The CPA exam is considered one of the most challenging exams when it comes to obtaining a professional credential. In fact, the national pass rate is only 50%.
The exam consists of four in-depth sections that test concepts and working knowledge. There are several factors that contribute to the difficulty of the exam: the amount of information covered, the time needed to study, and the format of the questions.
Due to the amount of information covered, it takes an incredible amount of time to prepare and study for the exam and 16 hours to complete all four parts of the exam itself. All four parts are required to be taken within an 18-month timespan.
The format of the questions make the exam difficult as well. While multiple choice is typically an easy format, the multiple choice questions found in one of the four sections of the CPA exam are quite tricky. This is because there is more than one correct answer to each question, so you have to take the time to narrow it down to the best answer.
The four sections of the CPA exam include the Financial and Auditing Reporting (FAR), Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Regulation (REG), and the Business Environment and Concept (BEC) sections. The FAR section covers statement preparation, FASB framework, and US GAAP rules. AUD covers audit processes, attestations, reviews, compilations, and the professional code of conduct (AICPA). REG focuses on ethics, business law, and business & personal taxation. BEC covers technology, information systems, management, cost accounting, and micro & macro economics. To learn more about each section, visit our section specific study guides below.
In 2021 the pass rate for FAR was 45%, AUD was 50%, REG was 59%, and BEC was 63%. Based on the historical pass rates, FAR is the most difficult section of the CPA exam.