CPA India: Pass Rate + Performance of Indian AICPA Candidates

There has always been numerous requests on statistics related to CPA India: be it the pass rates, number of candidates, number of retakers, trends and so on. I’ve finally got hold of the 2013 data from NASBA, and will be able to get the latest 2015 version shortly.

Basic CPA India Statistics

Number and Profile of Candidates

There were 428 candidates applied directly from India. The average age was 28.8 and 65% were male candidates.

Judging from the emails and facebook comments I got in the past 5 years, there are actually a lot more Indian candidates if we are to count those who reside in the US (the international students, H1B and H4 visa holders, and green card holders). These candidates are grouped under the US pool.

First Timer vs Retakers

About 60% were first-time takers and the rest were retakers.

The pass rates for first timers were 42.1%, only slightly higher than the retakers at 40.2%.

Pass Rates

The overall pass rate was 41.5%, a few percentage point lower than the global rate at 49.4%.

India CPA exam pass rate

Indian candidates achieved the best results in BEC at 50.6%. This is in line with the trend on a global basis.

AUD had the lowest pass rate of 32.8%. As shown in the chart below, the difference between Indian and global performance was also the biggest.

global vs india cpa exam pass rate

This is possibly due to the fact that Indian candidates get confused withe US GAAP. Also, the AUD questions tend to be more wordy and complex, and therefore is harder to comprehend for international candidates.

The difference in REG is also quite distinct. The majority of REG coverage is on US taxation. It is understandable that Indian candidates find it more difficult to comprehend and memorize the complex rules of various US taxes.

Fortunately, for FAR, there were only 2 percentage point of difference between the Indians and global average. FAR has the widest coverage but most questions involve calculations with clear, distinct answers. This shows the relative strength of Indian candidates in computational questions.

Number of Candidates and Pass Rates by Age

NASBA provides other interesting stats, including the split by age.

CPA india pass rate by age

(x-axis: age in terms of number of years; y-axis: number of candidates)

A large group of candidates took the exam shortly after graduation (22-25 years old), then another group taking the exam in their early to mid thirties.

The pass rates crawl up nicely as candidate’s age increases. This is a complete opposite to the global trend in which the younger candidates did better.

It’s hard to analyze this difference without further data, but I can think of the following as possible reasons:

  • Older candidates may have spent their earlier years on MCOM or other qualifications e.g. CA or ACCA. This knowledge is helpful in the US CPA exam.
  • Indian candidates in their 30s may have more exposure in US GAAP if they work in multinational corporations.

How Long Does it Take to Complete the Exam?

On average, successful candidates from India take 12-18 months to complete the CPA exam.

The bar chart below shows the number of Indian candidates who passed the last part of their exam in 2013. For example, 26 candidates passed all within 6 months, 26 between 12-18 months, and 34 requiring more than 24 months to complete.

how long Indian CPA candidates pass the exam

(x-axis: number of months since first attempt;
left y-axis: number of candidates; right y-axis: number of attempted sections)

The line shows the average number of attempts required to pass the 4 parts. For example, for those who are done within 6 months, they need 4.1 times; while for those requiring more than 24 months, they tried 11.9 times.

Note that this only includes successful candidates, meaning those who passed all 4 parts in the end.

Indian candidates, on average, need 7 attempts to pass the CPA exam. This means 4 normal passes and 3 retakes.

Did Candidates Try to Finish the Exam Quickly, or Dragged On?

The chart below shows how long the candidates wait to take the second attempt (either new or retake). It indicates how frequent the candidates take one part after another.

indian CPA candidiate statistics

(x-axis: number of months after first attempt;
left y-axis: % as total of attempted sections; right y-axis: average pass rate)

67% of attempted sections were taken within 6 months of the beginning of the exam process, compared to <50% globally. This implies that Indians want to get the CPA exam done quickly.

Does moving on quickly or slowly affect the pass rate? Not in the case of Indian candidates, but for the global average, pass rate decreases as candidates drag on for longer.

FAR Performance by Content Area

The following charts show the percentage of “comparable” or “stronger” on the candidates’ score report. This has similar implications as pass rates.


