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Bingo Balls, Atomic Elements and Passing the CPA Exam

Bingo ballsThe number 75 has various meanings around the world. It can sometimes denote a diamond anniversary. It’s the age limit for a juror in England and Wales. Science junkies know it as the atomic number for the chemical element Rhenium. And here in the U.S., it’s the number of balls in a standard game of Bingo; something which I’m sure fans of the game are quite aware of at their Friday night get-togethers.

But, the number 75 holds no greater significance in this world than for the 100,000-plus of you who sit for the Uniform CPA Examination each year. Achieve that number or higher on any of the four sections of the exam, and you’re one step closer to licensure.

A common misconception for those new to the CPA exam is that 75 is a percentage or number of questions answered correctly. No, you don’t get a “C” on the exam if you score a 75. It’s simply the passing mark that signifies you have demonstrated the minimum knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public interest as a CPA.

The passing score of 75 will remain in place even though an updated version of the exam debuted on April 1. How, you might ask, is it possible to have the same passing score with all the recent changes?

The scores reported for the CPA Exam are scaled scores, not score percentages or percentile scores. Section scores are reported on a scale that ranges from 0 to 99. The scale is set so that a passing score is equal to a scaled score of 75. The total score in the AUD, FAR, and REG sections is a weighted combination of scaled scores from multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs) that you complete. For the BEC section, the weighted combination comes from MCQs, TBSs, and the written communication tasks.

Regardless of whether you pass a section with a 75, an 81, or a 91, what matters most to the AICPA is maintaining the exam’s validity, reliability, and scoring accuracy, and ensuring it remains legally defensible.

As is common practice within the world of high-stakes testing, a substantially updated exam must be fully analyzed, statistically validated, and have its passing score approved. The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) will begin this process, known as “standard setting,” following the close of the current testing window on May 31.

The standard setting process requires score holds for the Q2, Q3 and Q4 testing windows. The AICPA will release scores only once following the close of each window. Exact score release timelines may be found on the CPA Examination Scoring section of the AICPA website, while complete scoring details are explained in the white paper, How is the Exam Scored?

Whether you take the exam for the first time this quarter, or you have a couple of sections under your belt, it’s important to consider how the pending score holds may impact your 18-month exam completion timeframe. All jurisdictions, as well as our partners at National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), are aware of the score holds. They are determining who may be impacted and will contact them this summer, if necessary.

As you wrap up your section and await your score in the coming months, thoughts of bingo balls and diamond anniversaries will be the furthest from your mind. The legendary 75 is first and foremost the top thought for those of you pursuing the CPA. And while it’s easy to zero in on the calculation of the score and what the number 75 represents, you are best served to dedicate your time and energy to the initial study and preparation that is essential to hitting that mark.

John Mattar, Ed.D., Director-Psychometrics & Research, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Bingo balls courtesy of Shutterstock

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