US CPA vs Indian CA Exam: The 7 Differences

us cpa vs indian ca examNeha is our blogger from Jersey City, New Jersey. She writes for us every Friday.

Hello Readers!

If you are Chartered Accountant from India contemplating to pursue CPA and trying to figure out how different CPA exam is from CA exam, then READ ON!!

US CPA vs Indian CA Exam

Indians seeking to take the CPA exam will find some difference. Here are the main differences based on my own experience.

1. No Entrance Exam

Unlike CA, which requires an entrance exam commonly known as the ‘Common Proficiency Test,’ the CPA license does not require an entrance exam and can be pursued by anyone who meets the educational requirements of the relevant State Board of Accountancy.

2. Only 4 Exams!

Candidates only have to pass four sections for the CPA Exam. Starting in January 2024, candidates must pass four Core sections that include Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Taxation and Regulation (REG). Plus, they must pass one of three CPA Discipline sections, which include Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR), Information Systems and Controls (ISC), or Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP). And that’s it! (You may have to give Ethics exam which is an open book exam if your state requires so.) Whereas, CA has three stages of exams with 21 subjects in total. Stage I: CPT (6 exams), Stage II: Integrated Professional Competence Course (7 exams) and Stage III: Final Examination (8 exams). Phew!

3. MCQs and No Negative Marking

Another major difference between the two exams is that the IPCC and the Final stage of the CA exam have subjective questions with CPT having Multiple Choice Questions. It may be noted that CPT carries negative marking too.

On the other hand, all the 4 sections of the CPA exam are Multiple Choice Questions and Task Based Simulations with no negative marking.

Task-based simulations are case studies which require candidates to apply their knowledge and skills by creating their own responses to questions rather than simply picking the correct answer. Basic drafting skills are however required in BEC section of the CPA exam which requires the candidates to write memorandum/ letters to a client or your senior/junior, discussing the issue at hand.

4. Pass Marks of 75 — No Exceptions!

You will have to work your way to get a score of at least 75 in each section of the CPA exam. Yes, you read that right!! 75!

This is a very high pass score as compared to the CA exam which requires a minimum of 40% in each subject with an aggregate of 50% in each group of IPCC and the Final exam. Also, there is no concept of exemptions in the CPA exam.

5. 30 Months to Pass All Sections

Though there are only 4 sections to pass the CPA Exam, NASBA and AICPA have posed several other difficulties in the way of the candidates, one of them being that they have only 30 months to pass all the 4 sections.

The period of 30 months begins when you pass your first section(s). There is no such time restrictions or restriction on the number of attempts in case of the CA exam except that the candidate needs to get himself re-registered in the course after specified number of failed attempts.

6. Pretest Questions

Each of the 4 sections of the CPA exam contains pretest questions. Pretest questions are only for the purpose of collecting data and not counted towards your score.

These questions are mixed into the exam and are not identified as pretest questions. Pretest questions may be in the form of multiple-choice questions or task-based simulations. The CA exam does not have the concept of pretest questions.

7. Virtual Interface

CPA is a 100% computer based exam while CA is a paper based exam. Therefore, not only will the candidates have to get used to the virtual platform but also have to get accustomed to the virtual calculator since the tangible calculator is prohibited at the exam center.

Guys….. Don’t get too relaxed yet thinking that CPA is a MCQ exam and hence easy to pass; coz I’m going to discuss in my next post what makes the CPA exam so difficult to crack!?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Best Regards,

Neha R

Note from Stephanie

Neha, I have quite a lot of questions on this and your post can add the much needed personal touch to my “standard” answer. Glad that my observation is in line with yours!

About the Author Neha R

Neha lives with her family in New Jersey. She passed the CPA exam in 2014 and is currently pursuing LLM in Taxation from New York Law School.

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