By the looks of things, BEC is getting too easy; it's the only section that has a higher passing rate than last year's third quarter numbers. CPAexam_passrates_2013q3 Cumulative scores are looking good as well, but the 4th quarter always shits the bed on account of everyone spending the last three months of the year in […]
Here's your daily dose of CPA exam candidate freak out: Hi Going Concern, I just called the CPA Exam Services to ask why my BEC score was not released on September 11th. I was told my exam is still being graded and I should expect my score within one week. Although I understand that BEC […]
If 2012 is the first year you've had the pleasure of taking the CPA exam, you probably have no idea just how torturous waiting for your scores used to be. You'd either refresh on your state board's website incessantly for several weeks or stalk the CPA exam forums hoping some almost-accurate psychic would know the […]
Remember my post earlier this week that covered the top five CPA exam schools in the country? I'm sure you do. But do you remember the reference I made to the one person from Wake Forest who failed BEC? Probably not, right? I suspect not a single one of you actually read that line, and […]
Well another year down, and that means another year of comparing CPA exam candidate performance to that of years' previous so the old folks can complain about how easy it was back in the day. The fine folks who own this domain and sign my checks were kind enough to provide me with a […]
According to the AICPA, the news from the CPA exam front lines isn’t all that bad.
Did I read that right? BEC has the highest pass rate?!
Satan definitely ice skated to work on the day this data came out. Nice work, people.
Though this week is a little different, you are still welcome to email me directly with CPA exam questions so they don’t get lost in the editorial mix. Especially good questions like this one:
Never thought I’d get to this point, but I’m a heavy senior who has yet to pass the CPA exam. Granted, I also haven’t TAKEN all the parts of the exam, but that’s not why I’m writing.
I took BEC in the 3rd testing window of 2011, and failed by 2 points. Two lousy points. To make it even worse, I didn’t receive my score notice until October 5, so it was difficult to just take it again quickly before I forget all those things I so diligently learned.
But it said that my writing section was strong. Is there any hope in having a positive result if I contest the exam? Is it possible to get two more points out of a strong writing section? It’s $150 to contest, or just $225 to retake…. but retaking of course involves re-studying which makes me want to crawl in a hole and die. Dramatic? Yes. Accurate? Insanely so.
Anyways, any help you and/or the readers of Going Concern can provide me would be greatly appreciated!
First, “Heavy Senior,” no judgments. While it’s generally in your best interest to knock this puppy out as early as you can, we realize life happens. The important part is you’re doing it now.
Second, forget a rescore. I mean completely forget such a thing even exists because even though you can technically request one, it is NEVER going to turn out in your favor. In the four years I worked in CPA review, I never once heard of a successful rescore, and as far as I know, it’s been even longer since one actually turned out in the candidate’s favor. Think about it… if the AICPA had to admit its precious highly-guarded psychometric scoring system was (gasp!) flawed, how many candidates would cry foul?! Isn’t going to happen.
My third point, however, is the one that should keep you out of that hole you want to crawl into and die. Here’s the good news: you got a 73 on BEC! Do you realize how many candidates need at least 4 attempts on BEC to get anywhere near that? Just a little bit more studying and you’ll nail it. I realize this is not much to get excited over but it’s something, and let’s be real about it, you don’t have much to go on here.
My last little item here is that you don’t get bonus points for writing a really, REALLY good essay. God, it pains me to say that – feeling like the champion of the English language for lost little accountants everywhere – but doing really good on the writing portion is not going to get you a higher score than someone who performed satisfactorily on the essays. I’m beyond proud of you for smashing through stereotypes that say accountants don’t rite good but unfortunately for the purposes of the CPA exam, it isn’t going to help you to perform extraordinarily well in this area. So don’t. By all means, continue to write well-versed, correctly-formatted emails as you are an asset to the profession but for the exam? Forget it. Bare minimum, my friend.
You haven’t forgotten everything you learned, it’s in there somewhere. A quick refresh and a thorough once-over of your review materials plus lots of practice questions will get you there. When it comes to BEC (as I’m sure you know), there is no such thing as studying too much. Try not to do the same questions over and over but instead focus on covering as much material as possible. Having taken BEC already, I don’t need to remind you why this is important.
BEC scores have been released so it won’t be long until you’re doing a happy dance or sobbing in a bathroom stall.
