CPA Pass Rates [Updated for 2021] How Hard is the CPA Exam Really?

cpa exam pass rates

The CPA Exam pass rates, which average about 50%, are one of the most intriguing aspects of the CPA certification process. The AICPA releases the pass rate for each exam section once a quarter. Basically, these percentages reveal how well candidates who sat for the CPA Exam during the previous exam testing window performed. Historically, the average CPA Exam pass rate for each section ranges between 45-55%. But the pass rates shouldn’t discourage you, because they don’t mean you can’t pass.

Candidates, review providers, and other individuals invested in the CPA industry try to read the pass rates like a crystal ball. That is, they look to these 4-digit percentages to divine the future of their success with the exam. However, the numbers never really say as much as we would like them to. Still, I myself find the pass rates fascinating, so I’ll tell you about the most recent pass rates, possible explanations for them, and the historical data. Most importantly, I’ll let you know what the CPA Exam pass rates really mean so you don’t get too obsessed with them.

And finally, at the end, you’ll find my thoughts about pass rates advertised by CPA Exam review providers. For instance, I’ll go over the Becker CPA pass rate and how they calculated the Becker CPA pass rate statistics. I’ll also cover the Wiley CPA pass rate, the Surgent CPA pass rate, and more.

CPA Exam Pass Rates Release

As you may recall, CPA candidates can only sit for the CPA Exam during the 4 annual testing windows. Additionally, the testing windows are open during the first 2 months and the first 10 days of the third month of every quarter. Usually, the AICPA gives the CPA Exam scores for a testing window to the state boards and NASBA on several score release dates each quarter. But the AICPA only publishes the pass rates for that testing window in the following quarter. Pass rates from 2006 to the present used to accompany the latest pass rates. But now, the AICPA’s pass rates web page only features the current year’s pass rates.

2021 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Section First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Cumulative (To Date)
AUD 48.56% 50.49% 49.70%
BEC 62.16% 63.31% 62.84%
FAR 46.64% 42.63% 44.70%
REG 59.29% 58.81% 59.03%

2020 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Section First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Cumulative
AUD 47.97% 65.29% 56.89% 47.50% 52.84%
BEC 61.76% 76.92% 69.89% 60.77% 65.56%
FAR 46.37% 62.86% 55.67% 43.53% 49.98%
REG 55.42% 74.97% 66.12% 58.00% 62.29%

2019 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Section First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Cumulative
AUD 48.56% 55.11% 51.94% 47.88% 51.01%
BEC 58.00% 59.74% 63.04% 58.61% 59.98%
FAR 44.43% 49.37% 50.29% 40.57% 46.31%
REG 50.23% 58.66% 58.41% 55.89% 56.34%

2018 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Section First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Cumulative
AUD 49.27% 54.70% 51.07% 48.54% 50.97%
BEC 56.43% 60.31% 60.17% 60.13% 59.35%
FAR 41.59% 49.17% 48.85% 44.57% 46.22%
REG 49.99% 55.75% 56.55% 50.22% 53.16%

2017 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Section First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter Cumulative
AUD 43.47% 52.00% 52.15% 47.69% 48.59%
BEC 50.39% 55.09% 55.35% 55.33% 52.99%
FAR 43.14% 43.76% 47.58% 42.50% 44.42%
REG 46.10% 48.32% 49.31% 45.89% 47.24%

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2021 Pass Rate Analysis

Although we only have the CPA Exam pass rates for the first quarter of 2021, we can still make some comparisons to how candidates have fared in the past.

Q1 2021 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • In Q1 of 2021, candidates did better on AUD than they did in Q1 of 2020.
  • In fact, the Q1 AUD scores from 2021 are the same as Q1 2019!
  • Plus, candidates scored about 5 percentage points higher in 2021 than they did back in 2017.

Q1 2021 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Like AUD, the Q1 BEC pass rates were slightly higher in 2021 than in 2020.
  • But still, the Q1 2021 BEC rates at 62.16% were lower than 2020’s cumulative BEC rate, which was 65.56%.
  • However, BEC candidates are performing better than they have in the more distant past, with only 50.39% of test-takers passing BEC in 2017.

Pass Rate for Q1 2021 FAR

  • Test-takers performed worse on FAR than they did on AUD, BEC, or REG in Q1 2021.
  • In fact, they only performed a fraction of a point better in Q1 2021 than Q1 2020.
  • Still, if we go back to Q1 2017, for example, the scores in Q1 2021 were about 3.5 percentage points higher than in 20217.

Pass Rate for Q1 2021 REG

  • Candidates often do fairly well on REG, and Q1 2021 was no exception with 59.29% of people passing.
  • Still, though, Q1 2021’s scores were lower than 2021’s cumulative REG scores of 62.29%.
  • However, if you go back to Q1 2017, the test-takers in Q1 2021 performed almost 13% stronger!

Explanations for the Q1 2021 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Looking back, it’s going to be interesting to compare the 2020 and 2021 CPA Exam pass rates to other years. After all, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe in ways we could not have planned. However, Q1 2021 exam scores across the board—for AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG alike—all increased from Q1 2020.

