Page Contents

Introduction to the CPA Exam

The official name of the CPA Exam is the Uniform CPA Examination. The exam is computer-based and comprised of questions developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a national organization. Passing the CPA Exam meets one of several requirements for becoming a licensed certified public accountant.

Most state boards of accountancy require candidates to complete (or be close to completing) 150 semester college credits before they can take the exam. Within the 150 credits there must be a minimum of a bachelor's degree along with specified accounting and business courses from a college that the state board of accountancy recognizes as being accredited.

Learn more about CPA Requirements

Difficulty of the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is considered to be one of the most difficult professional licensing exams. Even though candidates are allowed to take just one section at a time, the CPA Exam is so rigorous that only half of the candidates sitting for any given section of the exam will receive a passing score.

View recent CPA Exam pass rates

To fully appreciate the difficulty of the CPA Exam, remember that it is a select group of bright accountants who are experiencing these low pass rates. The people taking the CPA Exam have:

  • A minimum of 150 college credits that include very challenging accounting courses with high grading standards.

  • A keen aptitude for and a strong interest in accounting.

  • Prepared themselves for the exam often taking a formal CPA Exam review course and/or studying review materials.

It is a sobering statistic that nationally only 40-62% of the candidates sitting for the CPA Exam will achieve a passing score. If your goal is to become a certified public accountant, the low pass rates indicate the importance of a rigorous, high-quality, college accounting program. See our discussion under Accounting Degrees.

CPA Exam Facts

Some facts about the CPA Exam:

  1. The official title of the CPA Exam is the Uniform CPA Examination. The "Uniform" part of the name reflects the fact that the AICPA develops the exam as opposed to each state developing its own exam.

  2. The CPA Exam is completely computerized and is offered only in testing centers.

  3. The CPA Exam has been a computer-based exam since the year 2004 and it consists of four sections that can be taken one at a time and in any sequence. The sections and their allotted times are:

    • Auditing and Attestation (AUD) - 4 hours
    • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) - 4 hours
    • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) - 4 hours
    • Regulation (REG) - 4 hours
    In 2024, the CPA Exam will be changing. It is expected to have three core exams plus one of three discipline exams. You can learn more at

  4. As a general rule, it is best to attempt several sections of the CPA Exam as soon as your state's academic requirements have been met. Your recall of the accounting material learned in your college courses may be more helpful to you than the information you will learn in your first accounting job. (The exception may be the AUD section.)

  5. For important specifics and valuable resources to help you prepare for the CPA Exam, click here.

  6. For additional information regarding the CPA Exam, click here.

  7. To get current information on the international administration of the CPA Exam, click here.

CPA Exam Review Courses and Materials

A strategy for attaining a passing score on each section of the CPA Exam must include a disciplined and aggressive study plan.

CPA Exam review courses and materials will help you develop:

  • A timetable for reviewing accounting material learned over the past several years
  • A structure for organizing various topics in a logical manner
  • Helpful exam-taking techniques
  • A focus on important topics

We compiled the following alphabetical list of links for eight of the many CPA exam review courses and materials that are available. We have not reviewed any of these review courses and we do not receive any compensation from them.

CPA Review Courses