Either way, it’s your God-given right to react with euphoria or complete rage. Since most places of employment aren’t too keen on streaking through the cube farms or kicking over chairs, we invite you to let loose in the comments. We’ll update this post as the scores are released.
UPDATE: If you took the exam at an international location, NASBA just tweeted out a friendly reminder that you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
UPDATE 2: Yesterday afternoon while I was out playing, NASBA announced they got a boatload of AUD scores. Hopefully this doesn’t ruin your weekend.
UPDATE 3: More BEC scores were released yesterday. At 5 pm on a Friday, no less.
Side note: I’ve never seen anyone use double periods in a sentence like this..So it goes without saying that the following has been edited and please, don’t do that on BEC. Here’s a tip: if you are looking for more written communication practice, try it on lazy, F-bomb-obsessed bloggers or even in emails to your mom. That’s all the AICPA is looking for; you don’t even have to be correct, just on topic. They make up 15% of your BEC score so get in the habit of pretending like random communications are being graded by a machine. It’s an undervalued commodity in your professional l ubmission from the mailbag was close to correct (a beginning, a middle and an end, somewhat on topic) but needed a little work to be aesthetically pleasing to the CPA exam robots. Working on our emails would be a good supplement to whatever CPA review materials you bought, and I don’t say that to be mean.
I am just about to begin the grueling process of the CPA exam..
I have been debating whether to take BEC or FAR first before starting work in July. Because I have more time to study now than I will for future tests I want to take the hardest one first. For me I feel like this will be BEC because this seems like it has the most new material and I did pretty well in Intermediate accounting. However it sounds like no matter how much studying some people do, they just can’t get prepared for BEC because it has recently changed. Should I just play it safe and use all this time I have to get prepared for FAR or should I take a shot at BEC?
Also, my firm only supplies me with Gleim self study books. Have people done alright on BEC with just these? How should I supplement these?
Already freaking out
First, stop freaking out. You haven’t even started yet. Start and then let me know if you are still freaking out. You might like it. Get words like “grueling” out of your head now but you’re more than welcome to pull it out later if your experience proves to be exactly that. Until then, try to stay neutral on how much of pain the next 6 months – 2+ years of your life will be.
Second, we’ve discussed CPA review plenty, you can check the CPAnet forums for comments from actual review students who are taking whatever you bought or are looking at buying and any combination thereof. My experience has been that BEC is pretty hit or miss and that no review course covers it in as thorough detail as FAR, AUD or REG. That doesn’t mean they don’t do that section well, it just means I tend to hear the most complaints across the board regarding various review courses’ inability to truly cover BEC.
Don’t blame that on the new exam; that complaint goes back several years. It isn’t fair to compare the last version of computerized testing (CBT 2004 – 2010) to this one (CBT-e) as they are different exams, it’s too early to judge whether review courses and candidates promptly catch up to the new material, along with the AICPA. They have been clear about this being an improving work in progress for 2011, therefore it would be equally unfair to make a call at this time. Don’t say everything is “because of the change” as if you’re a Boy Scout with a flashlight under your face trying to scare everyone around the campfire. Was it this bad when the exam went from paper and pencil to blips on a screen and digital fingerprints?
Third, don’t get high on study drugs while studying for BEC or you might really be freaking out.
I always tell candidates to start with the section that will be hardest for you as that’s when your 18 month timeframe begins so your plan sounds good. If you bomb a section a few times, the clock isn’t ticking. Of course, this also leads to procrastination if you continuously bomb, which is an entirely different problem. Not to make you freak out.
A few months back, we got a few moments with the AICPA examinations unit for insight on CBT-e and, most notably, the updated score release plan for this year.
Now it looks like the AICPA has updated their 2011 score release timeline with more details on changes to scoring later in the year, specifically an improvement that will allow them to release scores earlier for the October/November testing window which we first told you about in January. At that time, we were forbidden from telling you how frequently the AICPA wanted this to be but now that they’ve updated the FAQ, this information is all yours to enjoy:
Q. When can I expect to receive my scores after October 2011?
A. During the 2006-2010 testing windows , candidate scores were released in two rounds: The first round approximately one week before the end of the testing window, and the second approximately two weeks after the end of the testing window. In addition, not all candidates who tested early in a window were eligible for the first round of score release. Candidates who took test forms with new test content that required additional analysis and review before scoring were not eligible for the first round of score release.
