How is the CPA Exam Scored?

Complete Guide to CPA Exam Scoring System

how-is-the-cpa-exam-scoredThe CPA exam is scored on a scale from 0 to 99, with a passing score of 75 for each part. The AICPA scores each testlet based on different weights and difficultly levels.

This scoring methodology can be confusing to first time CPA candidates, but it’s important to understand how the CPA exam is scored so you can prepare more effectively and set realistic expectations for your exam performance.

Let’s delve into the intricacies of the CPA exam scoring process.

CPA Exam Format Overview

The CPA exam comprises four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).

Each section has a combination of multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and for BEC, written communication tasks.

The exam is scored on a scale from 0 to 99, with a passing score of 75 for each section.

Let’s look at the AICPA scored methodologies and weights for the CPA Exam.

CPA Exam Component Scoring Weights

Each CPA Exam part is scored and weighted differently. Here is how the CPA exam weights each testlet.

  1. Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs): These make up 50% of the total score for AUD, FAR, and REG, and 35% for BEC. The questions are weighted based on difficulty.
  2. Task-Based Simulations (TBS): These account for 50% of the total score for AUD, FAR, and REG, and 35% for BEC. Like MCQs, TBS are weighted based on complexity.
  3. Written Communication: This component is unique to BEC and constitutes 30% of the total score. It assesses candidates’ ability to effectively communicate in writing.

How are Multiple-Choice Questions Scored on the CPA Exam

MCQs make up a significant portion of each exam section. The questions are selected from a pool and are presented in a way that ensures each candidate receives a test of equivalent difficulty. The AICPA uses a statistical method called Item Response Theory (IRT) to score MCQs, which considers both the number of questions answered correctly and the difficulty of those questions.

How are Task-Based Simulations Scored on the CPA Exam

TBS are case studies that require candidates to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems. They are scored based on the accuracy and completeness of the response. Like MCQs, TBS are also subject to IRT scoring to ensure fairness and consistency.

Written Communication Tasks Scoring on BEC

The BEC section includes written communication tasks, which are scored based on organization, clarity, and the relevance of the content to the given topic. Candidates are also evaluated on their ability to write in standard English.

Are Pretest Questions Counted on the CPA Exam?

Pretest questions on the CPA Exam do not count towards the candidate’s overall score. These questions are used by the AICPA to evaluate the performance of new exam questions.

CPA Exam Scoring Process

The CPA Exam has five different scoring components some count towards your overall score while others do not.

Pretest Questions: Each exam section includes a certain number of pretest questions that do not count toward the final score. These are used to evaluate the quality and fairness of new questions.

Operational Questions: These are the scored questions. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) uses a multi-stage testing process, where the first testlet’s difficulty is medium, and depending on your performance, the second testlet’s difficulty may vary.

Score Scaling: The raw scores (the number of correct responses) from the MCQs and TBS are converted to a scaled score using a statistical model. This process ensures fairness regardless of the variations in difficulty across different versions of the exam.

Score Weighting: The scaled scores for MCQs, TBS, and Written Communication are then combined, with each section contributing to the final score based on its predetermined weight.

Final Score: The weighted scores are summed to produce a total scaled score. This score is then transformed to a reporting scale that ranges from 0 to 99, with decimal places rounded to the nearest whole number.

What is a Scaled Score and How is it calculated on the CPA exam?

The CPA Exam is scored on a scale from 0 to 99, and a score of 75 or higher is required to pass each section. However, it is crucial to understand that this is not a percentage score and does not represent the number of questions answered correctly.

A scaled score on the CPA Exam is a conversion of the raw score (the number of questions you answered correctly) to a uniform scoring scale that ranges from 0 to 99. The purpose of scaled scoring is to ensure fairness and consistency across all exam candidates, regardless of which version of the exam they take.

It’s important to understand that the CPA Exam is not graded on a curve and the scaled score reflects the candidate’s own performance.

Understanding Scaled Scores

Raw Score: This is the total number of questions you answered correctly. For the CPA Exam, this includes both Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and Task-Based Simulations (TBS).

Equating: Due to the fact that there are multiple versions of the CPA Exam, with varying levels of difficulty, the raw scores are equated to adjust for these differences. This process ensures that the scores are comparable across different exam forms.

Scaling: After equating, the scores are then converted to a scaled score that ranges from 0 to 99.

Weighting: The CPA Exam sections are made up of different types of questions, and each type is weighted differently in calculating the final score. For example, in most sections, MCQs and TBS are each weighted at 50% of the total score.

How is the Scaled Score Calculated?

Determine Raw Scores: Calculate the total number of correct answers in MCQs and TBS.

Equating: Adjust the raw scores for difficulty differences between different versions of the exam.

Calculate Weighted Score: Apply the weighting for each question type to the equated scores.

Convert to Scaled Score: Transform the weighted score to a scaled score that ranges from 0 to 99.

CPA Exam Scoring Example

  • Assume a candidate scored 70% on MCQs and 80% on TBS in a CPA Exam section.
  • The raw scores are adjusted for difficulty, resulting in equated scores.
  • The weighted score is calculated (assuming 50% weight for both MCQs and TBS).
  • Finally, the weighted score is converted to a scaled score between 0 and 99.

Quality Control and Score Reporting

The AICPA takes extensive measures to ensure the accuracy and fairness of the CPA exam scoring process. Before scores are released, there is a thorough quality control process to verify that all exam content was functioning properly and that the scoring algorithms were applied correctly.

Scores are typically released according to a predetermined schedule, which is available on the AICPA’s website and through NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy).

Understanding Your CPA Exam Score Report

The score report provides detailed information on a candidate’s performance, including a score for each exam section and comparative performance information, which shows how a candidate’s performance on different exam components compares to other candidates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I pass the CPA Exam by doing well in only one section?

No, candidates need to perform well across all sections of the exam as each contributes significantly to the final score. A balanced approach is crucial for success.

Can I pass the CPA exam with a score of 75?

Yes, a score of 75 or higher is considered passing for any section of the CPA exam. It represents a scaled score, not a percentage of questions answered correctly.

How is the written communication section of the BEC exam scored?

The written communication tasks are scored based on organization, development, expression, and the ability to answer the question. Spelling and grammar also play a role, but they are not the primary focus of the scoring.

If I do well on the multiple-choice questions, can I still fail the exam if I perform poorly on the task-based simulations?

Yes, it is possible to fail the CPA exam if you perform poorly on the task-based simulations, even if you do well on the multiple-choice questions. Each section of the exam contributes significantly to your final score, and poor performance in one area can negatively impact your overall result.

How long does it take to receive my CPA exam scores?

The AICPA releases CPA exam scores according to a predetermined schedule, which is typically within a few weeks after the end of the testing window. Candidates can access their scores online through NASBA or their respective state board of accountancy.

What is the passing score for the CPA Exam?

The passing score for each section of the CPA Exam is 75 on a scaled score range of 0 to 99.

Does a scaled score of 75 mean I got 75% of the questions correct?

No, a scaled score of 75 does not equate to 75% accuracy. The scaled score takes into account the difficulty of the exam and the weighting of different question types.

Is the CPA Exam scoring process transparent?

While the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) provides information on how the exam is scored, the exact details of the scoring algorithm are not made public to maintain exam integrity.