August 15, 2020


Here’s a Nightmare Scenario to Add to Your CPA Exam Anxiety File

Thinking back to posts about missing CPA exam scores we’ve written over the years on this website, I knew there was at least one in the recent past. By “recent past” I thought maybe 2018 or something but nah, try January of this year. I shouldn’t have to explain why six months ago feels like […]

Why Now Is the Time to Study For the CPA Exam and Why FAR Should Be First

Not sure if you’ve heard but the world is a little topsy-turvy these days. Many accountants who just a month ago were thinking about how to survive busy season are now adjusting to a new normal in which work is done from the comfort of home and in-person meetings are replaced by video conferencing. As […]

Failed CPA exam

Let’s Figure Out How This Person Bombed the CPA Exam More Spectacularly Than Any CPA Exam Bomb in History

Ed. note: an earlier version of this article contained the name of a review course the poster claimed to have used. As this information has not been verified and is not relevant to the issue at hand, it has been removed. Spotted this on Reddit this morning, and like /r/accounting I’m wondering how this is […]

far test

CPA FAR is Hard, and That’s Okay

The FAR section on the CPA Exam is hard. Don’t believe me? Just ask the pass rates. The fact is, people don’t pass FAR as often as they pass all the other sections. For some people, quickly working through complex calculations really hits their sweet spot. Others, not so much. Me? When I first began […]

IFRS 15 Will Not be Tested on the CPA Exam Any Time Soon

As all of you should know, any new pronouncements are usually eligible for CPA exam testing 6 months after their effective date. So, for example, if a new rule comes into play on December 15 (which they do often for companies that have a year end of December 31), it can appear on the CPA […]

Apparently a Few CPA Exams Were Incorrectly Graded as Failing When In Fact They Passed

Jeff at Another71 is reporting that his forums were abuzz over the weekend with word that some candidates who took FAR and REG exams in 2011 and 2012 were told they failed when they actually passed. This is huge and Jeff says it has been confirmed: This isn’t a hoax. has confirmed that this […]

After Being Told His CPA Exam Was Lost, One Candidate Gets Some Good News

Anyone remember the poor bastard who was told by NASBA that they lost his entire exam and would have to retake it? Well, he didn't retake it and somehow they managed to track down his missing exam somewhere between Prometric and the AICPA and guess what? He passed! First of all, this candidate was abnormally […]

Four Time FAR Failure Finally Pulls Off a Victory to Live Happily Ever After

It's score release time and many of you know what that means… either discreet squeals of joy from the safety of your cubicle or incredibly depressing "happy" hours with your fellow loser friends to whine about how much the CPA exam sucks. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I think most of you can appreciate […]

Here’s Your CPA Exam Scores Open Thread for the April/May Testing Window

If you passed, congrats! If you failed…well, we still love you but you may be hopeless.

Sounds like people are getting anxious for REG scores now, so keep us updated for when NASBA drops the word.

AUD scores have no been released.

Curious CPA Exam Candidate Wants the Scoop on Simulations

I’m digging deep in the mailbag for this one, only because you kids have been awfully quiet lately (a sure sign that we’re in a blackout month). If you have a CPA exam question, comment or complaint for us, please let it launch. Come on, you’re going to be sitting around for the next 2 – 3 weeks waiting for your scores, might as well.


I was wondering if you could go over what the simulations entails in FAR. I understand that the multiple choice contains 30 questions, and that there are 3 testlets. However, does the break down for the 7 simulations include more than one part.

For example, I know you will have a problem say leases, maybe a research question…but is that 1 simulation or is that 2 of 7?


Recent Grad…miserable studying…

Let’s defer to the good ole AICPA on this one, you can never go wrong getting info straight from the source. From How the CPA Exam Is Scored:

In addition to multiple-choice questions, the AUD, FAR, and REG sections also contain task-based simulations. Task-based simulations are case studies that allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by generating responses to questions rather than simply selecting the correct answer. Task-based simulations typically require candidates to use spreadsheets and/or research authoritative literature provided in the Exam.

