CPA Exam FAQs - Candidate Performance Report and Samples 

Published January 08, 2009

Effective January 1, 2011

Review Sample Candidate Performance Reports

Q.  How does the candidate performance report relate to my score for this section?

A.  Both your score and Candidate Performance Report information assess your Examination performance; however, they present different views of your performance and are separately derived.

Your score – the official result – was obtained using Item Response Theory (IRT)* scoring and was calculated as a whole, taking into account all of your responses**.

Your Candidate Performance Report information was derived separately. Performance results by content area (the first table on your Candidate Performance Report) are calculated using responses to the multiple-choice questions only. Performance results by item type (the second table on your Candidate Performance Report) provide an overview of performance for the multiple choice questions, simulations (AUD, REG FAR) or written communication (BEC). Note that your Candidate Performance Report is provided for your information only, and has no official bearing on your score.

*For information about IRT, please refer to
** For a detailed description of scoring on the CPA Exam, please refer to the paper, How is the CPA Exam Scored?

Q. Why is my performance compared to the performance of candidates who earned scores between 75 and 80? Why isn't it compared to the performance of all candidates who passed? How is the comparable group calculated?

Since the purpose of the Candidate Performance Report is to help you identify the performance areas you should improve in order to pass, your performance is compared to those who have “just passed” – candidates with scores between 75 and 80. Further, the relative performance scale (stronger, comparable, weaker) on the Candidate Performance Report are derived from the range between one-half of one standard deviation above and below the average score of candidates who earned scores between 75 and 80. Performance within the range is considered "comparable," below the range "weaker," and above the range "stronger."

Q.  My score is 74 and my performance in all content areas is "comparable." Why didn't I pass?

  Your score is so close to passing that your performance profile is very similar to the performance of candidates that received a score of 75-80. The fact that you did not pass indicates that there was a weakness in your performance. One possibility is that, you performed poorly in the task-based simulation or written communication sections, which are not reflected in the content area table. Also, keep in mind that candidates who received a score of 75-80 may have done better in some categories which compensated for a weaknesses in others.

Q.  Should I only study the content areas that are indicated as being weaker?

  It is always best to study everything. If you only study the areas where you are weak, you might do better on those areas, but worse on others when you re-test.

Q.  What does this statement mean? "….there is some imprecision in all assessments, especially when results are based on a smaller number of test questions. Your Examination performance could differ from one day to the next, depending on a variety of factors."

  In the testing world, the term “standard error of measurement” describes the imprecision inherent in all performance assessments. An individual's examination performance could differ from one day to the next, based on such factors as study strategy for a given topic. On the CPA Exam the reported score should be viewed as a general indication of performance, recognizing that results may vary if the same examination were given to the same individual several times.




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