FAR CPA Exam Format
FAR Exam Overview & Insights
The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section of the CPA Exam is arguably the most difficult, longest and by far the most comprehensive section of the exam. As laid out in the AICPA Blueprints, FAR requires that CPA candidates have a strong knowledge of US GAAP, including concepts and standards for financial statements, typical items in financial statements, specific types of transactions and events, accounting and reporting for governmental entities, and accounting and reporting for nongovernmental and not-for-profit organizations. CPA candidates should also be able to demonstrate the skills needed to apply the financial reporting knowledge required of CPAs.
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FAR Exam Content
25-35% Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting and Financial Reporting
- Conceptual framework and standard-setting
- General-purpose financial statements: for-profit business entities
- General-purpose financial statements: nongovernmental, not-for-profit entities
- Public company reporting topics
- Financial statements of employee benefit plans
- Special purpose frameworks
30-40% Select Financial Statement Accounts
- Cash and cash equivalents
- Trade receivables
- Property, plant and equipment
- Intangible assets
- Payables and accrued liabilities
- Long-term debt
- Revenue recognition
- Compensation and benefits
- Income taxes
20-30% Select Transactions
- Accounting changes and error corrections
- Business combinations
- Contingencies and commitments
- Derivatives and hedge accounting
- Foreign currency transactions and translation
- Nonreciprocal transfers
- Research and development costs
- Software costs
- Subsequent events
- Fair value measurements
- Differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP
5-15% State and Local Governments
- State and local government concepts
- Format and content of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
- Deriving government-wide financial statements and reconciliation requirements
- Typical items and specific types of transactions and events in governmental entity financial statements
FAR Exam Structure & Format
The FAR Exam is 4 hours long, though the candidate is not required to use all the allotted time, and consists of 66 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and 8 Task-Based Simulations (TBSs).
Of the 66 MCQs, 54 are operational, meaning they count toward the exam score, while 12 are pretested and do not count toward the exam score. Of the 8 TBSs, 7 are operational and 1 pretested. Other than scoring, there is no functional difference between operational and pretested questions and no sure way for the candidate to tell the difference between an operational and pretested question.
The FAR Exam is organized into five testlets – two 33-question MCQ testlets followed by a 2-question TBS testlet, then an optional 15-minute break that does not count against the 4-hour test time, then two additional TBS testlets of three questions each. Once a testlet has been submitted, it cannot be revisited.
The operational MCQs count 50% toward a candidate’s exam score. The operational TBSs count 50% toward a candidate’s exam score.
By default the first MCQ testlet is of ‘Medium’ difficulty. The difficulty level of the next MCQ testlet depends on the candidate’s performance on the first testlet. The candidate will therefore experience one of the following MCQ testlet difficulty sequences:
- Medium – Difficult (candidate performed well on first testlet)
- Medium – Medium (candidate did not perform well on first testlet)
Characterizing a testlet as ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ refers to the average difficulty of the questions in an MCQ testlet. There is not a binary ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ value assigned to each MCQ. Rather, the difficulty level of each question exists on a numeric scale.
Credit awarded for MCQs is weighted by difficulty level, meaning more credit is awarded for getting a more difficult question correct than for getting a less difficult question correct. Therefore, a candidate with a difficult testlet is not penalized for having harder questions, nor is there any advantage in having two Medium testlets.
It is still possible to pass the exam even with a Medium-Medium MCQ testlet sequence. In these cases, good-to-excellent performance on the second MCQ testlet and the TBS testlets is key to passing.
The assigned TBS testlets are pre-selected and have nothing to do with the candidate’s performance on the preceding MCQ testlets, nor do the TBSs within the TBS testlet proceed according to performance on the previous TBS.
While an MCQ is either right or wrong, there appears to be partial credit awarded for non-Research TBSs. Research TBSs are graded as either right or wrong with no partial credit awarded.
FAR EXAM LENGTH
FAR SAMPLE QUESTIONS
The FAR section of the CPA Exam is arguably the most difficult, longest and by far the most comprehensive section of the exam. Don't be intimidated by the amount of knowledge needed to successfully pass the FAR exam. Our Interactive Practice Questions, which contain 6,200+ Questions and Task-Based Simulations, including AICPA-Released Questions, will help build confidence in your FAR knowledge.