Well that’s not very helpful, is it?

In FAR, you’ll encounter 7 task-based simulations, of which 6 will be graded. You don’t know which TBS is pre-test so you have to go into it as if they are all graded.

Assume that each of your simulations will be on a different topic and will only require you to complete one tab. You may see more than one research question so be sure to get in some practice in that area (and access your free 6-month subscription to the authoritative literature if you haven’t already – note that you must have a valid NTS to sign up for this).

In previous versions of the exam, one simulation consisted of several tabs. You’d have to get through two of them in 45 minutes a piece and hope you filled in enough tabs to pass. In the latest incarnation of the exam, however, you will receive more varied topics. This works in your benefit as you have a better chance of getting TBS problems on areas you feel comfortable in, whereas in the old exam you had to hope and pray you didn’t get a simulation on a topic you didn’t study well or suck hard in, as you were just about guaranteed to bomb it.

Then again, in the old exam you could blow the sims and still have a chance to pass. Nowadays, however, you don’t have that luxury as simulation problems carry a heavier weight point-wise.

That said, you’ll want to do the tutorial on the AICPA’s website. While review course materials can come close to simulating the actual exam environment, the CPA exam remains the intellectual property of the AICPA, therefore no review course can copy simulation problems exactly. But since the AICPA provides that tutorial, it has the exact look and feel of the questions you will see on the exam.

CPA Exam Candidate Attempts to Stop Attempting and Actually Take the Exam

From the mailbag:

Hi Adrienne – I have been “attempting” to pass the CPA exam for a few years now – and I must say I’ve never taken the exam or the goal to pass the exam seriously…up until now.

Hold it. Before we get to the second half of this question, we need to address the quotation marks. Obviously OP is trying to make it clear that studying has not been high on the priority list and we recognize this tactic as a CPA exam candidate trying to repent for non-studying sins. This isn’t the confessional but we’ll accept the confession nonetheless; it shows a desire on the candidate’s part to acknowledge what they have done wrong up until this point, which is halfway toward fixing it.


I took BEC on 4/4/2011 and REG on 5/14/2011 (today). I am registered to take FAR on 7/9/2011. My question is: Should I start studying for FAR now and try to take in July, or should I wait until I get my BEC/REG scores and if I score below a passing grade, try to take those in the July/Aug testing window? What should be the plan of attack – retake a recent exam, or jump to the next section? Considering I wont be getting my BEC/REG scores until the end of June, I feel like precious study time will get wasted if I just wait around for those scores…

In a follow-up with OP, we discussed how he felt when he was done. “I can’t say I felt on top of the world when I left prometric – I had more of a numb feeling than anything else. The sims were ‘interesting,’ and the MCQs were pretty challenging too…I put a solid six/seven weeks for this exam following Bisk’s recommended study plan.”

With scoring a little jacked up through the end of this year, you should probably move on to the next section as if you passed. If you did, you made the right decision. If you didn’t, you’ll just have to go back and study it over. You don’t necessarily have to start from scratch but let’s not think about that, let’s assume you passed.

You don’t mention Audit so I don’t know what your 18 month timeline is but if you have the flexibility, you should usually try to plan for the strategy that costs you the least amount of time so you actually have the time if you need it.

You’re right not to wait and just go on to the next section.

CPA Exam Dilemma: Do I Take Audit or FAR Before 2011?

Bypassing the pleasantries and getting straight into the reader question:

I passed BEC & REG on my first try, but I failed FAR & AUD. I need to take FAR or AUD before 2011. Which one do you suggest? FYI: I had 66 on FAR, 56 on AUD.

We’ve discussed what to do when you fail an exam section in the past and if you are familiar with the formula, you know that anything less than a 70 means you can pretty much go back to the drawing board. So the short answer here is that either FAR or AUD is fine but with a little over a month left before the end of 2010 testing, I am a little concerned that you may not have enough time to really prepare. Let’s be real here, you must not have put in much time or effort on either the first time around, am I right?

