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

How much does the AICPA ethics exam cost?

The exam costs either $189.00 or $245.00, depending on whether the applicant is a member of AICPA or not. This will allow the purchaser access to all content for one year from the date of purchase. This is true of most other premium content on their site as well.

Which states require the AICPA Ethics Exam?

These are the states that require the AICPA Ethics exam. But be aware there are also states that have other Ethics exam or course requirements to qualify for licensure:

States with alternate Ethic exam requirements:

  1. Arkansas – $0.00
  2. California – $175-$195
  1. North Carolina – $0-$315
  2. Texas – $0.00
  1. Wisconsin – $75

How long is the AICPA exam?

You have 16 hours in which to take the AICPA exam once you begin. Most people take between 2- 4 hours to take the exam in a single sitting. The reason for this variance is threefold. Firstly, the number of questions in the exam will vary depending on the state or jurisdiction. Next, you can only view one question at a time and cannot go back once you click through to the next question. Therefore, candidates like to be as confident as they can be before moving on to the next exam. Finally, it depends on whether you take breaks or not. It is fine to do so, given the time limit.

Is the AICPA ethics exam hard?

Yes and no. The AICPA exam is not hard in and of itself. Rather, the difficulty lies in that you need at least 90% to pass the exam. This is why it only has a pass rate of around 50%. It is an open book, at home exam without any limitations as to what you can do while taking it. There are several tools that you can use to help you find the answers to it. The ethics exam comes with an online course, as well as a PDF document that covers the information. It can be found under the resources section of the online course content. Therefore, you can also keep the PDF document open and search through it using CTRL+F for any answers that you don’t know.

You are also allowed to use Google to search for answers. Additionally, many students feel that they found the AICPA ethics exam content very simple if they had already completed the CPA exam, as much of the content was already there. However, although there are some people who have passed the exam without going through the coursework, there are also those who have failed a few ties even with the search options. So, it might be worthwhile to read through the content before attempting the exam.

How do I study for the AICPA exam?

As we said above, the AICPA ethics exam comes with a course and a 300-page study book. A good way to study for it would be to watch the course videos. Furthermore, even though you can just do a search through the PDF document, reading through the test will also help you to familiarize yourself with the content ahead of time. Additionally, there are sample questions at the end of the PDF, many of which tend to appear in the exam. So, if you research the answers beforehand, you should be able to answer those questions correctly at least.

How many times can I take the AICPA exam?

The AICPA itself will allow you three attempts to pass the exam, before its system blocks you. You will then need to contact the support staff to unlock your account.

How is the AICPA exam structured?

The AICPA comprises of multiple-choice questions. The exact number varies per state. There are usually at least 40 questions, but this can go up to 56.

What topics are covered in the AICPA exam?

  • Conceptual framework
  • AICPA Code of Professional Conduct
  • Independence
  • Ethics
  • Activities that discredit the profession
  • Ethics interpretations

Does my AICPA exam result expire?

As with most aspects of the CPA licensure process, this varies from state to state. Most states that require the AICPA ethics exam stipulate that it should be passed within 2 or 3 years of applying for licensure. Therefore, it is better to take the exam only after you have passed the full CPA exam. Otherwise, you might just be wasting your money, as you may need to retake the exam even if you have already passed it.

How do I register with the AICPA?

You can register for a free account with AICPA via this link. In order to make use of the benefits, you will need to subscribe to an annual membership. This will entail paying a pro-rated fee. The membership options are as follows:

CPA exam candidate affiliate

This option is for those who are preparing to take the CPA exam. Benefits include:

  • Practice tests, score release calculators and other specialized tools to help you become a CPA
  • Essential Audit & Accounting Research Collection for $75/year ($500 value)
  • AICPA Professional Literature Bundle online (includes Professional Standards, Tech Practice
  • Aids and PCAOB Standards & Rules for $40/year ($400 value)
  • Audit & Accounting Manual for $25 ($140 value)
  • Discounts on over 20 brands

Fee: $85.00

Associate membership

This option is available to those who are working towards getting their CPA license. It grants the member:

  • Up to $975 in free CPE over the course of 12 months through their Town Hall series
  • Up to 30% off AICPA CPE courses
  • $300 off AICPA conferences
  • Tools and resources
  • Product discounts for brands such as Lenovo and Hertz

Fee: $295.00

Non-CPA Associate membership

This option is available to any non-CPA who is professionally involved in finance and accounting. It provides members with benefits such as:

  • Up to $975 in free CPE over the course of 12 months through their Town Hall series
  • Up to 30% off AICPA CPE courses
  • $300 off AICPA conferences
  • Free 1-year subscription to Journal of Accountancy
  • Product discounts for brands such as Lenovo and FedEx

Fee: $295.00

International associate

This potion is available to internationally certified public accountants and members of institutions who are part of the Global Accounting association (GAA.) Benefits include:

  • Up to $975 in free CPE over the course of 12 months through their Town Hall series
  • Up to 30% off AICPA CPE courses
  • $300 off AICPA conferences
  • Tools and resources
  • Product discounts for over 20 brands

Fee: $455.00

Regular membership

This option is available to licensed CPAs only. It does not matter whether your license is valid, inactive or expired. The benefits of Regular membership include:

  • Up to $975 in free CPE over the course of 12 months through their Town Hall series
  • Up to 30% off AICPA CPE courses
  • $300 off AICPA conferences
  • Free 1-year subscription to Journal of Accountancy
  • Product discounts for brands such as Lenovo and FedEx
  • Other benefits

The annual membership fee varies per role. These are for the 2021/2022 year:

Public Accounting, Law, Consulting 
Sole Practitioner$485
Business and Industry 
Management or Staff$295
Internal Auditor$295
Faculty, Administration or Staff$295
Federal, State, Local or International$295