Author: Jenna Elkins, Communications and Digital Media Specialist
Posted: Sept. 24, 2020

The Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) consists of four, four-hour sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). As a whole, the CPA Exam consists of several question types that test the knowledge and skills required of newly licensed CPAs.

The million-dollar question and one that NASBA, review course providers, and the AICPA see all the time is, “Which CPA Exam is the hardest?” While there is no definitive answer, we decided to get to the bottom of this (a general consensus) and ask the best experts around…current CPA Exam candidates!

In August, candidates were asked on NASBA social media the question, “Which CPA Exam is hardest?” Many different answers were received, but the majority of those who answered seem to think FAR is by far the hardest. (p.s. we must admit that this survey is not statistically valid, so take it as you will)

Why is FAR largely considered the hardest? Here are some answers we received:

They are all nearly the same in difficulty but for different reasons, so it really depends on the person and their individual strengths and weaknesses. But, if I had to name one as the hardest, I would personally pick FAR due to the amount of information.”

“There’s no doubt that it’s FAR… nothing’s even close.”

“FAR – because it is so comprehensive! And, when you’ve been out of college a while, it is hard to get back to the basics.”

“Although each section is tricky, FAR was the hardest. The amount of info is a lot and the test overall was hard and endless.”

Not all candidates agreed that FAR is the hardest section. Here are some comments about BEC, AUD and REG:

“BEC! It’s so random. Taking it a second time. Passed the other three the first time.”

“BEC was brutal. It was a lot more information than I anticipated and not my strongest subject. The writing was actually the easiest part though.”

“For me it was AUD, for those who are not very comfortable with theory subjects like me, you may feel you have prepared really well for this section, but the trickiness of the questions forces you to revisit your study plan.”

“For me, I thought it would be FAR, but I had found it interesting, and the exam was very fair. I’m a tax accountant so I loved REG. BEC was really interesting, and I loved the written part. So, I guess for me it was AUD; I found the topics a bit dry and the materials I studied from hadn’t linked up to the questions on the exam.”

“It depends on your background experience. FAR was easy for me as I passed the first attempt since I worked for five years in accounting, but REG seems to be hardest for me as an international candidate.”

“REG! I have worked in corporate, so BEC was a piece of cake. FAR was more in-depth on stuff I already knew. But I have zero tax experience … however, it’s a very practical life skill now.”

While each candidate will have their own journey toward becoming a Certified Public Accountant, one thing remains the same – no matter which test you find the hardest – the journey as a whole is a hard one, but one that is worth it.

Are you prepared to conquer the CPA Exam? In addition to your CPA Exam study materials, make sure you read the Candidate Guide, which is a comprehensive, digital book of all the important things related to the CPA Exam. It will make your journey a bit easier!

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