Since it’s score season, here’s an overly appropriate question from the mailbag:

Just a quick question. Does CPA exam score reflect one’s ability at work? Does 76 on AUD necessarily mean one would be a bad auditor?

90 on REG means one would good at tax? Not sure how should I choose career-path between tax & audit.

The short answer here is that a 76 on AUD means you studied just enough to pass (congratulations) and has absolutely nothing to do with how good (or bad) of an auditor you might be.

Remember that the CPA exam tests entry level knowledge required to be a CPA. An 88 or even a 99 doesn’t mean you’d be a better auditor than someone who failed that section, it just means that you have a better command of entry level skills. That’s great as far as passing the exam goes but has little to do with your career.

The CPA exam and the real world are two completely different places. The exam assumes scenarios that you will never see “in the wild,” as it were, an environment where companies always do the indirect method and auditors always do more testing than necessary.

A higher score on one section could mean that this is a better place for you to look when it comes to picking a career path if, say, you barely studied to get that 90 and actually enjoyed taking that section. Just like you shouldn’t rely on your score report as the gospel, you shouldn’t take that to be a sign that you’re destined for a life in tax but you can certainly take that as a strong hint if you didn’t mind sitting for that section, understood the concepts and kind of liked the process.

Hope that helps!