All About the BEC Section of the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: This is the third in our five-part series this week on the CPA exam. We’ve already done Audit and Regulation and will finish with FAR tomorrow and an ethics discussion Friday. As always, if you have CPA exam questions for us, get in touch and we’d love to help.

Let’s get into BEC, shall we?

Good news: It’s the smallest section, has no simulations, and requires the least amount of study time. All of these seem like bonuses and many candidates take BEC first because of it but remember that your 18 month window starts from when you sit for and pass the first part so you might want to start with the most difficult, not the easiest.

Bad news: Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it is easy. BEC is the junk drawer of the CPA exam meaning a lot of information that wouldn’t fit elsewhere is stuffed into this section. The other downside to BEC is that many candidates do not take it seriously enough because it is so small; that means it is imperative to give the section the same focus and dedication that you would any other section.


BEC is a 2.5 hour exam (likely 3 hours after the CBT-e changes planned for 2011) and consists of 3 MCQ testlets of 30 questions each. You should allow yourself 1.5 minutes per question (45 minutes per testlet).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 13%)
Research (0% – 13%)
Analysis (8% – 18%)
Judgment (6% – 16%)
Understanding (55% – 65%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Business Environment & Concepts covers the following areas:

Business structures (17% – 23%) This means partnerships and expect to see quite a bit on this.

Economic concepts (8% – 12%) Business cycles, economics (inflation, deflation, interest rate changes), market influences, supply chain, foreign currencies and hedging.

Financial management (17% – 23%) Financial modeling, short and long term financing, loans, cash management.

Information technology (22% – 28%) Role of business IT systems, responsibilities within the IT function, IT fundamentals (hardware/software, networks, systems operation, etc).

Planning and measurement (22% – 28%) Planning and budgeting, organizational performance measures, cost measurement (don’t forget: cost accounting is AWFUL but pretty heavily tested so get on it!)

Editor’s note: This is the third in our five-part series this week on the CPA exam. We’ve already done Audit and Regulation and will finish with FAR tomorrow and an ethics discussion Friday. As always, if you have CPA exam questions for us, get in touch and we’d love to help.

Let’s get into BEC, shall we?

Good news: It’s the smallest section, has no simulations, and requires the least amount of study time. All of these seem like bonuses and many candidates take BEC first because of it but remember that your 18 month window starts from when you sit for and pass the first part so you might want to start with the most difficult, not the easiest.

Bad news: Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it is easy. BEC is the junk drawer of the CPA exam meaning a lot of information that wouldn’t fit elsewhere is stuffed into this section. The other downside to BEC is that many candidates do not take it seriously enough because it is so small; that means it is imperative to give the section the same focus and dedication that you would any other section.


BEC is a 2.5 hour exam (likely 3 hours after the CBT-e changes planned for 2011) and consists of 3 MCQ testlets of 30 questions each. You should allow yourself 1.5 minutes per question (45 minutes per testlet).

The AICPA BoE has set the following target weights for skills testing:

Communication (0% – 13%)
Research (0% – 13%)
Analysis (8% – 18%)
Judgment (6% – 16%)
Understanding (55% – 65%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Business Environment & Concepts covers the following areas:

Business structures (17% – 23%) This means partnerships and expect to see quite a bit on this.

Economic concepts (8% – 12%) Business cycles, economics (inflation, deflation, interest rate changes), market influences, supply chain, foreign currencies and hedging.

Financial management (17% – 23%) Financial modeling, short and long term financing, loans, cash management.

Information technology (22% – 28%) Role of business IT systems, responsibilities within the IT function, IT fundamentals (hardware/software, networks, systems operation, etc).

Planning and measurement (22% – 28%) Planning and budgeting, organizational performance measures, cost measurement (don’t forget: cost accounting is AWFUL but pretty heavily tested so get on it!)

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