How is the CPA Exam Graded?

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Ask Joey

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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. 

Image showing a test passing CPA Exam score with visual learning

What is the Passing Score for the CPA Exam?

Each CPA Exam section is scored on a scale from 0-99, meaning there is no such thing as a perfect 100%.To pass the Uniform CPA Examination, you must score a minimum of 75 to pass each section. Your CPA exam score isn’t a simple tally of your correct responses. Instead, it factors in the complexity of each question you face, with a scoring system that incorporates the varying levels of difficulty.

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.

How Are Task-Based 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.

CPA Exam Section Multiple-Choice Questions Task-Based Simulations
AUD - Core
50%
50%
FAR - Core
50%
50%
REG - Core
50%
50%
BAR - Discipline
50%
50%
ISC - Discipline
60%
40%
TCP - Discipline
50%
50%

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When Will CPA Exam Scores Be Released?

In the CPA Exam world, one of the only constants is change and the 2024 CPA Exam is the biggest change yet. Every time the CPA Exams have any form of dramatic changes, there is a delay in scores being released. I know how frustrating this can be. You just want to pass your exams and move on with your life. So, as a gentle reminder: expect a little extra wait time for your scores to come back as there will be some additional analysis in scoring the CPA exams as they are submitted.

Something to be mindful of – you can’t schedule your Discipline exam as long as the Core sections are available for testing. The AICPA has decided to release scores at a pace that mirrors a suspense thriller—once per section, per quarter, with the premiere quarter’s scores fashionably late due as they will need additional preparation to determine the parameters of a passing score.

So, mark your calendars, but maybe use a pencil instead of a pen for now. Here are the tentative CPA Exam score release dates:

CPA Evolution 2024 Testing and Score Release Dates (proposed)
Quarter Core Test Dates Core Score Reports Discipline Test Dates Discipline Score Reports
Q1 - 2024
January 10 - March 26
May 14 - June 4
January 10 - February 6
March 26 - April 16
Q2- 2024
April 1 - June 25
August 1st
April 20 - May 19
June 20th
Q3 - 2024
July 1 - September 25
November 1st
July 1 - July 31
September 3rd
Q4 - 2024
October 1 - December 26
Early February 2025
October 1- October 31
December 3rd

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 study 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.

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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