September 19, 2021

2020 Was Terrible, These 2020 CPA Exam Pass Rates Not So Much

The other week, my state had the highest Rona numbers we’ve seen since this whole thing started nearly a year ago. Of course, everyone is burned out on staying home and hiding so I doubt we’ve seen the worst of it. While the pandemic still rages on, we also have to balance all that “normal” stuff we were doing before everything went to shit and try to get back to what’s left of our lives. Fret not, everyone will put on pants at some point, we certainly can’t stay inside forever.

2020 was particularly rough for CPA exam candidates. Prometric locations were shut down by March and stayed that way for much of the spring, which eventually would prompt many state boards of accountancy to grant automatic credit extensions for candidates nearing the end of their 18 months. Things got moving again in May when the exam was considered essential; however, many faced scheduling issues as they were fighting for open spots with all the other “essential” career tracks along with ongoing Prometric closures. TL;DR the Rona made everything a mess and it’s a miracle anyone took the exam at all last year.

But they did, and for that, each and every CPA exam candidate deserves a cookie. One with a touch of Xanax, no doubt. Anyhoo.

Surprisingly, 2020 CPA exam pass rates (AICPA link) show that not only did they get it done, they actually did better than the prior year. Look below if you don’t believe me:

2020 Pass Rates

Comparing cumulative 2019 CPA exam pass rates, we can clearly see that 2020 candidates outperformed those from 2019 across the board, and in some cases pretty significantly.

2019 Pass Rates

Miracle? Good old-fashioned discipline? Just the right amount of Xanax cookies? Who knows why exactly candidates did so well on the exam in 2020, but at least someone can say their year wasn’t too terrible.

Inb4 anyone glances at the above tables and assumes certain quarters are easier or harder based on loose patterns in performance like a dumbass, keep in mind all it means if a particular quarter shows higher pass rates is that candidates who sat in that quarter studied like they’re supposed to. Seriously.

Says the AICPA:

When reviewing these pass rates, you should remember that candidates are evaluated against an established standard of competence, and that the Exam is scored and scaled so that scores are comparable across test forms and over time. The Exam is not harder or easier to pass at different times. An increase in pass rates simply means that candidates are better prepared.

All those people who rush to squeeze in one or two exam sections around the holidays who haven’t fully prepared but sit anyway? Yeah, it’s their fault pass rates tend to be lower in Q4.

So there you have it. Not a terrible year for CPA exam candidates in 2020 after all. Er, it was terrible but you know what I mean. Well done, everyone.

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