That being said, FAR looks like the more promising option though a 66 tells me that you’ve got a ways to go before you will be ready. It could be that you simply bombed one testlet and a simulation, in which case you don’t need to spend too much time going over all FAR topics in extensive detail but if you skimmed most of it the first time around, now might be the time to get serious and put in the work.

If you are asking which to take before 2011 because you are scared to death of the CBT-e changes, I would suggest taking AUD this year as the research will be harder next year while most of FAR will actually be easier (between removal of written communication, shorter “simlet” problems and fairly straight-forward IFRS vs GAAP content).

Regardless of which you choose, work on time management (perhaps that is your issue as it coincidentally tends to be a problem on both FAR and AUD) and use your score report to figure out where you need to focus for your second attempt.

Good luck!

Ed. note: Adrienne is currently trudging across this fine country, moving her life from not-so-fabulous-anymore San Francisco to an undisclosed location just outside of Washington DC. She’ll return to a full posting schedule next week after getting settled. As always, you are still welcome to get in touch with any CPA exam questions and/or post suggestions.

How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?

Quick answer: easier actually, in my opinion. I didn’t take the exam this year and I am not taking it next year nor any year after that so perhaps I’m wrong.

A few nights ago, a CPA exam candidate was bitching about studying so I threw in my whining about digging into new CPA exam content for next year. Cry cry, we all have it rough.

Long story short, since I was stuck shuffling through new content anyway she asked an easy 2011 question.

Can you tell me if FAR will be that much harder in 2011? I don’t think I’ll get my NTS in time to schedule for 2010

How many of you are in that boat right now? I’ve seen quite a few of you making plans to knock out two exam parts this year that have just put in your applications; I’m truly sorry to be the one to break this to you but chances are you aren’t going to get in this year. It’s good to be realistic going into this, anyone could lie to you and say in 4 – 6 weeks you’ll have an exam date. Even if you do get approved to sit right now you still have to wait for payment coupons and NTSs, by the time all that is in your hand all the exam dates will be taken. Don’t trip, next year it will be easier and here is why:

Simulations: Big ass simulations are broken up into little parts so you can totally blow a few of them and have several different topics coming at you instead of just two. So if you’re not so hot on pensions, you still have 5 or 6 other chances to do well on simulation problems. In 2010, if you didn’t study the indirect method you better hope you don’t get it or else you’ve blown it. For candidates who have sat this year, you’ve likely already seen them testing out the new format.

Written Communication: You get a spell checker in written communication AND you only have to do essays once (unless you fail BEC). Come on, written communications are easy already, you don’t even have to be right you just have to rite good. In 2011, you won’t have to write 6 different essays in 3 sections but just 3 in 1. That’s a win. Throw in the spell checker and I really wonder why some of you are scrambling to take BEC this year so you don’t have to in 2011. Is writing that bad? Get used to it, you’re going to be writing a lot of unnecessary emails and it’s an important skill to have. You can’t protect the public interest if ur writin liek this. Point being, FAR won’t have written communication for those of you morally opposed to writing anything.

IFRS Just about everything you’ve learned in 2010 will still be relevant in 2011, especially in FAR. No one is throwing out GAAP (even our super excited friends at the AICPA who can’t wait for IFRS!) and some areas of FAR aren’t impacted by IFRS at all. It appears throughout FAR but you shouldn’t be too freaked out by it because you don’t have to be an IFRS expert to nail the material. Just read, learn and pass. It’s really simple. The questions will likely stay mild until the AICPA Board of Examiners figures out whether or not this was a good idea a few quarters down the road. Conservatism dictates they’ll take it slow with international content until we’re actually 100% on this convergence thing so don’t freak out, IFRS makes a lot more sense than cost accounting ever will.

Not bad right?

Here’s where the old timers chime in and tell us all about back in the day when you didn’t get a calculator and had to walk uphill both ways to get to an auditorium in the middle of nowhere for a 17-day marathon of CPA exam testing. In the dark. With no scratch paper. Commence telling us about the “Before Time” please.

