Q1 CPA Exam Pass Rates Worst in Three Years

Jeff shared some pretty depressing news on Another71 yesterday, it looks like pass rates are down. Way down:

Auditing and Attestation:
2009 Q1: 47.61%
2010 Q1: 46.86%
2011 Q1: 43.88%

AUD passing rates are down 7.8% over 2009 and 6.4% over 2010.

Business Environment and Concepts:
2009 Q1 46.23%
2010 Q1: 46.59%
2011 Q1: 42.32%

BEC passing rates are down 8.5% over 2009 and 9.2% over 2010.

Financial Accounting and Reporting:
2009 Q1 45.54%
2010 Q1: 44.95%
2011 Q1: 42.43%

FAR passing rates are down 6.8% over 2009 and 5.6% over 2010.

Regulation:
2009 Q1: 47.96%
2010 Q1: 49.00%
2011 Q1: 41.28%

REG passing rates are down 13.9% over 2009 and 15.8% over 2010.

What’s strange about this is that REG was the section least changed in CBT-e, leading us to wonder if some CPA exam candidates were, in fact, better at written communication than they thought. Taking these easy 10 points out of FAR, AUD and REG could have something to do with the first quarter’s awful scores, or it could be that candidates were not familiarized enough with the new format to do smashingly this time out.

One commenter on Another71 said “I took REG and felt like I studied for the wrong exam when I saw the questions,” which I’ve heard a lot about BEC but never about REG. In fact, for the last four years I have consistently told candidates that REG is the easiest for some candidates simply due to the cut-and-dry nature of tax and business law. It is not as large and all-encompassing as FAR, nor does it require all the extensive calculations. But this information could be game-changing.

The other strange fact here – and I have no specific numbers on this, going on my perception based on comments I have received from candidates who tested last quarter – is that for those who did pass, it seemed like many of them scored in the high 80s and 90s, as opposed to the usual large number of 75 – 79s like I usually see from passing candidates. Since I didn’t actually aggregate any real data, it’s hard to say whether or not this is an important point to mention. Perhaps I’ll try harder next quarter to get some actual numbers.

It’s also important to recall my conversation with the AICPA earlier this year when we discussed the possibility of changing the passing score in 2011. The exact statement was “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time” from John Mattar, Director of Psychometrics and Research. What I took that to mean was that a 75 last year may or may not be the same as a 75 last year, which could explain why more candidates missed the mark this time around.

What do you think?

Jeff shared some pretty depressing news on Another71 yesterday, it looks like pass rates are down. Way down:

Auditing and Attestation:
2009 Q1: 47.61%
2010 Q1: 46.86%
2011 Q1: 43.88%

AUD passing rates are down 7.8% over 2009 and 6.4% over 2010.

Business Environment and Concepts:
2009 Q1 46.23%
2010 Q1: 46.59%
2011 Q1: 42.32%

BEC passing rates are down 8.5% over 2009 and 9.2% over 2010.

Financial Accounting and Reporting:
2009 Q1 45.54%
2010 Q1: 44.95%
2011 Q1: 42.43%

FAR passing rates are down 6.8% over 2009 and 5.6% over 2010.

Regulation:
2009 Q1: 47.96%
2010 Q1: 49.00%
2011 Q1: 41.28%

REG passing rates are down 13.9% over 2009 and 15.8% over 2010.

What’s strange about this is that REG was the section least changed in CBT-e, leading us to wonder if some CPA exam candidates were, in fact, better at written communication than they thought. Taking these easy 10 points out of FAR, AUD and REG could have something to do with the first quarter’s awful scores, or it could be that candidates were not familiarized enough with the new format to do smashingly this time out.

One commenter on Another71 said “I took REG and felt like I studied for the wrong exam when I saw the questions,” which I’ve heard a lot about BEC but never about REG. In fact, for the last four years I have consistently told candidates that REG is the easiest for some candidates simply due to the cut-and-dry nature of tax and business law. It is not as large and all-encompassing as FAR, nor does it require all the extensive calculations. But this information could be game-changing.

The other strange fact here – and I have no specific numbers on this, going on my perception based on comments I have received from candidates who tested last quarter – is that for those who did pass, it seemed like many of them scored in the high 80s and 90s, as opposed to the usual large number of 75 – 79s like I usually see from passing candidates. Since I didn’t actually aggregate any real data, it’s hard to say whether or not this is an important point to mention. Perhaps I’ll try harder next quarter to get some actual numbers.

It’s also important to recall my conversation with the AICPA earlier this year when we discussed the possibility of changing the passing score in 2011. The exact statement was “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time” from John Mattar, Director of Psychometrics and Research. What I took that to mean was that a 75 last year may or may not be the same as a 75 last year, which could explain why more candidates missed the mark this time around.

What do you think?

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