Uniform CPA Examination FAQs - Scoring 

Published March 11, 2017

Who sets the passing score for the Uniform CPA Examination?

The passing score is determined by the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE). Like most other significant BOE decisions, the passing score decision is supported by a strong collaborative effort among the Examination partners. The standard-setting process followed for the computer-based test (CBT) is rigorous, and performed with input from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), state boards of accountancy, and several consultant psychometricians.

In setting the passing score, the BOE considered many factors, including standard-setting study results, historical trends, any changes in Examination content, and input from the academic community and the profession. The passing score is the basis of the pass or fail decision recommended to boards of accountancy on the advisory score report.

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What is the passing score?

The passing score is 75 on a 0-99 scale. The scale of 0-99 does not represent "percent correct". A score of 75 indicates Examination performance reflecting a level of knowledge and skills that is sufficient for the protection of the public.

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Is scoring an automated process?

Scoring is fully automated for all Examination components except for the written communication tasks. Some written communication responses are scored by a network of readers (CPAs), while others are scored using an automated process. All scoring routines - whether automated or not - are verified at various stages of the scoring process.

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Is the Examination scored on a curve?

The Examination is not curved. Every candidate’s score is entirely independent of other candidates’ Examination results.

The Examination is a criterion-referenced examination which means that it rests upon pre-determined standards. Every candidate’s performance is measured against established standards to determine whether the candidate has demonstrated the level of knowledge and skills that is represented by the passing score. Every candidate is judged against the same standards, and every score is an independent result.

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What scoring method is used to score the Examination?

The AICPA uses Item Response Theory (IRT) for the objective portion of the Examination. IRT is a well-established psychometric approach to scoring used by licensing and certification examinations that administer many different test forms. IRT scoring ensures that scores and pass or fail decisions based on scores from different Examination forms are comparable. Based on the large amounts of data that are collected in pre-testing, the difficulty level as well as other statistical characteristics of Examination questions are known and taken into account in scoring.

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If I am given more difficult questions to answer than another candidate, how can our responses be scored comparably?

IRT scoring takes into account differences in the difficulty of test questions in addition to other statistical properties. IRT scoring uses statistical properties of items, and the pattern of correct and incorrect responses, to calculate scores representing candidates' knowledge and skill levels. These scores are comparable because they have been calculated taking difficulty levels, as well as other item statistics, into consideration.

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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 50% and task-based simulations for 50% of the score. In Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), multiple-choice questions account for 50%, task-based simulations for 35% and written communication tasks account for 15% of the score.

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Given the different values of Examination components, how are total scores calculated?

For AUD, FAR, and REG, separate scores are produced for multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. The two scores are then weighted according to the percentage value of each component, and added together to arrive at a total score. For BEC separate scores are produced for multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations and written communication task, and then added together according to the percentage value of each component for the final score. For more details on scoring, please refer to the paper, How is the CPA Exam Scored?

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Are pretest questions scored?

No. Responses to pretest questions are never taken into account in calculating candidate scores. Pretest questions are included in every Examination (they may be multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, or written communication tasks) only for the purpose of collecting data. The data are needed to assess the quality of the questions, and to collect scoring information for later use when the questions become operational items.

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Are scoring adjustments made for candidates who experience difficulties during testing?

No. All candidate results are scored using the same process and method to ensure uniformity and the validity of the pass or fail decision. In the rare instances when serious technical problems occur during testing, candidates may be offered a free retest.

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