Uniform CPA Examination FAQs - General Information 

Published March 11, 2017

What is the Uniform CPA Examination?

The Uniform CPA Examination is the assessment that individuals must pass in order to qualify for licensure as certified public accountants (CPA) in any of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands).

hTe Examination is one of the "Three Es" - Education, Examination, and Experience - that are required for licensure as a CPA. Consequently, passing the Examination is not, in itself, sufficient to meet requirements for licensure.

Licensure requirements vary by jurisdiction, and are described on the websites of all Boards of Accountancy. Links to Board of Accountancy websites are available at http://www.nasba.org/nasbaweb.nsf/exam.

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What is the purpose of the Examination?

According to the Examination Mission Statement, the purpose is "To admit individuals into the accounting profession only after they have demonstrated the entry-level knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public interest in a rapidly changing business and financial environment.

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Who is responsible for the Examination?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) develops, maintains and scores the Examination. The AICPA is part of an Examination partnership with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), which manages the National Candidate Database, and Prometric, the company that delivers the Examination at its authorized test centers. The Examination is provided on behalf of the Boards of Accountancy, which have ultimate licensing authority.

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Where is the Examination administered?

The Examination is offered at authorized test centers located throughout 55 U.S. jurisdictions, as well as in certain international locations.

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Is the Examination available outside the U.S. and U.S. territories?

The Examination is offered in Japan, Brazil, Lebanon, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Visit the International candidate page for more information.

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When is the Examination administered?

The Examination is offered 5 (and sometimes 6) days per week during every quarter. (These periods are known as "testing windows."). In April 2016, testing windows were extended by 10 days. Testing for 2017 is available as follows:

  • Q1: January 1 through March 10
  • Q2: April 1 through May 31*
  • Q3: July 1 through September 10
  • Q4: October 1 through December 10

Note: Q2 testing will conclude May 31, 2017 due to the launch of the next version Examination. While the 10-day test window extension will be offered through the end of 2017, NASBA will review the continuation of test window extensions (post 2017) with state boards of accountancy.

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What are the component parts of the Examination?

The Examination consists of four sections:

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

This section covers knowledge of audits of issuer and nonissuer entities, attestation engagements for issuer and nonissuer entities, preparation, compilation and review engagements, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

This section covers knowledge of general business environment and business concepts that candidates need to know in order to perform audit, attest, accounting and review services, financial reporting, tax preparation, and other professional responsibilities in their role as certified public accountants, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

This section covers knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles for business enterprises (public and nonpublic), not-for-profit entities, and state and local government entities, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

Regulation (REG)

This section covers knowledge of federal taxation, ethics and professional responsibilities related to tax practice, and business law, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

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How many hours is the Examination?

The entire Examination is 16 hours. A candidate has four hours to complete each Examination section.

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Are breaks permitted during the Examination?

Yes. Candidates are offered a standardized break approximately midway during each section of the Examination. During this break, the testing clock pauses for 15 minutes. Candidates are also permitted to take optional breaks between each section testlet, but the testing clock will continue to run. During any break, the candidate must adhere to the rules of the testing center.

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Must all four Examination sections be taken at the same time?

No. As a rule, Boards of Accountancy permit eligible candidates to take any sections of the Examination in any testing window and in any order they wish. However, candidates may not take any single section twice in the same testing window. Candidates should check their board's requirements for the exact rules that will apply to them.

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Is there a time limit for passing the four Examination sections? 

These requirements are determined by Boards of Accountancy. Once candidates pass one Examination section, most boards allow 18 months for passing the remaining three sections. The calculation of when the 18-month timeframe begins varies from state to state. Some states begin the 18-month period once a candidate receives his/her first score, while others calculate it based on the actual day the candidate first sat for a section. Candidates should refer to the requirements of their boards for the rules that will apply to them.

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What subject matter is covered on the Examination? 

The Examination Blueprints provide information about Examination content and skills. To access the blueprints click here.

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What types of questions are included on the Examination?

The Examination uses three item types to assess a candidate: multiple-choice questions (MCQ), condensed case studies known as task-based simulations (TBS or siblmulations), and in the case of the BEC section, written communication tasks.

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How are these items presented on the Examination?

Each section of the Examination is broken down into smaller segments called teslets. Depending upon the section a candidates takes, each testlet has a specific number of MCQs or TBSs, or in the case of BEC, written communication tasks. The Examination testlet structure may be found here.

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How many questions are in each section of the Examination?

Auditing and Attestation (AUD):

  • 72 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulation

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

  • 62 multiple-choice questions
  • 4 task-based simulations
  • 3 written communication tasks

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  • 66 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulations

Regulation (REG)

  • 76 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulations
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What does the Examination look like? How does it function? 

The sample tests and tutorial available online provide an introduction to the format, content and functionality of the Examination. Candidates are responsible for reviewing the Examination tutorial and sample tests. Thorough familiarity with the Examination’s functionality, format, and directions is strongly encouraged before candidates report to test centers. Failure to review the directions provided in the tutorial and sample tests, including the directions on how to respond, may adversely affect candidate scores. To access the tutorial and sample tests, click here.

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What are the requirements to take the Examination?

Examination requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another. To obtain information about the requirements in effect in a particular jurisdiction, visit the Board of Accountancy website of the appropriate state or territory. Links to all Board of Accountancy websites are available at http://www.nasba.org/nasbaweb.nsf/exam

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How much does it cost to take the Examination? 

Fees vary from one jurisdiction to another. For information about fees in a specific state or territory, visit the appropriate Board of Accountancy website. Links to all Board of Accountancy websites are available at http://www.nasba.org/nasbaweb.nsf/exam

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What is the process to obtain special accommodations at the Examination? 

Special accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) may be requested as part of the application process. Information about the ADA request procedures are included in the application materials of each Board of Accountancy. Links to all accountancy board websites are available at http://www.nasba.org/nasbaweb.nsf/exam.

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How do candidates begin the application process?

Candidates must first decide on the jurisdiction to which they will apply. If uncertain about the jurisdiction, candidates may find it helpful to review the requirements of several Boards of Accountancy (access to board websites is available at http://www.nasba.org/nasbaweb.nsf/exam). After selecting the jurisdiction, candidates should obtain application materials, and submit completed applications as directed.

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Isn't there one central U.S. organization through which candidates may apply? 

No. Candidates may take the Examination (and qualify as CPAs) only if they meet the requirements of a Board of Accountancy in one of the 55 jurisdictions.

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Is there a special application process for international applicants? 

No. The basic application process is the same for all candidates. Like U.S. applicants, international applicants must select the jurisdiction in which they wish to qualify and file an application with the Board of Accountancy in that jurisdiction. Any special instructions for international applicants are specified in board requirements.

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Is there a publication that describes the application and Examination process? 

Yes. The Candidate Bulletin provides detailed information about filing applications, scheduling test sessions, and taking the Examination. To access the Bulletin, click here. Candidates may also find helpful information in the AICPA's CPA Booklet.

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