The Four Parts of the CPA Exam

Gina Deveney
Posted by in Accounting, Auditing & Tax

The CPA test is one of the most important tests you will take as you pursue a career in public accounting. Officially called the Uniform CPA Examination, it has four CPA exam sections that cover topics such as auditing, regulation, financial accounting, and business environment. In 2012, the section on business environment had the highest pass rate among all CPA test sections. From January through May 2012, the financial accounting and reporting section had the lowest pass rate. Study the content for this section, and all of the CPA exam sections, as you will need to know the information when you take the exam.


The Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section covers internal accounting controls, methods of obtaining and documenting information, and preparing accounting communications related to auditing. You should also have a broad base of knowledge regarding auditing standards and procedures, auditing ethics, and independence. Like all of the CPA exam sections, this section contains three sets of multiple-choice questions, and each set has thirty questions. The AUD section also has a set of seven simulation questions.

The Regulation (REG) section covers business law, professional responsibility, federal taxation, and specific accounting issues. If it has been some time since you graduated from an accounting program, consider taking a CPA review course before attempting this or any of the other CPA exam sections. Adrienne Gonzalez of says that attempting to study with just an accounting textbook and some practice problems may be too daunting for some exam candidates.


The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section is one of the most difficult CPA exam sections. Exam content in this section includes questions about financial statements, accounting transactions, governmental accounting reports, and nonprofit and nongovernmental accounting techniques. If you think this section of the exam will be the most difficult for you, attempt it before you attempt any of the other CPA exam sections. If you pass the examination, you will have eighteen months to pass the other three CPA exam sections. If you do not pass, the clock will not start, so you don't have to worry about rushing to take the FAR section a second time.


The final section is the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section, which covers topics such as information technology in accounting, accounting measurement, business concepts, financial management, and economic concepts. This is the only CPA exam section that must be reviewed by a human, as it contains simulation questions that you must answer in writing. When you take this CPA exam section, it may take a little longer to receive your results since the simulation questions will not be scored by a computer.


If you want to become a certified public accountant, you must pass all four CPA exam sections. How you prepare for the exam will depend on your learning style and your areas of strength. If you have a hard time studying for any of the four CPA exam sections, consider purchasing test prep books or taking a review course offered by a reputable organization.


(Image courtesy of sheelamohan / 


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch