CPA Exam Guide: Everything You Need To Know About the New Exam In 2024 (2024)

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

If you’re on your way to becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you might be losing some sleep over the Uniform CPA Examination®.

We don’t blame you. After all, the pass rates for each exam section range from about 40% to 60%, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA®)—not the best prognosis. The CPA exam is difficult and time-consuming, but passing it is the most important step of CPA licensure. And at the end of the day, becoming a CPA is worth it to many professionals.

Earning the CPA credential opens doors to high-paying, advanced accounting careers in numerous industries. The 2024 CPA exam comes with a few changes compared to previous years, so make sure to stay in the know if you plan to sit for the exam in or after 2024. We’ve outlined the new exam here to help you research and prepare.

Why You Can Trust Forbes Advisor Education

Forbes Advisor’s education editors are committed to producing unbiased rankings and informative articles covering online colleges, tech bootcamps and career paths. Our ranking methodologies use data from the National Center for Education Statistics, education providers, and reputable educational and professional organizations. An advisory board of educators and other subject matter experts reviews and verifies our content to bring you trustworthy, up-to-date information. Advertisers do not influence our rankings or editorial content.

  • 6,290 accredited, nonprofit colleges and universities analyzed nationwide
  • 52 reputable tech bootcamp providers evaluated for our rankings
  • All content is fact-checked and updated on an annual basis
  • Rankings undergo five rounds of fact-checking
  • Only 7.12% of all colleges, universities and bootcamp providers we consider are awarded

What Is the CPA Exam?

The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, also known as the Uniform CPA Exam or CPA Exam, is for accountants pursuing CPA licensure. Many employers seeking highly trained accountants require a CPA license, which involves rigorous coursework and skill testing to earn.

AICPA develops the CPA exam, and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and its included state boards of accountancy assist with reviewing applications, administering the exam and reporting scores.

The CPA exam consists of four sections, testing candidates on topics like taxation, financial planning, auditing and accounting technology.

What’s New About the CPA Exam in 2024?

The 2024 CPA exam introduces a new “discipline” section, including three options:

  • Business analysis and reporting (BAR)
  • Information systems and controls (ISC)
  • Tax compliance and planning (TCP)

Candidates choose one of the three disciplines to test on. Candidates must also test within the three required Core sections:

  • Auditing and attestation (AUD)
  • Financial accounting and reporting (FAR)
  • Taxation and regulation (REG)

The 2024 version of the CPA exam eliminates the business environment and concepts (BEC) section and transitions some portions of FAR and REG into the new disciplines. Since the BEC section was the only one to include a written essay, the essay portion is eliminated from the 2024 CPA exam.

Additional changes include replacing an Excel spreadsheet with a JavaScript-based spreadsheet, implementing new task-based research simulations and eliminating multistage adaptive testing.

CPA Exam Requirements

Each state board of accountancy within NASBA sets its own requirements to sit for the CPA exam, so criteria may vary among states. However, many state boards require at least the following from candidates before they’re eligible to take the CPA exam:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a 120-credit bachelor’s degree in accounting or a bachelor’s degree with a certain number of credits in non-introductory accounting courses and business courses
  • Submit official school transcripts, a credit evaluation application and proof of residency

Education requirements vary the most among state boards of accountancy. For instance, Georgia only requires exam candidates to have a bachelor’s degree with 20 semester hours in non-introductory accounting courses. However, Rhode Island sets more specific stipulations for CPA exam applicants who don’t have a graduate degree in accounting, including at least 24 accounting semester hours covering distinct subjects like auditing and tax accounting.

CPA Exam Structure

The three cores and three disciplines of the CPA exam each include both multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. The exam lasts 16 hours in total—four hours per section—and candidates can take different sections of the exam on different days rather than in one sitting.

Still, test takers must complete and pass all four sections within 18 months—usually beginning on the day a candidate takes their first passed section—to pass the exam. We explore the four sections in detail below.

Auditing and Attestation

The AUD section tests a candidate’s understanding of the technical and ethical aspects of auditing for public and private entities. AUD also covers reporting requirements, risk assessment strategies, obtaining evidence and ethical responsibilities for CPAs.

AUD is divided into four content areas:

  • Area I: Ethics, professional responsibilities and general principles
  • Area II: Assessing risk and developing a planned response
  • Area III: Performing further procedures and obtaining evidence
  • Area IV: Forming conclusions and reporting

Financial Accounting and Reporting

The questions and tasks in the FAR section target three content areas:

  • Area I: Financial reporting
  • Area II: Select balance sheet accounts
  • Area III: Select transactions

Within these sections, candidates prove their ability to prepare and analyze financial statements, balance sheets with various types of income and expenses, correct accounting errors, and navigate the differences in financial accounting and reporting for for-profit and nonprofit companies.

