How is the passing score of 75 determined?

Face the facts: A score of 75 and above is required to pass the Uniform CPA Exam. 75 must not be characterized as a percentage (or the percentage of correctly answered questions) because it is not a percentage score. There are several components included to determine the exam score. These components include:

  • Weighted combination of scaled scores from MCQs, TBSs and written communication tasks
  • The level of difficulty of each question and testlet
  • Multi-stage testing and scoring

The key to success: 1. How much do you really want to pass and 2. Practice, Practice, Practice


Weighted Combination of Scaled Scores

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) 50% 50% 50% 50%
Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) 50% 35% 50% 50%
Written Communication Tasks (WCTs) n/a 15% n/a n/a


Level of Difficulty of Questions and Testlets

Each question is ranked and given a value (weigh) based on its level of difficulty. In other words, questions are not assigned equal value. The difficulty level of each question is determined through the statistical analysis of candidate responses. The statistics are generated when the questions are administered as pretest questions and used in scoring when the questions are operational. At the question level, difficulty is not quantified as a category (e.g., moderate or difficult), but as a numeric value along a scale. All else being equal, a candidate who correctly answers 10 difficult questions would score more than a candidate who correctly answers 10 easy questions.

Testlets are classified as either medium or difficult based on the average difficulty of the questions within that testlet.


Multi-stage Testing and Scoring

The CPA Exam is tested in five stages (teslets), and each testlet must be completed before you can move to the next testlet. Testlets 1 and 2 contain multiple choice questions of varying difficulty. The questions and the difficulty level of testlet 2 are dependent on your performance on teslet 1. For all candidates, testlet 1 will carry an overall medium level of difficulty. Based on a candidate’s performance on testlet 1, which is measured as weaker performance or stronger performance, the level of difficulty of testlet 2 will be medium or difficult, respectively. For all parts of the CPA Exam (AUD, BEC, FAR, REG), multiple choice questions (the 1st two testlets) account for 50% of your overall score, which is a scaled score based on predetermined factors.

Questions for testlets 3, 4 and 5 are predetermined and are not dependent on your performance on a prior testlet. For AUD, FAR and REG, task-based simulations (TBS) accounts for the other 50% of your overall score, which is a scaled score based on predetermined factors. For BEC, task-based simulations (TBS) accounts for 35% of your overall score, while written communication tasks accounts for the other 15% of your overall score.

Your performance on the MCQ section of the exam will not affect the TBS and written communication section of the exam.

Pretest Questions

Testing within each examination section is administered in blocks called testlets. Testlets contain operational and pretest questions. Operational questions are scored, while pretest questions are not scored. Pretest questions are indistinguishable from operational questions. Pretest questions that meet certain statistical criteria are used as operational questions on future examinations. This strategy for pretesting questions is common practice in high-stakes testing. Because pretest questions are not scored, the correct (or incorrect) answers will not impact your final score.

Please select the following link to access this detail information on the AICPA website. Click for more on CPA exam scoring.

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