Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) is one of the four Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam sections that assesses your knowledge of fundamental business concepts and evaluates your business writing skills. Though considered an easy section, you must follow some valuable BEC CPA Exam tips to secure a high score.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) administers the CPA Exam in association with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the 55 US-Jurisdictions. Passing the CPA Exam is one of the prerequisites for CPA licensure.
This section tests your competency, as a newly licensed CPA, in dealing with:
- Auditing, attestation, accounting, and review services
- Financial reporting services
- Tax preparation and other professional services
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What makes BEC unique from other sections is an additional written communication segment. The following table presents all details related to the BEC CPA Exam section.
|Exam Section Particulars||Details|
|Exam fees (BEC section)||$224 (approx.)|
|Passing Score||75 out of 99|
|Question types||Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) |
Task-based Simulations (TBS)
Written Communication (WC)
|Number of questions||62 MCQs 4 TBS 3 WC|
|Pass rates||62.16% (Q1 2021)|
|Main content||Enterprise Risk Management, Internal ControlsInternal ControlsInternal control in accounting refers to the process by which a company implements various rules, policies, or procedures to ensure the accuracy of accounting and finance information, safeguard the various assets of the business, promote accountability in the business, and prevent the occurrence of frauds in the company., and Business Processes |
The BEC section may appear easy to most candidates as the nature of the BEC content is more definitional, requiring minimal numerical skills. Moreover, it has the least number of MCQs and TBSs as against other sections. Also, the additional WC section comes easy to candidates as it primarily tests their writing skills more than their subject knowledge.
However, do not undermine the relevance of this section. Keep practicing and make sure you have a good understanding of basic business and economic concepts to pass this section with flying colors. Here we present the top 10 BEC CPA Exam tips.
1. Practice hard, and don’t underestimate it!
Unfortunately, a majority of CPA Exam candidates often underestimate the BEC section and end up failing. Hence, try to put in as much hard work and commitment to it as you do for other sections.
Practice as many mock tests, sample papers, and quizzes as possible. Go through tutorial videos and know how the exam software works. Also, learn how to write a clear, coherent, and easy-to-understand official document.
AICPA has allocated 50%-60% weightage to application skills in this section. Thus, try to compliment a theoretical concept with its practical application in real-life work scenario. It will help you to understand the process much easily and quickly.
2. Design a flexible schedule
Scheduling is imperative for outstanding results. So, as soon as you apply for the BEC CPA Exam section, make a study plan, and follow it religiously. Make realistic goals and avoid overburdening yourself.
Employed individuals must consider their work timings and professional commitments in mind while scheduling. This way, they can maintain a perfect work-life balance.
Take frequent 20–30-minute breaks in between your regular schedule. It will help you re-start with a fresh mind. Keep taking notes and revise them every day at the beginning and end of your study session.
3. Know the scoring process
BEC is the only section with WCs as an additional item in Testlet 5. So, know everything about its scoring criteria to prep up for the unfamiliar part with ease.
Like MCQs and TBSs, WCs are also scored through a computer grading program monitored by human scorers. However, a network of well-trained CPAs re-grade the scores in some exceptional cases.
For instance, if your score is too close to the passing mark, human graders will, by default, re-grade the responses. Moreover, in the case of multiple graders for a single response, the average of all scores will be considered the final grade.
4. Polish your writing skills
WCs cover 15% of the total scoring weightage of the BEC CPA Exam section. Know that you must draft professional documents in a clear, concise, and effective manner to score well in this part.
So, go through as many memos, business letters, and short passages as possible. Learn the format and language used. Afterwards, start practicing with sample documents. Review them on your own or seek help from a professional to know the areas for improvement.
Keep the tone professional, brief, and impressive. Don’t use flowery or exaggerating phrases. Instead, keep it simple, brisk, and to the point.
5. Learn everything about foreign currency
Foreign currency is usually regarded as one of the most challenging topics in this CPA Exam section. Start with understanding all basic functional currencyFunctional CurrencyThe term functional currency represents the currency of the location in which business operates primarily, earns a significant portion of revenue, and incurs the cost to generate such profits. In short, it is the home currency of that country where the corporate headquarter is situated. concepts. Then, learn to compute gains and losses on foreign currency monetary transactions.
