What is a CPA?
CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. The designation is the statutory title of qualified accountants in the United States who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have met additional state education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. The Uniform CPA Exam is set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. Generally, in most U.S. states, only CPAs who are licensed are able to provide public attestation (including auditing) opinions on financial statements.
Financial (FAR): Financial encompasses the largest volume of information, which can make it challenging. However, most students take several classes relevant to this section of the exam during their degree program, so it is also likely to be relatively fresh. Candidates should expect some questions focused on key differences between financial statements prepared on a U.S. GAAP basis versus those prepared on an IFRS basis. In addition, if you had the opportunity to take a course in governmental and/or non-for-profit accounting, that will be an advantage in taking this section.
Auditing (AUD): Auditing encompasses the entire audit process, other services including compilations, reviews and attestation engagements, and the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. If you took your auditing class during your final semester and/or you'll be working in the audit practice of a public accounting firm, Auditing might be a great place to start. On the other hand, you may find it beneficial to take the Auditing exam after Financial since a strong understanding of U.S. GAAP and IFRS will help you answer many of the questions in this section.
Regulation (REG): Regulation is the combination of federal taxation and business law, including ethics and professional responsibilities. Students who are familiar with tax, whether personal, partnership or corporate, should be comfortable with the Regulation materials. The areas covered within the business law portions are straight out of most university business law core classes. And, since the Regulation tests U.S. tax law and business law, it is effectively immune to IFRS. If you will or are working in a tax practice, Regulation might be a place to start to gain confidence.
Business (BEC): Business can be a challenging test because of the breadth of the material, including operations and strategic management, economics, financial management and information technology. Many students find it helpful to take the Business exam after Financial and Audit because issues related to auditing (e.g. internal controls) and financial accounting (e.g. IFRS, working capital, and debt/equity financing) may be tested as part of the corporate governance, economics and financial management sections. A significant component of the BEC exam is the 3 written communication tasks; 15% of your score will be based on your ability to effectively communicate in writing. If you are a capable writer, this may prove a great advantage in succeeding on this part of the exam.