CPA Exam Info

What Every Candidate Should Know About the Uniform CPA Exam

Learn how to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) from NASBA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and discover where to find accurate information to help expedite the CPA licensing process. This How to Become a CPA Video will answer most of your questions.

The CPA exam, also known as the Uniform CPA Examination, serves to protect the public interest by helping to ensure that only qualified professionals become licensed as CPAs. Once acquired, a CPA license is valid 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). The CPA examination is essentially an academic assessment that tests the breadth of material covered by good accounting curricula. It emphasizes the body of knowledge required for the practice of public accounting.

So, how should candidates get ready? According to, here is what every candidate should know about the computerized exam:

CPA Exam Content

The exam content has been expanded so that it more closely matches the skills candidates need to practice competently today.  According to the AICPA, the CPA exam is designed to test for the following skills deemed necessary for entry-level CPAs:

  • Communication
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Judgment
  • Understanding
The four areas tested in the CPA Exam are:
  • Auditing & Attestation – covers professional responsibilities (including ethics and independence), knowledge of auditing procedures, auditing standards generally accepted in the United States (GAAS) and other standards related to attest engagements and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting – covers knowledge of accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (GAAP) for business enterprises, not-for-profit organizations and governmental entities, International Financial Reporting Standards, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
  • Regulation – covers knowledge of federal taxation, ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and business law, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.
  • Business Environment & Concepts – covers knowledge of general business environment and business concepts that candidates need to know in order to understand the underlying business reasons for and accounting implications of business transactions, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge in performing financial statement audit and attestation engagements and other functions normally performed by CPAs that affect the public interest.

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CPA Exam Questions, Format & Length

In three of the four sections (FAR, AUD & REG), multiple-choice questions comprise approximately 60% of the CPA Exam, while the other 40% consist of task-based simulations — case studies that test candidates’ accounting knowledge and skills using real work situations. In the final section, BEC, multiple-choice questions comprise approximately 85% of the CPA exam, with the remaining 15% made up of written communication questions. The length of the CPA Exam is as follows:

Time Breakdowns for the CPA Exam

Auditing &Attestation | 4 hours
Financial Accounting & Reporting | 4 hours
Regulation | 3 hours
Business Environment & Concepts | 3 hours
Exam (total) | 14 hours

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CPA Exam Schedule

The CPA Exam is offered up to six days a week, during two out of every three months. The AICPA continues to create and grade the computerized CPA Exam, and NASBA and the state boards of accountancy are responsible for the overall administration of the exam to the more than 100,000 candidates each year. Prometric, the world’s leading technology-based testing company, delivers the examination to candidates through more than 300 testing centers in the United States and U.S. territories as well as many international locations. Prometric sites are located in most metropolitan areas. Candidates can sit for one or more parts of the exam during a test period but may not take a specific part of the exam more than once during that same test period.
Each State Board can establish its own policy on the time frame in which a candidate must pass all four parts of the exam. The AICPA has recommended that the period be 18 months.

CPA Exam Cost

Exam costs vary state by state. The AICPA recently projected the “Total Average Cost for a Typical Candidate” as being $533.

CPA Requirements by State

Although CPA licensing occurs at the state level, the exam is uniform at all testing sites and is accepted nationally. Passing the CPA exam in one jurisdiction generally allows a candidate to obtain a reciprocal certificate or license in another jurisdiction,
provided they meet all jurisdictional requirements. It is important to note that requirements for the exam differ from state to state. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) maintains information on each state board’s requirements on its website. Visit our CPA Exam Requirements page for more information.