Scores in CPA
The Uniform CPA Examination is required by all qualified CPAs to become licensed professionals. The importance of the exam is evident from the fact that clearing it is one of the many requirements set by state boards of accountancy for granting the CPA licensure to candidates. Obtaining passing a score in the test is a challenge in itself as it requires dedicated preparation and comprehensive study.
Each exam has its own set pattern and scoring system. Understanding the score requirements and the scoring process of the examination shall help you appreciate how you can prepare and hence you shall be able to channel your efforts. It helps you understand the syllabus and the importance of different question types. You can also gain information about the utility of scores and how they shall help you.
The Scoring Process
The scores of your exam are prepared by AICPA and then sent to NASBA, which matches them to individual test takers. They are then forwarded to state boards of accountancy, which release them.
There are four sections in the examination and different content areas are covered in each. The scores are calculated with respect to question types and not the content areas for each section. The two types of testing items, multiple-choice questions and simulations, are given weights according to their content and importance and then the total score is calculated. The following is the score distribution for the Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG) sections of the exam.
- Multiple choice questions (MCQs) of the test contribute towards 70% of the total score
- Simulations contribute towards 30% of the total score. The objective portion of simulations contributes towards 20% and written communication towards 10% of the total score.
For the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section, the MCQs contribute towards 100% of the score reported.
Each correct response in the multiple-choice questions and in the objective portion of simulation counts towards the score. There is no penalty for an incorrect response. These questions are scored electronically. The written communication responses are scored partly by human scorers and partly by electronic scorers. Each component (MCQs, objective portion of simulations and written communications) is treated as a separate test, irrespective of the content distribution. They are then scored on a scale of 0 – 100. 70%, 20% and 10% of the scores in these different components are then calculated and added to get an aggregate score. Finally this aggregate score is mapped on a scale of 0 – 99 for reporting.
Passing Scores and Utility of Scores
The passing score for each section of the test is 75 on a scale of 0 – 99. This score is determined by AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE). The score does not represent a percentage; rather it represents a level of competence required for successfully carrying out professional responsibilities and protecting the public.
Passing scores are required as one of the criterion for obtaining a licensure to practice. The boards of accountancy consider other criterion also for granting the licensure. In case the other parameters are not impressive, a high score in Uniform CPA Examination can help make good the loss. Hence, you must concentrate on clearing the exam with a score higher than 75.
Score Review and Appeal
In case you intend to get your score reviewed and confirmed by the AICPA, you can make a request. This involves verifying your score for giving extra assurance to the candidates. The review process is automatic and no humans are involved in it. It should be kept in mind though that the scores are calculated twice before being reported and hence the chance of any change in the score after review is less than 1 percent.
In case you are failing in an exam, and your jurisdiction so allows, you can appeal your scores. The appeal should be made only if there is an incorrect response that you intend to challenge. The appeal request shall require you to defend your response as it has been given during the exam; new responses are not allowed during an appeal.
Score review or appeal requests are entertained for a limited period of time after the scores have been reported and you need to contact your board of accountancy for making the request.
Candidate Performance Report
In case you fail in a section of the exam, you can reappear for it. This is allowed only in a following testing window, but not in the same one in which you appeared for it the first time around.
- Candidates who fail in a section of the exam are sent a Candidate Performance Report that gives them information about their performance in that section. This can act as a guide for understanding your performance level in the different content areas of the section and can be instrumental for preparing for the reappearance. This performance report cannot, however, be used to calculate your score in the section.
- The scores of the candidate in each content area in the section are mentioned in the report. Along with these scores, the average scores of other candidates who scored between 75 and 80 in those content areas are also mentioned. The performance in each content area is then categorized as ‘weaker’, ‘comparable’ or ‘stronger’. Only MCQs and simulations are considered for this part of the performance report. It is not possible to tell which content area the performance of the candidate was weaker in.
- Further, the comparative overall performance of the candidate in each testing item (MCQs, simulations and written communications) of the section is reported as ‘weaker’, ‘comparable’ or ‘stronger’. For the BEC section, this part of the report is not generated.
Points of Significance
Based on the scoring pattern of the exam, there are certain points that gain importance and should be kept in mind.
- You need to pass each section in order to clear the Uniform CPA Examination. Hence, it is akin to appearing for four different exams. This requires dedicated preparation and each section has to be given equal importance.
- MCQs account for 70% of the total score and hence they are important. This does not mean that other testing items are not important, but MCQs should be attempted carefully as each wrong answer can make a difference to your score.
- There is no penalty for wrong answers and this encourages you to make educated guesses. As a part of your preparation, you should train your mind to recognize what the most likely answer shall be in case you do not know the answer to a testing item. Though it should be your last option, a correct surmise can help improve your score.
- It is recommended that each content area be given equal importance to, while you prepare for retaking the exam. Though the Candidate Performance Report gives information about your performance in separate content areas, neglecting any content area while reappearing can have an impact on your scores as you can score lesser in it when you reappear. Your preparation for retaking the section should, thus, be comprehensive.
The whole process of examining the candidates is to ensure that only competent candidates are allowed to practice as public accountants and hence the interest of the society is maintained. Therefore, this exam is not a burden on your shoulders but a responsibility as well. Take it as a learning experience rather than as a grueling process.