Of course, the pandemic changed just about everything. Some accountants were laid off, and that could have added more stress to test-takers. However, it’s also possible that some CPA candidates either had more time on their hands to study due to lay-offs. Or, candidates might have been more driven to maintain their professional edge and stay ahead of the competition, which often happens during economic downturns.

CPA Exam Pass Rates History

Let’s travel back in time to relive the pass rates of the past.

15 Years of Pass Rates

15 years of cpa exam pass rates

As we look at these lines representing more than a decade of pass rates, we see that pass rates for most exam sections have congregated together in the same areas at the same time. BEC broke away from the pack at one point and pushed the limits of what’s possible in pass rates. Yet, the pass rates for the remaining exam sections rested right around 45-49% for a while there.

That is until we entered 2018. Then we witnessed the amazing happen as 3 pass rates crested the 50% mark in 1 quarter, which was unheard of for the last 15 years. We can get a better idea of how exceptional this year’s pass rates have been by looking at the pass rates for each section separately.

AUD CPA Exam Pass Rates

aud cpa pass rates

AUD hasn’t had quite as impressive pass rates as BEC in the last decade. Nevertheless, AUD has made a notable effort to compete for first place. From 2006-2010, the AUD pass rate was content to settle for second, but in 2011, it almost gave up the fight. AUD had the lowest pass rate for several years. Yet, especially in the last few quarters, it’s made quite the resurgence. AUD is now neck-and-neck with REG, and they’re both creeping up on BEC.

AUD’s pass rate history is understandable. This exam section has had a stint putting up the lowest pass rates. This may be due to the fact that AUD looks relatively straightforward, but then the vagueness of the questions often catches people off-guard. There are often multiple correct answers, but you must pick the best one.

This deception has made the exam a lot more difficult. Still, candidates have apparently been able to fortify themselves against AUD’s schemes in the last several quarters. The fact that AUD is making a run for the top spot is actually surprising. AUD is the only section to test at the Evaluation level of skill, which is the most difficult in the context of the CPA Exam.

BEC CPA Exam Pass Rates

bec cpa pass rates

BEC’s pass rate story is the opposite of AUD’s. BEC seems to have been the hardest exam section from 2006-2011. Then, the exam change of 2011 positioned candidates for better BEC success. Ever since BEC has stolen the show by sporting the top pass rate for 7 years straight. And things didn’t change in 2019 either, as BEC continued to reach new heights.

How has BEC managed to become the reigning king of pass rates? BEC is the least technical part of the exam. Additionally, more than half of BEC only tests for Application, the second-lowest skill level. Furthermore, BEC has only had task-based simulations (TBSs) for about a year and a half now, having received them in 2017. But with only 4 total TBSs compared to the other exam section’s 8, BEC remains half as hard in the realm of simulations.

BEC also has the fewest multiple-choice questions (MCQs) with 62. And finally, BEC has 3 written communications (WCs). The BEC WCs account for 15% of your score and are basically there to ensure that you can write an organized, well-developed document of clearly expressed correct information.

FAR CPA Exam Pass Rates

far cpa passing rates

As you can see, FAR’s pass rates have been a bit of a roller coaster. They have only been the highest for 2 of the past 15 years. After that, they firmly positioned FAR as one of the hardest, if not the hardest, exam sections for the past 5 years. When the exam experienced big changes, the FAR pass rate responded with big falls. While FAR’s pass rates have had their quarterly moments in the 50s, even jumps above 49% have been uncommon.

As we’ve seen, some of the other pass rates have already skyrocketed beyond 50% this year. Yet FAR’s passing percentages are still stuck in the 40s as they have been for some time. With an overall average of just 46.67% and the most candidate-centric exam changes of late already in place, the FAR pass rate seems destined to dwell below 50% indefinitely.

Most everyone finds FAR to be the hardest CPA exam section. This is not because its questions are the most difficult, but because its scope is the broadest. Basically, FAR covers a lot of content, and you need more time to study for FAR than other exam sections. Candidates who don’t take FAR first but try to squeeze such an extensive amount of studying into their 18-month window may just run out of time and contribute to FAR’s low pass rates.

Furthermore, FAR features some tricky concepts, like bonds, pensions, and stockholder equity or governmental accounting. Candidates who don’t commit to mastering their weak areas but instead simply hope they won’t see that material on exam day are very likely to be disappointed. And, based on the pass rates, they are almost as likely to fail.

REG CPA Exam Pass Rates

how hard is the cpa exam for reg

Last but not least, we have REG. This section has also undergone some major pass rate shifts in the last 15 years. REG rose and fell rapidly from 2006 to 2011, then popped up above 45% and leveled off from 2012-2017. The REG CPA Exam section had its time at the top but comes in at second or third more often. It actually kept AUD at bay from the second-place position from 2012-2016 but had a minor mishap with third place in 2017. Now it seems that REG won’t stay down, as it came back from behind to best AUD in every quarter between 2018 and 2019, and doesn’t show signs of stopping.

REG has reason to be a hard exam section. It has the greatest number of MCQs (76) and ties with FAR for testing the most at Analysis, the second-highest skill level on the exam. But considering its pass rates, REG also has the potential to be less difficult for select candidates.

