We’ll cover everything you need to know about Enrolled Agent exam pass rates and the passing score. Don’t worry too much about getting bogged down in the details—we’ll explain what the pass rates say about the EA exam’s difficulty and tell you how to succeed, no matter what the numbers say!
If you take an average of all three parts, the most current Enrolled Agent exam pass rate is 74%, which puts it at the top end of the range it has occupied for years: fluctuating between 70% and 74%. The table below provides the pass rate for each part of the exam since 2018.
|Part 1: Individuals||62%||61%||66%|
|Part 2: Businesses||69%||70%||74%|
|Part 3: Representation, Practices and Procedures||86%||81%||83%|
Compared to other professional accounting exams, like the CPA Exam with a pass rate of 45-50%, EA exam pass rates for all three parts are extremely high!
That doesn’t mean the exam is easy however. What it does mean is that you should feel good about your ability to earn a passing score, provided you study.
The EA exam is graded on a scale of 40 to 130 available points, and the IRS sets the EA passing score Opens in new window at 105 points. Scoring at least 105 points demonstrates that you have the knowledge to practice before the IRS and deserve all the benefits that come with earning your EA.
But what does a scaled score of 105 points actually mean?
You can actually skip this explanation if you’d like, but if you’re curious, we have to quickly talk about what the IRS calls “experimental questions.”
Experimental questions are questions on your exam that do not count toward your score. They’re included so that the IRS can figure out whether or not they’re good enough to include as real questions on future EA exams.
There will be up to 15 of them on each part of your EA exam, and they will be indistinguishable from the questions you’re actually being graded on—so treat every question like it counts. But don’t worry. After you learn how your EA exam score is calculated, you can forget they exist because they ultimately don’t affect how you take your exam or how you need to prepare for it.
Your score is the number of questions you answered correctly which is then converted to a scaled score from 40-130 points. The scaled score accounts for differences in the exams that candidates receive and also accounts for the experimental questions.
That happens while you’re still at the Prometric testing center! You’ll know your EA exam results at the end of your exam. If you pass, you won’t learn your score—they just tell you you’ve passed the exam. If you fail, you’ll learn your score and you’ll be given a diagnostic report before you leave that will help you study for your retake.
Prometric, the testing center that administers the exam, advises against reading too deeply into the pass rates because candidate populations differ greatly for each exam part. Most candidates start with Part 1, so Part 1 probably has its pass rate depressed by people who stop after their first attempt, weren’t aware of how much they needed to prepare, or haven’t found the time to retake it yet. That doesn’t necessarily make Part 1 the hardest exam, it just means it occupies a difficult position on many peoples’ journeys.
Given the number of factors coming into play, we can’t assume the pass rates tell us which part is harder than the others.
Instead, check out what’s tested on each part of the EA exam to get the best idea of which exam part will be the most challenging for you. You can also use our free Enrolled Agent exam questions to get an idea of what the real exam questions will be like. Your familiarity with the topics and your current knowledge ultimately determine how much material you still need to master.
For example, Part 1 is based on individual tax returns. If you’re a tax return preparer who’s dealing with those daily, you’ll probably find Part 1 a lot easier to prepare for than Part 2, which covers businesses. The reverse is also true.
Part 1 currently has the lowest pass rate, which has been the trend for the last several years. This is likely due to an increase in candidates taking the Enrolled Agent exam as they try to get the designation, which is becoming increasingly popular. Additionally, there have been quite a few changes to tax law in recent years that have shaken up tax preparation in general, which have certainly made the exam more difficult to prepare for than it otherwise might have been.
Like we mentioned earlier, Part 1 is often the section Enrolled Agent candidates take first, so on top of exam changes, candidates may not know exactly what to expect from the exam or how much they need to study for it to have a good chance of passing. If they weren’t ready for Part 1, they’ll know to apply themselves more when they sit for Parts 2 and 3. A good study plan is the key to earning a passing score.
The Part 2 pass rate is a bit more consistent from year to year compared to Part 1. The great news is the pass rate has been increasing year over year. The Business section is considered the hardest among most tax preparers and often gives Enrolled Agent candidates anxiety.
Due to its reputation, candidates often take Part 2 after passing at least one of the other two sections, meaning that candidates are more likely to have a study strategy in place before starting. However, if the candidate prepares well, they often find Part 2 to be about the same difficulty as Part 1 or even Part 3.
The Part 3 pass rate has not only been more consistent than the others, it’s also been consistently higher. Its pass rate is the best of all three parts and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
Part 3 is reputed to be the “easy” part, but it’s still important to study. One of the only things that feels worse than failing a difficult exam part that you really studied for by a few points is failing an easy exam part by a few points because you didn’t.
Exam changes can also impact pass rates, but they don’t have to affect your chance at EA exam success. Changes to the testable material just mean you need to find the right material to study.
Information about pass rates and exam changes can help you plan, but it shouldn’t stress you out! The pass rates are not your odds of success. Between our award-winning support and course that’s always kept up-to-date, you can be completely prepared—regardless of the average performance.