Q1 2011 CPA Exam Passing Rates Released – Worst in 3 years; REG down 15.8%

07 Apr 2011

CPA Exam Pass Rates

The CPA Exam pass rates for the First Quarter of 2011 have been released by the AICPA.

Auditing and Attestation:
2009 Q1: 47.61%
2010 Q1: 46.86%
2011 Q1: 43.88%

AUD passing rates are down 7.8% over 2009 and 6.4% over 2010.

Business Environment and Concepts:
2009 Q1 46.23%
2010 Q1: 46.59%
2011 Q1: 42.32%

BEC passing rates are down 8.5% over 2009 and 9.2% over 2010.

Financial Accounting and Reporting:
2009 Q1 45.54%
2010 Q1: 44.95%
2011 Q1: 42.43%

FAR passing rates are down 6.8% over 2009 and 5.6% over 2010.

2009 Q1: 47.96%
2010 Q1: 49.00%
2011 Q1: 41.28%

REG passing rates are down 13.9% over 2009 and 15.8% over 2010.


Wow. The lowest passing rates in 3 years. Q1 is historically the worst quarter of the year for CPA Exam passing rates (tax season), but this is a little surprising. I figured pass rates would stay pretty close to 2010, maybe a little lower. What's up with REG?? I've heard people say that REG was brutal in January/February. Now I believe them.

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LostHighwayCPA 13 years ago

Reg was the hardest exam i've taken thus far. Somehow, I managed to pass, but it was not easy in the slightest.

Enrique 13 years ago

I went from a 65 in Nov to a 65 in Feb. I can't even tell you how exponentially greater I knew the material going in the second time. This is rediculous - I hope who ever made this exam this difficult...I'll just stop there

Holly 13 years ago

I took REG in Q1, and felt like there were a lot of questions on material I hadn't reviewed.

J 13 years ago

I got a 74 in Feb while watching my BEC expired. Just one mark off from being a CPA. And now, I have to write both REG and BEC It is the worst experience that you never want to encounter.

John 13 years ago

I took REG and felt like I studied for the wrong exam when I saw the questions.

Zachary Springfield, CPA 13 years ago

The CPA exam is difficult, but that's why our credential has value in the marketplace. If anyone could get a CPA license (or any legitimate professional license) with minimal effort, the license no longer serves its purpose of regulating the profession. If you failed, I feel for you. Learn from your mistakes and do better next time.

Maggie 13 years ago

The CPA exam is graded qualitatively not quantitatively, meaning that they actually control how many people pass. So the fact that pass rates are down are indicative of tougher graders, not a more difficult exam.

Erica 13 years ago

Actually, I think this quarter they were doing a great deal more computerized grading with a much lesser degree of "human backup" than in the past. I think the days of not being able to finish your sims and still passing may be over.

DS 13 years ago

The TBS score is now 40% as opposed to 20%. Plus, I think there are less possible points to earn on the TBS as compared to the old simulations. Has anyone else noticed the number of ‘answers required’ is much less than before. Additionally, now individuals don't have the writing to help bring up the score. My question at the end of the day is the AICPA going minimize the certification of those who passed before the new exam. Bottom line the whole process is a black back with ZERO transparency. For a profession that provides itself on disclosure and openness it is a tad ironic. The idea the AICPA has to keep the process secret to protect the integrity is a farce. It’s part physiological to deter people from continuing and to keep the exam ambiguous. This is another gripe of mine; I shouldn’t have to guess what information the AICPA wants for an answer. I solved several questions from the TBS, yet the directions are so ambiguous I have no idea how my solution should be presented. A test can be hard and difficult without being ambiguous and shady. This whole process is why I will never be a member of the AICPA.

CPA_candidate 13 years ago

I watched my BEC go from 70 to 66 and my performance sheet was MUCH better this time. I DO NOT understand it (grading).

Eric 13 years ago

I took REG in January for the first time and passed with a 79. I studied with Yaeger and felt prepared for everything that was asked. I thought it was easier than FAR and AUD.

F_noncpa 13 years ago

I got 74 in audit and because of that my credit expired for all the other three sections..was too close to be a cpa but for one point I became too far!!

Mike 13 years ago

I failed Reg 4 months ago with a 72. I studied Becker hard and felt very good going in. The first testlet went well, and then it all went downhill, including the sims. I didnt think there a chance that I passed, and I ended up with a 77. I have no idea how they grade these, maybe they ask a magic 8 ball?