Taxation and Regulation

The REG section explores tax laws for businesses and individuals within the United States, ensuring that CPA candidates understand the significance of and procedures for compliance. Candidates work with taxation technology and resources to analyze data and determine the correct processes for accuracy and completeness.

This section includes five content areas:

  • Area I: Ethics, professional responsibilities, and federal tax procedures
  • Area II: Business law
  • Area III: Federal taxation of property transactions
  • Area III: Federal taxation of individuals
  • Area III: Federal taxation of entities


CPA candidates must choose one of three disciplines as the fourth section of the CPA exam.

Previous versions of the CPA exam included the BEC section, which explored corporate governance, information technology, financial and operations management, and economic concepts. The discipline section replaces BEC, allowing candidates to test in an area of interest or advanced skill.

This section offers the following testing areas:

  • Business analysis and reporting: BAR expands on several concepts in FAR, including data collection sourcing, financial analysis and reporting, while closely examining business analysis and local and state governmental accounting.
  • Information systems and controls: ISC focuses on secure and accurate data collection, storage and analysis procedures used in accounting. Candidates must demonstrate knowledge of information technology audits, security threats and mitigation, and security regulations.
  • Tax Compliance and Planning: TCP digs deep into taxation for individuals and entities beyond what’s included in REG. TCP topics and tasks include calculating estimated tax payments, reviewing shareholder debts and investments, and distinguishing types of business entities for tax purposes.

How Is the CPA Exam Scored?

CPA exam scoring weighs the scaled scores of multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations of each section equally at 50% of the total score. The only exception is the ISC discipline, in which multiple-choice questions make up 60% of the score and task-based simulations account for 40%.

Each exam goes through a multi-step review process to ensure scoring accuracy.

How Hard Is the CPA Exam?

If AICPA’s pass rate data is any indication, this is a hard test. During the first two quarters of 2023, these were the pass rates for each section of the CPA exam:

  • REG: 59.22%
  • AUD: 47.68%
  • FAR: 42.30%
  • BEC (eliminated from the 2024 exam): 58.25%

How To Study for the CPA Exam

The CPA exam process is long and rigorous, so planning can be the key to passing each section. Before you begin studying, plan your timeline carefully.

In what order do you want to take each section? How will you space out the various sections to give yourself ample study time? Keep track of exam application deadlines, and think about when you should schedule study sessions. Also, consider whether you’ll need to take some time off work.

AICPA’s Exam Blueprints offer an excellent starting point for your test prep. The blueprints walk you through each section of the CPA exam, filling you in on what to expect and what to study.

CPA Exam Study Resources

AICPA offers official resources for continuing education for practicing accountants. Though you aren’t yet a CPA, you might find these materials helpful while studying for your CPA exam. They are categorized into many of the same topics you’ll work with on the exam, like auditing and financial reporting, and many are free or discounted for AICPA members.

You can also practice with a shortened sample test from AICPA, which familiarizes you with the CPA exam software.

Several other online resources are available to help you study for the CPA exam, although it’s important to ensure courses and materials are up to date and designed or taught by credentialed instructors. AICPA hosts a database of CPA exam preparation resources, including costs and user ratings for each to help you narrow your options.

CPA Exam Study Methods

Preparing for the CPA exam takes significant motivation and focus, and studying with other CPA exam candidates could help you stay on track. Consider looking for study group participants at work, through your local professional organization or from your graduating class. You might also find nearby candidates through social media groups.

Collaborate with your study group members to decide which materials you’ll use, whether you’ll host meetings in person or online, and how often you’ll study so everyone can stay on track.

If you’d like to study solo, find a quiet, dedicated space for sessions and make room in your schedule for several hours of exam preparation each week. Consider getting support from a trusted colleague or mentor when necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the CPA Exam

Is the CPA harder than the bar?

The CPA exam and bar exam are both known for their challenging content. However, based on the passing rates for each, the CPA exam generally appears more difficult to pass than the bar. Depending on the jurisdiction, the July 2023 bar exam saw pass rates ranging from 58% to 92%, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The highest cumulative passing rate for any section of the CPA exam during the first two quarters of 2023 was 59.22%.

How many questions are in the CPA exam?

The CPA exam comprises between 250 and 282 multiple-choice questions, plus 28 or 29 task-based simulations, depending on the discipline section you choose. ISC has the most questions and simulations in total, followed by TCP and BAR.

CPA Exam Guide: Everything You Need To Know About the New Exam In 2024 (2024)


Is the CPA Exam getting harder in 2024? ›

What has changed in the 2024 CPA Exam? The 2024 CPA Exam has moved to a Core-Plus-Discipline Model which requires candidates to be skilled in a strong core based on accounting, auditing, and tax, as well as one discipline.

