What’s In Each CPA Exam Section?

Luckily for you, the CPA exam is broken up into four distinct sections – BEC, REG, FAR, and AUD. Okay, you may not feel lucky, but ask any of your professors and they’ll no doubt tell you a very long and drawn out story about how the exam used to be taken during one long weekend. It sounds awful.

So count your lucky stars that you can take the exam at four different times today! Let’s take a look at what you can expect to see on each CPA exam section.


BEC – Business Environment and Concepts

BEC covers a broad range of topics that you may not have covered in your accounting classes, but should’ve covered in your business classes. It’s broken down into the following sections:

  1. Corporate Governance – Rights of BOD, Officers and Employees and Control Environment
  2. Economic Concepts and Analysis
  3. Financial Management
  4. Information and Communications
  5. Strategic Planning
  6. Operations Management

BEC is the only exam that contains written simulations as opposed to task-based simulations. These simulations are graded by a human being, so you’ll want to be able to answer the questions in a clear and professional way while using correct spelling and grammar.

Multiple Choice: 3 testlets made up of 24 questions each for a total of 72 questions

Simulations: 3 Written Simulations

Time: 3 hours


REG – Regulation

The majority of the REG exam is going to focus on taxation and will cover the following concepts:

  1. Federal Tax Processes, Procedures, Accounting and Planning
  2. Federal Property Taxation
  3. Federal Individual Taxation
  4. Federal Entity Taxation (C-Corp, S-Corp, Partnerships, Trusts & Estates, Tax-Exempt Organizations)

The rest of the exam is made up of business law and ethics which will cover the following:

  1. Ethics
  2. Professional and Legal Responsibility
  3. Business Law – Agency, Contracts, Government Regulation of Business, Business Structure

Multiple Choice: 3 testlets made up of 24 questions each for a total of 72 questions.

Simulations: 6 Task-Based Simulations

Time: 3 hours


FAR – Financial Accounting and Reporting

FAR is going to cover everything that has to do with the financial statements, from the different types of statements to preparing entries. Check out the different concepts below:

  1. Conceptual Framework, Standards and Standard Setting, Presentation of Financial Statements
  2. Financial Statement Accounts – Cash, AR, Inventory, etc.
  3. Specific Transactions, Events and Disclosures – Consolidation, Contingencies, Earnings per share, etc.
  4. Governmental Accounting and Reporting
  5. Not-for-Profit Accounting and Reporting

The FAR exam is often thought of as difficult simply due to the breadth of knowledge that you have to learn. They obviously don’t test every concept, but you will need to be prepared for them to test every concept.

Multiple Choice: 3 testlets made up of 30 questions each for a total of 90 questions.

Simulations: 7 Task-Based Simulations

Time: 4 hours


AUD – Auditing and Attestation

Much of the AUD exam is related to performing an actual audit. The concepts that are tested surrounding audits are below:

  1. Engagement Acceptance and Understanding the Assignment
  2. Understanding the Entity and Its Environment
  3. Performing Auditing Procedures and Evaluating Evidence
  4. Evaluating Audit Findings, Communications and Reporting

You will need to know concepts related to review service engagements too, which are similar to audits but not as in depth. The exam also covers the professional responsibilities of an auditor.

Multiple Choice: 3 testlets made up of 30 questions each for a total of 90 questions.

Simulations: 7 Task-Based Simulations

Time: 4 hours


Want More Info?

If you’re a numbers person (and you probably are) and want to know the actual breakdown of these concept on the exam, feel free to peruse the AICPA’s Content and Skill Specifications.


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