Try to apply the theoretical concepts in a real-life scenario for better understanding. Precisely put, go through a foreign currency topic and then simplify it using relevant and easy-to-understand examples.
Moreover, keep yourself updated about Forex services, the laws, regulations, and recent amendments. If possible, seek help from a Forex market analyst or trade audit associate.
6. Get a good grasp of risks and internal controls
AICPA has allocated 20%-30% of the total scoring weightage to the section of risks and internal controls associated with business processes. As per the AICPA’s revised curriculum for the BEC exam section effective from July 1, 2021, there is a considerable addition to the business process and the information technology sections.
With these revisions, the BEC section is expected to test your understanding of the risks involved in internal controls and data integrity. Hence, make sure you have an in-depth knowledge of the different types and proper mix of business process controls required to minimize risks.
Also, ensure you have a good grasp of the types of reporting systems, documents, tools, and technologies used in critical business processes. The controls involved in safeguarding sensitive information is also an important topic.
Students can benefit from taking the help of a working professional to understand the business processes better. Furthermore, employed candidates may find this section easier with their hands-on experience and exposure to business processes. If possible, try to take this section after gaining some relevant work experience.
7. Boost your cost accounting know-how
Gain mastery over various cost accountingCost AccountingCost accounting is a defined stream of managerial accounting used for ascertaining the overall cost of production. It measures, records and analyzes both fixed and variable costs for this purpose. topics like cost measurement concepts, methods, techniques, and variance analysis, etc. Learn how to differentiate between fixed, variable, and mixed costsMixed CostsThe term "mixed cost" refers to a hybrid of fixed and variable costs. As a result, a part of the mixed cost remains constant while the other changes in relation to production. of a business.
A brief discussion with an experienced cost accountant will be fruitful in this case. Ensure to get the basic terms right, and you are good to go!
Please note that it contains 15%-25% of BEC’s total scoring weightage. So, don’t undermine its importance and clear all your doubts for easier comprehension.
8. Practice time management
This is among the most relevant skills to master for successfully passing the BEC CPA Exam section. Start by deciding how much time to devote to each question type.
Consider how long it takes for you to write WCs and leave out some time to revise the response.
Let’s break down the total exam time of four hours (240 minutes).
|Question Item||Number of Questions||Dedicated Time per Question (in minutes)||Time Taken (in minutes)|
|Total time (in minutes)||–||–||233|
This way, it will take you 233 minutes to finish the examination. Furthermore, you can use the spare seven minutes for a quick review.
Please note that there is no perfect time management plan. Instead, make one as per your strengths and weaknesses.
9. Try out a CPA review course
CPA Exam review courses are the best option to track your performance and guide you in the right direction. In addition, they assist you in channelizing your time and energy in areas that need the most attention.
Taking a review course will ensure that you get reliable and up-to-date study materials. Moreover, you will get access to their vast database of sample tests and additional study resources.
For more information on review courses, you can take a look at several of AICPA’s user-rated and reviewed CPA Prep Courses. Please note that AICPA does not recommend or endorse any specific review course.
Kindly go through them and choose the one well-equipped with insightful video lectures and question banks.
10. Don’t stress it out!
CPA ExamCPA ExamThe CPA Exam assesses accounting professionals not just on their financial knowledge, but also on their ability to review and seek out key abilities. may seem overwhelming with plenty of steps and procedures to be completed. However, always remember that taking undue stress will only worsen your performance. Hence, ensure to get a breather between 1-2 weeks.
Do something that freshens you up and study with a positive mindset. Don’t let any negative thoughts overshadow your hard work and commitment. Lastly, eat and sleep well!
The tips mentioned above include both the do’s and don’ts while preparing for the BEC CPA Examination. Follow them and you will get to study with both, better tools and a better mindset.
Take it one step at a time. Keep your goals clear right from the beginning and don’t let any distraction hinder you from achieving that.
This has been a guide to the BEC CPA Exam Tips. Here we discuss the top 10 BEC CPA Exam tips, which include both the do’s and don’ts of preparing for the exam. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –