CPA Scores - Pass Rates and Exam Results

Taking and passing the Uniform CPA Exam is an accomplishment for any accountant, who will naturally be anxiously anticipating their exam results soon after answering the final question.

The basic CPA score release process works like this:

  1. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) sends test scores to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).
  2. NASBA puts the scores into the National Candidate Database, announces a release of scores, and sends the exam results to the individual state accounting boards.
  3. The boards review the scores and send them to individual CPA candidates.

The National Candidate Database is a secure central database and global tracking system of all CPA candidate information. Once the CPA scores are in the database, CPA candidates can sign into the database and find their CPA score, even if NASBA and the state boards haven’t yet announced an official CPA score release.

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Taking the CPA Exam

The CPA exam has four sections, which candidates take one at a time and receive a score for each section. Candidates can take the sections in any order and don’t have to pass one section before applying to take another section. The four sections are as follows:

  1. Regulation (REG)
  2. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  3. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  4. Audit and Attestation (AUD)

The sections of the exam are administered during testing windows. Each year has four testing windows, which occur during the first two months of each calendar quarter. Candidates aren’t required to take a minimum number of sections during a testing window but can only take a give section once during a testing window.

The amount of time that a candidate has to pass all four sections depends on individual state accounting board rules, but most jurisdictions allow 18 months or the candidate loses credit for the sections already passed.

CPA Score Release

In the past, the AICPA released scores only twice during a testing window, but starting with the October/November 2011 testing window, AICPA began releasing CPA Exam scores to NASBA after the first month of testing in a window and then every two weeks for the rest of the window.

The AICPA maintains target dates for releases on its website but also notes that the release of a specific candidate’s score may be delayed for a number of reasons. In particular, scores for some takers of the BEC section might be released about one week after the target release date.

CPA Exam Results and Pass Rates

In 2011, 90,644 unique candidates took 230,564 exam sections and had a pass rate of 45.5%, according to NASBA. A passing score on any section of the exam is 75. The average score in 2011 for all exam takers was 70.6.

The highest pass rates were in Utah (57.4%), North Dakota (55.1%), and Missouri (54.8%). By exam section, pass rates were as follows:

  1. AUD: 45.6% of 62,933 candidates
  2. BEC: 46.9% of 50,478 candidates
  3. REG: 44.1% of 61,815 candidates
  4. FAR: 45.6% of 55,338 candidates
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