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Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: The Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination is the examination that an individual must pass in order to qualify for licensure as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in any of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands).

CPAs are the only licensed accounting professionals. CPA licenses are issued by state boards of accountancy in the 55 jurisdictions – there is no national CPA licensure process in the U.S.

The purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination is to provide reasonable assurance to Boards of Accountancy (the state entities that have statutory authority to issue licenses) that those who pass the CPA Examination possess the level of technical knowledge and the skills necessary for initial licensure in protection of the public interest. Public interest is protected when only qualified individuals are admitted into the profession.

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination

One of Three Licensure Requirements

The Uniform CPA Examination is one of the “Three Es” – Education, Examination, and Experience – that constitute the requirements for CPA licensure. Of these three requirements, only the CPA Examination is uniform (i.e., it is the only examination that is accepted for CPA licensure by all U.S. jurisdictions), while education and experience requirements may vary from one jurisdiction to another. Candidates for CPA licensure must meet all three requirements. As a result, passing the CPA Examination is not sufficient – in itself – to qualify for licensure.

Structure

The Uniform CPA Examination currently consists of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). These four sections represent a total of 14 hours of testing.

Background

The Uniform CPA Examination developed from the examination that was used for admission to membership in the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). In 1917, the Institute offered the examination for use in the licensure process by Boards of Accountancy. At that time, Boards in three jurisdictions accepted the invitation. It was not until 1952 that the examination was first used in all jurisdictions.

Until the end of 2003, the Uniform CPA Examination was administered twice a year in the paper-and-pencil format. In April 2004, the computer-based CPA Examination was launched and the paper-and-pencil examination was discontinued. In 2009, the computer-based CPA Examination reached a milestone – one million administrations. A new CPA Examination release is scheduled for 2017.

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination

What’s on the CPA Examination?

Access the Examination’s content by reviewing the Examination Blueprints.

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: CPA Examination FAQs

Get the answers to questions about the Examination content, candidate eligibility, test administration, and scoring.

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: Tutorial and Sample Tests

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Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: Uniform CPA Examination General Information

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination is the examination administered to people who wish to become U.S. Certified Public Accountants. The CPA Exam is used by the regulatory bodies of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The CPA Exam is developed, maintained and scored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and administered at Prometric test centres in partnership with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: Uniform CPA Examination General Information

Computer-based examination

Since April 5, 2004, the exam has been administered only by a computer in secure testing centres. In addition to the knowledge CPAs require, the CPA Exam assesses important skills CPAs are expected to have. This includes the ability to use authoritative database software and electronic applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. Professional business writing skills are also assessed. In July 2009, the one millionth administration of the computerised CPA exam was recorded.

Currently, the testing year is divided into four “windows” consisting of three months. Each three-month window is divided into two consecutive months of allowed testing followed by one month where tests may not be administered. During each three-month window, the candidates may take one or more sections, but may take each section only once.

Purpose of the Uniform CPA Examination: Uniform CPA Examination General Information: Exam content

The CPA exam is aligned to professional practice. The exam is a sixteen-hour exam tested in four separate sections. As many as two sections can be taken in a given day or each section can be taken on separate days. The basic outlines of the exam sections are as follows:

Auditing and Attestation (4.0 hours): (AUD) – This section covers knowledge of planning the engagement, internal controls, obtaining and documenting information, reviewing engagements and evaluating information and preparing communications.
Business Environment and Concepts (4.0 hours): (BEC) – This section covers knowledge of business structures, economic concepts, financial management, information technology, and planning and measurement.
Financial Accounting and Reporting (4.0 hours): (FAR) – This section covers knowledge of concepts and standards for financial statements, typical items in financial statements, specific types of transactions and events, accounting and reporting for governmental agencies, and accounting and reporting for non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations.
Regulation (4.0 hours): (REG) – This section covers knowledge of ethics and professional responsibility, business law, Federal tax procedures and accounting issues, Federal taxation of property transactions, Federal taxation – individuals, and Federal taxation – entities.
The Uniform CPA Exam also tests primary understanding and the ability to apply authoritative literature — such as auditing and accounting standards, the Uniform Commercial Code, and the Internal Revenue Code — that are universally adopted by all U.S. jurisdictions, or that are federal in nature. Every effort is made to avoid asking about subject matter that may have different correct answers in different jurisdictions.

Uniform CPA Examination General Information: Testing method

For three of the four exam sections (AUD, FAR, and REG), multiple-choice questions represent 50% of the total score, while the other 50% is derived from simulation style questions. For the BEC section of the exam, the score is derived from 50% multiple-choice questions, 35% simulations, and 15% written communication. Accounting knowledge is tested in simulations through a variety of tasks, some of which require searching databases, completing written communication exercises, and working with spreadsheets and forms. The skills that simulations are intended to measure are: analysis, judgment, communication, and research.

As of 2011, BEC is the only section that contains written communication task simulations. This measures the ability of CPA candidates to be able to write effective and coherent standard business English. Prior to 2011, written communication tasks were contained in all four sections of the exam.

Written communication responses are scored on the basis of three criteria:

  • Organization – structure, ordering of ideas, linking of ideas one to another.
  • Development – presentation of supporting evidence.
  • Expression – use of standard business English.

Responses that do not address the assigned topic are not scored.

During the examination, candidates may take a break after completing a “testlet” (either a set of multiple choice questions or a simulation). Once a testlet is completed, however, the candidate is not allowed to return to it, so it is not possible to use the “break time” to improve one’s score by looking up answers. The clock continues to run during breaks.

The “bank” of questions is much larger than the set presented to each candidate. Different candidates (even taking the examination at the same time) may therefore receive a completely different examination. This variance is accounted for in the scoring.

Uniform CPA Examination General Information

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