The CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Exam is the grandparent of all the professional accounting examinations. Its origin was in the 1896 public accounting legislation of New York. In 1917, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) began to prepare and grade a uniform CPA Exam. It is currently used to measure the technical competence of those applying to be licensed as CPAs in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, and an ever-expanding list of international locations.

The CIA (Certified Internal Auditor), CMA (Certified Management Accountant), and EA (IRS Enrolled Agent) examinations are relatively new certification programs compared to the CPA. The CMA Exam was first administered in 1972 and the first CIA Exam in 1974. The EA Exam dates back to 1959.


The primary purpose of professional exams is to measure the technical competence of candidates. Competence includes technical knowledge, the ability to apply such knowledge with good judgment, comprehension of professional responsibility, and ethical considerations. Additionally, the nature of these examinations (low pass rate, broad and rigorous coverage, etc.) has several important effects.

  1. Candidates are forced to learn all of the material that should have been presented and learned in a good accounting program.
  2. Relatedly, candidates must integrate the topics and concepts that are presented in individual courses in accounting education programs.
  3. The content of each examination provides direction to accounting education programs; i.e., what is tested on the examinations will be taught to accounting students.

Should you become certified?

Certification is important to professional accountants because it provides
  1. Participation in a recognized professional group
  2. An improved professional training program arising out of the certification program
  3. Recognition among peers for attaining the professional designation
  4. An extra credential for the employment market/career ladder
  5. A higher salary (CPAs can earn up to 15% more1, CMAs can earn up to 28% more2, and CIAs can earn up to 40% more than non-certified peers!3)
  6. The personal satisfaction of attaining a recognized degree of competency

These reasons hold particularly true in the accounting field due to wide recognition of the CPA designation. Accountants and accounting students are often asked if they are CPAs when people learn they are accountants. Additionally, one or more designations is often required to obtain employment in the accounting field. Thus, there is considerable pressure for accountants to become certified.

Obtaining multiple certifications is important for the same reasons as initial certification. Accounting students and recent graduates should look ahead and obtain multiple certifications to broaden their career opportunities. The table of selected CIA, CMA, EA, and CPA examination data below provides an overview of these accounting examinations.

1 Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide

2 Institute of Management Accountants’ 2016 Salary Survey

3 The Institute of Internal Auditors 2012 Internal Audit Compensation Study


Examination Content

The content of certification examinations is specified by the respective governing boards with lists of topics to be tested. In the Gleim CIA, CMA, EA, and CPA review materials, the content tested is divided into subtopics we call study units. A study unit is a more manageable undertaking than an overall part of each exam. The listings of study units below provide an overview of the scope and content of these exams.


The CIA Exam

NOTE: The CIA Exam Syllabus is changing as of January 1, 2019. The study unit listing for the 2019 edition of Gleim CIA Review is not yet finalized at time of print. However, provided below are the domains from the revised CIA Exam Syllabus.

Part 1: Essentials of Internal Auditing
Foundations of Internal Auditing (15%)
Independence and Objectivity (15%)
Proficiency and Due Professional Care (18%)
Quality Assurance and Improvement Program (7%)
Governance, Risk Management, and Control (35%)
Fraud Risks (10%)
Part 2: Practice of Internal Auditing
Managing the Internal Audit Activity (20%)
Planning the Engagement (20%)
Performing the Engagement (40%)
Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress (20%)
Part 3: Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing
Business Acumen (35%)
Information Security (25%)
Information Technology (20%)
Financial Management (20%)

Visit our 2019 CIA Exam Changes info page at for more information about the revisions to the exam.

According to The IIA, the CIA is a “globally accepted certification for internal auditors” through which “individuals demonstrate their competency and professionalism in the internal auditing field.” Successful candidates will have gained “educational experience, applicable knowledge, and business tools that can deliver a positive impact in any organization or business environment.”

The CIA Exam is computerized to facilitate testing. Part 1 consists of 125 multiple-choice questions and lasts 2.5 hours, while Parts 2 and 3 each contain 100 multiple-choice questions and last 2 hours.

The first two parts of the CIA Exam focus on the theory and practice of internal auditing. The body of knowledge of internal auditing and the auditing skills to be tested consist of

  1. The typical undergraduate auditing class as represented by auditing texts
  2. Internal auditing textbooks
  3. Various IIA (Institute of Internal Auditors) pronouncements and Standards
  4. Reasoning ability, communications and problem-solving skills, and dealing with auditees in an audit context (i.e., the questions will cover audit topics but test audit skills)

Part 3 of the exam ensures that internal auditors are well-rounded and conversant with topics, methodologies, and techniques ranging from individual and organizational behavior to information security and technology.

