Does A High or Low CPA Exam Score Matter if You Passed?

does-a-high-cpa-exam-score-matterA lot of CPA candidates ask if it matters whether they get a high score on the CPA exam or get a low score just above passing. Many candidates study excessively, so they can get crazy high scores and tell everyone how well they did on the exam, but does your score actually matter?

The truth is that no one knows what your score is and how well you did on the exam. It’s not published publicly and it doesn’t really matter if it was. The important thing is that you passed the exam in the first place.

Passing the CPA exam demonstrates that you have what it takes to be a certified public accountant and that you are capable of performing professional tasks and handling professional responsibilities in the world of public accounting. In the words of James Hetfield, Nothing else matters.

Still, some people want to think that a higher score will open up opportunities and job offers at big firms by putting impressive scores on your resume. Let’s talk about this.

Will Higher CPA Scores Help You Get Hired?

The first thing that you need to realize that this only applies to people who haven’t passed all four sections. If you’ve passed the entire exam, no one is going to ask you what your scores were. They are going to look at your resume and see that you are certified. Done deal.

If you’ve only passed a few of the CPA exam sections, it’s important to put that on your resume. This shows that you are serious about getting certified and willing to do what it takes to help the firm grow. After all, no firm wants to hire someone who isn’t pursuing their CPA certification.

That being said, there are pros and cons to putting your scores on your resume. If you scored 75 on three parts of the exam, the firm might think that you are an underachiever. However, if you scored 90+ on three sections, they might think you are trying to show off. Believe it or not, this could actually be a bad thing in your interview. For example, the seniors interviewing you might be jealous or get the wrong impression about you boasting high scores.

I would recommend not putting any scores on your resume. Simply list your passed exam sections along with the pass dates. That way they understand you are almost done and there are no misconceptions.

Does a High CPA Exam Score Help You Get Promoted?

Is a high score on the CPA exam relevant? I think you should know this by this point in the article, but no, your score doesn’t have any influence on your promotions. All an employer cares about is that you pass the exam and become a CPA. They don’t care whether you passed with a 76 or a 95.

In the end, it’s all the same. You are a CPA who will be able to take on the professional responsibilities that they require.

Should You Try To Score High on The CPA Exam?

What should your target CPA exam score be? Well, there are a lot of different opinions about this, but I would advise you to shoot for a score of 80.

You need to look at your study process and exam score realistically. Let’s assume that it takes you 100 of study time to get a 75, 120 study hours to get an 80, and 200 study hours to get a 90. Is it worth an extra 100 hours of studying to get a 90 over a 75?

Not really. You kind of overstudied and wasted your time. Getting a score of anything over 83 means that you spent too much time studying. I recommend trying to achieve a score of 80 because it’s not an exact science.

You want to be over prepared a little bit because you might feel like you are 80 score quality, but you might only score a 76. Leave yourself a little cushion and over study enough to get a score into the low 80s. Anything more than that is a little excessive in my opinion.

How Should I Study to Get a Passing Score?

The best way to study for the exam is to find a CPA review course that works for you. Something that fits your learning style and your study schedule will help you prepare for the exam without going overboard.

Here’s a list of the top courses available. Check them out and see which one is right for you.

Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.