How to Pass the CPA Exam: 5 CPA Exam Challenges and How to Overcome Them

7 min read

Upon first glance, passing the CPA Exam can seem daunting. The process itself is long and if it’s not done right, can be very costlyAccording to data released by the AICPA, the 2019 CPA Exam pass rates show that the highest cumulative pass rates for any section is just under 60%.

You might be asking, what is the CPA Exam passing score? Passing the CPA Exam requires at least a 75 on each section. This is not a percentage score, but rather a weighted scoring scale depending on the section of the exam. You can find more information on how the CPA Exam is scored on the AICPA website.

How to Pass the CPA Exam: What You Need to Know

While the pass rate can seem bleak, it’s important to remember that there are candidates just like you who have passed. You might be looking for tips on how to pass the CPA Exam in the most efficient way. At Becker, we’re dedicated to providing tools and tips that will help you succeed on test day.

So, just how hard is the CPA Exam? Read on for five of the biggest challenges you may encounter on your journey to passing the CPA Exam – and ideas for how you can come out on top.

Roadblocks to Passing the CPA Exam

1. The Eligibility Requirements

Understanding how to pass the CPA Exam starts with making sure that you’re an eligible candidate. Before you crack open your books and begin studying for the CPA Exam, the first step is finding out whether you qualify to sit for the exam. Both the AICPA and your local board of accountancy have specific requirements all candidates must complete before sitting for the exam. Eligibility can be a challenge because some state’s requirements are more complex than others.

For example, the state of New York has three different sets of rules depending on when you completed your pre-licensure education. Two of those rule sets require the completion of a state-approved review program prior to sitting for the CPA Exam. On the other hand, Michigan only requires a certain number of accounting courses for exam eligibility, no matter when those courses were taken.

How to Overcome It: Check that you qualify under your state’s requirements before moving any further with the process. Create a checklist based on requirements and double-check that everything is in order before you begin. You can find your state’s CPA Exam requirements here.

2. The Time Commitment

Are there any shortcuts to pass the CPA Exam quickly and easily? Not exactly. Once you’ve decided to sit for the CPA Exam, it’s important to remember the time commitment that you’re undertaking. It takes a total of 16 hours to complete the CPA Exam if you pass each section on the first try. But that doesn’t take into account the hundreds of hours of required studying during the 18-month exam testing window. All of that studying and planning can quickly add up, especially if you’re working full-time while preparing for the exam!

How to Overcome It: With the Becker Bundle, now with Unlimited Access, we offer Adapt2U Learning Technology that provides a recommended path to focus your study time, so you can spend less time scheduling your study sessions and more time learning the material. With this technology, performance reports track your development and highlight areas where you need to strengthen your knowledge.

You should also familiarize yourself with the 2019 CPA Exam schedule listed on the AICPA website and decide which section of the exam you’re going to sit for first.

3. The Study Material

One of the reasons the CPA Exam is considered so difficult is because of the amount of information candidates need to know. The difficulty of the material, the volume of information and the requirements to pass each section make the CPA Exam one of the most difficult exams to pass. Is the CPA Exam hard to pass? The answer to this question will depend on how prepared you are, and preparing with top-notch study tools will help ensure that you’re exam-day ready.

How to Overcome It: There might not be a book written on how to pass the CPA Exam, but there’s endless study tools that can help you prepare for difficult concepts and strengthen your areas of weakness. Investing in a high-quality CPA Exam Review can be the difference between passing and failing the exam. While it’s up to each candidate to decide which exam review guide is the best fit, Becker’s materials help to prepare you for even the toughest questions. Task-Based Simulations are critical to surviving the CPA Exam. In our SkillMaster videos, an expert Becker instructor teaches you how to master these questions step-by-step, so it’s like having a personal CPA coach!

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4. The Exam Itself

Many candidates assume that the exam questions are the most difficult part of the exam. That’s not always the case! When exploring how to pass the CPA Exam, consider the many other factors that can throw off candidates during exam testing including:

  • Lack of complete preparation
  • Managing your time improperly on exam day
  • Discomfort with the computer-based exam environment

How To Overcome It: Becker CPA Exam Review is designed to help tackle each of these exam pitfalls head-on so that you’re prepared. Our study materials, sample problems, task-based simulations, and Mock Exams are all formatted to mirror how they appear on the exam. We offer two unique types of Mock Exams in each section of the course because more practice leads to more exam-day confidence! The first mock exam is a comprehensive review that covers all content types equally. The second one mirrors the exam in content weight and difficulty – similar to a simulated exam. Both mock exams last four hours and are all new content and questions! With a more authentic experience, you can focus on answering the questions on exam day, not figuring out the format, features, and functions.

In addition to the services provided above, Becker offers many other perks to help prepare you for the exam including flashcards, final exam reviews and more. Learn more about Becker’s CPA Exam Review offerings.

5. The Aftermath

Once you’ve passed the CPA Exam, you may be tempted to think the hard work is done. Think again! Passing the exam does not mark the end of your CPA journey. Your state board of accountancy likely has requirements to maintain your accreditation as a CPA that you will be required to complete annually.

How To Overcome It: Review your state board of accountancy’s requirements to remain licensed and mark reminders for yourself. You’re still a member of the Becker family! Becker offers a variety of Continuing Professional Education courses to keep you licensed, and we’re always dedicated to providing resources that will contribute to your ongoing career in accounting. Join us on social media and connect with other CPAs who are in the same situation. So, is the CPA Exam hard to pass? The answer depends not only on how in-depth you know the material, but also on other factors that can make a world of a difference.


There isn’t one definitive method on how to pass the CPA Exam, but making sure you’re prepared in terms of prerequisites, motivation and study materials will be the most impactful to your success. There are countless other challenges you may face in your journey to passing the CPA Exam, but know that Becker is here to help!

Want to learn more about what it takes to become a CPA? Visit our website for a behind-the-scenes look at the Exam.

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