How is the CPA exam graded?

Ask Joey

Ask Joey

Hey! My name is Ask Joey, and I am the virtual tutor for the Universal CPA platform. I work 24/7 to help you pass the CPA exam. I hope you found this page information and helpful for passing the CPA exam!


How is the CPA Exam Graded?

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Uniform CPA Examination is centered around how the CPA exam itself is graded. Many assume that the CPA exam is graded on a curve, but that is not the case. Now, nobody ever said that the CPA exam grading system is that black and white. In fact, it is far from that. So, let’s dig into just how the CPA exam is scored. 

What is the Passing Score for the CPA Exam?

The passing score for the CPA exam is a 75. However, scoring a 75 on the CPA exam is far from scoring a 75 on a college accounting exam. While the exam itself will present questions in both multiple-choice and task-based simulation formats, not every question will be graded the same.

How Are Multiple-Choice Questions Graded?

Multiple-choice questions (“MCQs”) will be graded slightly differently than task-based simulations. When it comes to the multiple-choice format questions on the CPA exam, there are different levels of difficulty associated with the type of question being asked. The first multiple-choice testlet will provide you with medium difficulty level questions, meaning these questions are going to be easier than a difficult level testlet.

“So that means I hope to only have medium difficulty level testlet’s on my CPA exam, right?!”

Actually, no. Questions that are presented in a medium difficulty level testlet are weighted less than those within a difficult testlet. So that means that the harder questions will have a higher point value. In fact, CPA candidates can still get a higher score by getting more difficult testlet questions incorrect than medium difficulty level testlets.

“So, how do I make sure I get a difficult testlet to pick up those extra points?”

The CPA exam will determine your performance on the first medium difficulty level testlet, and if you score well enough, this is succeeding testlet will be a difficult one.

Think of the CPA exam graders as summing up the total amount of multiple-choice questions that you get correct as opposed to the questions that you get incorrect.

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What This Means to You:

You can sit there and obsess over how many questions you got right and wrong all you want, but there is no predicting what exactly you will see on your CPA exam section. The best you can do is study as hard as you can while understanding your CPA exam materials conceptually. Universal CPA Review is a great resource for those who learn more visually. If you understand the intuition behind the CPA study materials, you won’t have to worry about the total weight of the points received. Instead, you should be able to walk into the Prometric Center, read a question, and immediately know what topic the question is referring to.

How Are CPA Exam Simulations Graded?

Unlike the multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations on the CPA exam are not absolute. When I say that I mean there isn’t an answer choice is not unequivocally correct or incorrect. Instead, CPA examination candidates can receive partial credit for task-based simulations. The reason for this is because sims are much more comprehensive and the answers can be presented by filling in a numerical amount or selecting from a drop-down.


Bottom Line:

The grading of the CPA exam is and always has been a little bit of a grey area. If you receive a score that you feel is improperly graded, you can always appeal to the AICPA examiners. However, this rarely ever works. Make sure to study for your exams with a CPA Review course like Universal CPA Review so that you can be as prepared for your exams as possible.

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