CPA Exam Wiki

What is a CPA?

Before you start down the long road of trying to get your CPA, let’s ask the most important question.
What is a CPA? The CPA designation stands for certified public accountant. This means you are an accredited accountant held to the highest ethical standards. It basically means that if you sign off on financial statements, people take them as gold. The CPA designation is very prestigious.

You have to be ready to bare that cross. Whether the CPA certification is worth it is something else. You will have to decide that on your own. We will try to provide as much help as possible though.

The Exam

The CPA exam is short for the Uniform CPA examination. The purpose of the exam is to protect the public by ensuring that only qualified candidates become CPAs.

The CPA exam is a fourteen hour test that is administered electronically on a computer by Prometric CPA

The CPA exam is tested in 4 separate sections


SectionFull FormLengthQuestionsSimulations
FARFinancial Accounting and Reporting4 Hours907 task based
AUDAuditing and Attestation4 Hours907 task based
BECBusiness Environment Concepts3 Hours723 written
REGRegulation3 Hours726 task based

There are 4 organizations that are involved in developing, administering and scoring the CPA exam. They are the AICPA, NASBA, the state boards of accountancy and Prometric CPA.

The AICPA is charged with preparing and scoring the exam through its Board of Examiners

History of the CPA exam

The CPA exam has existed since 1917 when it was first administered. The exam was developed by the AICPA, but NASBA and each state board have input into the test as well.

The CPA became a confidential exam in 1996.

It was administered by pencil and paper until 2003, and it was only tested twice a year.

CPA Salary

What can you expect a CPA Salary to be like?

The answer to this one is it depends.It depends on what you want do and where you want to do it. The jobs you can get with a CPA Certification are endless. You can also be a sole practitioner and try to build your own practice. If you go that route, your earnings are only limited by how hard you are willing to work and the number of businesses in your area.

On the other hand if you choose to be an employee, then your salary depends on where you go. If you go to one of the big 4 accounting firms, you can expect your salary to be in the $50-60k range when you start out. New partners in the big 4 accounting firms make from $300k-450k, so you have that to look forward to as well. If you stay all the way through retirement, Senior partners make millions of dollars. Partner also get huge pensions when they retire, so that is a huge bonus to taking the public accounting role as well.

Make sure to check websites like Payscale and Glassdoor for thorough salary checks. Linkedin uses Payscale to approximate salaries in job searches so that’s reassuring.

How to become a CPA

From a process standpoint, there are many things you need to do to become a CPA. You need to

Apply to one of the 55 state boards of accountancy or NASBA depending on the state

  1. Make sure you want to be a CPA
  2. Choose which University where you will get your CPA education
  3. Meet CPA education requirements to sit for the CPA exam
  4. Apply for the test,
  5. Sit for the test,
  6. Meet your work requirement
  7. get your cpa certificate
  8. Maintain your cpa license by taking CPEs



National associate of state boards of accountancy (NASBA). NASBA has been tasked with enhancing the effectiveness of the 55 state boards of accountancy in the United States.

How does NASBA accomplish through the NASBA CPA program. Well NASBA views it as they are making sure only qualified individuals become licensed U.S. Certified Public Accountants. NASBA is in charge of the National Candidate Database and CPA examination services. They help more than 30 states with the CPA application, evaluating credentials, administering exams and reporting of scores.

On NASBA CPA’s website you can view the CPA requirements by state. They provide links to every state boards website where the individual state requirements are located.

CPA Education

What education is necessary to take the CPA exam. You can visit our CPA exam requirements page to figure this out, but essentially each state requires a different level of education in order to sit for the exam.
For example in order to sit for the California CPA exam the minimum you need to complete is a Bachelor’s Degree with the following items

24 Hours in Accounting Subjects
24 Hours in Business related subjects
20 Hours in Accounting Study
10 Hours in Ethics Study

California just announced a change to the California CPA education requirements with regards to the ethics requirement. This is a good example of why you need to check your state board’s webiste before applying for the CPA exam in your state. These websites also have updates on CPA exam changes.

CPA Review courses

Now there are a lot of CPA exam review courses out there, so it is hard choosing which ones.Which one is the best cpa review. Well if you look at which one results in the most Elijah watt sells award winners, it is Becker CPA review. They consistently have over 90% of the Elijah watt sells award winners as customers.

Becker CPA review

  • One of the best programs on the market.
  • Has over seven thousand multiple choice questions.
  • 400 task based simulations
  • 2 practice exams for each part of the cpa
  • CPA books and ebooks
  • They offer CPA classes online or in person at 200 locations worldwide
  • They also offer 0% financing
  • CPA course fees of $3,393

Alternatives to Becker

Wiley CPA review

Pass GuaranteeYesNoNo
Exam Questions12,000+7,000+5,000+
Task Based Simulations600300200

Wiley states that they believe they are better than becker and offer a comparison chart on their website as to why. They also offer a comparison to Roger CPA review.

Some differences are outlined to the left. Wiley also offers professor mentoring and deep dive videos.

I don’t know anyone that has actually used Wiley, but it sounds pretty good.

Roger CPA

The main difference between roger and the other cpa review courses is that it offers different price ranges. They also offer cram courses and flash cards for those interested.

Free CPA review

Can you get cpa review for free? Well you will have to be very dedicated to your review because you won’t have study plans like all the other review courses will have.

THere are websites with free materials, but they are pretty bare bones. only has multilple choices questions, a forum with few members, and a light blog.

Most free material are going to be like this. There will be materials, but there won’t be a nice guided plan set out for you.

How hard is the CPA Exam

In order to understand how hard the CPA exam is we’ll have to look at the CPA exam pass rates.

CPA Exam Pass Rate by year and by section

Section of CPA Exam2013201420152016

As you can see through the pass rates, the exam is pretty hard. Most of the sections are below a 50% pass rate. The one positive spin you can put on it though, is that at least the passability has been pretty consistent over the years. Each section has been around the same pass rate. FAR is obviously the toughest section out of all of them. BEC is the easiest.

Who administers the CPA Exam

Prometric CPA administers the CPA exam through their various testing centers. Prometric is a testing agency. They are the ones that will administer the test at their testing locations.