US CPA in Saudi Arabia: Exam Performance + Pass Rate Trend

This post is one of the series of CPA exam statistics I gather from the NASBA report. We cover the second country in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia today.

Statistics of Aspiring CPA in Saudi Arabia

There were 306 candidates applied directly from Saudi Arabia in 2013. Among them, 60% were first time takers. The average age of Suadi Arabia candidates was 33, which is a few years older than the global average of 29.1.


The overall pass rate of aspiring CPA in Saudi Arabia is lower than the global average: 37% vs 49%. First-time takers had a slightly higher rate of 40% vs retakers at 34%.

CPA KSA pass rate

When compared by exam section, the biggest discrepancy was BEC with almost 20 percentage point (37% vs 56%), followed by AUD at 12 percentage point (34% vs 46%).

FAR and REG tend to have more computational questions, which normally is easier for candidates whose English is not their first language. BEC has written communication which could be a challenge for these candidates, and AUD’s questions are often more tricky.

Pass Rates by Age

us cpa in saudi arabia: pass rate by age

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

You will notice, from the distribution of the above chart, that there are more candidates in their early to mid thirties. The difference in pass rates across the ages is not statistically significant.

How Long Does It Take to Complete the Exam?

US CPA Exam in KSA

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

The chart above shows the number or months required to pass the 4th part (i.e. completing the CPa exam). Interestingly, there were quite a lot of candidates from Saudi Arabia who passed the exam within 6-12 months, averaging 4.7 attempts.

4.7 attempts means 4 success pass in each exam section, plus 0.7 number of retakes. This is pretty impressive.

Overall, success candidates in Saudi Arabia took 6.2 attempts to complete. This is slightly less than the global average of 6.6.

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 exam in Saudi Arabia

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%

When compared to the global average, Saudi Arabian candidates did better Framework and Standards and Governmental Accounting. They were relatively weaker in Financial Statement Accountants, Specific Transactions and Not-for-profit accounting.

But the part that hit the hardest is task-based simulations — KSA at 33% vs the global average at 50%. We see this trend among candidates in other non-US countries. Candidates may want to take a look at my tips on task-based simulations.

AUD Performance

AUD exam in Saudi Arabia

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 Saudi Arabia results were relatively weaker across the board, some with bigger magnitude than the others.

This is possibly due to the fact that 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.

REG Performance

REG exam in Saudi Arabia

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%

Saudi Arabian candidates actually did better in some categories. Notable exceptions were Ethics and Legal Responsibilities, and Taxation on Individuals.

Again, REG sims had the biggest discrepancies (30% vs the global average at 49%).

BEC 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%

Lastly, on BEC, Egyptian candidates scored relatively lower in Information System, and to a lesser extent, Corporate Governance. Did well in other content areas within BEC.

For Information System, it covers a very broad topic with many obscure technical terms. The idea is not to memorize all those but to try imagine yourself in the IS staff’s situation and how this person uses IT for audit and accounting purposes.

For written communications, the difference is 24% vs the global average of 70%. Candidates may want to take a look at my tips on how to write essays in the CPA exam.


  • Work really hard to improve essay writing skills
  • Find ways to improve the performance in task-based simulations
  • Spend more time in AUD

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

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