To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), one has to clear the CPA exam, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This certification is the highest level of qualification in the accounting profession and gives global recognition to the individual who earns it. To obtain the CPA certification, one requires to appear for the exam.
The CPA exam is a challenging and extensive test that covers various aspects of accounting. There are four sections in the exam, and each one has its features, such as format, structure, content, and scoring. In this blog, we will explore and understand each section of the CPA exam and also how to get ready for them.
The Four CPA Exam Sections:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
The candidates are given four hours to cover each exam section which they can take individually in 18 months. To earn the certification, it is mandatory to pass all four sections in those 18 months. Candidates can attempt any section in any order. One can attempt exams more than once but not in the same section in the same testing window. A testing window refers to the three months for the candidates to schedule and attempt their exams. If one fails in one section, then it can only be attempted again in the next testing window. A year has four testing windows: January-February, April-May, July-August, and October-November.
There are 3 written communication tasks, 276 multiple-choice questions, and 28 task-based simulations in the computer-based CPA exam. 75 is the minimum passing score of the exam with each section graded on a scale of zero to ninety-nine. Multiple-choice questions assess the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of accounting concepts, while task-based simulations require the application of accounting principles to real-life scenarios. Written communication tasks evaluate the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in a professional manner.
Let’s discuss what each section consists of:
Section 1: AUD – Auditing & Attestation
The AUD section tests your knowledge and skills in auditing and attestation engagements. You need to demonstrate your ability to apply auditing standards, procedures, and techniques, evaluate evidence and report findings, identify and assess risks, and communicate effectively with clients and stakeholders.
The AUD section covers the following topics:
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles
- Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response
- Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence
- Forming Conclusions and Reporting
Section 2: FAR – Financial Accounting & Reporting
The FAR section tests your knowledge and skills in financial accounting and reporting for different entities, such as public companies, private companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. You need to demonstrate your ability to apply accounting principles and standards, prepare and analyze financial statements, recognize and measure transactions and events, and understand the role of financial reporting in business decisions.
The FAR section covers the following topics:
- Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting, and Financial Reporting
- Select Financial Statement Accounts
- Select Transactions
- State and Local Governments
Section 3: REG – Regulation
The REG section tests your knowledge and skills in federal taxation, business law, ethics, and professional responsibilities. You need to demonstrate your ability to apply tax laws and regulations, identify tax consequences and planning opportunities, understand the legal implications of business transactions, and comply with ethical obligations.
The REG section covers the following topics:
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures
- Business Law
- Federal Taxation of Property Transactions
- Federal Taxation of Individuals
- Federal Taxation of Entities
Section 4: BEC – Business Environment & Concepts
The BEC section tests your knowledge and skills in business concepts and environments. You need to demonstrate your ability to understand economic concepts, analyze financial performance, use information technology and data analytics, manage operations, projects, and risks, and communicate effectively in a business context.
The BEC section covers the following topics:
- Corporate Governance
- Economic Concepts and Analysis
- Financial Management
- Information Technology
- Operations Management
How to Prepare for the CPA Exam Sections
To train for the CPA exam sections, you must follow a routine that covers all the topics, concepts, skills, and question types that candidates encounter on the exam. Here are some suggestions to help one prepare effectively:
- Study the AICPA blueprints for each section. The blueprints provide precise details on the content areas, tasks, and skills that are tested in each section. They also point to the relative weightage of each area and the level of skill required. You can find the blueprints on the AICPA website.
- Search CPA review course that offers various study materials and resources such as practice questions, mock exams, simulations, and expert guidance. Decide which CPA review course is best for you. Also, the course’s reputation should be considered by keeping note of their lessons timing, budget, and schedule. There are some of the top CPA courses available in the market.
- Create a realistic study schedule that allocates sufficient time for each section and topic. A good rule of thumb is to study for at least 300-400 hours for the entire exam, or 75-100 hours per section. You can use a study planner tool or app to help schedule your study time and follow your progress.
- Understand the concepts and apply them to distinguished scenarios. The CPA exam does not only consist of facts and formulae, it also tests one’s ability to analyze, evaluate and professionally communicate information. Understand the underlying concepts and principles behind each topic and how they relate to each other. And, try using them in different scenarios and issues with the help of MCQs, TBSs, and WCTs.
- Examine your weak areas and learn from your mistakes. As you study and practice, you will identify your strengths and weaknesses in each section and topic. One should concentrate on enhancing your weak areas by reviewing the concepts, and the notes, and doing more practice questions. You should also learn from your mistakes by understanding why you got a question wrong and how to avoid it in the future.
- Take mock exams and simulate the real exam conditions. Mock exams are full-length practice tests that mimic the format, structure, content, and difficulty of the actual CPA exam. You can find comptia a+ practice exam dumps online. They can help you assess your readiness for each section, identify your knowledge gaps, and improve your time management and test-taking skills. You should take mock exams periodically throughout your preparation and especially in the last few weeks before your exam date. You should also simulate the real exam conditions by following the same rules, timing, breaks, and environment as the actual exam.
The CPA exam is a challenging but rewarding certification that can boost your career prospects in accounting. Familiarize yourself with the four sections of the CPA exam, prepare diligently, and use the available resources such as enrolling in a CPA course. This shall help you in enhancing your skills and develop your chances of obtaining the CPA certification. Plan a systematic schedule that covers the concepts, skills, and questions types you will come across during the examination. We hope this blog resulted in your benefit and gave you an overview of how to master the CPA exam sections.
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