If you’re pursuing a professional CPA license, you’ll be taking one of the hardest licensing exams in existence. While the average pass rate slightly varies year-to-year, only about 50% of people pass the CPA exam on the first try.
While the CPA exam isn’t impossible to pass, there are a couple of sections known to be more difficult than others: FAR and REG. As a general rule, focusing extra attention on those sections will give you an advantage that may help you pass on the first try.
Before discussing the hardest exam sections in detail, here’s a quick summary of each section.
A brief overview of the CPA exam sections
The CPA exam consists of four test sections you’ll need to complete within an 18-month window. The four sections are:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
Each of these four sections contains five sets of questions: multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations that mimic real situations, and written communication tasks.
The AUD section includes 72 multiple choice questions and eight task-based simulations.
AUD questions and tasks center on ethics professionals responsibilities & general principles; assessing risk and developing a planned response; performing further procedures & obtaining evidence; and forming conclusions & reporting.
The BEC section includes 62 multiple choice questions; 4 task-based simulations; and three written tasks.
BEC questions and tasks center on corporate governance, economic concepts & analysis, financial management, information technology, and operations management.
The FAR section includes 66 multiple choice questions and eight task-based simulations.
BEC questions and tasks center on conceptual framework, standard-setting & financial reporting; select financial statement accounts; select transactions; and state & local governments.
The REG section includes 76 multiple choice questions and eight task-based simulations.
REG questions and tasks center on ethics, professional responsibilities, & tax procedures; business law; federal taxation of property transactions; federal taxation of individuals; and federal taxation of entities.
Why is the FAR exam section difficult?
The majority of test-takers consider the FAR section of the CPA exam most difficult because it deals mostly with financial accounting and reporting of for-profit entities. Test-takers report this section is especially difficult when they haven’t been in college for a while and need to study hard to get back to the basics.
The FAR section of the CPA exam is tricky and comprehensive, making it more difficult for people without accounting experience. However, people with accounting experience report the FAR section was easier than they expected, while they struggled with other sections.
Why is the REG exam section difficult?
For most people, the REG section is the second hardest section to pass. For some people, the REG section is the hardest. However, for test-takers with no tax experience, the REG exam section is usually the hardest. The U.S. tax code is complex; having experience will help you get through the REG section of the CPA exam.
Tips for passing these difficult exam sections
If you want to pass these difficult sections on the first try, you’ll need to do more than memorize content in your study materials. Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of passing the first time you sit for the exam.
1. Take a prep course
Taking a CPA prep course is non-negotiable if you want to pass all four sections and get your license. Memorizing information is crucial, but you need to be ready to translate your knowledge into correct answers in a testing environment.
A CPA prep course will give you access to practice tests along with an instructor so you can ask questions and get answers.
2. Get an internship
Getting an internship isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got the time and drive, you’ll reap great rewards. Many test-takers have reported passing the REG because of their experience with tax preparation and other tax-related tasks. If you can get an internship or even a regular job where you’ll need to work with tax-related regulations, you’ll have an advantage when taking the REG exam.
3. Reschedule your test if necessary
You’ll be ready to take your exam when you’re ready. If you feel like you need a little more time to study and prepare, take that time. Don’t hesitate to reschedule a test if you think having more time will help you pass. Just make sure you reschedule the test, so it falls within your 18-month required window.
Don’t give up
If you don’t pass a section the first time, study harder and keep trying until you pass. The CPA exam isn’t easy, but with patience and dedication, you’ll get your license.
Guest Author Bio
Jamie is a freelance writer who covers trends in business, technology, and health. She loves to go skiing, camping, and rock climbing with her family.