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It might be true that how the CPA exam is scored might not be as big a mystery as Sasquatch or the Earhart disappearance, but for those who plan to take the exam, considerable amounts of time are spent trying to figure it out. Unfortunately, there are so many different misnomers, misunderstandings, and outright falsehoods surrounding the scoring that it’s worth a little time explaining how it’s done. And it doesn’t involve a Magic 8 ball either.

Most people probably understand that the exam is graded on a curve, where 75 percent is the passing number, but what exactly does that mean? And does that mean 75 percent, 75 points, or just what? This article takes a quick look at the CPA exam and how it is scored. Whether you take a CPA Prep Course or not this should answer most of your questions. In regards to Sasquatch and Ms. Earhart, you are on your own.

Test Structure and Scoring

Before you try to understand how scoring of the CPA exam is done, it’s important that you understand its structure and how the parts work together. Most candidates are aware that there are four main parts (legs) to the exam. These are:

·         Attestation and Auditing

·         Business Environment and Concepts

·         Financial Accounting and Reporting

·         Regulations

Each of these sections have a number of multiple-choice questions as well as task-based simulations. For the regulations section there are three additional written communications exercises.

The multiple-choice questions are delivered for each section in the form of testlets, each of which get progressively harder as the test continues. As a candidate progresses through the sections, the questions become more advanced, starting with a medium level of difficulty and progressing from there.

If a candidate performed well on their multiple-choice questions, they are given more and increasingly difficult questions. If, for example, you are given a set of medium questions to begin with. If after these are scored it is determined that you did poorly, you will be given more medium questions. If you did better on these, you will be given more advanced questions.

There are no testlets involved with the task-based simulation or written communications portions of the exam. All sections of the exam provide pre-test and situational questions that candidates will need to write our questions to.

Scoring and Weights

Until this point you have learned the whats portion of the scoring. Now it is time to understand the hows portion, the multiple-choice section each question is weighed 50 percent. The portion task section is weighted at 50 percent, except the task-based simulation. The written communication section is weighted at 15 percent. This leaves each leg of the exam counting for 100 percent of the total.

Automation, with human oversight, does all of the scoring. Further, there are checks and balances throughout the grading process to ensure absolute fairness. In fact, there are systems to help candidates such as when a test taker falls short on the overall test. Then a human scorer reevaluates the test in an effort to verify a score. If the bottom line is that you feel your test score is not correct, you can have a person perform a review of the test or you can appeal, but the written communications portion cannot be appealed.