Uniform CPA Examination - Content, Structure and Delivery FAQs 

Published January 26, 2017

Who makes policy decisions for the Uniform CPA Examination?

Policy decisions for the Uniform CPA Examination are made by the AICPA Board of Examiners

after consultation with appropriate subcommittees and examination stakeholders.

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What is the structure of the Uniform CPA Examination?

The Uniform CPA Examination consists of four sections:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • Regulation (REG)

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What content areas are covered in each Examination section?

The main content areas covered in each section are:

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  • Planning the engagement

  • Internal controls

  • Obtain and document information

  • Review engagement and evaluate information

  • Prepare communications

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • Business structure

  • Economic concepts

  • Financial management

  • Information technology

  • Planning and measurement

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • Concepts and standards for financial statements

  • Typical items in financial statements

  • Specific types of transactions and events

  • Accounting and reporting for governmental entities

  • Accounting and reporting for nongovernmental and not-for-profit organizations

Regulation (REG)

  • Ethics and professional responsibility

  • Business law

  • Federal tax procedures and accounting issues

  • Federal taxation of property transactions

  • Federal taxation - individuals

  • Federal taxation - entities

A complete overview of the content areas covered on the CPA Exam is provided in the Content and Skill Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs).

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What are the rules regarding new accounting and auditing pronouncements?

 Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement's effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.

Changes in the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal taxation regulations may be included in the testing window beginning six months after the change's effective date or enactment date, whichever is later.

For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.

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What is the time allocation for each section?

The examination time allocated for each section is as follows:

  • 4 hours – Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  • 3 hours – Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • 4 hours – Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • 3 hours – Regulation (REG)

NOTE:  At Prometric test centers, the time allowed for each session is 30 minutes longer than examination time so that candidates may complete the sign-in process and survey without using up any of the time allocated for the examination. (This does NOT mean that examination time is extended for those who finish the sign-in process quickly.  Examination time never changes.)

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Who determined the length of the Examination?

The Content Committee, a subcommittee of the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE), was charged by the BOE with making a recommendation about the length of the Examination.  In order to elicit input on this subject from Boards of Accountancy, the academic community, and members of the accounting profession, an exposure draft was circulated in 2001 to all constituencies.

After review of all collected data and consultation with psychometricians, the Content Committee recommended a total of 14 hours of testing, a length considered optimal to provide ample content coverage, psychometric reliability and validity of scores, and sufficient opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the appropriate level of knowledge and skills.

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What types of questions are included on the Examination?

The Examination is composed of testlets - groups of 24 or 30 multiple-choice questions, or task-based simulations (condensed case studies).

Auditing and Attestation (AUD) and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) consist of three multiple choice testlets and one simulation testlet with seven task-based simulations.

Regulation (REG) consists of three multiple choice testlets and one simulation testlet with six task-based simulations.

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) consists of three multiple-choice testlets and one simulation testlet with three written communication tasks.

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Do the multiple-choice questions follow the same order as the Content Specifications Outline (CSO)?

No.  While each examination covers materials from the Content Specifications Outline (CSO), the questions in each testlet are delivered randomly and do not follow the CSO order.

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What are task-based simulations?

Task-based simulations are condensed case studies designed to test the knowledge and skills that are required of entry-level CPAs.

Accounting knowledge is tested through a variety of tasks, some of which require searching databases, completing written communication tasks, or working with spreadsheets and forms.

The skills that simulations are intended to measure are:  knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge, and written communication.

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What databases are available to candidates completing simulations?

For the research portions of simulations, candidates have access to some sections of the AICPA Professional Standards (in the Auditing and Attestation section), FASB Codification (in the Financial Accounting and Reporting section), and Tax Code (in the Regulation section).

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Is this what is referred to as authoritative literature?

Yes, the reference materials consisting of AICPA Professional Standards, FASB Codification, and the Tax Code are referred to collectively as "authoritative literature."

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What are the written communication tasks?

In written communication tasks, candidates are presented with a situation and instructed to write a letter or memorandum on a specific topic.

Written communication responses are scored on the basis of three criteria:
(1) organization (structure, ordering of ideas, linking of ideas one to another); (2) development (presentation of supporting evidence); and (3) expression (use of standard business English).  Responses that do not address the assigned topic are not scored. Click here for more information about written communication responses.

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What is the percentage value of each Examination component?

In Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG), multiple-choice questions account for 60% and task-based simulations 40% of the score. In Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), multiple-choice questions account for 85% and written communications account for 15% of the score.

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What is the delivery model used for the Examination?

A multistage adaptive test delivery model is used for all multiple-choice testlets. This means that the first testlet presented to the candidate is at a level of moderate difficulty. Subsequent testlets - at the same or slightly more difficult level - are then chosen automatically based on the examinee's performance on the previous testlet.

The task-based simulations presented in FAR, AUD, and REG and the written communication tasks do not follow the adaptive model.  They are not selected on the basis of prior performance.

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In what order are testlets/simulations presented?

Three multiple-choice question testlets are always presented first followed by the task-based simulations (AUD, FAR, REG) or the written communications tasks (BEC).

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Must questions be answered in the order in which they are presented?

Within each testlet or task-based simulation, questions may be answered in any order. However, the sequence in which testlets are presented cannot be changed.

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Is it possible to return to a previously completed testlet/simulation?

Candidates may review and revise their responses only as long as the testlet remains open.  Once they complete the testlet and move on to the next, it is not possible to return.

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Do candidates take the same or different Examinations?

Candidates take different, equivalent Examinations.  The questions presented to candidates are drawn from a pool of test questions according to defined specifications.  Although candidates take different tests, the specifications ensure that the results are comparable. 

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With candidates taking different Examinations, how is it possible to ensure that each candidate is being correctly assessed?

The test assembly method and expert reviews ensure that all tests meet content specifications.  All test questions are classified according to their content and statistical properties before they are administered on an operational test.  The moderate and more difficult testlets meet equivalent content specifications.  Test administration software at the test center selects the difficulty level of multiple-choice testlets based on the candidate's performance.

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Will the Examination change in the future?

Yes. Examination content will be kept current.  Additional changes in test length, structure, and content may be made, subject to the same process as was used to propose and approve the current test format.  Changes based on regular practice analyses are part of a critical ongoing program of continuous improvement.

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