With CBT-e, improvements have been introduced into the process. Beginning with the October/November 2011 testing window, scores will be released faster and more frequently.
The first round of score release will be approximately one month after the beginning of the testing window. Subsequent score releases will be made every two weeks after the initial release.
In addition, with very few exceptions (see below), candidates who test early in a window will be eligible for the first round of score release.
What are those exceptions? Amazingly, those taking BEC should not expect to get their scores early. The AICPA states that candidates taking BEC will have to wait a little longer for their scores just in case their written communication problems need to be analyzed by the AICPA’s skilled team of robots and/or human beings. They have always been (purposely?) vague about how written communication is graded and we will have to wait for a later talk with their examinations unit to see if we can get more insight on this process, specifically whether or not it will be changing with CBT-e.
Q. Are there any differences in score release by Exam section (AUD, FAR, REG, BEC)?
A. Yes. Candidates who take the BEC section may get their scores in a subsequent release due to additional analyses that may be required for the written communication tasks. Also note that written communication tasks now appear in the BEC section only.
Don’t get disappointed; overall, changes to scoring will improve over previous years and this is a work in progress, meaning the AICPA is working to tweak the candidate experience for the better based on their analysis throughout the year and beyond.
Following the awesomeness that was our “How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?” post, I figured it would be a good idea to go over each section to compare this year’s CPA exam with next year’s. Today you’re lucky to get a good BEC wrap up.
Written Communication – As stated last Friday, written communications are moving from FAR, AUD and REG to strictly BEC. This is good (and possibly easier) for most of you as writing can be a right-brained activity while the rest of the CPA exam mostly tests your left brain’s ability to process and digest information.
If I were taking the exam, I’d relish the opportunity to have three attempts at essays (since it might make up for my pathetic understanding of cash flows) but for many of you this is a weak area. That’s fine. In 2011 you’ll only have to try it once with three BEC-related WCs. You still do not have to get the answer correct but simply have to A) write like you have at least some sense of what a “business memo” contains B) not misspell any words (you get a spell-checker in 2011, no excuses) and C) stay on topic.
Easy. Currently you get two written communications in three different sections, while in 2011 you will get three written communications in one section.
No Simulations – Contrary to rumors I am still hearing for some unknown reason, BEC does not and will not contain simulations in 2011. It may not contain them for some time or the AICPA BoE could get creative and start testing them out in a few years, it’s hard to say but my understanding is that they are happy with written communication in BEC for now. Between you and me I imagine part of the motivation behind this is getting all of you off their backs about the fact that a multiple choice only exam section still takes the same amount of time to grade as more complicated sections like FAR, AUD and REG. But what do I know?
More Econ, Less IT – As for actual BEC content, IT will be more lightly tested while econ will carry more weight. Econ goes from 8-12% of questions to 16-20%. A new area, operations management, will make up 12 – 16% of questions you see. Business structure (partnerships etc) goes back to REG where it belongs and corporate governance takes its place with 16-20% of your questions coming from that area.
Narrowing Components – The new AICPA target weights have changed since last year. Before you were tested on five core components: communication, research, analysis, judgment and understanding. In 2011 (this is for all sections), you are tested on just three: knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge and written communication. Knowledge and understanding make up the MCQ (80 – 90% of your score in 2011’s BEC exam) while written communication makes up the other 10 – 20%.
Will BEC be more focused than it has been since 2004? We wouldn’t put any money on that. It’s still the junk drawer of the CPA exam though it’s come quite a way since its debut with the computerized exam 6 years ago. As a person intimately acquainted with it, I feel it has a ways to go. But 2011 is an improvement and just like FAR probably easier for you guys in the long run.
If you recall, the PCAOB got really busy not too long ago and doubled its audit standards virtually overnight, leading one CPA exam candidate to reach out and ask if this is at all relevant to his exam experience. If you don’t want to read the following and just want the short answer, it’s probably no.
Was wondering if you could do a brief post regarding the new pronouncements issued by the PCAOB earlier this month and when they will become eligible for testing on the exam. I am debating between taking this section and BEC in the next testing window. I’d prefer to take BEC since I don’t really feel like having to do the written portion when that goes into effect next year; however, if it comes down to memorizing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t included in my B—– package and that, I would rather get AUD out of the way. Thanks for your input!!
