necessary make BEC the ‘easiest’ test for me, nor FAR or REG the hardest, but psychologically I think this will work best for me for most of the process.

    My regret is that REG is likely going to be last, and for me, REG (specifically tax) is something I am weak in. With the 04/2017 changes to take place, I very well may experience burnout if I need to take that thing again in ’17 — God forbid I fail an exam any need to re-take REG in the new 4-hour long format….

    Point being: One advantage I think my choice has for some test-takers who are deciding is that if indeed you start with the test you are most comfortable with, and the time 18month window elapses, re-studying the material will be far less draining if you enjoy the content (I do) and are working in a related field. That’s my bit to add, we’ll see how it plays out…

    Thanks again!

    • Andrew
      Andrew June 8, 2016 at 7:32 pm #

      John,

      Thanks for the great insight! Good luck on BEC 🙂


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