The Candidate Performance Report provides helpful information
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The Candidate Performance Report provides helpful information

Jan 31, 2021 · 2 min read

When you fail a CPA Exam section, you’ll receive a Candidate Performance Report*. The report’s information, along with your score, provides an assessment of your Exam performance. You should keep in mind that these two items present different views of your performance and are determined separately.

Your score (official result) is obtained using Item Response Theory (IRT). It is calculated as a whole and takes your responses into account.

The performance report shows your performance in each of the Exam’s content areas and overall performance by item type. You receive the report for informational purposes only as it has no bearing on your official score.

You are given a performance report to help you identify areas in which you should improve in order to pass. Your performance is compared to other candidates who have “just passed” – those who scored between a 75 and 80.

The report’s relative performance scale (stronger, comparable, weaker) is derived from the range between one-half of one standard deviation above and below the average score of candidates who earn between a 75 and 80. Performance within the range is considered "comparable," below the range "weaker," and above the range "stronger.“

While you may feel the need to study only the areas in which you are weaker, we advise that you study all areas before retaking the Exam. If you only study your weaker areas, you might do better on those but worse on others when you retest.

*Not all jurisdictions provide a Candidate Performance Report. Check with your Board of Accountancy for details.

Here is a sample of a Candidate Performance Report. The report format is similar for all four sections except for Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) reports, which also contain information related to the written communication task item types.

Candidate Performance Report

Want kind of information is in this report?

The performance display below shows your performance in each of the Content Areas of the Examination and your Overall Performance by item type. The percentages represent the relative weights of content in this section. The information below is based on your performance as compared to just-passing candidates (e.g. candidates with a total score between 75 and 80).

How should I interpret my performance?

While the total score on each CPA Exam section is highly reliable, extensively researched and validated, the same is not true for content area performance within the test sections. Therefore, please use caution in interpreting your content area performance.

First, each content area contains fewer questions than the total exam, so the results on a single content area are much less reliable than the total exam score. Second, candidates are administered a different set of items and a different number of items that cover different aspects of the content areas. Consequently, the content area performance should not be used to interpret areas of importance or emphasis when retaking a section.

The best strategy is to review all content areas of the CPA Exam section since the next time you take it you will again encounter a different number of items and different items that cover different aspects of the content areas.

Your Performance Compared to Passing Candidates *
By Content Area

Content AreaWeakerComparableStronger
I. Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and General Principles (15–25%)
II. Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response (20–30%)
III. Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence (30–40%)
IV. Forming Conclusions and Reporting (15–25%)

By Item Type

Item TypeWeakerComparableStronger
Multiple Choice (50%)
Simulation (50%)

*The comparable column is based on those candidates who scored between 75 - 80 on the examination section as a whole. For more information regarding how this comparison was calculated or how the examination is scored, please see the CPA Examination web site at

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