This is a great question so I’m happy to indulge you, let’s consult the AICPA, shall we? Lucky for all of us, they are very clear when it comes to most testing areas except for those in REG, which can cover both the current and former years’ tax numbers depending on when you take the exam. At least for this area we know for a fact that they will not be testing the new PCAOB audit standards until at least February 5, 2011. So says the AICPA:
Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement’s effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.
For the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal tax regulations in effect six months before the beginning of the current window may be tested.
For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.
So what the hell are they saying? Basically unless they specifically say so – like with FAS 141(r) being tested beginning July 1st, 2009 – new pronouncements, rules and regs will not be tested until 6 – 12 months after date of issuance. Keep in mind CPA exam questions cost a lot in time and effort alone and we just don’t see the BoE leaping head over heel to make new questions from the PCAOB’s latest busywork.
This means you’ve got another 5 months to put off Audit without having to memorize 8 new audit standards but maybe by that time the PCAOB will have another 8 to tack on. They are very busy over there these days, you know.
If you’ve been trying to pass BEC since the CPA exam went computerized in 2004 (you can laugh all you want, I know a few people…), rejoice! The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric have committed to another 10 year contract to administer and oversee the computerized CPA exam in 55 US jurisdictions.
“This 10-year extension of the exam contract from 2014 to 2024 continues the close and highly successful collaboration of the three organizations in the delivery of the computer-based examination for the past six years,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “The CPA exam is the gateway to the accounting profession and under this arrangement we have seen the exam improve and grow. About 93,000 candidates took the examination in 2009 – a record.”
Now we imagine it must have been editorial privilege to leave out the actual passrates of those 93,000 2009 CPA exam candidates and we’ll not wildly speculate that the record is a direct result of threats that the exam will be jam-packed with IFRS come 2011.
What will the CPA exam of 2024 look like? Obviously no one knows but looking at the evolution of exam content since 2004, we can take a stab at guessing.
• BEC will be a big priority – As we move from two simulations in FAR, AUD, and REG to 6 “simlets” (smaller, unrelated simulation problems) with communications being moved to BEC, I imagine it will be a big priority for the AICPA. It’s been notoriously “random” and filled with the bits and pieces that the AICPA couldn’t seem to make relevant in other CPA exam sections; the junk drawer of the exam, as it were.
• IFRS – A lot is riding on implementation of IFRS questions (anyone volunteered to write those yet? I think the AICPA is still patiently waiting for help).
• Scoring discussions planned after the first two quarters of 2011 – In other words: if you guys do well, the AICPA might leave it alone. Bomb and they might have to consider grading on a curve, invalidating that whole psychometric testing thing they’ve got going now.
Good luck with that. Really.
CPA Examination Contract Renewed in the U.S. Through 2024 [Press Release]
I’m not saying you’ll pass, I’m teaching you how to prepare in a week and maybe eke by. You already spent the money, you might as well give it a shot.
Let me be clear: I don’t advocate this. It’s important to give yourself time to study. BEC should take between 64 and 80 hours to prepare for. There are 168 hours in a week – work = 128 (our friend with a week to study for BEC – who requests to remain anonymous – is in tax so he has about 110) – sleeping 6 hours a night = 86 so if you don’t waste any waking hours commuting or eating, you can do it. You shouldn’t.
If nothing else, you’ll know what to expect on the exam in the next window. If you don’t study at all, try to retain what you can when you sit for this exam that you’re not ready for. Even though the AICPA BoE switches questions up from window to window and your next exam will be a little different, just go and pay attention.
There is a small chance you can pass. Do you know nothing about variance analysis? Clueless on economics? Your chances at passing will be smaller though I won’t pretend to have actual figures on that. The better your foundation, the easier it will be for you to fudge your way through it in a week. If you’re going into it blind, you’re probably not going to do well so focus on what came up on the exam.
Using the example above (or whatever your work/sleep/live schedule is), focus your attention on doing as many MCQ as possible. Even if you don’t understand them, sometimes working through them will make things click. You can try a cram course but your brain learns in layers so you can’t approach this like a final you didn’t study for. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, that’s just what I know.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to plan better next time. Don’t pay for all 4 parts with one NTS unless you have a huge block of time to take exam after exam. Got it?