US CPA in Canada: Exam Performance + Pass Rate Trend

This is the third post of my statistics series on pass rates and trends of CPA candidates from different countries and regions. Today I’ll cover aspiring US CPA in Canada based on the 2013 data from NASBA.

*** If you are interested in the Canadian CPA exam
(instead of the AICPA exam in the US), please click here***

US CPA in Canada: Candidate Profile

There has been fewer Canadians taking the US CPA exam with a 3-year negative growth rate of 46%, but the number of candidates still stand at 530.

I cannot find a good reason for this decline, but the launching of the local “CPA Canada” designation could be one of the reasons.

First-Timer Takers vs Retakers

Similar to global average, 60% of Canadian candidates were first time takers with 57% pass rate. Tthe rest were retakers with overall pass rate of 45%.

Pass Rate by Exam Section

US cpa pass rate for Canadians

In general, Canadians did pretty well in the US CPA exam. With the exception of AUD, Canadian candidates did better than their global peers, as shown in the chart below.

I am especially impressed by their REG performance given a large portion of exam content covers the US taxation, something they were not familiar with before the exam. We will discuss further on each part’s performance towards the end of this post.


Pass Rates by Age

US CPA in Canada: pass rate by age

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

For Canadians, there were more candidates taking the exam after 30 years old. The trend is quite different in the US in which there was a big group of candidates between 22 to 25 years old.

I am not too sure of the reason, but it is likely that these Canadian candidates work a few years of experience before deciding that the US CPA title is useful for their career.

The pass rates, however, tend to decrease as age increases. Those who took the exam right after graduation had the advantage of fresh accounting concept and a mind still in college exam mode. As they grow older, there are more commitments from work and family and therefore it gets harder for them to pass. Having said that, the difference in pass rates after 24 years old is very small.

How Long Does It Take to Pass?


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

As shown from the chart, it takes, on average, 12-18 for a Canadian candidate to pass the US CPA exam. The number of attempted sections stayed around 4-5 for those who manage to complete the process within 24 months. This means that they had none or only 1 retake.

For those who needed more than 24 months to pass, the number of attempts increased greatly to almost 10 times.

FAR Performance by Content Area

In terms of performance by exam section, we have data that can further split the performance by content area within each part. This is indicated by the percentage of candidates receiving a “comparable” or “stronger” in their score reports. This can be seen as something similar to pass rates.

FAR CPA exam performance

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%

The overall performance in FAR is pretty strong. On basic financial accounting (the first three areas), it outperforms the global average by 7-9 percentage points. Governmental and not-for-profit accounting are have rules specific to the US, but the Canadians still outperform by 2 percentage points.

The simulation parts may not seem too impressive, but it is also higher than the global average by 3 percentage points.

AUD Performance

AUD CPA exam performance

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%

The AUD results were in line with the global average except for Professional Responsibilities, in which Canadian candidates lacked behind the global average by 11 percentage points. This should be an easy area to work on.

REG Performance

REG CPA exam performance

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%

Regulation results were also pretty good, with all content area slightly better than the global average by 1-2 percentage points.

BEC Performance

REG CPA exam performance

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%

For BEC, results were also more or less the same as the global average but Canadian candidates did noticeably better in Strategic Planning and Operational Management.

For written communications, it lagged behind the global average by 7 percentage points. At 63%, it is still impressive but candidates may score even higher if they have better understanding of the grading system.

3 Takeaway

  • Keep up with the excellent work
  • Areas for improvement includes Professional Responsibilities in AUD, and Written Communications in BEC
  • Try to complete the exam as soon as possible (within 18 months) to keep the momentum

For Your 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

follow me on: