How to Master CPA Exam Content

cpa exam content

It has been said before: the CPA Exam is hard. To pass, you need to prepare. Two major factors contribute to CPA Exam difficulty: the scope of content it covers and the extent to which it tests your understanding of that content. The best way to ensure you’re prepared for the exam’s breadth and depth is to study with a CPA review course, but only a course that thoroughly covers CPA Exam content and clearly presents CPA Exam information can help you be fully prepared and completely confident. We’ll explain how you can find a review course that does just that.


Steps to Mastering CPA Exam Content

Follow these steps to set yourself up for CPA Exam success:

  • Discover the scope of the exam content.

In the CPA Exam Blueprints, the AICPA outlines the content areas of the four exam sections.


      1. Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles: 15-25%
      2. Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response: 20-30%
      3. Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence: 30-40%
      4. Forming Conclusions and Reporting: 15-25%


      1. Corporate Governance: 17-27%
      2. Economic Concepts and Analysis: 17-27%
      3. Financial Management: 11-21%
      4. Information Technology: 15-25%
      5. Operations Management: 15-25%


      1. Conceptual Framework, Standard Setting, and Financial Reporting: 25-35%
      2. Select Financial Statement Accounts: 30-40%
      3. Select Transactions: 20-30%
      4. State and Local Governments: 5-15%


    1. Ethics, Professional Responsibilities and Federal Tax Procedures: 10-20%
    2. Business Law: 10-20%
    3. Federal Taxation of Property Transactions: 12-22%
    4. Federal Taxation of Individuals: 15-25%
    5. Federal Taxation of Entities: 28-38%
    1. These content areas are fairly broad, and each one further breaks down in a complex

CPA Exam structure

    . The Blueprints show the dozens of content groups and topics the exam encompasses, including 229 total testable topics parceled out into about 600 representative tasks. This expansive scope of content leaves you with a lot to study, and there are no shortcuts to learning it.
  • Understand the skill levels tested.

The purpose of the CPA Exam is to ensure every CPA candidate possesses the knowledge and skills required of a newly-licensed CPA. CPAs are trusted to be knowledgeable professionals, so the exam assesses you at four different skill levels to ensure you meet their standards.

CPA Exam Skill Levels

(Highest to Lowest)

Evaluation This tests the ability to evaluate information using multiple concepts to reach a conclusion.
Analysis This tests the ability to use multiple concepts together and apply them to a factual situation.
Application This tests the application of memorized principles to a factual situation.
Remembering and Understanding Remembering tests pure memorization. Understanding tests the ability to understand memorized principles.
    1. The AICPA assigns one skill level to each of the 600 representative tasks detailed in the Blueprints. The Remembering and Understanding level requires the lowest amount of skill, while Evaluation requires the highest amount. To reach the Analysis and Evaluation levels, you must answer the “so what” questions: explain


    something is important or unimportant. As shown in the chart below, all of the exam sections test you at the Analysis level, but only AUD tests you at the Evaluation level.

CPA Exam Skill Levels Distribution

Section Remembering and Understanding Application Analysis Evaluation
AUD 30-40% 30-40% 15-25% 5-15%
BEC 15-25% 50-60%* 20-30%
FAR 10-20% 50-60% 25-35%
REG 25-35% 35-45% 25-35%

*Includes written communication

    Clearly, familiarization with all of the content at a high level is necessary for a passing exam score.
  • Seek out a thorough review course.

Only a review course prioritizing thorough content coverage will help you reach the appropriate skill level with every content area. It’s not in your best interest to work with a review provider that excessively speculates about the content or excludes certain content based on their best guesswork. Doesn’t it always go that the very thing you didn’t study for shows up on the exam? You want a provider that addresses all of the content in order to minimize the number of surprises you encounter on exam day. Only the most comprehensive CPA exam prep will explain each concept and provide everything you need to master the CPA Exam topics.

  • Ensure that your course presents the exam content effectively.

Your CPA Exam review should cover all of the exam content without overwhelming you. You’re trusting your course to break the exam content down, not pile it up. If your CPA review doesn’t present the exam content effectively, you won’t be able to acquire the knowledge and skill you need to pass the CPA Exam. Some courses break content down into short formulas and mnemonics for quick memorization, but because the exam tests your ability to analyze and evaluate, memorization alone won’t cut it. Other courses go into extensive detail on each Blueprint topic but fill hundreds of pages in the process. While all of the information you need to know is included, it’s difficult to digest and exhausting to get through. The happy medium is streamlined exam content presented in concise outlines. Content outlines serve up thorough coverage in limited space by arranging information in bulleted lines rather than chunky paragraphs. By clearly building new information on top of the old, content outlines enable you to achieve genuine comprehension in less time. You learn more about the exam topics than a simple formula could teach you while reaching comprehension faster than you would by reading an endless number of pages. To reach the depths of comprehension you need without drowning in a sea of words, hold out for a review course that specializes in outlining the exam content.

  • Demo each course to assess the content coverage and presentation.

Before you make a monetary commitment, you need to see for yourself how well a review course covers and presents exam content. The best way is viewing the course demos most review providers offer. These demos are usually free and have varied access periods. Some review providers give you just a few days or weeks to explore their demos, but Gleim CPA Review offers 18 months of unlimited access. No matter where you are in the process of choosing your CPA review, you should utilize the free course demos to verify a course meets your content coverage standards prior to purchasing.

The Most Thorough Coverage of CPA Exam Content

Sample the demos of every CPA review course that interests you, but know that Gleim CPA Review is the most comprehensive course on the market. We supply you with everything you need to master the exam content and pass the CPA Exam: the biggest and best test bank of questions, hundreds of bite-sized video lectures, and thorough yet concise content outlines that truly explain the concepts. Our content presentation is proven, and our topic explanations are second to none. Start your journey toward exam success by accessing our free CPA demo today.