REG’s content mainly revolves around taxation, though it also covers business law and ethics. Candidates who love taxation have a good chance of performing well on this section and helping preserve its high pass rate. You just can’t underestimate the business law and ethics section, or they may get the better of you. Candidates who don’t really love taxation seem motivated to avoid sitting for REG ever again. So, they’ve prepared well enough to one-and-done this section, from the looks of it.

Common Explanations for CPA Exam Pass Rate Changes

cpa exam passing scoreSo, what causes the pass rates to rise and fall? Well, we can never know for certain which factors had the greatest effect on the pass rates from a particular quarter. But we can offer possible explanations that can probably account for most of the changes.

Right above the pass rates on their website, the AICPA reminds us that “candidates are evaluated against an established standard of competence, and the Exam is scored and scaled so that scores are comparable across test forms and over time.” To summarize this concept, the AICPA simply states, “The Exam is not harder or easier to pass at different times”. The AICPA then offers their own theory about the pass rates flux: “An increase in pass rates simply means that candidates are better prepared.” Even with this explanation, candidates still find that the CPA Exam is hard.

So, the AICPA believes candidates are better prepared for the CPA Exam each time the pass rates rise (meaning, candidates are studying more efficiently and using a high-quality CPA review course). However, I also have a few other speculations as to why we’ve seen some higher pass rates (and even record-breaking pass rates) in recent quarters. One of these simply elaborates on the AICPA’s statement. Additionally, I have some theories as to why we’ve seen some pass rates drop when we didn’t expect it.

Passing Rates of CPA Courses

There’s been a lot of chatter in the industry lately about how different CPA Review companies calculate and publish the pass rates of their users. After all, the AICPA doesn’t ask users what materials they used to study. Therefore, companies have to collect and analyze this data on their own. And some do a better job than others. So should you only look at pass rates to pick a review course? Let’s break it down.

CPA Review Provider Pass Rates Notes
Becker CPA Review 94% of Exam Day Ready users pass the CPA Exam Calculations were verified by a third party and a top-10 public accounting firm
Wiley CPAexcel 9 out of 10 users pass the CPA Exam Pass rate not verified by an outside firm
Surgent CPA Review 88% of users with a ReadySCORE of 75+ pass the CPA Exam Surgent is transparent about how they collect and calculate pass rate info

Calculating Pass Rates

Most companies poll their users about whether or not they passed the CPA Exam. However, companies often keep their process in the dark. And when a process isn’t transparent, it can be hard to trust what they say. For example, let’s go over how the Becker pass rates are calculated.

Becker is always trying to make sure that their CPA study materials work. So, they hired a top-10 public accounting firm to perform an examination related to how the Becker CPA Exam pass rates are calculated. Basically, Becker claims that 94% of their “Exam Day Ready” users pass the CPA Exam. And these are users who watched 80% of the videos, correctly answered 80% of the MCQs, and scored a minimum of 50% on 3 practice exams. The firm found that the Becker CPA passing rate was accurate. You can learn more about the Becker CPA pass rates.

In contrast, not all CPA review companies are as transparent about how they calculated their users’ success compared to the Becker CPA pass rates. So do your homework before you select a course.

CPA pass rates with Becker and other CPA review providers

Although pass rates aren’t the only factor when picking the best CPA review, you should certainly consider them. Therefore, here’s a summary of the Becker pass rate, the Wiley CPAexcel pass rate, and the Surgent CPA passing rate.

Becker CPA pass rate

As a company that puts a lot of effort into tracking its performance, the Becker passing rate, which is 94% of Exam Day Ready users, has been well-verified by an outside top-tier public accounting firm. Why is the pass rate for the CPA Exam with Becker so high? Well, with good study materials and an outstanding platform combined with personal tutoring and academic support, it’s no wonder. So can you pass the CPA by just studying Becker? That is, is Becker enough to pass the CPA Exam? Absolutely! That’s why there are so many Becker CPA Review Watt Sells winners.

Wiley CPA pass rate vs. Becker CPA

Next, let’s review the Becker vs. Wiley pass rates. Does Wiley CPA have a higher pass rate than Becker? Well, with Wiley 9 out of 10 pass the CPA Exam, according to the company. So basically, this implies that the percentage of CPAs who pass after Wiley is somewhere around 90%.

However, the company doesn’t explain how the Wiley CPA passing rate is calculated. And one of the biggest differences of the CPA Exam passing rate between Becker and Wiley. For example, is Wiley enough to pass the CPA Exam, or are Wiley users also supplementing with study materials from another company? Unfortunately, the Wiley CPAexcel pass rates aren’t as transparent as the pass rate for Becker CPA users.

Surgent CPA pass rates vs. Becker CPA

Surgent CPA Review is another company that publishes its pass rates. And, like the Becker CPA pass rates, Surgent is really transparent with their calculations. First, Surgent uses a third-party platform to ask users to self-report their performance. And what were the results? Well basically, 88% of Surgent users who had a ReadySCORE (a pre-exam day estimate based on past performance) of at least 75 passed the CPA Exam. What’s more, even 84% of Surgent who hadn’t yet reached a ReadySCORE of 75 also passed.

