One of the most frequently asked questions from candidates looking to sit for the CPA exam is, “how many hours should I study?”. This question is difficult to answer because not all sections of the exam are created equal.
The CPA exam is one of the most rigorous exams in the United States and around the world. Historically speaking, less than half of those who take any one of section of the exam will pass on any given try. Attempting to pass one exam on the first try is a tough task and trying to pass all 4 sections on the first go around is all but impossible.
This might seem bleak to some but for those who’ll pass all 4 sections of the exam it means they are in one of the most distinguished clubs in the world. It’s no wonder that less than 1% of Americans are CPAs.
So, how many hours should you study for the CPA exam to enter that distinguished club?
Financial accounting and reporting (FAR) – 120 to 160 Hours
Financial accounting and reporting, or more commonly known as FAR, is one of the toughest sections of the exam to pass. On average, passing rates for this section hover in the low 40s. This means that only 4 out of every 10 candidates will pass FAR on any given attempt.
Due to the depth and complexity of this exam it is recommended that you put the most study time for this section. Many candidates chose to take this section first because the study time won’t count towards their 18-month window in which they need to pass all 4 sections – once you pass your first exam your clock starts!
For this section, it’s recommended that you study for a minimum of 8 weeks for 15 to 20 hours per week. This is a total time of 120 to 160 hours on this section alone.
Regulation (REG) – 120 to 160 Hours
Regulation is another difficult section to conquer and passing rates are not much higher than FAR. REG is difficult to pass because the tax code is so difficult to comprehend.
What’s most frustrating about REG is that everything you learn in FAR doesn’t translate into a passing score on REG. Actually, material you learn from studying FAR will be the exact opposite from what you learn while studying for REG. Why? Simply put, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) don’t always match up.
For this section, it’s recommended that you study for a minimum of 8 weeks for 15 to 20 hours per week. This is a total time of 120 to 160 hours on this section alone. For tax accountants, this could be even less.
Auditing and Attestation (AUD) – 90 to 120 Hours
Auditing and Attestation, or more commonly referred to as Audit, is an enigma, this section of the exam contains half the material of FAR but is just as difficult to pass.
On this exam, you won’t be challenged with too many math problems but you will face answers to multiple choice questions that could go either way. That’s because Audit has so many concepts that are tested in which one word could change the answer to the entire question.
Even though you can breeze through the study material in half the time it takes to study for FAR you want to add a little more review time to make sure you are answering those close questions correctly.
For this section, it’s recommended that you study for a minimum of 6 weeks for 15 to 20 hours per week. This is a total time of 90 to 120 hours on the section alone.
CPA exam Business Environments and Concepts (BEC) – 75 to 100 Hours
Business Environments and Concepts, more commonly known as BEC, is by far the easiest exam to pass out of all 4 sections. However, this section of the exam is still difficult to pass. A little over half of candidates who sit for this section will pass (well above the average for all 4 parts).
This is one of the most comprehensive sections of the exam because it covers so many different subject areas. From finance to economics, BEC is a hybrid of every non-accounting class you ever took in college.
Although this might be the case, the study material is far less than both REG and FAR. For this section, it’s recommended that you study for a minimum of 5 weeks for 15 to 20 hours per week. This is a total time of 75 to 100 hours on this section alone.
Don’t worry about the time
For those who are serious about passing the exam you shouldn’t worry about the time it takes to study for each part. Everyone has different learning styles so some can cut the time it takes in half while others will need significantly more study hours.
The keys to passing are consistency, efficiency and persistence. If you have a consistent study plan, an efficient study method and a persistent attitude then you’ll be a CPA in no time.
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