Disney 13 years ago

REG was the hardest part for me. I got 73, 74, 71 and 74 then passed with 80 when i took it in Jan 2011. When i left prometric, i thought i blew it again. Although I was pretty confident with MCQs, TBS was so difficult... I was so scared because if i don't pass again, i will loss credit on BEC just like my AUD and FAR because i kept failing REG. The grade system is weird..i don't know how they do it but one thing for sure, it's full of ---t. When my grade was 74 (Oct/Nov 2010 window), my score was much higher with someone i knew who got 75.

Shie 13 years ago

Oh, my! This is just making me so nervous... I'll be taking my REG exam tomorrow,,....=) Big sigh!!!!

passed 13 years ago

I passed FAR in Nov (85) and BEC in Feb (84). I did not feel that either exam was beyond anything that I encountered in my coursework or in my review course. A also took all my classes, 3 per semester, while working a full time job. I studied my tail off, and am still getting up at 4:30 in the morning to study before work. The test can be passed. I also do not think it is inappropriate for the AICPA to not disclose how the exam is designed or evaluated. If you think it is inherently unjust and unfair, you have a very simple option. Don't become a CPA.

CamCam 13 years ago

@ Passed, with a mindset like that, I really hope you get the other two on your first try.

zitchie 13 years ago

I have passed my final section in Dec. 2010 and I believed that is possible for somebody with 3 P's (patience, persistence and prayers) to pass all the 4 sections of the CPA exam.

David 13 years ago

Do you think it has anything to do with the new scoring? The score release was delayed to make sure they scored everything properly. I wonder if they over-corrected and scored too tough???

Big 4 CPA 13 years ago

To someone with a university degree in accounting and a decent review program, passing the exam is a function of putting in enough study time. There are plenty incompetent people who have passed by studying their asses off, and plenty of highly intelligent people who failed because they didn't study hard enough. That said, passing the exam is only the first step in your career in public accounting. Inside the public accounting industry, being a CPA doesn't really mean anything except that you meet the minimal requirements. You prove your value by your real-world performance and technical knowledge. Studying for the exam wasn't easy, but looking back, it was much less work than a Big 4 busy season. On that note, if you're not going into public accounting, you should really ask yourself how it benefits your career. Legally, you only need a CPA license to give an idependent opinion on financial statements or represent a third-party to the IRS. If you're not interested in doing either, being a CPA means little more than being able to put 3 letters behind your name.

Jeff - another71.com 13 years ago

Passing the CPA Exam is a tremendous asset to your career - regardless if you have no desire to work in public.

PASSING through 13 years ago

"To someone with a university degree in accounting and a decent review program, passing the exam is a function of putting in enough study time. There are plenty incompetent people who have passed by studying their asses off, and plenty of highly intelligent people who failed because they didn’t study hard enough." I disagree, Big 4 CPA. You can study all the "decent" prep materials you want but it takes an intelligent person to know how to apply the information. Highly intelligent, competent people who did not pass the exam sure know how to make excuses; shouldn't they have been competent enough to estimate the correct amount of study time necessary to pass, and work it into their "busy" schedule? Who are you defending, some "intelligent competent" person who couldn't pass the exam? Perhaps somebody that you know? Having a CPA means that you recognize that there is no excuse for failure, and that you have the perserverance to succeed despite obstacles set before you. YOU, should really ask YOURSELF what a jerk you are and why nobody likes to work with you; your condescending little post that serves no real purpose but to discredit the hard work and dedication of others. Listen to yourself! Your tone sounds like you're talking to a bunch of kindergarteners. Are you intelligent enough to recognize that?

Boston candidate 13 years ago

I've been reading the posts and I understand that those who came up just a little short (in terms of grades) are frustrated by the new changes and their effect on grading. But maybe they're not a bad thing. If you look at the trend of grades over the last few years, they appeared to be going up steadily. It seems like it was maybe diluting the certification. To keep up it's reputation, maybe it needs to be more exclusive. Maybe There needs to be more people can't get into "the club". I know it's tougher now and transparency has always been an issue, but they are trying to accomplish a very vague objective to begin with. I don't know what they could tell us that would be of much help.