So then, is Surgent enough to pass the CPA Exam? Read my full Surgent review to learn more.

Predictions for Future CPA Exam Pass Rates

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering, “So, what will happen next with the pass rates?” Well, based on the historical data, we can make predictions about the future of the pass rates.

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Pass rates will cycle again in 2021

As we all know, what goes up must come down. When it comes to pass rates, the going down usually starts again in Q4 and continues into the following Q1. The last quarter of the year seems to be the busiest for candidates. School is back in session, and the holidays overwhelm the calendar. While the number of candidates sitting for the exam often decreases between Q3 and Q4, the pass rates do too. It seems that candidates just can’t prepare as well when the year is coming to a close.

And when the new year arrives, busy season begins again, a new semester starts, and everyone is trying to get into a new pattern for life. At this point as well, fewer candidates are sitting for the exam. Some have already started studying for Q2, but others are just initiating the application process. But when Q2 and Q3 come around again, the majority of candidates who will sit that year have their testing appointments scheduled. Therefore, pass rates typically go back up during this time.

Though 2020 broke its fair share of CPA Exam pass rate records, 2021 will not necessarily do the same. Major CPA Exam changes are scheduled, which always gives cause for concern as far as pass rates go.

The Meaning of CPA Exam Pass Rates

As accountants, we may find all of these numbers interesting. But in the end, you need to know: What do the pass rates really mean for you?

Well, pass rate changes, especially those occurring from one quarter to the next, shouldn’t affect your CPA Exam preparations. Even with pass rates on the rise, the CPA Exam is still a sizable challenge requiring a lot of time and effort to overcome. The BEC pass rate has been quite high for some time, but you still have to review all of the content and study effectively, or you won’t pass it. The same goes for the other exam sections.

In truth, with pass rates ranging around 50%, you still have almost a 50% chance of failing. Clearly, now is not the time to slack off in your studies. There are no shortcuts to CPA Exam success, even if the passing percentages seem to be trending in your favor.

What’s more, as the CPA Exam is updated to reflect new tax laws, the exam will change. There are no guarantees that the pass rates will ever be so high again.

In fact, as I said, it’s extremely likely that they will go back down. Therefore, the key to passing hasn’t really changed. You still have to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. If you don’t, you may not succeed, no matter what the pass rates are.

Scheduling your exam

You may be thinking, “I know I should study hard no matter what, but should I schedule my exam during a quarter with a higher pass rate?” My answer to that question is, No, I don’t think so. While the differences between the highest and lowest quarters are statistically significant (~5%), you can’t take the exam only in the summer. The 18-month window makes this impossible. But the quarterly discrepancy between pass rates further proves that when people have more time to study, the pass rate is higher.

Historical CPA Passing Rate Info

2020 CPA Scores

2020 was a great year for CPA candidates. In fact, more candidates passed every section of the CPA Exam in 2020 than in 2019. Here’s some insight into how the CPA Exam pass rates from 2020 compared to previous years.

Here’s some insight into how the CPA Exam pass rates from 2020 compared to previous years.

Q4 2020 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q4 2020 AUD pass rate was lower than it’s been in that quarter for several years at 47.5%.
  • In fact, the 2020 Q4 AUD pass rate was a full percentage point lower than the AUD pass rate from the same quarter in 2018.
  • What’s more, the cumulative 2020 AUD pass rate was higher at 52.84% than the Q4 average at 47.5%.

Q4 2020 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • At 60.77%, the Q4 2020 BEC pass rate is higher than it’s been in Q4 for several years.
  • Actually, BEC test-takers in Q4 2020 outperformed Q4 2017 by more than 5%.
  • But still, the Q4 2020 BEC pass rate of 60.77% was lower than the year’s cumulative rate at 65.56%.

Q4 2020 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • At 43.53%, the Q4 2020 FAR pass rates were the lowest of any CPA Exam section that quarter.
  • The Q4 pass rates for FAR in 2020 were higher than the Q4 FAR pass rates in  2019 and 2017 but lower than 2018.
  • FAR test-takers in Q4 2020 performed about 5% worse than 2020’s overall FAR average.

REG CPA Exam Pass Rate for Q4 2020

  • REG test-takers in Q4 outperformed REG candidates from 2017-2019.
  • In fact, the Q4 2020 REG pass rate was over 12% higher than the 2017 Q4 REG pass rate.
  • But still, Q4 2020’s REG pass rate was lower than the overall REG pass rate for 2020.

AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate for Q3 2020

  • In 2020, Q3 saw the second-highest AUD pass rates.
  • Plus, AUD pass rates for Q3 were up in 2020 in comparison to rates from 2017-2019.
  • In fact, Q3’s AUD pass rates were also higher than 2020’s cumulative average AUD rate.

Q3 2020 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Candidates tend to pass BEC more than any other CPA Exam section, which was also the case for Q3 2020.
  • Additionally, more candidates passed BEC in Q3 of 2020 than Q3 in 2017-2019.
  • However, Q2 2020 had a higher BEC pass rate than Q3 2020.

