| Share

The CPA Exam: Is it Really Tough?

Lawyers pass the Bar; CPAs pass the Uniform CPA Exam. How hard can it be? Well, according to the California Board of Accountancy, approximately 16,000 people take the exam annually, but only about 2,700 new CPA licenses are issued. Actually, this is good news because if it were easy to become a CPA, the accompanying prestige and earning potential would be considerably less.

Most candidates take a review course before sitting for the exam. You can find several by searching under “CPA exam review courses in California” on the internet. A review course requires you to invest time and money, but come test day you’ll know what to expect and have several test-taking strategies to complement your vast body of professional knowledge. This alone can help calm jittery nerves and ensure success.

The Nitty-Gritty

The Uniform CPA Exam is a 14-hour, computer-based test that spans multiple days. It consists of four sections: business environment and concepts; auditing and attestation; regulation; and financial accounting and reporting. 

The exam is offered up to six days a week, during two out of every three months throughout the year. Candidates can take any one part of the exam at a time, and can take failed portions of the test up to four times a year. Once a section is passed, most jurisdictions require candidates to pass all remaining sections within 18 months to receive credit on the previously passed section(s).

The test is a mix of multiple choice questions and case studies called “simulations” that will test candidates’ accounting knowledge and skills using real life work-related situations.

The simulations also serve as a type of writing test, requiring candidates to write memoranda, letters to clients or other communications that an entry-level CPA would write on the job.

CPA: The New MBA?

An increased regulatory focus on business and the accounting profession has led to skyrocketing demand for accountants over the past five years. This demand has not only sent entry-level salaries higher, but has also virtually assured job stability regardless of economic climate.

It’s no surprise then that accounting has become one of the most popular majors in colleges across the nation. The number of accounting degrees awarded nationwide in 2003 jumped 11 percent from 2002, with some of the largest accounting programs in the nation reporting huge enrollment increases.

The University of Florida, which hosts the nation’s largest accounting program, saw a 43 percent increase in enrollment between 2000 and 2003, and the University of Illinois, one of the largest programs in the country, saw a 76 percent increase in accounting master’s students from 2001 to 2004.