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Understanding CPA Exam Skill Levels

Understanding CPA Exam Skill Levels

Understanding CPA Exam Skill Levels

When you’re studying for the CPA Exam, it’s important to know what to expect. Exam tasks in each section are categorized by skill level as well as question type. Understanding what these CPA Exam skill levels are will help you focus your study time and better prepare for the exam.

CPA Exam sections

The CPA Exam is made up of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section tests a different area of knowledge. Candidates will encounter:

  • Task-Based Simulations (TBS)

    TBS will measure your ability to apply accounting, auditing, taxes, or regulatory knowledge in a realistic business setting. These tasks require you to perform research, analysis, and recommend a course of action in response to an open-ended scenario.

  • Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

    MCQs measure your understanding of accounting, auditing, taxes, or regulatory concepts. These questions require you to select the best answer from a list of options.

  • Written Communications (WC)

    WC tasks measure your ability to communicate in writing about business environments and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, or regulation. They require you to write an essay or memo in response to an open-ended question.

What are the CPA Exam blueprints?

The CPA Exam Blueprints Opens in new window are documents that outline the content of each section of the exam. The blueprints detail exactly what will be tested in each section, as well as the weighting of each task type and topic. The blueprints also provide an overview of the format and structure of the exam.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) updates the CPA Exam Blueprints every few years to ensure they reflect changes in business environments, technologies and regulations. The most recent update was in July 2021.

CPA Exam skill levels

Every task laid out by the CPA Exam Blueprints is associated with a specific skill level. These skill levels correlate to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Objectives, a framework often used in education to measure cognitive skills. The four CPA Exam skill levels are:

  1. Remembering and understanding (R&U)

    Tasks at the R&U level require you to remember or understand specific information. Depending on the section, these tasks make up 10-40% of the exam. Examples of R&U tasks include:

    • Defining terms
    • Describing a concept
    • Stating a principle
    • Recognizing a relationship between two concepts
  2. Application (A)

    Tasks at the AA level require you to use your understanding of concepts to solve problems in new situations. These tasks make up between 30-60% of the exam. Examples of A tasks include:

    • Applying a concept to a new situation
    • Calculating amounts based on given information
    • Identifying the appropriate procedure to use in a given situation
  3. Analysis (AN)

    Tasks at the ANA N level require you to identify patterns and relationships between concepts. These tasks make up between 15-35% of the exam. Examples of ANA N tasks include:

    • Interpreting data to identify trends
    • Comparing two or more sets of information
    • Organizing information to see relationships
  4. Evaluation (EV)

    Tasks at the EVE V level require you to make judgments about ideas or materials. These tasks make up between 0-15% of the AUD exam. Examples of EVE V tasks include:

    • Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of an argument
    • Comparing two or more alternatives
    • Selecting the best course of action

Understanding the skill levels associated with each task type will help you prepare for the CPA Exam by identifying which areas you need to focus on. For example, if you struggle with analysis questions, you will know to spend extra time practicing identifying relationships between concepts. Alternatively, if you find remembering and understanding tasks difficult, you should focus on memorization techniques.

How to study for each skill level

To ensure you are prepared for each skill level, you should focus on three main areas: understanding the material, practicing questions, and taking practice exams.

When it comes to understanding the material, candidates often make the mistake of memorizing without truly understanding the concepts. While memorization is important, it is not enough on its own. You need to be able to apply the concepts you are learning to new situations. A good way to test your understanding is to explain the concept to someone else or write a summary of what you have learned. If you can do these things easily, then you know that you have a strong understanding of the material.

In addition to understanding the material, it is also important that you practice questions. This will help you get comfortable with the format of the questions and allow you to practice applying the concepts you have learned. When practicing questions, it is helpful to start with easier questions and work your way up to more difficult ones. This will help build your confidence and ensure that you are adequately prepared for the exam.

Finally, taking practice exams is one of the best ways to prepare for the CPA Exam. Practice exams will give you a feel for what the actual exam will be like and allow you to identify any areas where you need additional study time. It is important to note that taking a practice exam should not be your only form of studying. You should still focus on understanding the material and practicing questions in addition to taking practice exams.

Gleim can help you prepare for the exam by providing access to detailed study guides and practice exams.

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