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The CPA Exam: My Take on Which Section to Take First

Once upon a time CPA Candidates had to sit for all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on the same day.

Luckily for you and I, that's no longer the case.   Today the exam is structured so that candidates can decide how many sections they want to sit for in each quarterly 2-month testing window.  One major caveat to this however is that Candidates must pass all 4 sections within a rolling 18-month period.  If you don't finish in time you lose credit for the first exam you passed and you have to take it again.  That's something you probably don't want to do.  

 

So what's the best strategy for taking the exam?  

 

First ask yourself, which is the hardest section?

 

This varies for everyone, if you have worked in a Tax office then REG might be a piece of cake.  If you just got out of college then FAR may be a slice of pie. If you've worked as an auditor at KPMG then AUD may be a walk in the park. If you were an Econ major like me then BEC was a breeze.  Ok, these idioms are not helping so generally speaking section difficulty can be ranked as follows:

 

FAR:  Most material, hardest

REG:  A lot of material, lowest pass rate

AUD: Same amount or more material than REG, but higher pass rate

BEC: Least material (by a lot), highest pass rate, Easiest

 

Well, now that that's settled here's the strategy I suggest.

Pick the 2 hardest sections, register, pay for them, get your NTS for both, take them in 1 window (one at the beginning and one at the end).  

If you pass both (YAY!), then repeat this process in the next testing window for the remaining two sections.  If you pass one (partial YAY!) then replace the one you passed with a new section and repeat during the next window.  If you don't pass either (no YAY?) look on the bright side, your 18-month window is still intact and you have a way better understanding of the material than before you started. Remember, the only people who truly fail the CPA Exam are the ones that give up...

 

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