What is the CPA Exam?

Written By Accounting-Degree.org Staff

Anyone who would like to become a Certified Public Accountant must first pass the national uniform CPA exam. This professional licensing examination is accepted by all state accountancy boards to show that you are competent and have the technical knowledge that you need to be a professional accountant. You can work in accounting with a degree in the field or experience, but getting certified will help you show employers that you are a qualified accountant that is dedicated to the profession. Read on, and learn more about test content and how you can sit for the exam to become licensed.

What Does the CPA Exam Cover?

The uniform exam, which is written by the American Institute of CPAs, has four different sections. Each of these sections will test your knowledge in a specific area of accounting. All of the questions are multiple-choice and task-based simulations that will reflect the subject matter being tested. Here is a breakdown of each section there will be questions on:


This section will cover the entire auditing process and everything that is covered in your auditing class during your final semester. You must know how to plan an audit, engagement, reviews, attestation, internal controls, and which documents to obtain. You must have a strong understanding of the US GAAP standards and the IFRS before sitting for this section of the exam.

Financial Accounting and Reporting 

This section of the CPA examination will test you on your knowledge of financial aspects of accounting. This section covers the largest volume of information and many test takers think that it is the most challenging aspect. You will be tested on your knowledge of financial statements, types of transactions, how to report for government entities and how to report for non-profit agencies. If you did not take specific courses on these areas of study, you should refresh your knowledge when you study.

Business Environment and Concepts

The business test covers economic concepts and business structure. It will also talk about information technology used in accounting, financial management, and business planning, according to the American Institute of CPA’s. In this part of the exam, you will need to complete a writing portion which is 15% of your grade.


Taxation and accounting are highly regulated. This portion of the test will discuss federal taxation and business law. If you know business tax, personal tax, corporate tax, and your professional responsibilities as a CPA, you should be comfortable with this section of the test.

How to Take the CPA Exam

Now that you know what is covered, it is time to learn when you can sit. You must have educational experience and professional experience to become a CPA. Before you can apply for a test date to take the first section of the test, you must meet the eligibility requirements. You can either possess a bachelor’s degree and have two years of professional experience, or possess a Bachelor’s and 150 credit hours of education with one year of experience hands-on to qualify. Once you do, you can fill out an application and provide proof of your background that is verifiable.

CPA licensure can help you gain footing in the industry. It can also help you advance and earn a larger salary. Make sure that you map out the path you plan on taking, and then prepare for the CPA exam.