December 14, 2018

duplicate questions

Is the AICPA Allowing Duplicate Questions to Slip into the CPA Exam?

According to one CPAnet forum user, they are. Here’s the note the candidate wrote to the AICPA:

I recently took FAR and noticed I got the same question more than once (exact same question and answer choices) in different testlets. The same instance happened in prior exams last quarter as well, more noticeably in the new content areas outlined in the CSO’s (i.e. duplicated IFRS questions/answers). According to other candidates who’ve taken the exam this year, they have been getting duplicate questions also, sometimes several duplicated questions. Are these duplicates graded and weighted equally, or is one thrown out since it’s a duplicate? It doesn’t seem fair if they are both graded and weighted if you get the question wrong, but could be great if you got them right (essentially getting a free pass on the repeated question since you knew the answer). If both are graded it could ‘jip’ the candidate out of a passing score if they were close to 75 because an alternate question wasn’t asked in place of the duplicate. I’d appreciate any guidance you can give me and perhaps post this situation in the FAQ area since I know multiple candidates have had the same anomaly during their exams.

And here is the AICPA’s response:

You stated that you received the same question more than once. Similar questions may be in the test; however, they are not identical. We have special coding and technology controls in place to ensure that questions are not repeated within a testlet. [Off topic bit about pretest questions that has nothing to do with this candidate’s issue removed]

The candidate went on to take issue with the AICPA’s use of “testlet,” insisting that repeat questions did not appear within the same testlet but within the same exam.

While the AICPA has agreed to look into this candidate’s issue, unfortunately there is no way for him (or her) to review his exam and confirm his suspicions. I’m assuming here that the candidate has not yet received his score for FAR, and even if he did, he would have two options: score and review appeal.

A score review is a waste of money that almost never results in a changed score, and involves an automated process that essentially confirms exam quality control procedures. Since the advent of the computerized exam in 2004, less than 1 percent of score reviews have changed a failing score in a candidate’s favor.

The second option, an appeal, could be completely useless or incredibly insightful, depending on how the candidate answered the questions he feels were duplicates. An appeal is a slightly more involved process but would allow the candidate to view the multiple choice test questions or objective simulation problems that he answered incorrectly together with his responses. Appeals are not available in all jurisdictions.

For all the time and effort the AICPA puts into administering the CPA exam, I’m going to guess that the candidate mistakenly believed very (read: VERY) similar questions to be exactly the same. Anyone studying for the exam knows that just one word can change a question completely.