Q3 2020 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q3 2020 FAR pass rate of 55.67% was higher than the 2020 cumulative FAR pass rate of 49.98%.
  • As with other sections, more FAR candidates passed in Q3 2020 than in Q3 2017-2019.
  • For example, about 7% more candidates passed FAR in Q3 2020 than Q3 2017.

Q3 2020 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Q3 2020 had the second-highest FAR pass rate from any quarter in 2020.
  • FAR pass rates have been steadily increasing, and Q3 2020 saw more people passing FAR than Q4 in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
  • In fact, an incredible 17% more candidates passed FAR in Q3 of 2020 than Q3 of 2017.

Q2 2020 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Q2 2020 had higher AUD pass rates than any other quarter in 2020.
  • And actually, Q2 2020 AUD test-takers really outperformed other quarters from the past few years.
  • For instance, almost 17% more people passed AUD in Q2 2020 than Q2 2017–amazing!

Q2 2020 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Many test-takers think BEC is the easiest CPA Exam section. That seemed to hold true in Q2 2020 with other 3/4 of candidates passing!
  • Plus, on average, Q2 test-takers perform better than Q1 candidates. Similarly, almost 15% more people passed BEC in Q2 2020 than Q1 2020.
  • And what’s more, BEC test-takers in Q2 2020 outperformed all of the BEC candidates in 2020.

Q2 2020 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • As with the other CPA Exam sections, more people passed FAR in Q2 than in any other 2020 quarter.
  • FAR pass rates have really improved over the past few years. For example, over 19% more people passed FAR in Q2 2020 than Q2 2017.
  • In fact, Q2 2020 had higher FAR pass rates than any quarter in at least the last 4 years.

Q2 2020 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Almost 3/4 of test-takers passed REG in 2020–good job!
  • And although CPA candidates usually do better in Q2 than Q1, that was especially true in 2020.
  • What’s more, people are generally doing better with the REG section. In fact, there was an improvement in the pass rates of over 26% between Q2 2020 and Q2 2017.

Q1 2020 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Oftentimes, Q1 test-takers tend to have lower pass rates than the year’s cumulative average, and that was the case for AUD in Q1 2020.
  • In fact, AUD’s Q1 2020 pass rate was almost 5% lower than all of 2020.
  • But still, more people passed AUD in Q1 2020 than Q1 2017.

Q1 2020 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • More test-takers passed BEC in Q1 2020 than any other CPA Exam section in 2020.
  • However, fewer CPA candidates passed BED in Q1 2020 than Q2 2020.
  • Moreover, BEC pass rates are on the rise, and more people passed in Q1 2020 than Q1 from 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Q1 2020 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • FAR is known for being a tough section on the CPA Exam. In fact, FAR had the lowest pass rate of any CPA Exam section in Q1 2020.
  • But still, the Q1 2020 FAR pass rates were higher than the FAR rates in Q1 2017-2019.
  • However, Q1 2020 FAR candidates performed at a lower level than the 2020 cumulative average.

Q1 2020 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • At 55.42%, REG saw the 2nd highest pass rate of any CPA Exam section in 2020.
  • Furthermore, Q1 2020 had the lowest REG scores in all of 2020.
  • Nonetheless, Q1 REG pass rates have been increasing over the past several years.

2019 CPA Exam Pass Rate Facts

When we compare the 2019 CPA Exam pass rates up to pass rates of the more distant past as well, we can make these observations.

Q4 2019 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q4 2019 AUD pass rate is the 3rd highest Q4 AUD pass rate since 2006, and is 2.66% higher than the average Q4 AUD pass rate (2006-2019) of 45.52%.
  • However, the Q4 2019 AUD pass rate is 4.06% lower than the Q3 2019 AUD pass rate. And for the second consecutive quarter, the AUD pass rate has decreased.
  • Furthermore, the Q4 2019 AUD pass rate is .66% lower than the Q4 2018 AUD pass rate.

Q4 2019 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q4 2019 BEC pass rate is the 7th highest BEC pass rate since 2006.
  • Additionally, it is also the 2nd highest Q4 BEC pass rate since 2006, and 7.9% higher than the average Q4 AUD pass rate (2006-2019) of 50.71%.
  • However, the Q4 2019 BEC pass rate is 4.43% lower than the Q3 2019 AUD pass rate, and 1.52% lower than the Q4 2018 AUD pass rate.

Q4 2019 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Breaking news: The Q4 2019 FAR pass rate is the LOWEST FAR pass rate since 2006, and is 3.91% lower than the average Q4 FAR pass rate (2006-2019) of 44.48%.
  • Furthermore, the Q4 2019 FAR pass rate is 9.72% lower than the Q3 2019 FAR pass rate.
  • Lastly, the Q4 2019 FAR pass rate is 4% lower than the Q4 2018 FAR pass rate.

Q4 2019 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q4 2019 REG pass rate is the 4th highest REG pass rate since 2006.
  • Breaking news: The Q4 2019 REG pass rate is the HIGHEST Q4 REG pass rate since 2006, and is 8.92% higher than the average Q4 FAR pass rate (2006-2019) of 46.97%.
  • However, the Q4 2019 REG pass rate is 2.52% lower than the Q3 2019 REG pass rate, but is 5.67% higher than the Q4 2018 REG pass rate.