Content Area  Stands for: Weighting
 Frm Std  Framework and standards  17-23%
 Fin Sta  Financial statement accounts  27-33%
 Spc Trn  Specific transactions / events  27-33%
 Govt  Governmental accounting  8-12%
 NFP  Not-for-profit accounting  8-12%

Indian candidates did the best in “Framework and standards”, which is the more theoretical part of FAR. The rest are within a narrow range of 46-52%.

The slightly slower performance in “Financial statement accounts” may due to the difference between Indian and US GAAP. Governmental accounting, traditionally an area dreaded by international candidates, has a surprisingly high 51.8%.

Simulations is another area that Indian candidates can work on. The percentage (43%) is noticeably lower than the global average at 50%.

AUD Performance by Content Area


Content Area  Stands for: Weighting
 Un Eng  Understanding the engagement 12-16%
 Un Ent  Understanding the entity 16-20%
 Pro Evi  Procedure and evidence 16-20%
 Evi Rpt  Evaluation and reporting 16-20%
 Acct Rev  Accounting and review services 12-16%
 Pro Res  Professional responsibilities 16-20%

In AUD, the performance of each content area varies considerably. Indian candidates may want to pay more attention to “understanding the entity”: the performance (39%) was lower than the global average by 19 percentage points. Other potential areas to work on include “Accounting and review services” and “procedure and evidence”.

REG Performance by Content Area


Content Area  Stands for:
Eth Leg  Ethics and legal responsibilities 15-19%
Bus Law  Business law 17-21%
Fed Tx  Federal tax process 11-15%
Tx Pro  Taxation on property transactions  12-16%
Tx Ind  Taxation on individuals 13-19%
Tx Ent  Taxation on entities 18-24%

Indian candidates did well in business law in terms of both absolute and comparable comparison with the global average.

Another good news is that the difference of Indian vs global in taxation was smaller than I expected (around 5-7 percentage point).

Need to work on the ethics section as Indian candidates were scoring at 53% vs the global average at 70%.

BEC Performance by Content Area


Content Area  Stands for: Weighting
Crp Gov  Corporate Governance 16-20%
Eco Con  Economics concepts and analysis 16-20%
Fin Mgt  Financial management  19-23%
Info Sys  Information systems  15-19%
Str Plan  Strategic planning 10-14%
Op Mgt  Operations management 12-16%

Indian candidates’ performance was comparable with that of global average, except for information system and written communications. Even so, the results were good overall with all areas above 50%.

What Does It Mean to CPA Indian Candidates?

5 takeaways:

  1. Older candidates do better, likely because they have extra knowledge from a related graduate degree or accounting qualification. No need to rush for this exam after BCOM.
  2. AUD and ethics section of REG: pay more attention.
  3. Indian vs US GAAP: be careful with the difference.
  4. Sims and written communications: more practice
  5. 7 attempts on average is needed to pass. Don’t give up!

More Resources for CPA Indian Candidates

Further Reading

Data Source

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Ree says:


    It’s great to see a detailed analysis of the performance of Indian Students on the CPA. I am an Indian CPA in the US and also hold an equivalent qualification from India (CA). So this gives me some insight into what worked for me Vs. what worked against me while preparing/writing the CPA exams. The exam format in India is very different from the CPA or any other exam in the US for that matter. Indian students are used to answering essay type questions where a wholesome understanding of a concept may be tested rather than pin-pointed solution to a question (multiple choice). We also work on a lot of case type questions during our student lives but that also leaves room for a broader understanding of the concepts rather than concentrating on the subtle difference between a black and white answer. I somehow feel this works against us while writing the CPA exam.

    The CPA syllabus might appear less daunting to the Indian students in comparison to students from the western part of the world because we are used to giant text books and sea of concepts to deal with during our school lives.

    Personally, undergoing a graduate program in the US helped me a lot on the above fronts and I was able to get through the exams with putting in a couple of months for each of the sections of the CPA.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ree, thanks a lot for your insight. I’ll put some of these good points above. I guess the CPA exam (and many other US accounting exams) are a mile wide and an inch deep, while the Indian version is probably 1/4 mile wide but much deeper. Stephanie

  • Giri says:

    The stats are encouraging.. I’m 37 and planning to do the CPA course 🙂

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