Did I Start Studying For the CPA Exam Too Early?

Friendly reminder: Going Concern’s own Adrienne Gonzalez will be chatting with CPA exam candidates over at CPA Exam Club on 8/3. We’ll be talking about the exam process, study strategies and all things CPA exam so if you haven’t already, head over to CPA Exam Club to RSVP for the chat if you have questions that you’re just dying to get answered.

Today’s reader question is probably one that some of you are more than familiar with… you graduate and jump right in to CPA review hoping your state board will process your application quickly and assume you’ll be ready to sit in a matter of weeks, only to discover that state boards aren’t nearly as quick as we wish ’s the sitch:

I recently graduated from Yeshiva University with a BS in Accounting. The week after I graduated, I started a Becker course (started with FAR) and planned to take the test at the end of July. Since then, my NTS has taken forever, so I prob. won’t get it for a couple weeks.

I recently started a full time position (hours are not regular, only staying 2-3 hours late a couple days a week) and am in the middle of moving apartments so my studying habits have been, for lack of better word, shite. [creative edit on our part]

The Becker AUD course starts on Tuesday. Would you say that sitting in on the course, while simultaneously studying for FAR is a bad idea? And also, assuming I’m starting from square 1 with FAR all over again, planning on taking it in the end of August, is this enough time, IYO, to be prepared to pass? (Obv with a structured study schedule of about 3 hours per day).

First of all, for those of you who haven’t already made this mistake, please keep in mind when you are plotting out your exam strategy that just because you are ready to take the exam doesn’t mean the state board is ready to process your application. A general rule is it can take anywhere from 4 – 10 weeks from the time you send in your application, fees and transcripts to the time you are actually ready to schedule your first exam. If you are 100% sure you meet the requirements to apply in your state, it’s safe to start your review a few weeks after you apply.

For our friend here who jumped the gun, however, it’s a little late so let’s see what we can do.

I’m going to say no on starting with Audit simply because I’m somewhat familiar with Becker’s repeat requirements (some of the strictest and most expensive in the exciting world of CPA review) and chances are you are going to need that class later on down the road. Our humble advice is to keep studying FAR and hope you can schedule yourself for that section in the final window of the year. The last window is always the hardest to schedule but we’re anticipating additional scheduling problems this year because of the rush to get exam parts in before the CPA exam changes in 2011 so be prepared to pick an alternate Prometric center or adjust your desired dates/times. As long as you’re open to that, you should be fine.

You can, of course, start studying Audit now and plan to take that one in the last window along with FAR but again, you’re likely to run into some serious scheduling trouble for Q4. Normally we’d tell you to go for it but this year is special and you’ll be lucky to get in one section let alone two before 2011 so worry about cramming in additional sections come January. Simultaneously studying is fine but we’re betting you won’t be able to get in to take both in the last quarter so save yourself the time and trouble by focusing on FAR for now.

Be honest, have you studied for FAR at all? Starting from scratch you can put in anywhere from 80 – 150 hours of studying so even between full-time job and a move it can be done but it sounds like what you need more than my advice on Audit is a study strategy that actually works for you. My biggest piece of advice is to take this process seriously and put off any other unnecessary drama (like an apartment move), if possible until after you have passed.

All About Financial Accounting for the CPA Exam

Editor’s note: You can find our Audit, Regulation, and BEC outlines posted earlier in the week and expect an ethics review tomorrow to wrap things up.

Good news: Chances are you took most of this stuff in school so while it’s a lot of information to get through, most of it should be somewhat familiar.

Bad news: As the largest section, FAR covers a lot of ground and a lot of it isn’t very pleasant (like government, pensions, bonds and leases – all fairly heavily tested and all awful to get through when you’re studying) so prepare yourself accordingly and don’t take too much of it in at once.

FAR is a 4 hour exam and you will run out of time. Do not spend more than 1.5 minutes on each MCQ (FAR has 3 testlets of 30 questions each) and be sure to give yourself at least 45 minutes per simulation. If you run out of time towards the end, be sure to at minimum complete the written communication for both sims as only one is tested and you don’t know which one it is. It’s an easy 10 points and you don’t want to blow it.