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The CMA Exam

Part 1:
Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control

External Financial Statements and Revenue Recognition


Measurement, Valuation, and Disclosure: Investments and Short-Term Items


Measurement, Valuation, and Disclosure: Long-Term Items

Cost Management Concepts
Cost Accumulation Systems
Cost Allocation Techniques

Operational Efficiency and Business Process Performance

Analysis, Forecasting, and Strategy

Budgeting -- Concepts, Methodologies, and Preparation

Cost and Variance Measures

Responsibility Accounting and Performance Measures

Internal Controls -- Corporate Governance

Internal Controls -- Controls and Security Measures

Part 2:
Financial Decision Making
Ethics, Fraud, and Risk Management
Financial Markets and Types of Securities
Valuation Methods and Cost of Capital
Managing Current Assets
Corporate Restructuring and International
Ratio Analysis
Activity Measures and Financing
Investment Decisions
CVP Analysis
Marginal Analysis and Pricing

The CMA Exam consists of two parts: (1) Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control and (2) Financial Decision Making. Both parts consist of 100 multiple-choice questions and two 30-minute essay questions. A total of 4 hours is allowed for the completion of a part (3 hours for the multiple-choice, 1 hour for the essays).

According to the IMA, the “CMA is the advanced professional certification specifically designed to measure the accounting and financial management skills that drive business performance.”

In their Resource Guide, the ICMA explains that through the certification test, “the requirements of the CMA Program . . . recognize those who can demonstrate that they possess a sufficient degree of knowledge and skills in the areas of management accounting and financial management. In this way, the ICMA helps identify practitioners who have met certain predetermined professional standards.”

We have arranged the subject matter tested on the CMA Examination into manageable study units for each part. Each part is presented in a separate book. Both of these books contain review outlines; prior CMA Exam questions, answers, and answer explanations; and essay questions.

The CMA Exam has broader coverage than the CPA Exam in several areas. For example,

  1. CMA topics like risk management, finance, and management are covered lightly, if at all, on the CPA Exam.
  2. The CMA Exam focuses very heavily on internal decision making, such as special orders and capital budgeting, whereas the CPA Exam is concerned with external reporting.
  3. The CMA Exam tests business ethics but not business law.

Also, CMA questions are generally more analysis-oriented than CPA questions.

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The EA Exam

Part 1: Individuals
Part 2: Businesses
  1. Filing Requirements
  2. Gross Income
  3. Business Deductions  
  4. Above-the-Line Deductions and Losses   
  5. Itemized Deductions   
  6. Tax Credits, Other Taxes, and Payments
  7. Basis
  8. Adjustments to Asset Basis and Capital Gains and Losses
  9. Business Property, Related Parties, and Installment Sales
  10. Nonrecognition Property Transactions
  11. Individual Retirement Accounts
  12. Gift Tax
  13. Estate Tax
  1. Entity Types, Methods, and Periods
  2. Income, Farms, and Property Transactions
  3. Business Expenses
  4. Other Deductions
  5. Basis
  6. Depreciation
  7. Credits, Losses, and Additional Taxes
  8. Contributions to a Partnership
  9. Partnership Operations
  10. Disposition of a Partner’s Interest
  11. Corporations
  12. Corporate Formation
  13. Corporate Income and Losses
  14. Corporate Deductions
  15. Corporate Distributions
  16. Corporate Liquidations and Redemptions
  17. S Corporations
  18. Decedent, Estate, and Trust Income Tax Returns
  19. Retirement Plans for Small Businesses
  20. Exempt Organizations
Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures
  1. Practice before the IRS
  2. Tax Preparers and Penalties
  3. Representation
  4. Examination of Returns and the Appeals Process
  5. The Collection Process
  6. Tax Authority
  7. Recordkeeping and Electronic Filing

Enrolled agents are individuals who have demonstrated special competence in tax matters and professional ethics and have been enrolled to practice before the IRS as taxpayers’ agents or legal representatives. Practice before the IRS includes all matters connected with presentations to the IRS relating to a client’s rights, privileges, and liabilities under laws or regulations administered by the IRS. Such presentations include

  1. Preparing and filing documents;
  2. Communicating with the IRS; and
  3. Representing a client at conferences, hearings, and meetings.

The examination covers federal taxation and tax accounting and the use of tax return forms for individuals, partnerships, corporations, trusts, estates, and gifts. It also covers ethical considerations and procedural requirements.

The exam consists of three parts, with 3.5 hours for each part (4 hours total seat time to include tutorial and survey). The questions on the examination are directed toward the tasks that enrolled agents must perform to complete and file forms and tax returns and to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service. Each part of the examination consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and covers the following tax topics:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Representation, Practices, and Procedures

