Most new CPA candidates wonder which CPA exam to take first: AUD, BEC, FAR, or REG. Many students start with FAR. It’s recommended that candidates initially take the CPA exam part that they are most prepared for first. This gives them the highest chance of passing their first CPA exam section.
The CPA exam comprises four sections, and you might worry about which should be the first section. The four sections include Audit and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment Concepts (BEC).
However, the order in which you take the CPA Examination is down to each individual candidate that must choose how to take the four sections within the stipulated 18 months.
First, you have to understand each section and what it entails to determine the section that you should take first. It is vital to note that each section assesses different concepts weighed.
Choosing your first CPA exam part to start your CPA journey is a massive decision, and it will make a difference between passing or retaking. Let’s look as which exam section you should take first and why.
Should I Take the Hardest CPA Exam Section First?
Typically, most CPA candidates consider FAR to be the hardest CPA exam section because of its length and complexity of topics. The difficulty of FAR is also apparent in the low FAR exam scores and pass rates.
The CPA exam is a marathon, and it is not uncommon to hear suggestions that you should start with the hardest section because the rest will be an effortless task after completing it. Although this is a well-intentioned proposition, it is indeed a bad suggestion because of various reasons. To begin with, there is no assurance that the section a candidate believes to be hard will be.
For instance, you may think that FAR is the hardest section only to realize that you had a high score in the section. The other reason it is not advisable, to begin with, the hardest part is that it may make you unmotivated if you fail and have to retake it.
After retaking 17 months later, you may be getting ready for your last section, and then you fail, but there will be no time to retake the last section passing in the credit for that section.
Should I Take the Easiest CPA Exam Section First?
The easiest section of the CPA exam according to the AICPA pass rates is the BEC exam. BEC typically has the highest passing rates out of any CPA exam section.
Although BEC has better pass rates than the other exams, there is no such thing as the easiest CPA section. Each part is designed to be challenging for candidates and to test their discipline and knowledge of a variety of subjects.
For instance, there is a misconception that BEC is easier, but that is not the case, and don’t expect it to be a cakewalk as this might lead to a low score in the exam section. The most common pitfall among candidates is underestimating a section because of preconceived perspectives that it will be easier.
There is no section of the CPA exam that is easier or harder than the other. Even if you have a particular skill in a given area, you will still have to dedicate more time to pass.
Which CPA Exam Part Should I Take First?
It’s recommended by the AICPA to take the CPA exam section that you feel most confident in as your first CPA exam part. This often tends to be either FAR or BEC.
The trick is choosing first the section that you feel most confident at. Different candidates have varying strengths and capabilities. Some of the topics in the CPA exam can be easy, and some are hard, so for your CPA exam, start with the section you are best at. For instance, if you have just completed an audit class, then it means the concepts could still be fresh in your brain, and the best bet is starting with the AUD section.
For candidates who have been out of school for a while and are working, the best bet is to choose a section relevant to their present work. For example, if you are a bookkeeper, you should begin with FAR, and someone experienced with tax returns needs to begin with REG, and if you have finance sector experience, it will be ideal to begin with BEC.
Recent college graduates should choose a section relating to the class they excelled in or one they have a good interest in, such as AUD for IT or BEC for company law. If this doesn’t apply, you should with a class you took recently since the content will be fresh in your brain.
Also, you can consider beginning with the shorter sections. For instance, REG and BEC sections are not long compared to FAR and AUD, and the review course material is shorter as well. This implies that you will be able to absorb concepts easily, and they can prepare you for the longer sections to come. The strategy will benefit candidates that are not accustomed to long tests such as FAR and AUD.
Why Should You Take Your Strongest CPA Exam Section First?
Taking the section in which you feel most confident will boost your morale, and you may pass. This will boost your confidence and motivate you enabling you to ride the momentum for the rest of the sections. Surprisingly what might have seemed like an achievable task becomes easier, and you can see yourself attaining your goal of becoming a CPA.
Once you receive the letter from NASBA indicating that you have passed, it will be easier for you to turn down commitments and focus on the remaining sections since you already feel confident and motivated. With focus, motivation and feeling energized, you will be looking forward to completing all sections and attaining the CPA licensure milestone.
In contrast, starting with a section that you don’t feel confident in may be challenging, and you may fail, which might discourage you from continuing the journey. After spending a lot of time studying the challenging topic and ending up failing, you will be demoralized. You won’t have the motivation to continue.
Also, we had earlier indicated about losing credit for an exam you had passed. It will not be great if you start with your strongest area and fail, but it won’t be that devastating. When retaking, you will be retaking a subject you are familiar with. So it will be much easier to pass on your second attempt.
Does it Matter What Order You take the CPA exam?
It doesn’t matter which order to take the CPA exam. You can start with any section and finish with any section. The important thing is that you are properly prepared for each part on your exam date.
That’s why it’s recommended to take your easiest sections first and your hardest sections last.
What CPA Exam do People Take First?
Most candidates choose to take the FAR (Financial Accounting and Reporting) CPA exam section first because it’s the largest exam part. Although it is nice to get the biggest exam out of the way first, it might not be the right exam for you to take first.
Which Order Should I do the CPA exam?
Many CPA Test Prep Providers state that best order to take the CPA exam is by starting with FAR followed by AUD, BEC, and REG– in that order.
This isn’t always the best idea for all candidates. We recommend that you start with the easiest section and work your way up to the hardest section. There are a number of strategic benefits of ordering your exams in this way.
The bottom line is you shouldn’t make the CPA exam hard than it is already. Instead, you should leverage your strengths and start with a section where you feel confident.
This will give you energy and motivation to continue with the rest of the sections after acing the first section. Then, create the ideal momentum by picking the best CPA course that matches your needs.