Recommended CPA Exam Order – 2024 CPA Exam

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What Order to Take the CPA Exam

Thinking about the best CPA Exam order when tackling your CPA exams? Let’s get real for a moment – there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy here. It’s a bit more nuanced than that. Before we dive in, remember: there isn’t a clear-cut blueprint, and there is no perfect CPA Exam order!

Ultimately, your goal is to pass the three required core CPA Exams and one discipline CPA exam section. Hello, freedom! So, let’s explore some personalized strategies to help you do just that.

In this blog, we look at the CPA exam sections in order of difficulty and consider the merits of preparing for the most comprehensive exam first, otherwise known as the ‘FAR-first’ approach.  

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What Are The Different CPA Exams?

Before we recommend what CPA exam to take first, though, it’s important to touch on what each CPA exam entails. In total, there are three core CPA exam sections and three discipline CPA exam sections comprised of the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA exam), including:

Core CPA Exams

The 2024 CPA Exam now consists of three Core Exams. All three of the Core CPA Exams are required to pass the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam): 

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD): The AUD CPA Exam section will test your knowledge of the entire audit process, as well as compilation, preparation, and review engagements and other non-attestation services.
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): The FAR CPA Exam section will evaluate your understanding of financial reports, statement presentation, and how to conduct business transactions using GAAP.
  • Regulation (REG): The REG CPA Exam section will analyze your understanding of three main areas: business law, ethics, and federal taxation.
Child writing 'about the CPA core exams' on a chalkboard to illustrate key points for the CPA Evolution core exams that will be tested

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Discipline CPA Exams

The biggest change to the 2024 CPA Exam are the new discipline exams. The CPA exam now consists of three discipline sections. In order to complete the licensed CPA exam, you must pass one of the three discipline sections: 

  • Business Analysis & Reporting (BAR): The BAR CPA Exam section will test your knowledge of advanced financial reporting topics, management accounting, entity analysis, economics, strategy and risk, cost of capital, and valuation topics.
  • Information Systems & Controls (ISC): The ISC CPA Exam section will assess your expertise in IT concepts, security, data management, and SOC reporting. 
  • Tax Compliance Planning (TCP): The TCP CPA Exam section covers advanced taxation concepts such as advanced individual, entity, and property taxation as well as specialty tax areas and financial planning.  

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What Is The Best Order to Take the CPA Exam?

At first glance, you might be thinking “wait a minute, now I have to pass six CPA exams?!” 

Don’t panic! Technically, there are still only four CPA Exams that you will need to pass. Our recommended CPA Exam order will depend on the discipline section that you decide to take! 

If You Choose the BAR CPA Exam Discipline:

If you’ve set your sights on Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) as your chosen discipline for the CPA exam, here’s a strategic game plan tailored just for you. Begin your journey with the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section. Consider FAR as your rigorous training camp, where you’re going to construct a robust foundation in financial reporting. This foundational knowledge is critical; it’s the groundwork that will make advanced financial reporting topics come naturally to you.

With a strong understanding of financial reporting, you’ll find it more intuitive to grasp management accounting topics and distinguish them from external financial reporting. This clarity and depth of knowledge will pave the way for your next challenge: the BAR exam.

After triumphing over FAR, your expertise in financial reporting will significantly streamline your BAR exam preparation. The skills you’ve honed in FAR will simplify your navigation through the complex labyrinth of business concepts and economic strategies that the BAR exam entails.

Congratulations! With the BAR discipline conquered, it’s time to progress to the Regulation (REG) and Auditing and Attestation (AUD) sections of the CPA Exam. Your journey through FAR and BAR has prepared you well, and you’ll find these next steps more manageable.

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If You Choose the ISC CPA Exam Discipline:

Choosing Information Systems and Controls (ISC) as your CPA exam discipline? Here’s a straightforward guide to navigating this path efficiently. Begin with the Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section – the gateway to developing a critical mindset. Why start with AUD? It’s simple: this section is like a brain-teaser that primes you to think analytically about IT systems and controls, skills that are indispensable when you transition to ISC.

If you have an auditing background, you’re likely to grasp the ISC concepts more readily. Conversely, for those who started in tax, AUD can seem daunting, almost like learning a new language. However, the knowledge gained in AUD lays the groundwork for ISC, with topics like SOC reporting and IT concepts acting as specialized extensions of auditing principles.

After conquering AUD, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle the second leg of your journey: the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section and then the Regulation (REG) section. This combination – starting with AUD and moving through ISC to FAR and REG – is designed to reinforce your understanding progressively, making the latter sections feel like a smooth transition.

In short, the AUD-ISC-FAR-REG sequence isn’t just a random lineup; it’s a thoughtfully crafted strategy that builds on each section’s strengths.

If You Choose the TCP CPA Exam Discipline:

Are you a tax aficionado considering the Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) as your discipline for the CPA exam? Here’s a straightforward strategy to navigate this route effectively. The first step is to tackle the Regulation (REG) section. Think of REG as your basic training in the tax realm. Starting with REG is like learning to crawl before you sprint—it’s essential. This section lays the groundwork and prepares you for the complexities that TCP will present.

With the REG section conquered, you’re ready to graduate to TCP. Imagine TCP as the advanced level of tax—a tougher and more intricate version of REG. It’s like moving from puzzles to problem-solving; they’re related, but one is definitely more challenging.

Next, you’ll move on to Auditing and Attestation (AUD). It may seem a detour, but it’s unavoidable and invaluable. You might think you can coast through AUD on memory alone, but it’s more about understanding the process than cramming facts. It’s like becoming a sleuth in the financial world, piecing together clues to see the bigger picture.

Finally, after AUD, you’ll take on the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section. This is the home stretch, where you integrate everything you’ve learned into a comprehensive understanding of accounting.

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