BEC CPA Exam Section

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 testlets of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and Task-Based Simulations (TBSs), but BEC is unique because it also has Written Communications (WCs). While the total testing time and testing process of BEC is the same as the other CPA Exam sections, the additional question type distinguishes BEC’s content, structure, and grading process.

BEC CPA Exam Content

Presently, BEC covers five specific topics with varying amounts of coverage.

BEC CPA Exam Section Content



Corporate Governance


Economic Concepts and Analysis


Financial Management


Information Technology


Operations Management


To reflect the CPA Exam’s emphasis on higher order skills, the content of BEC mainly tests the skills of application (50%-60%) and analysis (20%-30%), but briefly evaluates the remembering and understanding skills (15%-25%).

BEC CPA Exam Structure

The structure of the BEC CPA Exam section involves 5 testlets: 2 MCQ testlets, 1 TBS testlet, and 1 WC testlet. Together, the 2 MCQ testlets contain 50 operational questions and 12 pretest questions for a total of total 62 MCQs. The 1 TBS testlet presents 3 operational TBSs and 1 pretest TBS, and 2 operational questions and 1 pretest question form a total of 3 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.

Two testlets divide the MCQs into groups of 31 and account for 50% of your BEC score. The TBS testlet accounts for 35% of your score, and the WCs fulfill the remaining 15%.

BEC CPA Exam Testing Process

As with the other three exam sections, the BEC CPA Exam section has a total testing time of four hours, and you must score a 75 or higher to pass.

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, but 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 TBSs and WCs are pre-selected and do not follow this system.

BEC CPA Exam Grading Process

Both the operational MCQs, TBSs, 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, many CPA candidates believe that BEC is the easiest section. However, BEC covers a large amount of material and features three question types, so it still requires a sizable amount of study time. However, with our SmartAdaptTM technology, Gleim CPA Review will help you study for BEC more efficiently. SmartAdaptTM assesses your strengths and weaknesses and directs you to the BEC topics you need to review the most. It also gives you ample practice with all the different question types by utilizing the largest CPA test bank available. Learn more about how Gleim CPA Review prepares you for BEC better than any other course by getting our BEC CPA Exam tips and accessing our free CPA demo today.