What is the CPA exam format?

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The Uniform Certified Public Accountant is a 16-hour examination comprising of four sections, each four hours long.
Before we get to the exam structure and the test items, all of us already know that there are 4 sections of the US CPA Exam – Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), and Audit and Attestation (AUD).

Each Exam section is delivered in five smaller sections called testlets. These testlets feature multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs). In the case of BEC, you also have to complete three written communication tasks (WCTs). The number of MCQs and TBSs tested varies depending upon the specific section taken. You will receive at least one research question (research-oriented TBS) in the AUD, FAR and REG sections. To complete them, you will have to search the related authoritative literature and find an appropriate reference.

During each Exam section, you will be offered a 15-minute break after the first TBS testlet. This is about midway through the section (two hours). You may accept this break and pause the Exam timer or you may continue testing. To accept the break, click the “Take a Break” button. During this break, you must leave the testing room and follow all Prometric security rules. The Exam timer will restart when the 15-minute break ends.

In addition to the 15-minute break, you may also take optional breaks after all other testlets but you cannot pause the Exam timer. The timer will continue to run.

You will be tested during the CPA Exam using three types of test items that appear within specific testlets in each section as explained above:

Multiple-choice questions (MCQ)

The multiple-choice portions are presented in the first two testlets of each Exam section.

Task-based simulations

Task-based simulations are condensed case studies that test accounting knowledge and skills using real-life, work-related situations. All task-based simulations are intended to assess knowledge and skills that are appropriate for an entry-level accountant. There are three TBS testlets in the AUD, FAR and REG sections, and two TBS testlets in the BEC section.

Written communication tasks

Written communication tasks appear only in the BEC section of the CPA Exam. For each of three written communication tasks, you must read a scenario and then write appropriate documentation relating to the scenario. The instructions state what form the document should take (such as a memo or letter) and its focus. Your response should provide the correct information in writing that is clear, complete, and professional.

The exam is designed by section, section time and question type as represented in the table below:

SectionSection TimeMultiple-choice questions (MCQs)Task-based simulations (TBSs)Written Communication
AUD4 hours728
BEC4 Hours6243
FAR4 hours668
REG4 hours768

It is important to understand the scoring weight of multiple-choice questions (MCQs), task-based simulations (TBSs), and written communication for each Exam section as represented by:

SectionMultiple-choice questions (MCQs)Task-based simulations (TBSs)Written Communication
AUD50%50%
BEC50%35%15%
FAR50%50%
REG50%50%

Varun Jain CPA, CMA has worked very hard in ensuring that the Miles videos and text are consistent with the skill levels defined by the AICPA. Mnemonics and repetitions in videos and live/ webinar classes are used to ensure the student’s capacity to remember and understand the concept. With over 8000 MCQs and 1000 TBSs Miles ensures that the concepts taught are applied and the student is able to analyze and evaluate the questions asked in the CPA Exam.

60 thoughts on “What is the CPA exam format?”

    1. Sajal Shrivastava

      This is no doubt a very informative blog. It gives a clear picture of the CPA exam to all it’s pursuant and too about its guidelines!

  1. It is so amazing.
    Lit, I like it too much. The best one can get.
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  2. The above content was very helpful from a professional career point of view.
    It contains all what is required for a candidate to know!

  3. s somasundaram

    nice and very informative blog , it enlightened us with the format of the examination which help in preparation for the exam.

  4. I want to thx CMA. It’s not only providing quality education but even providing awesome exposure. Thank you…

  5. These guidelines , rules and weightage of marks will help a CPA student prepare accordingly for each subject and help him crack the exam .It will be very useful.

  6. Jikson George

    A CPA persuing student should know about it and its exam format. Knowing exam format will give an idea about exam and how to handle the situations in exam time.
    Miles help us to understand CPA and its various parts and help us to complete course.
    Thankyou.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing the information. This blog is very helpful and cleared all the doubts regarding the exam pattern.

  7. It is very useful for us as it cleared many doubts regarding exam.We can practice more on this pattern.

  8. CPA provides a great opportunity for students and professionals who wants to become a globally recognised accountant.

  9. SIMRAN TIWARI

    Miles education
    I look it as my carrer I won’t be saying much ..just that right now I m a beginner and there is lot more to learn rather than working hard I’ll try working smartly
    Thank you

  10. Simran Tiwari

    If we look miles education differently it is best career ever we can image . I think I have done best decision to choose CMA and the part of the entire miles education family on the graduation level

  11. Neha S Sreejayan

    These information are very useful for those students who doesn’t know the CPA exam format. Miles education have clearly give the information about the exams.

    1. The tenacity of Miles education when it comes to helping students is invaluable and for this very reason they are the most trusted CPA and CMA training institute in the whole country.
      They mould to be a finance professional.

  12. Great to know that CPA exams are now being conducted in India. This is an amazing opportunity. Thank you for the detailed information!

  13. Antony P Tomy

    Great work guys. Really helpful to students like who are strugling to find the right path after degree.

    1. Utkarsha Chopra

      It is very interesting and informative. It helpful to students to choose right path after graduation.

  14. A really informative time map which transmits the correct information enabling CPA aspirants to prepare themselves better.

  15. RAJ KUMAR PRASAD

    Thank You for the detailed information!!
    The CPA exam format is well explained and every CPA student waiting for this information because it helps everyone to know the CPA exam pattern.

  16. Yashwin Anand

    CPA is one of the highest standards of competence in the field of Accountancy across the globe. Thus, for such budding futures, enthusiastic aspirants and eager learner’s of our nation ”Miles” has constantly endeavoured to prepare us for any opportunity and surpass the odds with an unfettered spirit in our struggle to reach the pinnacle of success.

  17. This is really great information. The above content is put systematically and with precision. Thanks for sharing this.

  18. Really informative……….
    Sincere thanks to miles for providing such clear insights about the CPA examination.

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