Answers to All Your Questions about BEC

bec

Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), one of the four sections of the CPA Exam, has one main claim to fame: written communications (WCs). BEC is the only section to include the written communication question type along with the usual multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs) you’ll find on the exam. We’ll show you how this additional question type affects content coverage, question counts, difficulty levels, structure, and more so that you can prioritize your BEC studies, and we’ll introduce the testing process and best time management practices so you can experience for a smooth transition from practice exams to exam day. Finally, we’ll discuss a few other BEC basics, and when you’re ready, you can follow these tips to prepare to pass this section.

Content

BEC assesses your comprehension of a CPA’s responsibilities and professional duties by covering these five content areas:

Content

Content

Percentage

Corporate Governance

17-27%

Economic Concepts and Analysis

17-27%

Financial Management

11-21%

Information Technology

15-25%

Operations Management

15-25%

Skill Levels

The exam tests candidates for distinct skill sets, which affects the difficulty of each exam section.

Skill Levels

(Highest to Lowest)

Skill Level

Description

Analysis The examination and study of the interrelationships of separate areas in order to identify causes and find evidence to support inferences.
Application The use or demonstration of knowledge, concepts, or techniques.
Remembering and Understanding The perception and comprehension of the significance of an area utilizing knowledge gained.

As the table below records, BEC focuses heavily on Application.

Skill Allocation

Skill Allocation

Weight

Analysis

20-30%

Application

50-60%

Remembering and Understanding

15-25%

BEC ties FAR for most weight given to the Application level. To develop your Application prowess, you must complete MCQ quizzes, and you’ll have more than enough practice questions to work with when you use the biggest and best test bank on the market. Gleim CPA Review has more of the most challenging and realistic practice questions than any other course, so our system is all you need to develop every exam skill.

Format and Structure

BEC has five testlets: two MCQ, which accounts for 50% of your BEC score; two TBS, which contribute 35% and one WC, which supplies the remaining 15%. The two MCQ testlets contain 31 questions each for a total of 62, the two TBS testlets each present two simulations for a total of four, and the WC testlet features three WCs.

Question Format

Question Type

Operational

Pretest

MCQs

62

12

TBSs

3

1

WCs

2

1

When you take BEC, you will answer both operational and pretest questions, but only your answers for the operational questions will count toward your total exam score — the pretest questions simply supply candidate performance data that informs the AICPA’s decision about making these questions operational on future exam iterations. Don’t try to distinguish between these questions, because you can’t. Just answer every exam question as well as you can and remember that some of the more difficult ones may be pretest. Knowing this, you can give those questions your best effort and move on.

Time Management

Total testing time is four hours, and you can effectively manage your BEC testing time by following this time management system.

Time Management System

Testlet

Format

Question Count

Time (in minutes)

1

MCQ

31

38*

2

MCQ

31

38*

3

TBS

2

36

15 minute break

(does not count toward total exam time)

4

TBS

2

36

5

WCs

3

75

Extra Time

17

Total

62 MCQs / 4 TBSs / 3 WCs

240

*rounded down

Stick to this schedule by applying these time limits per exam question:

  • MCQs: 1.25 minutes
  • TBSs: 18 minutes
  • WCs: 25 minutes

This system supplies you with 20 minutes to write your response, 5 minutes to review it, and 17 minutes to use at your discretion. We recommend spending that time reviewing your MCQ and TBS answers because review of your WCs is built into the 25 minutes this system gives you. Just remember, you can’t revisit any previously submitted testlets, so only use that banked time if you need it.

Testing Process

On BEC, AUD, FAR, and REG, the difficulty of the MCQs can vary from question to question and also from testlet to testlet. The average difficulty of MCQs in the first BEC testlet is “medium.” If you answer these questions well, the second testlet will introduce more “difficult” questions, but if you don’t, the second testlet will also contain questions of medium difficulty. Because the difficulty assigned to each testlet is based on the average difficulty of the MCQs, expect a few questions to give you pause, even in a medium testlet. TBS and WC testlets are pre-selected, so their difficulty is the same no matter how you perform.

Grading Process

As with the other three exam sections, you must score a 75 or higher to pass, which is 75 points, not percent. Your score is scaled according to the difficulty of MCQs answered and the weights of the different types of testlets.

MCQs, TBSs, and WCs are graded via software; however, operational WCs may be reviewed and regraded by human scorers if a candidate’s score is very close to 75. The human grading process can push your BEC score release back by a week or so.

Your WC responses are graded according to technical content and writing quality, and your writing is specifically assessed for expression, development, and organization, as defined by the AICPA.

  • Expression: grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage.
  • Development: level of detail, examples given, and terms defined.
  • Organization: the use of a thesis sentence, transitions, and unified paragraphs as well as the overall logical progression of your response.

When you study for BEC, follow these BEC written communication tips.

Pass Rates

BEC had some of the lowest pass rates from 2008 to 2010, but in 2011, BEC took a turn for the better and has had the highest pass rate every quarter for seven years.

Since 2006, BEC’s lowest pass rate has been 41% (Q1 2006), and its highest pass rate has been 59% (Q3 2015). These are the BEC pass rates compared to the other exam sections in the past year:

Difficulty

BEC is considered the least challenging section of the exam, FAR has recently been considered the hardest, and AUD and REG have had their highs and lows. With such high pass rates, some candidates decide to put BEC first in their exam schedule, which can be beneficial, as starting the exam with the section that boasts the highest pass rates could give you the quick pass and confidence boost you want. That said, there are reasons to wait to take BEC, like the fact that the WCs often draw on content from the other sections, which means you may find BEC easier to pass if you leave it for last.

Passing BEC

Though BEC may not seem so bad compared to the other exam sections, it still requires a great deal of study time, as it covers a large amount of material and features three different types of questions. Thankfully, Gleim CPA Review has better questions than any other course, and they’re all accompanied by our signature detailed answer explanations that you can use to learn from your mistakes. Our BEC course even walks you through the process of self-grading your WC responses so you can ensure your writing is ready by exam day. Our CPA exam prep also features more content coverage than any other course, and our SmartAdaptTM technology tells you what to study so you can master every concept and pass BEC faster.

You’ve learned so much about BEC, but don’t leave the rest of the exam behind – access our free CPA Exam guide today for all the exam details.