Q3 2019 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q3 2019 AUD pass rate is the 6th highest AUD pass rate in the last 13 years when the AICPA started recording pass rates online.
  • The next highest AUD pass rate was the Q2 2017 pass rate of 52%.
  • The Q3 2019 pass rate was .87% higher than the Q3 2018 pass rate for AUD. But the Q3 2019 pass rate was actually .21% lower than the Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • Furthermore, AUD’s Q3 2019 pass rate was also 3.17% lower than the Q2 2019 pass rate.
  • However, this Q3 pass rate is the second-highest for AUD for the quarter, falling only to the Q3 2017 pass rate of 52.15%.

Q3 2019 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • ALERT: Pass rate record broken! The BEC Q3 2019 pass rate is the highest BEC pass rate since the AICPA began publishing pass rates online in 2006. Consequently, it is also the highest CPA Exam pass rate ever.
  • This record-breaking pass rate is 2.73% higher than the next highest BEC pass rate, which was a 60.31% in Q2 2018.
  • The Q3 2019 percentage is also 3.3% higher than the Q2 2019 percentage for BEC.
  • Finally, it is also a huge 7.69% higher than the Q3 2017 BEC pass rate.

Q3 2019 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q3 2019 pass rate is the 10th highest FAR pass rate since 2006.
  • The next highest FAR rate was a 50.35% from Q3 2015.
  • This quarter’s FAR percentage was .92% higher than 2019 Q2’s FAR figure.
  • This pass rate was also 1.44% higher than FAR’s Q3 2018 rate and 2.71% higher than FAR’s Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • What’s more, this pass rate was the 9th highest FAR pass rate in 13 years.

Q3 2019 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • This REG pass rate was very close to edging out the Q2 2019 pass rate as the currently reigning REG pass rate, but it fell short by just .25%.
  • Therefore, this pass rate is REG’s second-highest in 13 years.
  • However, it is the highest Q3 REG pass rate in that time.
  • The Q3 2019 REG pass rate is 1.86% higher than the Q3 2018 pass rate and a massive 9.1% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.

Q2 2019 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Breaking news: Pass rate record broken! The AUD Q2 2019 pass rate was the highest AUD pass rate since 2006 when the AICPA first started recording CPA Exam pass rates online.
  • The next highest AUD pass rate was the Q2 2018 pass rate of 54.70%.
  • The AUD Q2 2019 pass rate was .41% higher than the Q2 2018 AUD pass rate and 3.11% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.
  • The Q2 2019 pass rate for AUD was also a tremendous 6.55% higher than the Q1 2019 AUD pass rate.

Q2 2019 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q2 2019 BEC pass rate was .57% lower than the Q2 2018 BEC pass rate but 4.65% higher than the Q2 2017 BEC pass rate.
  • The Q2 2019 BEC pass rate was also 1.74% higher than the Q1 2019 BEC pass rate.
  • Furthermore, the Q2 2019 pass rate for BEC was the fourth-highest BEC pass rate since 2006. The next highest BEC pass rate was a 59.22% from Q3 2015.
  • However, this number was the second-highest Q2 BEC pass rate in 13 years.

Q2 2019 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q2 2019 FAR pass rate was .2% higher than the Q2 2018 FAR pass rate. The Q2 2019 FAR figure was also 5.61% higher than the Q2 2017 version.
  • What’s more, FAR’s pass rate for Q2 2019 was the 13th highest FAR pass rate in the last 13 years. The FAR pass rate that the Q2 2019 percentage replaced was the 49.17% from Q2 2018.
  • The Q2 2019 pass rate for FAR was 4.94% higher than the Q1 2019 FAR pass rate.
  • Finally, the Q2 FAR pass rate was the fourth-highest pass rate for FAR in Q2 since 2006.

Q2 2019 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Breaking news: Another pass rate record broken! The REG Q2 2019 pass rate was the highest REG pass rate in almost a decade and a half.
  • The Q2 2019 REG pass rate was 2.91% higher than the Q2 2018 REG pass rate. It is also a shocking 10.34% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate. So, REG’s pass rate increased by over 10% in just 2 years!
  • The Q2 2019 REG pass rate was also 8.43% higher than the Q1 2019 REG pass rate. Once again, that increase is undeniably major.
  • The pass rate that the Q2 2019 REG percentage supplanted as the highest was the 56.55% of Q3 2018.

Q1 2019 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The AUD Q1 2019 pass rate was 5.09% higher than the Q1 2017 pass rate but .71% lower than the Q1 2018 pass rate.
  • The Q1 2019 AUD pass rate was the only Q1 2019 CPA Exam pass rate to be lower than its corresponding 2018 pass rate.
  • However, AUD’s Q1 pass rate for 2019 was the second-highest AUD Q1 pass rate since 2006. Only the Q1 2018 pass rate was higher.
  • The Q1 2019 AUD pass rate supplanted the Q4 2018  AUD pass rate as the 17th highest overall AUD pass rate in the last 13 years.
  • The next highest AUD pass rate was the 48.54% from Q4 2018, which was .02% lower.

