If you’re taking the CPA exam, you will want to know what CPA exam questions to expect. To study and prepare appropriately for the exam, you need to know what’s on it. The CPA exam is a 4-part exam that includes multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs). (The CPA Exam used to include Written Communications, too, but they were eliminated at the beginning of 2024.) You’ll want to study for both types of CPA exam questions to be fully prepared.
In this post, I will review one type – the multiple-choice questions. Let’s look at what you can expect.
How Many Multiple-Choice Questions Are on the CPA Exam?
You’ve probably heard that multiple-choice questions, or CPA MCQs, play an essential role in the CPA Exam. You may be wondering: Is the CPA Exam all multiple choice? What kinds of CPA exam questions will be on the exam?
The answer is no. While the exam isn’t entirely multiple-choice questions, they do comprise almost 50% of the CPA Exam. In fact, you’ll find MCQs on every single section of the CPA Exam.
How Many MCQs are On the CPA Exam?
The number of multiple-choice questions on each part of the exam will vary. Here is the breakdown of MCQs and TBSs in the new 2024 CPA Exam. (And remember – you must pass all of the Core sections, but you only need to take and pass one Discipline section.)
AUD – Core Section – 4 hours – 78 MCQs and 7 TBSs
FAR – Core Section – 4 hours – 50 MCQs and 7 TBSs
REG – Core Section – 4 hours – 72 MCQs and 8 TBSs
BAR – Discipline Section – 4 hours – 50 MCQs and 7 TBSs
So as you can see, the number of MCQs you must tackle across the entire CPA Exam depends on which CPA Discipline section you choose.
How Much Do MCQs Count Towards Your Score?
Multiple-choice questions play a significant role in your score. It’s going to be very important to study for them. Many people find they have an advantage with multiple-choice CPA exam questions since the AICPA provides the answer. You just need to choose the correct (or best) one. In contrast, on the task-based simulations, in most cases, you’ll need to supply the answer (fill-in-the-blank style).
Weighting of CPA Exam for 2024: MCQs vs TBSs
AUD – Core Section – 50% MCQs and 50% TBSs
FAR – Core Section – 50% MCQs and 50% TBSs
REG – Core Section – 50% MCQs and 50% TBSs
BAR – Discipline Section – 50% MCQs and 50% TBSs
ISC – Discipline Section – 60% MCQs and 40% TBSs
TCP – Discipline Section – 50% MCQs and 50% TBSs
Because the AICPA allocates so much weight to the MCQs, failing a significant amount of MCQs can mean failing the exam itself. Knowing that recent reports show the pass rate for the CPA Exam is just over 50%, working through thousands of practice MCQs is essential.
What Type of MCQs Are on the CPA Exam?
The AICPA, which creates the CPA Exam, presents candidates with a few different styles of multiple-choice questions. Here are some of the different types of MCQs you can expect to find on the exam:
Recall: These types of questions require you to use your knowledge and memory to recall the answer.
Interpretation: These types of MCQs require you to interpret what the AICPA is looking for in order to determine which response is the most suitable answer.
Problem-solving: These questions require you to choose the best answer that solves the problem that’s provided to you.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of these types of MCQs. Depending on you and your learning style, you might find that it’s easier to prepare for one type of these questions over the others.
What Material Do the Multiple-Choice Questions Cover?
The material that’s covered by the MCQs will vary according to each section of the exam. Here’s what you can expect to find on each section of the exam:
AUD: This section of the exam focuses on auditing. Some of the topics you’ll the AICPA tests on include:
Audits of issuer and non-issuer entities
Attestation engagements (such as examinations, reviews, and agreed-upon procedure agreements).
Audit engagements and non-audit engagements
FAR: This section of the CPA Exam is known to focus the most on accounting. This exam section is also said to be the most difficult. Some of the accounting CPA Exam questions will include topics like:
Accounting for businesses, non-profits, and government entities
Financial accounting and reporting methods
Compiling financial statements (e.g., journal entries and presentations)
Calculations (e.g., bonds and leases)
REG: This section of the exam is all about tax and business law, with a focus on federal taxation. Some of the topics you can expect to see include:
BEC: This part of the CPA Exam focuses on business concepts and transactions. In this section, you’ll find mostly business CPA exam questions. You’ll find MCQs related to these and other topics:
Internal control frameworks
Enterprise risk management
Marketing influences on the business environment
CPA Disciplines: The Discipline sections each test different material, and you can pick which section to take. Here’s what the MCQs will test in the Discipline exams:
BAR – Business Analysis and Reporting
Technical accounting and reporting
State and local governments
ISC – Information Systems and Controls
Information systems and data management
Security, confidentiality, and privacy
Considerations for system and organization controls (SOC) engagements
TCP – Tax Compliance and Planning
Tax compliance and planning for individuals and personal financial planning
Entity tax compliance
Entity tax planning
Property transactions (disposition of assets)
Remember that these are just some of the many topics that will be covered by the CPA questions.
How Difficult Are the CPA Exam MCQs?
The difficulty of the exam’s MCQs also changes based on whether you correctly or incorrectly answer the exam questions.
Every section of the CPA Exam starts out with a testlet containing multiple-choice questions that are medium in terms of difficulty. If you do well on that test, your second testlet will contain more challenging questions. However, if your performance isn’t great on the first testlet, then your questions will stay at a medium level of difficulty.
How Do You Answer the MCQs?
