CPA Hot Topics – Written Communications

Garrett Gleim sends CPA candidates informative emails concerning different aspects of the CPA exam. Candidates can see the most recent email and all the archives here on the CPA Candidate Forum.

You probably know by now that we had a very successful release of CPA 2014 last week. We were able to provide the usual high-quality updates and a couple of special new items, including the Gleim Instruct video series in FAR and the Gleim Study Planner. The feedback for both of these innovations is overwhelmingly positive. I’d love to hear what you think about them!

In my September Hot Topics, I mentioned that the CPA Pass Rates for Q1 2013 had been released and showed a continuation of the upswing of BEC scores that began in 2012. The latest score release confirms the same trend: The BEC Pass Rates in Q2 and Q3 for 2013 were 55.95% and 58.54%, respectively. Compared to the other sections, which range from 48.08% to 51.23%, the BEC rates are quite high!

I’d like to again encourage you to take advantage of these uncharacteristically high pass rates and sit for your BEC exam sooner rather than later. I don’t mean you should feel compelled to schedule your BEC exam for next week or even next month or rearrange the order of sections you had originally settled upon if BEC was not first on your list. However, I do believe it is likely that changes will be made to the BEC exam once the AICPA’s Board of Examiners receives a report of findings from the inquiry team. Do not be surprised if BEC scores begin to go back down over the next year, and you should consider taking the exam before any dramatic changes are implemented.

Since we’re on the topic of BEC, I also want to bring up some important information about the Written Communication testlet. Remember, you will respond to three written communication scenarios, two of which will be graded. Your score on those two responses will make up 15% of your total grade. Feedback from candidates who have already taken the BEC section has revealed to us that the Written Communications on the actual exam may cover topics outside the scope of the BEC CSO (i.e., they may relate to topics from the AUD, FAR, and/or REG CSOs instead). You must write each response to the best of your ability and remember that graders are mainly evaluating your writing ability and will overlook minor technical mistakes.

More specifically, the AICPA states that “technical content will be evaluated for information that is helpful to the intended reader and clearly relevant to the issue.” It advises that all responses “should provide the correct information in writing that is clear, complete, and professional. Only those writing samples that are generally responsive to the topic will be graded. If your response is off-topic, or offers advice that is clearly illegal, you will not receive any credit for the response.” Finally, it explains that writing skill scores will be based on three criteria: organization (structure, ordering of ideas, linking of ideas to one another), development (presentation of supporting evidence), and expression (use of standard business English). In other words, you should ensure that your response is free from off-topic or drastically incorrect information, and do not stress if you feel that you have only a tentative grasp of a topic you must write about. The Gleim BEC system allows you to practice answering Written Communications on a vast variety of topics. In addition, we provide a self-grading tool and suggested responses that mimic what the AICPA is looking for.

Whether you are currently studying for BEC or one of the other sections, or you are taking a break from the CPA exam, we hope that you have a wonderful holiday season. And, don’t forget to respond to this email if you have any feedback on Gleim Instruct or the Gleim Study Planner. See you next year!

Do you have any questions or comments about this week’s Hot Topics article or the CPA Exam? Email me at Gleim Personal Counselors are available to help you develop a manageable study schedule and help you pass the CPA exam. Contact them at 800.874.5346, ext 498 or Take advantage of the opportunity to get help from our extraordinary team!

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