Q1 2019 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The 2019 Q1 BEC pass rate was higher than both the Q1 2018 and Q1 2017 BEC pass rates. It surpassed the 2018 Q1 pass rate by 1.57% and the Q1 2017 pass rate by a whopping 7.61%.
  • This was the highest BEC Q1 pass rate in the last 13 years.
  • The Q1 2019 BEC pass rate was the 7th highest BEC pass rate overall.
  • The next highest BEC pass rate was a 57.9% from Q3 2014.

Q1 2019 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The 2019 Q1 FAR pass rate was also higher than the pass rates for the same quarter in 2018 and 2017. This FAR pass rate rose above the corresponding 2018 pass rate by 2.64% and the 2017 pass rate by 1.09%.
  • This pass rate was the 6th highest FAR Q1 pass rate in the last 13 years.
  • The Q1 2019 FAR pass rate was only 38th highest overall FAR pass rate in almost a decade and a half.
  • The next highest FAR pass rate was a 44.27% from Q2 2011.

Q1 2019 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The REG Q1 2019 pass rate was last but not least because it was one of the 3 CPA Exam pass rates for this quarter that was higher than the same quarter pass rates of 2017 and 2018. REG’s 2019 Q1 pass rate was .24% higher than its 2018 Q1 pass rate and 4.13% higher than the 2017 Q1 pass rate.
  • Furthermore, this was the highest Q1 REG pass rate since 2006.
  • The REG Q1 2019 pass rate was also the 14th highest REG pass rate overall in almost 15 years.
  • The next highest REG pass rate was the 50.22% from Q4 2018.

2018 CPA Exam Pass Rate Facts

When we compare the 2018 CPA Exam pass rates to those of 2017, we see that almost all the 2018 pass rates were higher than the 2017 pass rates. When we compare the 2018 CPA Exam pass rates to those of the past as well, we learn the following:

Q4 2018 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • AUD ended the year on a low note. In fact, the Q4 2018 AUD pass rate was the lowest pass rate AUD put up this year.
  • The Q4 2018 AUD pass rate was only the 17th highest AUD pass rate for any quarter in the last 12 years. However, it was the highest Q4 pass rate during that time period.
  • AUD’s Q4 2018 pass rate was 2.53% lower than the AUD Q3 2018 pass rate. But it was .85% higher than the Q4 2017 pass rate for AUD.
  • The next highest AUD pass rate was a 48.7% from Q2 2016.

Q4 2018 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q4 2018 pass rate was the third-lowest for the year for BEC. It was the lowest of BEC’s 2018 pass rates that broke 60%, but still 3.7% higher than the Q1 pass rate for the year.
  • The Q4 2018 pass rate was the third-highest BEC pass rate in the last 12 years. It was also the highest Q4 pass rate for BEC in that time period.
  • BEC’s 2018 Q4 pass rate was just .04% lower than the Q3 pass rate and still 4.8% higher than the Q4 2017 pass rate.
  • The next highest BEC pass rate in more than a decade was the Q3 2018 pass rate.

Q4 2018 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • FAR closed out 2018 with a series of average to very far below average pass rates. And the Q4 pass rate was the second-lowest of the 4.
  • The Q4 2018 pass rate was FAR’s 37th highest pass rate in the last 12 years.
  • The Q4 2018 FAR pass rate was 4.28% lower than the Q3 2018 pass rate. However, surprisingly enough, the Q4 2018 FAR pass rate was 2.07% higher than the Q4 2017 pass rate.
  • The next highest FAR Q4 pass rate was a 44.74% from Q1 2016.

Q4 2018 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • REG also did not end the year with its lowest pass rate. Instead, like BEC, REG’s Q4 2018 pass rate was the third-lowest of the year.
  • The Q4 2018 pass rate was REG’s 14th highest pass rate in the last 12 years. However, it was the highest Q4 REG pass rate in that time period.
  • The Q4 2018 REG pass rate was 6.33% lower than the Q3 2018 REG pass rate. But it was still 4.33% higher than the Q4 2017 pass rate.
  • The next highest REG pass rate was a 50.29% from Q3 2007.

Q3 2018 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • No broken pass rate records here. The Q3 2018 AUD pass rate is only the 8th highest AUD pass rate for any quarter in the last 12 years. However, it is the 4th highest Q3 pass rate for AUD during this time.
  • The Q3 2018 AUD pass rate is 3.63% lower than the Q2 2018 pass rate and 1.08% lower than the Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • This is the 11th time a quarterly AUD pass rate has risen above 50%.
  • The Q3 2018 AUD pass rate is .19% lower than the next highest AUD pass rate, which was a 51.26% from Q3 2007.

Q3 2018 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The Q3 2018 BEC pass rate is the 2nd highest BEC pass rate for any quarter in the last 12 years. It is the highest Q3 pass rate BEC has ever had.
  • This pass rate is .14% lower than the Q2 2018 pass rate and 4.82% higher than the Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • This is the second time the BEC pass rate has extended above 60%.
  • The Q3 2018 BEC pass rate is .95% higher than the next highest quarterly BEC pass rate, which was a 59.22% from Q3 2015.