Since multiple-choice questions make up most of the exam’s questions, doing well on them is critical. How do you increase your chances of getting MCQs correct, though?
Here are some strategic ways to answer MCQs:
Answer the question without looking at the answer first. See if you can come up with the solution on your own without looking at the answers provided on the CPA Exam.
Read all your answer options before making your final decision, but trust your gut instinct, too.
Narrow down your answers. If you’re unsure about the answer to the CPA MCQ, consider using the elimination method. Figuring out which options aren’t the correct answer can help lead you to the right answer.
Use the true/false method. If you’re having a difficult time coming up with the answer to a question, translate it into a true or false statement and apply it to each of the possible answers. This works exceptionally well if you have already narrowed your answers down.
Don’t spend too long thinking about your answers. When you spend too much time thinking about your answer, you’re more likely to get it wrong. You’ll also be wasting valuable time that you could utilize on the rest of the questions.
It is essential to avoid leaving any questions blank. Remember that when you make an educated guess, you have a chance of getting the question right.
How Do You Study for the MCQs?
Since MCQs make up 50% of your total CPA Exam score, work through as many practice MCQs as possible.
Here are some tips on how to study for the CPA MCQs:
Prepare your own flashcards. Use the flashcards to review what you have learned. Flashcards can be one of the most effective study methods for visual learners.
Take notes as you review the material. Reviewing notes can also be an excellent tool for visual learners.
Draw the material or make posters. Seeing the information can help visual learners memorize the material.
Read the material out loud to yourself. This can be a good way to remember it if you’re an auditory learner.
Consider planning a study group with other people who are taking their CPA Exams. Having study buddies can be a great way to have fun while studying.
If time allows, complete all of the MCQs available in your review course. Practicing questions is critical, so do as many as you can!
How Do You Prepare for the MCQs?
How can you learn what type of material you can expect to see on the test? While the AICPA has a syllabus called the Blueprint, it’s necessary to rely on experts who have synthesized the AICPA Blueprint. The Blueprint, while informative, provides no examples, learning materials, or practice questions.
Here are some of the best ways to prepare for CPA MCQs:
Preparation books: When choosing a preparation book, make sure that it’s up-to-date. Using a book from 2015 likely won’t help you prepare for the CPA Exam you’re taking this year. However, if you’re not a high-performing student who has just graduated, books alone may not help you to pass. Most candidates need a complete review course.
CPA review course: The right review course will contain thousands of sample CPA MCQs. Review course test banks will help introduce you to some of the types of questions you can expect to see on the exam.
Video lectures: Listening to an instructor discuss the information you’re studying can be much more effective than reading a textbook. Many review courses provide 100 hours or so of video lectures for you to watch.
Audio lectures: Although audio lectures can be just as effective as video lectures, they offer one important advantage: you can take them everywhere. You can listen to audio lectures when you’re at the gym, commuting, or getting ready for bed.
Mobile phone apps: There are many CPA Exam apps that you can download on your smartphone. Flipping through mobile flashcards can help you memorize some of the information that you’ll need to recall for the exam.
CPA Exam test banks:Test banks act as software platforms and professional exam simulators. The review course providers create banks that provide you with sample CPA questions and answers. Many offer features that will help make studying more accessible, such as allowing you to access sample MCQs from your smartphone!
Choosing the CPA Review Course with the Best Test Bank
There are so many CPA review courses and test banks on the market to choose from. How will you know which one is right for you?
First, keep in mind that there’s no “best” option. You’ll want to find the review course and test bank that’s most suited to your learning style and budget.
Here are some things to take into consideration when deciding:
Cost: You’ll want to find a CPA review course or test bank that you can afford. Some courses offer financing options and money-back guarantees. However, test bank-only options do not provide candidates with financing as a purchase choice. So, if you need to utilize financing, you’ll need to focus on purchasing a full review course.
Expiration: Many courses offer unlimited access, meaning your study materials will never expire. However, all standalone test banks do expire. (A standalone test bank is one you purchase to supplement the questions in your main CPA course. Or, if you’re brave, you can try to study using only a test bank.)
Audio Review: If you’re an audio learner, you’ll probably want to consider a course that offers audio review features or lectures.
Bundled Packages: While you can purchase some test banks individually, most often, CPA review courses include them in the purchase of a full course.
Size: Consider the number of prep questions each course or test bank contains. Test banks include 6,000+, 9,000+, or even 12,000+ MCQ questions! However, most CPA course providers reduce the number of questions in their test banks if you purchase it separately. Therefore, you’ll receive the most questions if you purchase a full course, not a standalone test bank.
Why It’s Ideal to Select a Course with a Large Test Bank
There are several advantages to choosing a course with a big test bank. Some of the benefits of big test banks include the following:
You won’t run out of practice CPA questions. With a smaller test bank, you might not find enough prep questions to benefit you.
You’ll find that the questions cover a wider array of topics. When you choose a big CPA test bank, you’ll find CPA courses have every possible topic covered.
With more questions to choose from, you’ll likely find some of the most challenging sample questions.
Test banks generally allow you to create custom quizzes to help prep yourself. With more questions to choose from, you’ll be able to design a quiz that will help you best prepare for the exam.
Conclusion – CPA Exam Questions
Your CPA Exam score greatly depends on your MCQ performance, and when you know what to expect, you can study effectively and efficiently. Preparing for the exam with realistic practice questions is the best strategy for acing the CPA Exam. You can find even more CPA study tips on my website.
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!