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CPA Examination testlet structure and CPA Details

CPA Examination testlet structure

CPA Examination testlet structure: Uniform CPA Examination Structure The Uniform CPA Examination (Examination) comprises four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). Candidates have a maximum of four and a half hours to complete the Examination:

• 5 minutes – Welcome/Launch Code screen

• 5 minutes – Confidentiality/Section Information screen

• 4 hours – Testing time

• 15 minutes – Standardised break

• 5 minutes – Survey

CPA Examination testlet structure

Testing within the four sections of the Examination is administered in five smaller segments called test lets, which feature multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs), and in the case of BEC, three written communication tasks. The number of MCQs and TBSs tested varies depending upon the specific section taken (see pg. 2 Examination Structure by Section). Candidates will receive at least one research question (research oriented TBS) in the AUD, FAR and REG sections that requires the candidate to search the applicable authoritative literature and find an appropriate reference. Breaks During each Examination section, candidates will be offered a standardised, 15-minute break after the first TBS test let; the approximate midpoint (two hours). The decision to place the standardised break after the first TBS test let is based on the typical time spent by candidates completing the requisite number of MCQs and TBSs. Candidates may use this as a guide to assess their time remaining to complete the Examination, however candidates need to be aware that the actual time spent on the test lets is impacted by the degree of difficulty of the items and candidate preparedness. If the candidate chooses to accept the standardised break, he/she must click the “Take a Break” button to pause the Examination timer. Failure to do so will result in the timer continuing to run.

The candidate may choose to decline the standardised break and continue testing, but the standardised break will not be offered again. During the standardised break, a candidate leaves the testing room, adhering to all security protocols. The candidate will be readmitted to the testing room once cleared by Prometric personnel. If the candidate has not returned and started the second TBS test let prior to the expiration of 15 minutes, the Examination timer will restart. Similar to the current Examination, candidates may choose to take an optional break between any two test lets, but it will count against total testing time as the Examination timer continues to run.

CPA Examination testlet structure

Who makes policy decisions for the Uniform CPA Examination?

Policy decisions for the Examination are made by the AICPA Board of Examiners after consultation with appropriate subcommittees and Examination stakeholders


What is the structure of the Uniform CPA Examination?

The Uniform CPA Examination consists of four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

CPA Examination testlet structure

What content areas are covered in each Examination section?

The main content areas covered in each section are:

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  1. Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and General Principles
  2. Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response
  3. Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence
  4. Forming Conclusions and Reporting

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  1. Corporate Governance
  2. Economic Concepts and Analysis
  3. Financial management
  4. Information technology
  5. Operations Management

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) 

  1. Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting and Financial Reporting
  2. Select Financial Statement Accounts
  3. Select Transactions
  4. State and Local Governments

Regulation (REG)

  1. Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and Federal Tax Procedures
  2. Business Law
  3. Federal Taxation of Property Transactions
  4. Federal Taxation of Individuals
  5. Federal Taxation of Entities

A complete overview of the content areas covered on the CPA Exam is provided in the Examination Blueprints.
What are the rules regarding new accounting and auditing pronouncements?

Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Examination in the later of: (1) the first testing window beginning after the pronouncement’s earliest mandatory effective date or (2) the first testing window beginning six (6) months after the pronouncement’s issuance date. In either case, there is a simultaneous introduction of content related to the new pronouncement and removal of content related to the previous pronouncement.

Changes in the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code, and federal taxation regulations may be included in the testing window beginning six (6) months after the change’s effective date or enactment date, whichever is later.

For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six (6) months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one (1) year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.
What is the time allocation for each section?

The examination time allocated for each section is as follows:

  • 4 hours – Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • 4 hours – Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • 4 hours – Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • 4 hours – Regulation (REG)

NOTE:  At Prometric test centers, the time allowed for each session is 30 minutes longer than examination time so that candidates may complete the sign-in process and survey without using up any of the time allocated for the Examination. (This does NOT mean that Examination time is extended for those who finish the sign-in process quickly.  Examination time never changes.)

CPA Examination testlet structure

Are breaks permitted during the Examination?

Yes. Candidates are offered a standardized, 15-minute break approximately midway through each section of the Examination. When offered this break, candidates may accept or decline and continue testing. If the candidate chooses to accept the break, he/she must click the “Take a Break” button. A confirmation screen will then note the break is underway. If a candidate takes a break without clicking the “Take a Break” button, the Examination Timer will continue to run.

Candidates are also permitted to take optional breaks between the other Examination section testlets, but the Examination timer will continue to run.

During any break, the candidate must adhere to the rules of the testing center.
Who determined the length of the Examination?

The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) charges it’s Content Subcommittee with making a recommendation about the length of the Examination.  In order to elicit input on this subject from Boards of Accountancy, the academic community, and members of the accounting profession, an exposure draft was circulated in 2015 to all constituencies.

