You probably already know that the CPA Exam is a four-part affair. You take one section at a time and then move on to the next one, all over the course of 18 months. There’s more to enjoy that way, right? At least we give you the option of taking the exams in whatever order suits you.

When you’re going into battle, you need to know what you’re up against. Knowing the differences between the sections can also help you schedule them in a way that maximizes your odds of success. So here’s a closer look at each of the four sections.

For more specific information on each of the exam sections, review the Content Specification Outlines (CSOs).

Audit and Attestation (AUD) 

Everything from planning the engagement to internal controls, AUD weighs in at 4 hours of fun. It covers:

  • Engagement Acceptance & Understanding the Assignment (12-16%)
  • Understanding the Entity & its Environment (including Internal Control) (16-20%)
  • Performing Audit Procedures & Evaluating Evidence (16-20%)
  • Evaluating Audit Findings, Communications & Reporting (16-20%)
  • Accounting & Review Service Engagements (12-16%)
  • Professional Responsibilities (including Ethics & Independence) (16-20%)
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

Covers the typical items in financial statements, as well as the not-so-typical details in governmental and not-for-profit reporting. Some say it’s the hardest. 4 hours.

  • Conceptual Framework, Standards, Standard Setting & Presentation of Financial Statements (17-23%)
  • Financial Statement Accounts: Recognition, Measurement, Valuation, Calculation, Presentation & Disclosures (27-33%)
  • Specific Transactions, Events & Disclosures (27-33%)
  • Governmental Accounting and Reporting (8-12%)
  • Not-for-Profit Accounting and Reporting (8-12%)
Regulation (REG)

Ethics. Something you want to be known for. REG gives you 3 hours to prove yourself in that department.

  • Ethics, Professional and Legal Responsibilities (15-19%)
  • Business Law (17-21%)
  • Federal Tax Process, Procedures, Accounting and Planning (11-15%)
  • Federal Taxation of Property Transactions (12-16%)
  • Federal Taxation of Individuals (13-19%)
  • Federal Taxation of Entities (18-24%)
Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)

Many people save BEC for last, but don’t let its relatively short 3 hour time limit fool you. This one’s as tough as the rest of them.

  • Corporate Governance (16-20%)
  • Economic Concepts & Analysis (16-20%)
  • Financial Management (19-23%)
  • Information Systems and Communications (15-19%)
  • Strategic Planning (10-14%)
  • Operations Management (12-16%)

Now that you know how the exam breaks down, get some free tools to help you with the challenge.