CPA Exam Format | [2017] CPA Exam Sections: Content, Structure & Format

CPA Exam Content & Structure

CPA Exam Content & Structure

The CPA Exam is a comprehensive test composed of 4 parts, given individually, over a total of 16 hours. The four exams cover a wide variety of topics taught in most University accounting programs.

Choose from the boxes below to explore each CPA Exam section

Topics Per CPA Exam Section

Auditing
4 hrs
Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles; Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Process; Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence; Forming Conclusions and Reporting
Business Environment & Concepts
4 hrs
Corporate Governance; Economic Concepts and Analysis; Financial Management; Information Technology; Operations Management
Financial
4 hrs
Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting, and Financial Reporting; Select Financial Statement Accounts; Select Transactions; State and Local Governments
Regulation
4 hrs
Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and Federal Tax Procedures; Business Law; Federal Taxation of Property Transactions; Federal Taxation of Individuals; Federal Taxation of Entities

Types of Questions

Multiple Choice Questions: One question and four potential answers, MCQs make up the majority of each exam.

Task-Based Simulations: Questions that require you to apply practical knowledge found in the AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG exams. This question type may include filling out a form or completing a research question.

 

Written Communication: Questions that require properly composed written essay responses and found only in the BEC exam.

Format of the Four Parts of the CPA Exam

AUD, FAR, REG Exam Format

The Auditing & Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) Exams are similarly formatted. These three exams are composed of 50% Multiple Choice Questions and 50% Task-Based Simulations. The Multiple Choice Questions are broken up into 2 individual testlets: 36 questions per testlet for AUD, 33 questions per testlet for FAR, 38 questions per testlet for REG. The MCQ portion of the exam is followed by three testlets of 2, 3, and then 3Task-Based Simulations (TBS) for AUD, FAR, and REG, for a total of 8 TBSs per exam section.

BEC Exam Format

50% of the Business Environment & Concepts (BEC) exam is comprised of Multiple Choice Questions. Just like the other 3 exams, the MCQs are broken into 2 individual testlets, with 31 questions in each. The MCQ portion of the exam is followed by two testlets of 2 Task-Based Simulations, for a total of 4 TBSs. Finally, there are 3 Written Communication questions in the final testlet- one of which is pre-tested - that require a written response in a memo format.

AUD FAR REG Exam Structure
CPA Exam BEC Structure

CPA Exam Content by Part

Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

15-25% Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles

  • Nature and scope of audit engagements and various non-audit engagements
  • Ethics, independence, and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct
  • Engagement documentation
  • Communication with management and those charged with governance
  • Quality Control

20-30% Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Responses

  • Planning an engagement
  • Understanding and entity and its environment
  • Understanding and entity's internal control
  • Identifying and assessing the risk of material misstatement
  • Planning further procedures responsive to identified risks
  • Materiality
  • Planning for and using the work of others
  • Specific areas of engagement risk

30-40% Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence

  • Understanding sufficient appropriate evidence
  • Sampling techniques
  • Performing specific procedures to obtain evidence
  • Specific matters that require special consideration
  • Misstatements and internal control deficiencies
  • Written representations
  • Subsequent events and subsequently discovered facts

15-25% Forming Conclusions and Reporting

  • Reports on auditing engagements
  • Reports on attestation engagements
  • Accounting and review service engagements
  • Reporting on compliance
  • Other reporting considerations

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

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 benefits plans
  • Special purpose frameworks

30-40% Select Financial Statement Accounts

  • Cash and cash equivalents
  • Trade receivables
  • Inventory
  • Property, plant, and equipment
  • Investments
  • Intangible assets
  • Payables and accrued liabilities
  • Long-term debt
  • Equity
  • 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
  • Leases
  • 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

 

Regulation (REG)

60%-80% Federal Taxation

  • Federal taxation of individuals
  • Federal taxation of entities
  • Federal taxation of property transactions

10-20% Business Law

  • Contracts
  • Agency
  • Business structure
  • Debtor-creditor relationships
  • Government regulation of business

10-20% Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and Federal Tax Procedures

  • Ethics and responsibilities in tax practice
  • Licensing and disciplinary systems
  • Federal tax procedures
  • Legal duties and responsibilities

Business Environments and Concepts (BEC)

17-27% Corporate Governance

  • Internal control and enterprise risk management frameworks
  • Other regulatory frameworks and provisions

17-27% Economic Concepts and Analysis

  • Economic and business cycles
  • Market influences on business
  • Financial risk management

11-21% Financial Management

  • Capital structure
  • Working capital
  • Financial valuation methods and decision models

15-25% Information Technology

  • IT governance
  • Role of IT in business
  • Information security/availability
  • Processing integrity (input/processing/output controls)
  • Systems development and maintenance

15-25% Operations Management

  • Cost measurement concepts, methods, and techniques
  • Variance analysis
  • Process management
  • Planning techniques

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