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Uniform CPA Examination Scoring And Scoring Details

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring: How the CPA Exam is Scored?
This document is intended to provide a non-technical overview of the CPA Examination scoring process. It begins with a high-level overview of the Exam and how it is scored. Following the overview are a series of questions and answers that provide more detail about specific aspects of the scoring process.

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring

How is the CPA Examination Scored? Anyone who has taken the Uniform CPA Examination, prepared for the Examination, or been involved in the CPA licensure process knows that the passing score is 75. But very few understand what that 75 means. The AICPA regularly hears from candidates, state board representatives, educators, and others who wonder how the Examination is scored. This non-technical overview of the scoring process will help answer the most frequently asked questions. CPA Examination Structure The Examination comprises four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). All four sections contain multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and taskbased simulations (TBS). BEC has also has a portion for written communication tasks.

Testing within each Examination section is administered in blocks called testlets. Testlets contain operational and pretest questions. Operational questions are scored, while pretest questions are not scored. Pretest questions are indistinguishable from operational questions. Pretest questions that meet certain statistical criteria are used as operational questions on future Examinations.

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring

This strategy for pretesting questions is common practice in high-stakes testing. MCQ testlets vary in difficulty — there are two levels labeled “medium” and “difficult.” Within the testlets, items often vary in their difficulty levels, but across testlets, those labeled “difficult” contain harder questions on average than testlets labelled “medium.” Every candidate receives a medium testlet first. The succeeding testlet can be either medium or difficult, depending on a candidate’s performance (for more information about Multi-Stage Testing, see FAQ #3). The scoring procedures take the difficulty of all questions into account so that candidates are scored fairly regardless of the difficulty of the testlets they take.

TBSs are case studies that allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by generating responses to questions rather than simply selecting the correct answer. TBSs typically require candidates to use spreadsheets and/or research authoritative literature provided in the Examination. In addition, the BEC section contains three written communication tasks. Each requires the candidate to write a short passage, letter, or memo.

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

1. Can you compare scores of candidates who are administered Examinations with variable difficulty and different questions?

Yes. Scores from the different administrations of the Examination are placed on a standard scale so they can be compared to each other. This process accounts for any differences in difficulty among the versions. All total scores are reported on the Examination 0 to 99 scale. Given the significant changes made to the Examination (effective April 2017), a new passing score will be established via the standard setting process (see FAQ #14). It should be noted that scores for tests administered after April 1, 2017 are not comparable with scores from prior administrations except that 75 is the passing score. The use of a standard reporting scale is common practice in the testing industry. Similar examples are the SAT scale or the ACT scale.

2. Are some administrations of the Examination more difficult than others?

There may be minor differences among different administrations; however these differences are accounted for during scoring. The AICPA enhances test security by creating multiple forms of the Examination with different questions for different administrations. Each form is comparable but not identical. Great care is taken to match the forms in terms of content and item difficulty. Remember, a candidate may be given questions of varying difficulty depending on his/her performance (see page 1, CPA Examination Structure). The difficulties of the questions are accounted for during scoring. Therefore, it does not mean that it is easier to get a higher score simply because a candidate receives easier questions.

3. When are easier or more difficult questions given?

Candidates take two multiple-choice testlets. The first testlet is always a medium testlet. If a candidate performs well on the first testlet, he/she will get a more difficult second testlet while those who do not perform well on the first testlet will receive a second medium difficulty testlet. This testing process is called Multi-Stage Testing (MST). Please note that the task-based simulations are not chosen based on candidate performance on the multiple-choice testlets. They are pre-assigned. The diagram on page 4 shows how it works. (see FAQ #9 for further explanation of MultiStage Testing)

4. Can I compute my score from the number of questions I answered correctly?

No. The total reported score is a scaled value that takes into account both the response to and the statistical characteristics of each question administered. (see FAQs #12 and #16 for further information about the statistical characteristics and how scores are produced, respectively)

5. In college some of my professors gave tests that had questions that were worth one point and others that were worth two points. If one student got five of the one point questions right, he got five points. If another student answered five two point questions right, he got 10 points. Is that what you’re doing?

Conceptually, yes. But the professor assigned the weights based on judgment. In the Examination, the weights are determined from candidate response data using Item Response Theory (IRT). (see FAQ #12 for further information about IRT)

6. How do you score the written communication tasks?

Most responses are scored by a computer grading program, which is calibrated using human scorers. In some cases, responses are scored by a network of human graders (all CPAs). If a candidate score is close to the passing score, his/her written communication tasks will be automatically re-graded by human graders. When there is more than one grader for a response, the average of the scores is used as the final grade. Note: The remainder of the FAQs offer more detail about the Examination. Read on to gain a better understanding of the scoring process.

7. Can I pass by only doing well on the multiple-choice questions?

No. The portion contribution from task-based simulations and written communication tasks in BEC is too large. A candidate would need to get some of the TBS questions correct in order to pass.

8. Is Multi-Stage Testing fair?

Why are you using it? Yes, it is fair. Since the characteristics of the test questions are taken into account in the scoring, there is no advantage or disadvantage to being assigned testlets of different difficulty. The AICPA uses Multi-Stage Testing because the test questions are matched to proficiency levels, and therefore fewer questions are needed to obtain accurate estimates of proficiency.

9. How do you decide which questions are difficult and which are medium?

The difficulty levels of the test questions (and other statistics that are used to describe each test question) are determined through statistical analysis of candidate responses. At the question level, difficulty is not quantified as a category (e.g. moderate or difficult), but as a numeric value along a scale. Testlets are classified as either medium or difficult based on the average difficulty of the questions within that testlet.

10. Does that mean difficult testlets can have easier questions and medium testlets can have difficult questions?

Yes. All testlets have questions ranging in difficulty. Questions in difficult testlets just have a higher average level of difficulty than those in medium testlets.

Uniform CPA Examination Scoring

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