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The CPA Exam

  1. Corporate Governance Structure and Regulations
  2. COSO Frameworks
  3. Microeconomics
  4. Macroeconomics
  5. International Economics
  6. Risk Return Principles
  7. Financial Risk Management
  8. Corporate Capital Structure
  9. Working Capital I: Cash and Receivables
  10. Working Capital II: Inventory and Short-Term Financing
  11. Capital Budgeting
  12. IT Roles, Systems, and Processing
  13. IT Software, Data, and Contingency Planning
  14. IT Networks and Electronic Commerce
  15. IT Security and Controls
  16. Performance Measurement and Process Management
  17. Budget Components
  18. Costing Fundamentals
  19. Costing Methods
  20. Costing Systems and Variance Analysis
  1. Ethics and Professional Responsibilities
  2. Securities Law and Liability of CPAs
  3. Federal Tax Authority, Procedures, and Individual Taxation
  4. Accounting Methods and Gross Income
  5. Self-Employment and Farming
  6. Adjustments and Deductions from AGI
  7. Credits, AMT, and Losses
  8. Property Transactions
  9. Corporate Taxable Income
  10. Corporate Tax Computations
  11. Corporate Tax Special Topics
  12. S Corporations and Exempt Organizations
  13. Partnerships
  14. Estates, Trusts, and Wealth Transfer Taxes
  15. Noncorporate Business Entities
  16. Corporations
  17. Contracts
  18. Agency and Regulation
  19. Sales and Secured Transactions
  20. Debtor-Creditor Relationships
  1. Engagement Responsibilities
  2. Professional Responsibilities
  3. Planning and Risk Assessment
  4. Strategic Planning Issues
  5. Internal Control Concepts and Information Technology
  6. Internal Control – Sales-Receivables-Cash Receipts Cycle
  7. Internal Control – Purchases, Payroll, and Other Cycles
  8. Responses to Assessed Risks
  9. Internal Control Communications and Reports
  10. Evidence – Objectives and Nature
  11. Evidence – The Sales-Receivables-Cash Cycle
  12. Evidence – The Purchases, Inventory, Payroll, and Other Cycles
  13. Evidence – Key Considerations
  14. Evidence – Sampling
  15. Reports – Opinions and Disclaimers
  16. Reports – Other Modifications
  17. Related Reporting Topics
  18. Preparation, Compilation, and Review Engagements
  19. SSAEs – Examination, Review, and Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements
  20. Governmental Audits
  1. The Financial Reporting Environment
  2. Financial Statements
  3. Income Statement Items
  4. Financial Statement Disclosure
  5. Cash and Investments
  6. Receivables
  7. Inventories
  8. Property, Plant, Equipment, and Depletable Resources
  9. Intangible Assets and Other Capitalization Issues
  10. Payables and Taxes
  11. Employee Benefits
  12. Noncurrent Liabilities
  13. Leases and Contingencies
  14. Equity
  15. Business Combinations and Consolidated Financial Reporting
  16. Derivatives, Hedging, and Other Topics
  17. Statement of Cash Flows
  18. Governmental Accounting – Modified Accrual
  19. Governmental Accounting – Full Accrual
  20. Not-for-Profit Accounting and Reporting

The CPA Examination is designed to measure professional competence in auditing, business law, taxation, accounting, and related business topics, including

  1. The command of adequate technical knowledge
  2. The ability to apply such knowledge skillfully and with good judgment
  3. An understanding of professional responsibilities

Passing this exam validates and confirms your professional accounting education and requires your complete dedication and determination. The benefits include higher salary, increased confidence and competence, and recognition as a member of an elite group of professionals.

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The CPA Exam is administered the first 2 months and 10 days of every calendar quarter (i.e., January 1-March 10, April 1-June 10, July 1-September 10, and October 1-December 10) at Prometric testing centers throughout the U.S. and at select international locations. The exam is divided into four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section consists of a series of testlets.

Each CPA Exam section is divided into five testlets. Each testlet is dedicated to a specific type of CPA Exam question.

Types of Questions:

  1. Multiple-choice questions appear in the first 2 testlets and account for 50% of the total score in all four sections. The number of MCQs varies by section: AUD has 72, BEC has 62, FAR has 66, and REG has 76.
  2. Task-Based Simulations account for 50% of the total score in AUD, FAR, and REG, and 35% in BEC. AUD, FAR, and REG each have 8 TBSs total, while BEC has 4.
  3. Written Communication Tasks only appear in BEC and account for the final 15% of the total score. There are 3 WCs in BEC.


Steps to Passing Certification Exams

  1. Become knowledgeable about the exam you will be taking, and determine which part you will take first.
  2. Purchase the complete Gleim Review System to thoroughly prepare yourself. Commit to systematic preparation for the exam as described in our review materials.
  3. Communicate with your Personal Counselor to design a study plan that meets your needs. Call (800) 874-5346 ext. 498 or email
  4. Apply for membership in the exam’s governing body and/or in the certification program as required.
  5. Register online to take the desired part of the exam.
  6. Schedule your test with the testing center in the location of your choice.
  7. Work systematically through each study unit in the Gleim Review System.
  8. Sit for and PASS the exam while you are in control. Gleim guarantees success!
  9. Email or call Gleim with your comments on our study materials and how well they prepared you for the exam.

What’s Next??

Enjoy your career, pursue multiple certifications (CIA, CPA, EA, CMA, etc.), and recommend Gleim to others who are also taking these exams. Once you are certified, stay up-to-date on your Continuing Professional Education requirements with Gleim CPE.