January 17, 2018

Turn your accounting degree into life as a CPA

Turn your accounting degree into life as a CPA

Anyone that has passed the Uniform CPA Exam knows what a great feat they accomplished. The CPA Exam is considered by many to be the toughest and most rigorous professional exam in the world. The pass rate is just one indicator of this and despite having studied accounting for the better part of 4 years and having completed the required courses for graduation, the average pass rate for first time test takers is only about 50%. How can this be?

There are 55 U.S. jurisdictions that license CPAs. Each jurisdiction has their own requirements to become licensed, though most jurisdictions have adopted similar requirements. In order to sit for the CPA Exam, which is required to become licensed, one must complete 150 hours of college education. This generally amounts to a master’s degree. Some jurisdictions only require 120 hours of education, or a bachelor’s degree, but the trend is moving toward requiring a master’s degree. Some jurisdictions require educational hours in specific course topics, to ensure the student has received a versatile education in accounting topics.

The rationale behind all of these requirements is that any given student, after completing them, will be ready to become a CPA by sitting for, and successfully passing, the Uniform CPA Exam. Is this truly the case, or do students need additional training to help bridge the time between their college education and the successful completion of the exam? Given the less-than-stellar typical pass rates, the latter seems more accurate.

Is it that students are waiting too long after graduating before they actually sit for the exam?

Have they allowed their knowledge base to decrease over time before taking the exam? Can they recall their accounting knowledge today as easily as the day they graduated? Did they graduate, accept a non-CPA accounting job and then sit for the exam after a year of employment or more? Any of these scenarios could be a factor in the low pass rates, since most exam results turn out better if the exam is taken just after one has completed their education and training.

The American Institute of CPAs, which creates and grades the Uniform CPA Exam, recommends students study an average of an additional 300 – 400 hours prior to sitting for the exam. This indicates that regardless of the education a student has, there is still a lot more practical information to learn in order to pass the CPA Exam.

Perhaps the 50% of test takers that are failing the exam have studied on their own, thinking their knowledge base is simply good enough to allow them to pass the exam. Maybe the 50% of test takers that are failing have used a CPA review program but did not take it seriously. Or, perhaps they graduated and immediately sat for the exam without any further preparation even though the AICPA suggests it.

There are a number of “what ifs” but the fact of the matter is that 50% of test takers are failing.

This is why it is critical that students consider using a reputable CPA exam review provider – one that has a documented track record of successfully helping students pass. Because any of the 4 sections of the exam has a pass rate of about 47 to 50%, it makes perfect sense to choose a review provider who offers courses and course types that cater to the learning needs of each student. If pass rates on any section of the exam were higher, utilizing a review provider might not be necessary, but this is simply not the case.

The CPA Exam is expensive. There are fees to apply to take the exam, fees for each section of the exam, and fees that apply if you didn’t pass a section and need to retake it. Not to mention additional licensure fees. Because of the cost associated, it is in your best interest to pass each section the first time around. Before you consider applying to take the CPA exam, contact a CPA Exam Review provider to help consider your strengths and weaknesses. This will ultimately determine whether or not you pass the exam on your first attempt, or you end up in the 50% that fail the exam and are forced to take it again.

Grant Webb is an avid writer and reporter of accounting industry news. He enjoys writing about accounting fraud, education, certifications that will help increase compensation, and career development.


  1. I’m definitely an example of waiting too long too take the exam. My mind definitely wasn’t prepared. I had forgotten almost everything I learned. Didn’t get a very good score.

    • Grant Webb says:

      Hey there Leroy,

      Thanks for contributing. I understand how you feel. The exam is extremely tough. I think the article says it all. Test takers are waiting too long to either sit for the exam or prepare for it. Between those and life, the exam gets the better of about 50% of test takers so don’t feel bad.

      This just might be the perfect time to look into a CPA Review. If you’re interested, Bisk Education’s CPA review program comes with a pass guarantee and a money-back guarantee so you basically have nothing to lose. Visit us at cpaexam.com and request a free demo of our program. You will be suprised, we have helped over 150,000 test takers pass all 4 sections of the exam. Hope this helps. we also have a number of resource articles that may help. If you visit our site, simply click on resources at the bottom right of the site.



  2. Thanks, this was a very informative post. But can you explain your last point where you say “There are a number of “what ifs” but the fact of the matter is that 50% of test takers are failing.”

    • Grant Webb says:

      Thanks for the comment bookkeeping,

      To answer your question, the “what ifs” are factors that can also influence a test takers ability to pass the exam. For example, what if a exam candidate doesn’t have an internet connection which would obviously prevent them from going online in search for helpful resources? What if the candidate works two side jobs and only has so much time to devote to preparing to any section of the exam? What if the candidate took the easiest exam first, passed, then determined he/she did not have to study as hard for the next section thinking it will be equally easy/difficult.

      Like I mentioned, there’s a number of “What ifs” but with all those “what ifs” considered, 50% of test takers are still failing which indicates they’re simply not prepared for the exam. Whether they were under prepared, studied on their own, have children to care for, work 3 jobs, etc., the bottom line is that way too many candidates are failing and the “what ifs” are compounding factors in addition to the sheer difficulty of the exam.

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