Q3 2018 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • The 2018 FAR pass rates still have yet to set any records. The Q3 2018 FAR pass rate was only the 16th highest FAR pass rate in the last 12 years, and the 4th lowest Q3 FAR pass rate in that time.
  • The Q3 2018 FAR pass rate was .32% lower than the Q2 2018 pass rate and 1.27% higher than the Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • The FAR pass rate has only been in the 48% range 4 times in the last 12 years.
  • The Q3 2018 FAR pass rate was just .05% lower than the next highest FAR pass rate, which was a 48.9% from Q2 2015.

Q3 2018 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • ALERT: Another pass rate record broken! REG broke its own highest pass rate record again, and it happened just one quarter later. The Q3 2018 REG pass rate was the highest REG pass rate in the last 12 years. Of course, it was also the highest Q3 REG pass rate at this time.
  • The Q3 2018 REG pass rate was .8% higher than the Q2 2018 pass rate (the previous record-holder) and an astounding 7.24% higher than the Q3 2017 pass rate.
  • This was the 14th time the REG pass rate has exceeded 50%.
  • The Q3 2018 REG pass rate was 2.52% higher than the next highest Q3 REG pass rate, which was a 54.03% from 2010.

Q2 2018 AUD CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • ALERT: Pass rate record broken! Yes, the Q2 AUD pass rate was the highest AUD pass for ANY quarter in the last 12 years.
  • This pass rate was 5.43% higher than the Q1 2018 pass rate and 2.7% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.
  • This was the 10th time the AUD pass rate for any quarter had breached 50%.
  • The second highest AUD pass rate was the 53.09% seen all the way back in Q2 of 2008. Exactly 10 years ago! The most recent AUD pass rate was 1.61% higher than the highest AUD pass rate of yesteryear.

Q2 2018 BEC CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • Another pass rate record broken! The Q2 BEC pass rate was also the highest BEC pass rate for ANY quarter in the last 12 years.
  • This pass rate was 3.88% higher than the Q1 2018 pass rate and a whopping 5.22% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.
  • The BEC pass rates have been in the clouds for some time now. In the last 12 years, BEC boasted of a pass rate above 50% 28 times. In fact, the BEC pass rate had been above 50% every quarter for the last 6 years.
  • Though this BEC pass rate broke the record, it did so by a small margin. The next highest BEC pass rate was 59.22% from Q3 2015. That was only 1.09% lower than this new all-time high.

 Q2 2018 FAR CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • While FAR didn’t break any records this quarter, it still made a good showing. This percentage was the 13th highest FAR pass rate since 2006.
  • This pass rate was also the fourth highest Q2 pass rate FAR ever had. It was a massive 7.58% higher than the Q1 2018 pass rate and 5.41% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.
  • Throughout the last 12 years, the FAR pass rates have struggled to get into the 50% range. Only 11 times have more than half the FAR candidates from a given testing window passed.
  • The Q2 2018 FAR pass rate was just .22% lower than the next highest FAR pass rate, which was a 49.39% that appeared in Q2 2013. The first FAR pass rate to push past 50% was 50.35% debuting in Q3 2015, and this FAR pass rate was 1.18% lower than that.

Q2 2018 REG CPA Exam Pass Rate

  • A THIRD pass rate record broken! That’s right; in just 1 quarter, we were 3 for 4 with new pass rate records. This was the highest REG pass rate ever (in the last 12 years).
  • The Q2 2018 pass rate was a sizable 5.76% higher than the Q1 2018 pass rate and a huge 7.43% higher than the Q2 2017 pass rate.
  • The REG pass rate rose above 50% a total of 13 times since 2006. Therefore, it came in second to BEC’s above-50% streak, but REG only accomplished this feat half as often.
  • The Q2 2018 REG pass rate was 1.72% higher than the next highest REG pass rate, which was a 54.03% from Q3 2010.

Reasons for the Q1 2020 CPA Exam Pass Rates

Unlike Q1 2021, Q1 2020 was probably affected very little by the pandemic. After all, the Q1 2020 testing window ended before the pandemic really became widespread across the globe.

Plus, in general, test-takers in Q1 2020 didn’t perform as well as the remainder of 2020. But really, this is normal. It seems that the first quarter often takes candidates off guard a bit, as Q1 test-takers rarely outperform the year’s cumulative average.

Your Hope for a High Personal CPA Exam Pass Rate

The AICPA is continuing to credit candidate preparation levels to pass rate variations. What’s the best way to prepare for the exam? Use a CPA review course. With a realistic study schedule and the right CPA review course for you, you can understand all of the exam content and be completely comfortable with the exam questions by test day.

To find the best course for you, check out my analysis of the top CPA Exam review courses on the market. Right now, our top-recommended course is Becker. Why? Well, to start, the Becker pass rates for the CPA Exam are high—about 94%. Plus, the list of Becker CPA Elijah Watts Sells Award past winners is long. In fact, there are more Becker CPA EWS winners than any other review provider.

Complete our self-evaluation and use these additional tools as well if you failed to pass the CPA Exam.

Help for Passing the CPA Exam

Whether the pass rates are high or low, thousands of candidates pass the CPA Exam every year, and you can be one of them. Passing the CPA Exam is absolutely doable, and I am more than happy to help you along the way.

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About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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