Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam scores refer to the non-curved weighted sum of scaled scores from each segment of an exam section. An exam section consists of three segments, namely, multiple-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT). CPA exam scores are released on specific target dates that are informed well in advance.
You have to score at least 75 on a scale of 0 to 99 in each of the four exam sections to qualify the Uniform 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.. Please note that the total reported score doesn’t demonstrate a percentage. So, the score is 75 points, not 75%.
As mentioned above, the exam scores are not curved, which means your scores are not affected by the performance of other candidates taking the exam. Also, your scores are scaled considering the difficulty of the questions and the accuracy of your responses.
The following four entities are responsible for the score release process:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Board of Examiners (AICPA BOE)
- National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)
- State Board of Accountancy (BOA)
All of these organizations ensure that exams are scored timely and accurately. In addition, the candidate’s responses undergo several quality checks to guarantee authenticity.
Best CPA Review
Surgent CPA Review
Becker CPA Review
Universal CPA Review
CPA Exam Sections and Structure
The following are the four CPA Exam sections:
- Auditing & Attestation (AUD Exam)
- Business Environment & Concepts (BEC Exam)
- Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR Exam)
- Regulation (REG Exam)
Each section consists of five testlets. You have four hours to finish all the five testlets. The testlets consist of multi-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks (WCT).
For more information on the content, structure, and format of CPA exam sections, check the AICPA’s CPA Exam Blueprints.
The following table outlines the number and types of questions in each exam section.
|Exam Section||Testlet 1 (MCQs)||Testlet 2 (MCQs)||Testlet 3 (TBSs)||Testlet 4 (TBSs)||Testlet 5||Total|
CPA Exam Score Weightage
Now that you know the number and types of questions for each exam section, let’s understand the scoring weight.
So, for the AUD, REG, and FAR sections, your total score is the weighted sum of scaled scores of all MCQs and TBSs. However, BEC includes the scaled scores of all MCQs, TBSs, and WCTs.
The scores are scaled and weighted as per AICPA’s policy using a computer grading program. They are scaled factoring in the accuracy and level of difficulty of each question answered.
AICPA uses Item Response Theory (IRT) scoring approach for grading the exam’s objective portion. However, the written portions are collectively graded using a computer grading program and a network of human graders. Let’s discuss the approach used to score each segment.
MCQs represent 50% of the total score in each of the four CPA Exam sections. The CPA Exam uses a multi-stage adaptive test delivery model for these questions.
As per this model, the exam progresses according to your performance. You start with a medium-level MCQ testlet. If you perform well in it, you might face a difficult testlet in the next round. A difficult testlet means that the questions in it carry a higher weightage than the others.
Since MCQs carry weightage according to their difficulty, solving a difficult question will yield more scores than solving a medium-level question. So, you can increase your overall score by performing well in the first testlet and taking a difficult testlet next.
TBSs are case studies that require you to generate responses to questions by using spreadsheets or/and research authoritative literature offered in the CPA Exam.
They represent 50% of the total score for the AUD, REG, and FAR sections and 35% for the BEC section. Just like MCQs, scaled scores on TBSs are calculated through formulas considering each questions accuracy and difficulty.
WCTs are only found in the BEC CPA Exam section (Testlet 5). They represent 15% of the total score. Here, you are given a scenario and are expected to write down a direct, coherent, and clear response in the required format (like a short passage, letter, or memo).
Like other segments, WCTs are also scored through the Computer Grading Program, which human scorers monitor. However, in a few cases, a network of experienced human graders (CPAs) re-grade the scores.
Say, if your score almost touches the passing scoreline, the human graders, by default, re-grade your WCTs. Furthermore, when there are multiple graders for a single response, the final grade will be the average of all the scores.
Pretest and operational questions
All the MCQ and TBS questions are either pretest or operational.
Operational questions – These questions are the ones that contribute to your overall score.
Pretest questions – These questions are not scored. They are tested in the exam to see their viability in future exams. These pretest questions may appear as operational questions in future exams.
Here is the breakdown of pre-test and operational questions in each of the four CPA Exam sections.
|Exam Section||Question types||MCQs||TBSs||WCTs|
Please note that you can’t distinguish them in the exam. So, don’t undermine the relevance of a question during your exam. Instead, attend to all questions with due attention and diligence.
CPA Exam Score Release
CPA Exam Score release dates
AICPA releases the CPA Exam scores on an ongoing basis all-round the year. However, it announces the score release dates twice a year. Knowing the score release date well in advance enables you to plan your testing schedule accordingly.
Typically, for exam sections taken during the first half of a year, the release dates are reported in December of the previous year. Whereas, for exam sections taken in the second half of the year, the release dates are notified by June of the current year.
Kindly note that the score release dates are the dates on which AICPA will hand over the scores to the NASBA. However, some state boards take some more time beyond the published target date to release exam scores.
Please note that the states do not release scores in a particular order. So, scores of candidates who took the exam on the same day may be notified at different times. In addition, scoring of the BEC section almost takes a week beyond the target release date. It occurs due to additional human grading required for WCTs.
2021 Score Release dates
|Exam section taken on or before||Score release date|
|July 23||August 10|
|August 15||August 24|
|September 7||September 15|
|September 30||October 12|
|October 23||November 9|
|November 15||November 23|
|December 8||December 16|
|December 31||January 11|
Score Release Process
Let’s understand the CPA exam score release process step-by-step.
- The candidates take the exam at assigned Prometric test centers. As soon as you complete testing, Prometric sends your exam files to the AICPA within 24 hours for scoring.
- After scoring, AICPA sends the advisory scores to NASBA. AICPA does not have your identification details. It only has access to your exam section identification number.
- NASBA receives your score and matches your scores to your identity.
- Lastly, it sends these scores to your respective BOA for approval and subsequent release.
If you are dissatisfied with the scores, apply for score review (at $240) or make a score appeal (at $550 + $100 per TBS).
Candidate Performance Report
Candidate Performance Report is a digital document that you receive upon failing a CPA Exam section. It evaluates your performance and compares it with just passing candidates (scoring between 75-80).
It helps you to identify your problem areas and work on them. However, bear in mind that the report is only for informational purposes and has no impact on the official score. Also, note that all state boards do not offer this report. So, kindly check with the concerned jurisdiction.
The report compares your performance with the passing candidates in the following areas:
- Content group
- Question type (MCQs, TBSs, & WCTs)
Your performance is categorized as one of the following:
- Comparable (Performance within the range)
- Stronger (Above the range)
- Weaker (Below the range)
While preparing to re-take the section, don’t rely upon just the content area performance to decide important learning areas. This is because candidates are delivered different sets of questions from different content areas every time.
Yes, your CPA exam score has an expiry date. Please note that the NASBA CPA Candidate Account houses your scores only for a specified time limit.
You can only take a look at the scores released for the current scoring window. The advisory score or score notice won’t be viewable beyond the specified expiration date. So, ensure to print the available score notice for future reference.
Now, you know that the exam cores are reported after completing several quality checks. Also, AICPA, NASBA, Prometric, and the State BOA have their respective roles in the entire scoring procedure.
Being well-informed about what goes into reporting the scores helps you do well in the exam. This way, you get to know what and how to study for earning a 75 or higher score in every exam section.
This has been a guide to the CPA Exam Scores. Here we discuss the CPA Exam Sections and Structure its scoring weight scoring approach, MCQs etc. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –