Business womanIf you want the best chance of succeeding as an accountant, you’ll want to become a CPA. But you probably knew that. What you might not know is what it’s like to take the CPA exam.

For full details on the exam and how it works, you can check out the American Institute of CPAs’ exam blueprint, which the organization keeps updated with the latest information. For a quick overview, we’ve got you covered here.

The Basics of the CPA Exam

The CPA exam is divided into four sections, each of which takes 4 hours to complete. The sections cover the topics of:

  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Regulation

Types of Questions

Each section of the exam includes two or three different formats of questions. As of July 1, 2018, the sections are broken down as such:

Auditing and Attestation

  • 72 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulations

Business Environment and Concepts

  • 62 multiple-choice questions
  • 4 task-based simulations
  • 3 written communications

Financial Accounting and Reporting

  • 66 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulations


  • 76 multiple-choice questions
  • 8 task-based simulations

What Do CPA Exam Questions Test?

In order to assess your knowledge of accounting and your ability to apply that knowledge to real-world situations, the CPA exam measures four types of skills, adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy. The four types of skills measured, from most basic to most complex, are:

  • Remembering and Understanding: The perception and comprehension of the significance of an area utilizing knowledge gained
  • Application: The use or demonstration of knowledge, concepts, or techniques
  • Analysis: The examination and study of the interrelationships of separate areas in order to identify causes and find evidence to support inferences
  • Evaluation: The examination or assessment of problems, and the use of judgement to draw conclusions

How Much Does the CPA Exam Cost?

The cost of the exam varies by jurisdiction. You should check with your state board of accountancy for exact costs. In general, you will be expected to pay a registration fee plus a fee to take each of the four sections of the exam.

How Can You Prepare for the CPA Exam?

Many people planning to take the CPA exam complete a review course. Most also complete an accounting degree program, such as the BS in Accounting program offered at Walden University. The Walden program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and has earned the organization’s Specialized Accounting Accreditation. It’s a particularly useful program if you plan on becoming a CPA, since it’s designed to let you focus on the content critical to sitting for the CPA exam.

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