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

Communication (6% – 16%)
Research (11% – 21%)
Analysis (13% – 23%)
Judgment (10% – 20%)
Understanding (35% – 45%)

Based on the Content Specification Outlines, Financial Accounting and Reporting covers the following areas:

Concepts and standards for financial statements (17% – 23%) Financial accounting, consolidated and combined financial statements, balance sheet, income statement, notes to financial statements, financial statement analysis.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) Typical items: recognition, measurement, valuation and presentation in financial statements according to GAAP. Cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, inventory, PP&E, investments, intangibles and other assets, payables, deferred revenue, notes and bonds payable, equity and revenues.

Specific types of transactions and events (27% – 33%) Accounting changes and corrections of errors, business combination, contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share, foreign currency transactions and translation, taxes, interest cost, leases, R&D costs, segment reporting, subsequent events.

Accounting and reporting for governmental entities (8% – 12%) Government accounting concepts (fund accounting, budgeting, and notes to financial statements), net assets, capital assets, transfers, financing sources, expenditures, encumbrances, etc etc. And of course governmental non-profit accounting is in this.

Accounting and reporting for nongovernmental (8% – 12%) Accounting and reporting for non-profit organizations, typical items for non-profits.

Studying for FAR should take between 100 – 150 hours regardless of whether or not you took multiple financial accounting classes in school. The key to FAR is taking it in small chunks to prevent being overwhelmed by information so don’t spend more than 3 hours per day studying and break each section into smaller subsections to retain your sanity through the process.

Good luck and see you tomorrow with ethics!

Here’s What to Expect on the FAR Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder (especially now that tax season is over), if you have a CPA exam question for us, shoot us a note, tweet us, or find us on Facebook and pester us until we answer. Up to you but we know you have questions so stop being shy.

Anyway. We have question from Twitter this week from @jacmelirose:

“What are the most heavily tested subjects for FAR? Help? Taking FAR in a month day for day.”

Alright, let’s start with the obvious: asking “what are the most heavily tested subjects” usually means you haven’t studied up until this point and are looking for a shortcut. Understandable but keep in mind this goes against the CPA exam guru’s advice. Just sayin’.

A good place to start is with the Content Specification Outlines for the section you are studying. For FAR, you can expect to see the following:

Financial statements (17% – 23%) – that means profit and loss, balance sheet, cashflows and footnotes/disclosures.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) – you’re talking marketable securities (pretty heavily tested or so we hear), receivables, bonds, leases, inventory, PP&E (depreciation, mostly), liabilities and revenue recognition. As much as you hate bonds, expect to see plenty on the subject so get cracking.

Transactional items (27% – 33%) – business combinations (yup, consolidations), contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share and extraordinary items.

Government accounting (8% – 12%) – Everyone’s favorite! It’s not heavily tested but you will need to know a little about fund accounting, budgets, and government financial statements.

Not-for-profit accounting (8% – 12%) – Again, not heavily tested but it does show up (several MCQ and maybe a sim) so you will want to be sure to understand how NFP accounting works by understanding the 4 statements: financing, activities, cash flows and functional expenses.

Because we all know it’s against the rules to discuss what actually appears on the exam, we won’t tell you to expect BONDS, LEASES, and PENSIONS (and LOTS of them). We also will not tell you to be on the lookout for inventory in simulations because, again, that would assume we’re telling you we know what’s actually on the exam and of course we don’t.

FAR takes about 132 hours to prepare for – if you’ve got a month to do it, you need to be extra diligent about creating a study plan. Block out no less than 3 hours per day for MCQ/sim practice or lecture videos. Generally your brain tunes out if you’re studying any more than that per day but if you do the math, you realize you need more like 4 hours per day to meet the 132 hour requirement. In other words: a month is not really enough time to study for FAR. Here’s hoping you’ve been studying all along and are just looking for some last minute advice. Good luck!

Three Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in the Near Future

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]