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 50% multiple-choice questions and 50% task-based simulations (50/50 allocation applicable for AUD, FAR, and REG; for BEC, the breakdown is: 50% MCQs, 35% TBS, and 15% Written Communications). It will be important to study for all types of CPA exam questions to be fully prepared.
In this post, I am going to 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 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. To understand, we need to break this down into the different parts of the exam.
Before we go into exact numbers, it’s important to note that each section of the exam has section blocks called testlets. For each section of the exam, the multiple-choice questions are given to the candidates in two separate testlets.
Here’s how many CPA MCQs you will find on each section of the exam:
Auditing & Attestation (AUD): 36 questions per testlet, for a total of 72.
Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR): 33 questions per testlet, for a total of 66.
Regulation (REG): 38 questions per testlet, for a total of 76.
Business Environment & Concepts (BEC): 31 questions per testlet, for a total of 62.
Across all four sections of the CPA exam, there’s a total of 276 multiple-choice questions.
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).
For the AUD, FAR, REG, and BEC sections of the exam, the AICPA attributes 50% of your total score to the MCQs.
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%, it’s so important to be prepared for the MCQs!
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 is being asked 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. You might find that it’s easier to prepare for one type of these questions over the others, depending on you and your learning style.
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 be tested 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 presentation)
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:
Individual tax income brackets
Net operating loss
Maximum deduction of Sec. 179 property
Corporate tax rate
Major tax credits
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 influence on the business environment
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 testlet, 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 the medium level of difficulty.
How Do You Answer the MCQs?
Since multiple-choice questions make up the majority of the exam’s questions, it’s important to do well on them. 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’re able to come up with the solution on your own, without looking at the answers provided on the CPA Exam. Read all of your answer options before making your final decision, but be sure to trust your gut instinct, too.
Narrow down your answers. If you’re feeling unsure about the answer of the CPA MCQ, consider using the process of elimination method. Figuring out which options aren’t the correct answer can help lead you to the correct answer.
Use the true/false method. If you’re having a difficult time coming up with the answer for 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 could be better spent on the rest of the questions.
The most important thing is to avoid leaving any question 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?
It’s important to study for the MCQs. And since they make up 50% of your total CPA Exam score, they shouldn’t be taken lately.
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. This can be one of the most effective study methods for visual learners.
Take notes as you review the material. Reviewing notes can also be a great 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, it’s important to make sure that it’s up-to-date. Using a book from 2015 likely won’t help you prepare for a 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. This 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 a number of 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. These banks are focused on providing you with sample CPA questions and answers. Many offer features that will help make studying easier, such as allowing you to access sample MCQs right 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, it’s important to 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 some test banks can be purchased individually, most often, they are included in the purchase of a full course.
Size: It’s important to consider the number of prep questions each course or test bank contains. Test banks contain 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 a number of 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 find that you won’t have 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 that just about every area possible will be 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.
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!