Everything You Need to Know About CPA Exam Scores was written for Playlouder by a contributing author. Please note that contributing opinions are that of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with my own opinions. – Joe
To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), it requires a combination of education and experience, as well as passing a rigorous exam. To qualify to sit for the CPA exam, most states require candidates to have completed a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting or a related field and to have completed a certain number of hours of accounting-specific coursework.
In addition, candidates must also meet experience requirements, which often involve working under the supervision of a licensed CPA. Once these requirements are met, candidates can apply to take the CPA exam, administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The exam consists of four sections covering topics such as financial reporting and accounting, attestation and auditing, regulation, and business environment and concepts. Successfully passing all four sections of the exam and meeting any additional state requirements will earn the candidate a CPA license, allowing them to practice as a public accountant in their state.
The most stressful part about exams is waiting for the score to come back. Many people who take the certified public account (CPA) exam to improve their qualifications are unfamiliar with how the scoring actually works.
This is understandable – most people are more focused on how to get the highest possible marks. But with the help of this guide, you’ll know everything you need to about the CPA exam score release dates and the value of whatever score you obtained.
Understanding the CPA Exam Scores Breakdown
Before getting into details about the final score itself, it’s important to make sure we understand the breakdown of the exam structure. The Uniform CPA exam is split into four parts: Audit (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
These components consist of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and Task-based Simulations (TBSs), while the BEC is the only section that tests written communication. In all sections, MCQs and TBSs have a 50-50 weightage on your score, except for the BEC.
BEC splits the grade weightage at 50%, 35%, and 15% for the MCQs, TBSs, and written tasks, respectfully. Based on previous exams data, the AUD and the FAR have the lowest passing rate and can be considered the most difficult portions of the test.
When Do Your CPA Exam Scores get Released?
The CPA exam has a continuous schedule, wherein they hold multiple tests throughout the year. The CPA exam score release dates depend on when you sat for the exam. For example, in 2022, if you sat your exam on January 23, your score would come out on February 8.
If you gave the exam on February 14, your score release date is February 23. While the exam sheets are delivered to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)the day after your test, they can take at least a week to grade your test attempt. Part of the delay is due to the additional analysis that must be taken to score your BEC component’s written communication questions.
These score release dates are predetermined and can be found on the AICPA website. Your scores should be available within 48 hours of the scheduled release date. In some cases, the scores may be posted on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) website a day before the scheduled release date.
Accessing Your CPA Exam Scores
Accessing your CPA exam scores can vary from state to state. In most cases, you should be able to log into the NASBA candidate portal to view the score. However, states like California, Illinois, and Maryland require you to obtain the scores from the state accountancy board instead of the national board.
Once you open the portal and access your CPA exam scores, you’ll notice a section of the webpage that states “Score Available Until.” These scores are not recorded permanently, and you will not be able to access them online after the date for their availability has passed. It is a good idea to print your scores as soon as you can so you can keep your own record of the exam marks.
What is a Good CPA Exam Score?
You will be marked on a scale from 0-99. However, the grade is determined on a curved marking system. The exact manner in which the score is finalized is quite complex, and you may not be able to predict your own final grade by yourself.
The AIPCA uses the Item Response Theory to determine your marks. This means that they analyze the data from past candidates to determine what can be qualified as a difficult question, and what can be called an easy question.
Difficult questions are weighted higher in your final CPA exam scores. A 75, or a C+ score, is considered the minimum you need to pass the exam. If you obtained below a 75, you may have failed in one or more of the sections and would need to register again for the CPA exam.
What To Do If You Failed the CPA Exam
As the CPA exam follows the continuous testing model, you do not need to wait for the next year to retake the exam. As of the July 2020 update, CPA candidates can take the exam multiple times per year. The only restriction is that they need to wait for their score to be released before registering for a new exam date.
This also allows you to retake a failed section without restriction instead of needing to retake the overall exam. You can determine which form of a retake is best suited for you based on the Candidate Performance Report.
The report provided to failed candidates by AIPCA offers a critique of your performance in comparison with those candidates that obtained scores between 75 and 80, i.e., the minimum passing marks. This report shows you which areas you can improve in. Through this information, you can determine how to retake your exam and when.
If you failed by a narrow margin, you might be ready to retake the exam at the very next session. However, if you scored poorly or failed multiple sections, it would be best to take the time to study more. In this case, you can utilize educational tools like review courses Wiley or Becker to help improve your accounting knowledge.
Keep in mind that not all states offer a Candidate Performance Report, and you may need to check with your accountancy board for details.
What Happens After You Pass the CPA Exam
Well, a round of congratulations is in order if you pass the exam!
This is a major step in your goal of working as a certified public accountant. Along with this exam, there may be other requirements you need to meet before you can start working. The exact requirements can vary from state to state.
You may need a certain amount of work experience, or you might have to sit for an ethics exam as well. Some states, like Alabama, require you to take additional semester hours of higher education within 36 months of passing the exam. You can check your state’s exact requirements so you can fulfill all the criteria needed to obtain your CPA license.
After going over this guide, you should have a better idea of when your CPA exam scores are coming out and how the score is calculated. You can also plan your next steps depending on whether you passed or failed.
If you have passed, check any other exams or education requirements you need to meet. If you failed, determine how you would want to retake the exam and if you would need educational aids like Wiley or Becker.
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