What is the best order to take the CPA Exam sections?
This is a popular question, but you’ll see conflicting answers. What to do?
Let’s settle this once and for all by lining up the opinions of 11 CPA exam prep authorities in one place. Then you can see if there is any consensus for the best order, or if there is any logic that is especially compelling.
Without further ado, the answers from the experts, sorted roughly from more-specific to less-specific…
|beatthecpa.com||FAR||AUD||REG||BEC||FAR provides foundation for the other three exams. BEC is a catch-all for the first three exams taken.|
|cpaexamclub.com||FAR||AUD||REG||BEC||Content flows better in this order. BEC might have high pass rates with people taking it after other sections have laid the foundation.|
|surgentkolarcpareview.com||FAR||AUD||REG||BEC||FAR = one big cumulative final exam on everything you learned in college in financial accounting.|
|thegleimblog.com||FAR||AUG||REG||BEC||If confident in one area, take that first, so the first pass will keep you motivated. Otherwise, take in the order as shown.|
|FAR||AUD or REG||BEC||FAR has elements that will help with AUD and REG|
|ipassthecpaexam.com||FAR||AUD||REG or BEC||Toughest earlier, while your energy and focus is highest.|
|cpareview.niu.edu||AUD for FAR
(REG if difficult)
|BEC||Most difficult section first. Once you pass 1st section, 18-month rule kicks in.|
(via YouTube video)
|FAR or something you enjoy||Often suggest longest one, i.e. FAR, to make best use of 18 month window. Also start with something you enjoy, and schedule 2 parts for each window.|
|FAR first because 1.) many test takers are recent college grads 2.) tests your determination to become a CPA.|
|crushthecpaexam.com||start with area where you feel confident due to college or work||All of the sections will be challenging, but no section will be immensely harder or easier than the others.|
|thecpaguide.com||start where you are familiar. otherwise treat sections equally.||BEC’s “random mishmash of information” makes it harder if you take it too early.|
Making Sense Of It All…
If you want to go with the flow, it looks like there is a strong consensus towards FAR, AUD, REG, BEC… or “FARB”
The logic of building your knowledge foundation in the optimal order makes a lot of sense. So does studying for one of the time-intensive sections before the clock starts ticking on your 18 month window. As for the conflicting advice of taking the hardest or easiest sections first, that might be a personal preference. Whichever you prefer, it sounds like more of a tie-breaker, if needed, than a primary sequencing strategy.
A quick note on the “hardest” and “easiest” sections of the CPA Exam. The AICPA lists the passing rates for each section. The rankings of hardest-to-easiest fluctuate a little over time. The only constant is that BEC has a noticeably higher pass rate. (Is this because many people take it last, after building a helpful knowledge foundation?) AUD had the lowest cumulative pass rates from 2012 to 2014, but FAR won the hardest section for the first half of 2015. In any event, the difference between AUD, FAR and REG is not very large, usually within 1% or 2%. Your personal experience and attitudes towards each section will likely be more relevant than the overall averages.
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Other CPA Exam Resources
Once you decide which order to take the sections, you need to figure out how to actually pass them.
Here are some resources to get you started:
- Study Partner Finder tool – search for study partners, either near you or online.
- Study Materials directory – the big list, organized by type, including user reviews.
- Question & Answer section – read answers to common questions, or ask your own.
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