Depending on your state board’s specific requirements, you may be expected to write an ethics examination after you pass your CPA exam. I know: you’re probably not in the mood to sit for another exam. Don’t worry, there is no rush to take the ethics exam after you have passed. In most states you have between one and two years after having passed the CPA exam before you must write the ethics exam. Furthermore, the AICPA ethics exam is nowhere near as challenging or lengthy as the uniform CPA exam. In fact, most candidates pass with flying colors. 

This doesn’t mean you don’t need to take the ethics exam seriously. Accounting ethics and financial integrity are essential to every good accountant. After all, dealing with sensitive and confidential information (and sometimes complicated ethical situations) is a part of a CPAs everyday job. The exam helps prospective CPAs learn the appropriate ethical principles they might need to prepare for their professional careers. Furthermore, you need to have passed the AICPA ethics exam in order to qualify for your CPA license. 

Before you continue reading, double-check if the ethics examination is mandatory in your state. If not, stop reading this article now! Don’t waste your time or money on an examination that won’t be of any use to you. 

What is the AICPA Ethics Exam?

The AICPA Ethics Exam is a test that is written and administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The exam consists of multiple choice questions and covers essential accounting ethics concepts. It is also an online exam, written at home on your computer. The exam is open-book, which means that you are allowed to look up the answers in your textbook while you are writing the test. 

Once you start writing the ethics exam, you will have 11 hours to complete it. Naturally, you don’t have to use all 11 hours to write the test. However, it is advised that you don’t rush through the questions. Remember, you must achieve 90% in order to pass. Use your time wisely, read the questions closely, and assess your options carefully. After all, you’ve made it this far! 

The content tested in the exam comes out of the AICPA’s self study ethics course, which is a textbook available for purchase online. You might find some of the content familiar, since much of it is also covered in the uniform CPA exam. Even though you’re allowed to look at your notes during the test, it is advised that you give yourself adequate time to familiarise yourself with the textbook. 

Almost all of the states that require the ethics exam use the test administered by the AICPA. However, some states have unique codes of conduct that differ from the AICPA’s professional code of conduct. In these cases, you will need to study material from your specific state. This should be available on your State Board of Accountancy’s website, which is also where you will register for the ethics exam. Your state board’s website will also give you important information such as costs and whether your ethics exam counts towards your CPE.

If you fail your ethics exam, you have a maximum of three attempts for online submission. You’re welcome to take the test again, but you’ll need to mail your answer sheet to the CPA. It is also important to remember that you must pass the exam within 1 year of purchasing the study materials. 

What is in the AICPA Ethics Exam?

The AICPA ethics exam covers a wide range of content. All of the questions are designed to prepare future CPAs for potential professional challenges. Below we have compiled a list of some of the sorts of questions you can expect from the ethics exam. 

  • Appropriate business and employer relationships 
  • Ethical practices in tax services and loans
  • How to practice objectivity and maintain integrity 
  • The AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and Accounting Rules 
  • Conflicts of interest 
  • Client confidentiality
  • Compliance with standards
  • What actions could lose you your CPA license 
  • Principles of independence 
  • Independence rules for the Securities Exchange Commission, Government Accounting Office, and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board