Does a High or Low CPA Exam Score Matter for Your Career?

Low vs High CPA Exam Scores - Should You Care if You Passed?

high-vs-low-cpa-exam-scoreThe accounting industry is highly competitive and candidates who take CPA exam often wonder whether a high CPA exam score really matters. Many CPA candidates study like crazy to get the highest score they possibly can because they think it will impress future employers and accounting firms, but does a high score matter?

The truth is a high CPA exam score doesn’t matter for your career. The only thing that matters is that you pass the exam and get your CPA certification.

No employer cares if you scored 92 on FAR or 76. They only care if you passed.

Passing the exam means you have base-level skills that NASBA, AICAP, and the state board requirements to be certified. For the employer, it is a sign that you are serious about your career, having demonstrated work ethic and dedication by devoting several hours towards studying and passing the exam.

However, your prospective employer won’t even know what you scored on the exam since the scores aren’t publicly published. They will only know that you passed.

Let’s look at a few reasons why you shouldn’t focus on your exam score and why you should simply focus on passing the CPA exam.

What is a High CPA Exam Score?

According to the AICPA a high CPA exam score is anything over 85. Since less than 50% of candidates don’t get above a score of 75, a score of 85 is in the top 10 percentile.

Remember, the CPA exam isn’t scored on a percentage basis. It is a standardized test that is scored on percentiles. You need to get a score of 75 to pass each section of the CPA exam. That is not 75 out of 100.

Passing the CPA exam is very challenging and a passing score of 75 means signifies to future employers that you are capable of taking challenges head-on and learning new skills.

If you pass score the CPA exam, you are considered capable of practicing as a certified accountant per the AICPA and NASBA standards. That is the most important metric for employers. They don’t care what you scored on each CPA exam section.

What’s the Average CPA Exam Score?

The CPA exam is tough. Only around 50% of candidates pass the exam each testing window. Those are not good odds.

The CPA exam is scored on a scale of 0-99 and all four sections have task-based simulations and multiple-choice questions.

Unfortunately, there are no average CPA exam scores since the data in how students score. What is available are average pass rates for each section.

FAR has the lowest pass rate of the four sections, while BEC has the highest pass rate. Here are the average CPA passing rates for 2022:

  • AUD 48.88
  • BEC 57.90
  • FAR 45.77
  • REG 52.12

Will High CPA Scores Matter in Getting Hired?

A high CPA exam score is only relevant to CPA candidates looking for jobs who haven’t passed all four CPA exam sections. If you’ve passed one or two sections of the CPA exam, it’s a good idea to put them on your resume when you apply for accounting jobs. This shows your future employer that you are serious about your career and are currently taking the exam.

If you’ve passed the CPA exam, the accounting firm that you are applying to doesn’t care. They just want to know that you passed and they are you certified.

Keep in mind there are advantages and disadvantages of including your exam scores on your resume. For instance, if you got 75 in three sections, the employer might feel that you might be an underachiever.

Likewise, if you got a 90, some recruiters might feel you are bragging about your performance. Either this could be damaging your chances during the interview. Individuals interviewing you could get a wrong impression or be jealous of your high scores.

Therefore it is not advisable to include your CPA scores no matter how high you score. Instead, it is important to just list that you have passed the CPA exam with the past dates. This way, the employer will understand that you are nearly completing your CPA, and there are no misunderstandings between the state board of accountancy and employers.

Will High CPA Score Help In Getting a Promotion?

A higher CPA exam score will not get you a promotion at your job place. Your CPA exam score is irrelevant and doesn’t have an impact on any promotion. Employers are only interested if the candidate passes the CPA exam and have NASBA approval to be a CPA.

Surprisingly, no employer will care if you got a 95 0r 76 on a given section. All they care about is if you passed and are qualified to carry out the required responsibilities.

Keep in mind, many accounting firms do give bonuses for accountants who pass sections of the exam throughout the year.

Should You Try To Score High on The CPA Exam?

You may be wondering what your CPA exam scores should be and if you should try to get a high score. Although a high score might seem admirable, it’s kind of a waste of effort. You should aim for a score of 80. Always remember the most important thing is passing and this requires taking into account the study process, exam score, and testing window.

Suppose you need 100 hours of studying to score 75 and 200 hours to get a 90. It would be a waste of time spending another 100 hours to study just to get a 90 when a 75 can suffice with less effort.

Getting a score of more than 83 means that you used too much of your time studying. A score of 80 is the sweet spot because it gives you enough room in case your score isn’t as good as you thought it was.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study. On the contrary, you need to prepare for the exam because the CPA exam is quite challenging. Sometimes you may feel that you will get an 80, but once the scores are out, you find yourself with a 76. Study sufficiently to get to the low 80s and anything more will be a waste of effort.

How to I Study for a Passing Score on the CPA Exam?

It is vital to note that employers only care if you passed the CPA exam. They are less interested in your final score or how you performed in each section.

Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need to worry about whether your passing scores will play a role in employment or promotion.

Instead, focus on passing the exam. The best way to do that is to get a CPA exam study course that will help you prepare for each section. The exam is hard. You need all the help you can get.

Get a course that works with your study style and your schedule. Getting the right course will help you prepare for the exam without overdoing it and wasting a ton of your time.

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