CPA Exam in Japan: Pass Rate Trend and How to Apply

Did you know that Japan has the largest number of CPA exam candidates after the US? Let’s take a look at the typical profile of a Japanese candidate, the overall pass rate, and how to apply for the exam.

The following analysis is based on the 2013 data from NASBA. NASBA has not released any specific pass rate data for Japan since then.

Japanese CPA Exam Candidate Profile

There were 1,985 candidates applied directly from Japan in 2013. While this was the biggest pool outside of the US, the number has been decreasing every year (3-year negative growth rate of 42%). I couldn’t find any write up on the decline, but I suspect the relatively low pass rate, as well as the stagnation of the Japanese economy, could be part of the reasons.

US CPA exam in Japan pass rate

As you can see, the Japan candidates’ pass rates in each exam section are considerably lower than the global average. I believe that language is the biggest reason, given most Japanese do not learn English until they reach secondary schools. There is also little interaction between Gaijin (ex-pats) and locals, and therefore Japanese do not have much chance or need to practice their English.

Secondly, most Japanese universities offer a general degree. Almost all candidates are non-accounting majors and have to make up their accounting credit hours in various coaching classes. Their accounting knowledge may not be as solid as those who go through an accounting program for 4-5 years.


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

For those who passed, they did comparatively well. The chart above shows that successful Japanese candidates take 12-18 months and 4-8 attempts to pass the CPA exam. If the process drags on for more than 24 months, the average number of attempts greatly increases to 14.3 times.

How to Become a CPA as a Japanese National

Japanese goes through the same procedure as the US candidates, with one extra step of getting the foreign credential evaluation. The basic requirements are:

  • Education: minimum 4-year bachelor degree and 150 credit hours of general higher education
  • Exam: taking and passing the 4-part Uniform CPA Exam
  • Experience: 1-2 years of verifiable and relevant experience

Taking the CPA Exam in Japan

Japan is the first country to open up exam sites for the AICPA exam. There are currently 4 sites: Tokyo (2 locations), Osaka and Yokohama.

The exam is open only to legal residents of Japan and US citizens working abroad. In other words, other international candidates (with a tourist/transit visa to Japan) will not be allowed to sit for the exam at these non-US sites.

Restrictions of Taking CPA Exam Outside of the US

Yes. There are preconditions that you must commit to when you choose to take the exam in Japan:

  • The candidate has to be licensed within 3 years. This means that you have to figure out how to fulfill the experience requirements before taking the exam.
  • Some state boards (such as California) do not participate in the international administration.

For Your Further Reading

Need Help to Figure This Out?

You are most welcome to drop me a note on Facebook! You may also want to sign up for my free e-course for more information on the CPA exam from an international candidate perspective.

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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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