Almost CPA (NOT BIG 4) 13 years ago

BIG 4 CPA = tool He/she is probably the bitter one who is "intelligent" and not passed the exam. Sure, some CPAs may be more intelligent/experienced than others. But no way would I every refer to a CPA as incompetent. A CPA may become more competent as they experience more, but passing the exam is nothing short of a great accomplishment and asset to your future marketability. Passingthrough's post sums it up.

The Voice of Reason 13 years ago

I think that what made Regulation so brutal was the Ethics questions. The word from the review courses was that they were going to be moved to the Audit section, but it felt that they were a prominent part of the REG exam, only the questions were so off the wall and odd that you (or I at least) pretty much had to guess on them). I passed REG, but it was my lowest passing score of the 4 (I passed my last 2 exams during this window). Don't worry, the passing rates will go back to 48-49% once the review courses and the candidates equilibrate to all of the new changes.

Jennifer 13 years ago

I took REG (73), FAR (77), AUD (69) and BEC (77) during Q3 2010 before I started working for a mid-sized public firm after finishing grad school. I re-took AUD (78) and REG (74) in Q4 2010. I recently re-took REG in February 2011 and got a 72. I am really frustrated, especially since my score report showed I was "stronger" than my peers on all MC questions (except tax processes) and "weaker" than my peers on the Sims. Without the written communication as padding and the very little practice Sims available, I purchased Yaeger/Wiley to supplement my firm-provided Becker. I scheduled REG for May 22 and am hoping to knock out the Sims and REG once and for all!

kyle 13 years ago

Question for those that took BEC in Q1 2011: Did you receive a score report for the written communications?

Anna 13 years ago

I passed FAR with a 79!!! no idea how that happened as I left the exam feeling like there's no way I could possibly pass. I dont care how they grade it as long as I pass all four :-p

Clark 13 years ago

My REG exam has 3 tax related questions on the whole exam. I love how these exams take all the real world aspects out of them and test things that don't really matter to "protect the public"

Tommy Kq 13 years ago

I passed the BEC with a 77 in Q1. When I walked out after the exam was finished, I thought "no way I passed that". The written communications were naturally not BEC material, since this is the first section I studied for, that put me at a disadvantage. The 2011 study materials I used were significantly different that the 2010 materials I started with... I wonder how many people tried to squeak by on outdated materials??

Voice of Reason 13 years ago

I think that part of the reason why Reg was hurt so much was because it was advertised as the "section that didn't change much," but when the questions were released, there was a lot of confusion about which material would be off limits and what would be fair game. I noticed a problem with the ethics questions. They "said" that the ethics was moving from Reg to Aud, but what they meant that was that the Audit ethics was moving to Audit, and that the Reg ethics would be overhauled, most of which wasn't covered in review material. Also, the business structure section that moved was cake, and probably helped boost scores.

Mitchell 13 years ago

I've always been a bad test taker but to this extent i do not know. I got a 42 in audit, with hours an hours of studying, reading, memorizing, and learning, and although i did not feel confident for the test, i walked out of there feeling more comfortable that i did for FAR which i also got a 48. It is possible at this rate that i'll ever pass? I was in complete utter absolute shock at my extremely low audit score. I answered the MC's and answered them thoroughly (from what i thought) and still had time to spare in each testlet. (but that doesn't matter one bit) Can anyone tell me what i'm doing completely wrong and with scores that low is it even possible for me EVER at this rate with scores being this slow? I probably would have gotten more right if i chose the answers with my eyes closed. I truly thought i understood audit, and spent my time learning, reading, practicing, and doing all the homework questions, but i guess i was terribly wrong. I feel absolutely helpless and hopeless.

baby 13 years ago

#1 big 4 is a joke #2 i was out of public for 10 years but i put in the time and passed all 4 parts consecutively in 2011. it is totally doable but you cant b.s....you have put in the time.

baby 13 years ago

#1 big 4 is still a joke #2 i passed in 2010 not 2011...still fried

Zia 13 years ago

I took the Fin - 80, Rec - 85, and BEC - 76 in 2010 and past them all, but I took Audit - 72 in 2nd Q 2011 which I felt great about I failed. I just re-took my Audit today, they had derivatives in the Sims, which Becker doesn't cover at all. I don't feel really great about it, but I will post my grade once I get it in 4 week. If I fail the audit again I will only have one chance to pass it next testing window or my Fin will expire.