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One of the four sections of the CPA Exam is Business Environment and Concepts (BEC). Like the other three sections, the BEC CPA Exam section contains several testlets of multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Currently, BEC is unique because it does not contain any Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) and instead has Written Communication Tasks (WCs). The current version of BEC that includes WCs differs in content, structure, format, testing process, and grading process from the other sections. The changes coming with the next version of the CPA Exam will leave BEC a little less distinct.
BEC CPA Exam Content
Presently, BEC covers six specific topics with varying amounts of coverage. However, in the version of the CPA Exam coming in April 2017, the topics and coverage levels of BEC will incorporate a few alterations.
To reflect the next version of the exam’s increased emphasis of higher order skills, the content of BEC will mainly test the skills of application (50%-60%) and analysis (20%-30%). Additionally, it will briefly evaluate remembering and understanding skills (15%-25%).
BEC CPA Exam Structure and Format
The structure of the BEC CPA Exam section involves four testlets: 3 MCQ testlets and 1 WC testlet. BEC has more MCQs than the other exam sections due to the incorporation of WCs and absence of TBSs. On the most recent version of the CPA Exam, 60 operational questions and 12 pretest questions total 72 BEC MCQs, and 2 operational questions and 1 pretest question total 3 BEC WCs. Operational questions are those that actually count toward your exam score, while pretest questions do not. The different types of questions are mixed together so as to be indistinguishable.
Three testlets divide the BEC MCQs into groups of 24 and account for 85% of your grade. The WCs fulfill the remaining 15%. However, in 2017, BEC will join the AUD, FAR, and REG sections in receiving additional TBSs; BEC will then have 5 TBSs, while the other sections will have 9 each. The next version of the CPA Exam will reduce the number of BEC MCQs to 62 and consequently will drop the MCQ scoring weight to 50%. The new BEC TBSs will then comprise 35% of the total score.
BEC CPA Exam Testing Process
The BEC CPA Exam section is the shortest: CPA candidates taking BEC in 2016 will receive 3 hours of total testing time. But when the new TBS testlets arrive in 2017, testing time for all exam sections will top out at 4 hours. As with the other exam sections, you must score a 75% or higher to pass BEC.
On BEC as well as AUD, FAR, and REG, the difficulty level of the questions scales as you work through the MCQ testlets. The MCQs in the first BEC testlet default to medium difficulty, so if you answer these questions well, the second testlet will introduce more difficult questions. If you then handle these questions successfully, the third testlet will also present difficult questions. However, if you do not perform well in either the first or second testlet, the successive testlet will continue to serve you questions of medium difficulty. The categories of difficulty assigned to each testlet are based on the average difficulty of the MCQs, and while more credit is awarded when a candidate correctly answers a more difficult question than a less difficult one, there is no penalty for receiving harder questions and no advantage for receiving easier questions.
Only the difficulty level of the MCQs scales with your performance in previous testlets: the WCs are pre-selected and do not follow this system.
BEC CPA Exam Grading Process
Both the operational MCQs and WCs are graded via software; however, the operational WCs may be reviewed and regraded by human scorers if a candidate’s score is very close to 75%.
The technical content included and the writing skills demonstrated are the basis for your WC grades. The technical content is expected to be helpful and relevant, while the writing skills are assessed for expression, development, and organization. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage comprise suitable expression; details, examples, and definitions are essential to good development; and a thesis sentence, transitions, and unified paragraphs are the qualities of proper organization.
Passing the BEC CPA Exam Section
For the last several years, BEC pass rates have averaged over 50% and have therefore been the highest of the CPA Exam sections. For this reason, and also perhaps for the fact that the BEC section is the shortest and does not include any TBSs, many CPA candidates believe that BEC is the easiest section. However, BEC covers a large amount of material, so it still requires a sizable amount of study time. Due to inclusion of the Written Communication Tasks, the BEC CPA Exam section is not to be taken lightly. Instead, it should be taken with the help of CPA Exam experts and the largest CPA test bank available that offers dozens of practice WCs, and you can receive this help from Gleim CPA.