After review of all collected data and consultation with psychometricians, the Content Committee recommended a total of 16 hours of testing, a length considered optimal to provide ample content coverage, psychometric reliability and validity of scores, and sufficient opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the appropriate level of knowledge and skills.
What types of questions are included on the Examination?

Each of the four sections of the Examination are composed of five testlets – groups of multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations (TBS or simulations). In the case of the BEC section, there are also written communication tasks.

CPA Examination testlet structure

Time and Syllabus:
In what order are the test questions presented in each section?

Auditing and Attestation (AUD):

  • Testlet 1: 36 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 36 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • Testlet 1: 31 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 31 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 2 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 Written Communication Tasks

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • Testlet 1: 33 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 33 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS

Regulation (REG)

  • Testlet 1: 38 MCQ
  • Testlet 2: 38 MCQ
  • Testlet 3: 2 TBS
  • Testlet 4; 3 TBS
  • Testlet 5: 3 TBS


CPA Examination testlet structure: Do the multiple-choice questions follow the same order as the Examination Blueprints?

No.  While each Examination section covers materials from the Examination Blueprints, the questions in each testlet are delivered randomly and do not follow the blueprint order.
CPA Examination testlet structure: What are task-based simulations?

Task-based simulations (TBS or simulations) are condensed case studies. In a TBS, use of knowledge is tested through a variety of tasks, some of which require searching databases, completing written communication tasks, or working with spreadsheets and forms. The skills that TBSs are intended to measure are: application, analysis and evaluation of the body of knowledge, and written communication.

CPA Examination testlet structure: What databases are available to candidates completing simulations?

For the research portions of simulations, candidates have access to some sections of the AICPA Professional Standards (in the Auditing and Attestation section), FASB Codification (in the Financial Accounting and Reporting section), and Tax Code (in the Regulation section).
CPA Examination testlet structure: CPA Examination testlet structure: Is this what is referred to as authoritative literature?

Yes, the reference materials consisting of AICPA Professional Standards, FASB Codification, and the Tax Code are referred to collectively as “authoritative literature”.

CPA Examination testlet structure
CPA Examination testlet structure: What are the written communication tasks?

In written communication tasks, candidates are presented with a situation and instructed to write a letter or memorandum on a specific topic.

Written communication tasks are scored on the basis of three criteria:
(1) organisation (structure, ordering of ideas, linking of ideas one to another); (2) development (presentation of supporting evidence); and (3) expression (use of standard business English).  Responses that do not address the assigned topic are not scored. Click here for more information about written communication tasks.
CPA Examination testlet structure: What is the percentage value of each Examination component?

In Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG), multiple-choice questions account for 50% and task-based simulations 50% of the score. In Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), multiple-choice questions account for 50%, task-based simulations 35% of the score and written communication tasks account for 15% of the score.
CPA Examination testlet structure: What is the delivery model used for the Examination?

A multistage adaptive test delivery model is used for all multiple-choice testlets. This means that the first testlet presented to the candidate is at a level of moderate difficulty.  The subsequent testlet – at the same or slightly more difficult level – is then chosen automatically based on the examinee’s performance on the first testlet. The task-based simulations presented in AUD, BEC, FAR and REG, and the written communication tasks in BEC, do not follow the adaptive model. They are not selected on the basis of prior performance.

CPA Examination testlet structure
Must questions be answered in the order in which they are presented?

Within each testlet or task-based simulation, questions may be answered in any order. However, the sequence in which testlets are presented does not change.

CPA Examination testlet structure
Is it possible to return to a previously completed testlet/simulation?

Candidates may review and revise their responses only as long as the testlet remains open.  Once they complete the testlet and move on to the next, it is not possible to return.

CPA Examination testlet structure
Do candidates take the same or different Examinations?

Candidates take different, equivalent Examinations.  The questions presented to candidates are drawn from a pool of test questions according to defined specifications.  Although candidates take different tests, the specifications ensure that the results are comparable.

CPA Examination testlet structure
With candidates taking different Examinations, how is it possible to ensure that each candidate is being correctly assessed?

The test assembly method and expert reviews ensure that all tests meet content specifications.  All test questions are classified according to their content and statistical properties before they are administered on an operational test.  The moderate and more difficult test lets meet equivalent content specifications.  Test administration software at the test center selects the difficulty level of multiple-choice testlets based on the candidate’s performance.

CPA Examination testlet structure
Will the Examination change in the future?

Yes. The AICPA keeps Examination content current and aligned with professional practice.  Additional changes in test length, structure, and content may be made, subject to the same process as was used to propose and approve the current test format.  Changes based on regular practice analyses are part of a critical ongoing program of continuous improvement.

CPA Examination testlet structure

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