Understanding the CPA Exam 75 passing score.

After talking to many CPA Candidates, I’ve realized that most of them really don’t understand how the exams are scored.

OmG! That’s crazy.


A better grasp of the process will definitely change the way you tackle it.

Per the graphic below from the AICPA, when you start, you’re given a Medium Testlet.

If you do well on the Medium Testlet, you then get a Difficult Testlet. The points on the Difficult Testlet are worth more than the Medium Testlet.

But if you don’t do so well on the first Medium Testlet, you’ll get another Medium Testlet.

This explains why you might do well on the first Medium Testlet, then also on the subsequent Difficult Testlet, not so well on the Task Based Simulations but still pass the exam.

The next graphic from AICPA summarizes the scoring process.


But I’m going to break it down for you.

For the purposes of this example, let us assume the CPA Exam only contains fifty MCQ’s and no TBS – keeping it simple.

You need 75% to pass, just like in the real exam.

Twenty-five questions are worth 1.5pts each and the other twenty-five is each worth 2.5pts.

Total available points are 100.

If you get all twenty-five of the 1.5 questions right, you’ll have 37.5%. Now you only need to get at least fifteen of the 2.5pts questions correct (15 * 2.5 = 37.5%) to pass.

The idea is, the questions are weighted.

That’s why it’s important not to spend more time than necessary on one single question. It could be worth less than the subsequent questions, depending on the Testlet difficulty. Or even worse, be a pretest question that doesn’t get scored at all.

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