What is the Uniform CPA Examination?
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The Uniform CPA Examination is the “Certified Public Accountant” Exam. It is uniform all over the world. This means it has the same structure and equivalency everywhere. It is a computerized exam. No paper exam is allowed.

The AICPA offers 16 different versions of the CPA Exam all over the world. You will take a different but equivalent exam. The exam preparers select questions from a test bank pool based on defined specifications. Although you take different exams, the specifications ensure the results are comparable. The CPA Exam aims to test the minimum knowledge and skills required of a CPA.

The exam is managed by 4 main partners:

  • The AICPA- develops, maintains, and scores the exam;
  • The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)- manages the National Candidate Database;
  • Prometric-is the company that delivers the Exam at its authorized test centers; and
  • The Boards of Accountancy-which issue CPA licenses and the exam is provided on the behalf of.

CPA Exam Sections

The CPA Exam consists of 4 sections, which are:

1- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)– Mainly covers the basic and advanced accounting courses you took in the university. This includes Financial Accounting Principles, Intermediate Accounting, Governmental and Advanced Accounting courses. FAR topics include financial statements, consolidations, leases, bonds, pensions, equity, currency translation, deferred tax and more.

2- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)– Covers the auditing course you took in the university. AUD topics include internal controls, planning the audit, substantive testing, types of audit reports, audit sampling and Statements of Accounting and Review Services.

3- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)– ┬áCovers the cost and managerial accounting courses you took in the university. In addition, BEC covers corporate governance, microeconomics, macroeconomics, financial management, Information Technology and operations management.

4- Regulation (REG)– This section is considered totally new for international candidates. It covers basically the U.S. taxation and business law topics. REG topics include corporate tax, individual tax, S-corp, partnerships, estate tax, gift, exempt organizations and professional responsibilities.

CPA Exam Duration and Passing Score

The CPA Exam is a 16-hour, four-part assessment you must pass in order to qualify to get a CPA license. Each section is a 4-hour exam. In addition, there is an extra 30 minutes for each exam, not counted from the exam time, allocated to:

10 minutes for the exam introductory screens;

15 minutes to the break (option to pause the exam timer); and

5 minutes to fill a survey at the end of the exam.

The passing score for the exam is a 75. If you get lower than a 75 you will not pass.

The Time Limit For Passing the Exam

Once you pass a CPA Exam section, you must pass the remaining 3 sections of the Exam within 18 months. Otherwise, you will lose the credit for the section you already cleared.

The calculation of when the 18-month time frame begins varies by jurisdiction. Usually, the countdown clock for your 18 months starts on the date you receive your CPA Exam score for the first passed section.

CPA Exam Language

The language of the CPA Exam is English only. So if you have a weak English language, I advice you to take some English courses and, preferably, in Accounting. This will make you more familiar with the accounting terms you will face during studying for the exam.

CPA Exam Requirement and Application

You can sit for the Exam and get your CPA license only if you meet the requirements of the Board of Accountancy in one of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions. The CPA exam requirements depend upon the jurisdiction where you choose to become licensed.

To qualify to sit for the exam, you must meet the the citizenship, residency, Social Security Number and educational requirements of your Board of Accountancy. However, to qualify for a CPA license, you must meet the 4 E requirements your state requires which are: 1-Educational requirements, 2-passing the Exam, 3-passing the Ethics exam (some states do not have this requirement) and 4-Experience requirement.

To apply for the CPA Exam, you must first decide on the jurisdiction to which you will apply. After selecting your jurisdiction, you can obtain application materials and submit your completed applications as instructed.

Computer Skills You Must Have For the Exam

The CPA Exam is a computerized exam. But that does not mean you must be an expert in Information Technology to take the exam. You only need basic computer skills, like using the mouse and keyboard with basic spreadsheet and word processing functions. You must also be able to use a four-function online calculator, which is very simple.

During the exam, you will have access to a version of Excel with certain functions unavailable. The exam does not aim to test your ability to use Excel. It is only meant to be a tool to use during the Exam. In addition, the exam uses a word processing application that is similar but not identical to Word. In order to answer the exam questions, you will need to:

  • Choose an answer from available options by clicking on a radio button;
  • Type a memo or letter in the written communication tasks;
  • Perform basic financial computations using Microsoft Excel or a four-function online calculator;
  • Conduct an Authoritative Literature search in the research simulations;
  • Copy and paste words using the standard shortcut keys
  • Use scrollbars
  • Resize or move windows
  • Highlight phrases in exhibits that you want to remember


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