September 22, 2021

Let’s Enjoy These CPA Exam Pass Rates From Before the Entire World Went Down the Can

I realized the other day we hadn’t posted about pass rates in a while, and upon looking it up I found my hunch was correct, as the last time they were mentioned was January when we touched on 2019 CPA exam pass rates. Y’all remember January? Oh if only we knew then what was coming down the road like an out-of-control semi on some icy highway in Wyoming.

As it turns out, the AICPA has released pass rates for Q1 2020, although the data is thin for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain. Considering Q2 was basically a loss and continuous testing launched mid-year, this means 2019 was basically the last time we’d see all four quarters filled in and neatly lined up (even if we didn’t know that at the time) based on testing windows what with continuous testing and all.

So, about those 2020 pass rates. Here’s what we’ve got.

2020 Pass Rates

Compare this to the same data from 2019:

2019 Pass Rates

And overall pass rates for 2019:

2019 Pass Rates

The AICPA psychometrics and scoring page states, “Pass rates for each section of the Exam are announced quarterly,” so perhaps we can assume they’ll still break scores out by quarter, just normal quarters and not based on testing quarters bookended by blackout windows like it used to be prior to the launch of continuous testing. This should be helpful as some candidates mistakenly believe higher or lower pass rates by section in certain quarters mean the exam is harder or easier during those quarters when in fact it may mean candidates were more prepared, or changes to exam content stumped them, or sometimes it really doesn’t mean anything at all except to data nerds. Pass rates are merely a snapshot in time that tells us how candidates who sat performed on the sections they took, there’s not much more to extrapolate from them than that on the candidate side.

That said, it will be interesting to see how Prometric closures, scheduling issues, the Rona, and just the general state of the world these days impact pass rates for the remainder of 2020. Gonna go out on a limb here and guess they’re coming in just a touch under 2019.

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