What CPA Exam to take first in 2024? ›

Begin your journey with the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section. Consider FAR as your rigorous training camp, where you're going to construct a robust foundation in financial reporting.

Will reg be easier in 2024? ›

Exams that could be easier to pass in 2024 are FAR and REG because they are moving content from these sections. Now, if a candidate has time to pass all four in 2023, by all means, encourage them to do so! The AUD exam will remain pretty much the same in 2024.

Will AUD be harder in 2024? ›

In 2024, candidates will still be required to take the AUD section as part of the core. Much of the material for AUD will remain the same.

How will the CPA Exam change in 2024? ›

The legacy CPA Exam included four mandatory exams that all candidates took: AUD, BEC, FAR and REG. In 2024, the CPA Evolution Exam will include three core exams (AUD, FAR and REG) and one discipline exam of your choosing (either BAR, ISC or TCP). No longer will each candidate take the same four exams.

Which section of CPA is hardest? ›

The FAR section of the CPA exam is hard because it's the most comprehensive of the 4 exam sections, and it has a lot of math questions that are mentally taxing to get through. It has the lowest pass rate of all 4 exam sections and is considered the hardest CPA exam section.

Which CPA Exam is the hardest in 2024? ›

Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

And because of this, candidates often say the FAR is the most difficult section of the CPA Exam. You'll be tested on everything from general-purpose financial statements to governmental accounting. The high-level topics in the FAR section are: Financial reporting: 30-40%

How many hours to study for CPA 2024? ›

Depending on the Discipline you choose, you can expect your CPA Exam study time to be between 320 and 420 hours, or between 80 and 120 hours per section. But with a smart study strategy and the right materials, you can keep from getting overwhelmed while making sure you're ready to walk into the exam with confidence.

Which state is easiest to get CPA? ›

Colorado's (CO) CPA exam requirements are possibly the most advantageous of all the states. It does not require 150 hours to sit. With no requirement to be a US Citizen, a resident of CO, or a certain age, it makes Colorado one of the easiest states to sit for the CPA exam and become licensed.

How many exams for CPA 2024? ›

2024, you will need to take 4 exams (3 core + 1 discipline). Here is the breakdown of each: AUD (core): 4 hours, 78 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations. FAR (core): 4 hours, 50 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations.

What is the best CPA Exam to take first? ›

Regardless of which Discipline you select, Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) is the best exam to take first because it strengthens your foundation in financial accounting which will help on all exams.

How many questions are on the reg CPA Exam 2024? ›

This is a total of 76 multiple choice questions (MCQs). 64 of the 76 MCQs are operational, meaning they count toward the exam score, whereas the remaining 12 are pretested and do not count toward the exam score.

Can you bring your own calculator to the CPA Exam? ›

There is no need to bring your own calculator to the CPA Exam as you will not be allowed to bring it in. If you don't feel like the CPA Exam calculator provided helps as much, you will have access to the exam version of Microsoft Excel.

How to study for the new CPA Exam? ›

How to Pass the CPA Exam
  1. Develop a Study Plan and Stick to It. ...
  2. Ensure Your Family and Friends Understand the Commitment You're Undertaking. ...
  3. Take Electives in Your Degree Program that Prepare You for the Exam. ...
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice. ...
  5. Don't Waste Time Studying what You Already Know.

How is far changing in 2024? ›

In this new model, candidates will take three core sections and select one new discipline section. FAR remains as one of the core CPA Exam Sections. While much of the FAR CPA Exam content remains the same, some of the content has moved to the new Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) discipline section.

Is the 2024 CPA Exam harder on Reddit? ›

It's not any more difficult than Becker's but the questions are just very different. They test you on a mix of topics, and it's not uncommon to have 4 topics on a single SIM.

How long to study for the FAR CPA Exam in 2024? ›

Depending on the Discipline you choose, you can expect your CPA Exam study time to be between 320 and 420 hours, or between 80 and 120 hours per section. But with a smart study strategy and the right materials, you can keep from getting overwhelmed while making sure you're ready to walk into the exam with confidence.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Last Updated:

Views: 5497

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Ignacio Ratke

Birthday: 1999-05-27

Address: Apt. 171 8116 Bailey Via, Roberthaven, GA 58289

Phone: +2585395768220

Job: Lead Liaison

Hobby: Lockpicking, LARPing, Lego building, Lapidary, Macrame, Book restoration, Bodybuilding

Introduction: My name is Sen. Ignacio Ratke, I am a adventurous, zealous, outstanding, agreeable, precious, excited, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.