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Just How Important Is Research on the CPA Exam?

Today’s fantastic question comes from loyal reader Chloe who wants to know about research. We addressed this way back in September of 2010 but now that the new CPA exam is in the wild and you guys are actually out there taking it, it’s appropriate to revisit.

Question as follows:

My question is about research tabs. In one of your previous articles, you said that Research tabs are worth a lot more now (something like 8 points if I remember correctly).

In the first quarter 2011, I took REG and passed with 88. I got 2 research tabs, which I think I got both wrong (one may be pre-test). I dont really believe that the research tabs has so much weights now. I mean, how can the weighting go from so unimportant to being so important now? Also, my score suggest to me, the research tab may not be worth so much like the 8 points that you mentioned. I tried to ask this same question to my Becker instructor, but she has no idea.

I am going to take AUD in May 2011. I wanted to know what really is the weightage given to research tabs. If I can’t find the correct research, it can mean a lot of collateral damage. U know I mean?

According to the AICPA, task-based simulation problems (TBS) make up 40% of your score in FAR, AUD and REG. Of your seven simulation problems in AUD and FAR and six in REG, one of these for each section is pretest, meaning it does not count towards your score.

The AICPA does not differentiate research from other simulation problems in the 2011 exam, so it should be assumed that each simlet is worth the same amount of points. Because we are unable to determine just how many points are allocated to each TBS, the best we can say is that with the new exam format, you must do moderately well in the simulation part of your exam to pass. The exam is on a plus-point basis and a passing score is not a percent correct, so it would be difficult to determine the actual number of points each TBS is worth.

But we can guess that if TBS problems make up 40% of your score and, in AUD, there are seven of these problems, each one is worth about 6 1/2% of your score (since one is not counted). Do with that information what you will.

In previous incarnations of the exam, candidates could blow an entire simulation (of two) and still pass fairly easily, as long as they did fairly well on the MCQ portion. For the new exam, however, this is fairly impossible since TBS problems are now smaller but more heavily-weighted.

Long story short, treat research problems like they are operational and worth just as much as your other simulations since they are. Don’t forget to take advantage of six months free access to the professional literature so you can practice research ahead of your next exam.

In your case, you probably did pretty well on the MCQ and your other simulation problems or fairly well across the board and actually got the research questions you thought you got wrong. Don’t question it, celebrate it and know you’re that much closer to your CPA. Congrats!