The Uniform CPA exam is a standardized, computer-based exam that is formulated by NASBA and the AICPA and taken at global Prometric testing centers. The exam consists of four parts that all CPA license which require a getting at least 75% on each section to pass each, regardless of the other state-specific requirements. These must all be passed within an 18-month window, or the first section passed will expire when that timeframe is exceeded. If they fail a single section, they will be unable to apply for CPA licensure. These parts are AUD, REG, FAR and BEC.

The BEC exam?

The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) exam part focuses on testing the examinee’s knowledge and skills relating to accounting, attestation, auditing and review serves, financial reporting, tax preparation and other accounting services. So, it is a combination of old and new concepts, but with an emphasis on the business and liaison side of accounting.  

Structure of the BEC exam

The BEC exam is broken into three parts. The first part comprises of 62 multiple choice questions (MCQs), the second consists of 4 task-based simulations (TBS) and the last part is made up of 3 written communication tasks (WCTs.) Additionally, the MCQs account for 50% of the mark, the TBSs for 35% and the WCTs for 15%. The purpose of these questions is to assess your ability to remember and understand information from the management side of your courses, as well as your analytical and communication skills. These are split over 5 testlets:

  • Testlet 1 – 31 MCQs
  • Testlet 2 – 31 MCQs
  • Testlet 3 – 2 TBSs
  • Testlet 4 – 2 TBSs
  • Testlet 5 – 3 WCTs

BEC exam length

BEC is a four-hour long examination.

BEC exam study tips

The approach to studying anything depends on the person, as different approaches work best for different people. So might be auditory learners, while others require visualizations, and still others might require hands-on application to grasp concepts. The method that is recommended by most CPAs is to go through as many multiple-choice questions (MCQs) as you can. While doing so, you can take note of the sections that you struggled with, review your notes, and then redo that set. The benefit of this is that it familiarizes you with the type of questions that are asked in the exam, and also makes you aware of the knowledge areas that you need to revise.  

Aside from a basic read-through of the coursework from a study guide, a good way to really internalize the information is by summarize it while you’re reading and make to also make refence cards of the important definition or topics that you can use for quick revision later. If you have time, reading these notes as soon as you have finished writing them will help to solidify the information in your mind. Another benefit to summarizing the chapters is that it forces you to engage with the information on a deeper, analytical level and to wrap your head around the concepts, which is unlikely to happen by just reading through them. If there is a particular section that you are struggling with, then give it a break and go back to it.

As for the written communication section, reading through some of the examples and watching a video or two on how to structure them should suffice. You should also be sure to include buzzwords and references to the topic within your communications.

You should also try to set a manageable study schedule for yourself, including incremental breaks to help you recharge and refocus. You can also set up a reward system to motivate yourself to stick to it. You should also make use of the online resources that are available to you, such as the study plans and guides by Becker’s and Wiley, if you can afford it, or even some of the other cheaper and free study told that are available, such as the concept explanation videos of Farhat’s Accounting Lectures and Edsira.

Topics covered in the BEC exam

The BEC exam section’s main function is to assess the applicant’s knowledge and skills in terms of that they must demonstrate when conducting audit, attest, accounting and review services, financial reporting, tax preparation or other professional services. The exam covers five content Areas, which further encompass many subtopics. This is outlined below.

Structure of the BEC exam

According to the AICPA’s CPA exam Blueprint effective from July 2021, the subjects are covered as follows:

  • Area I – Enterprise Risk Management, Internal Controls and Business Processes
    • Enterprise Risk Management
      • Purpose and objectives
      • Components and principles
    • Internal Controls
      • Purpose and objectives
      • Components and principles
      • Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
    • Business Processes
  • Area IIEconomics
    • Economic and business cycles – measures and indicators
    • Market influences on business
    • Financial risk management
      • Market, interest rate, currency, liquidity, credit, price and other risks
      • Means for mitigating/controlling financial risks
  • Area III Financial Management
    • Capital structure
    • Working capital
      • Fundamentals and key metrics of working capital management
      • Strategies for managing working capital
    • Financial valuation methods and decision models
  • Area IV – Information Technology
    • Understanding of information technology (IT)
    • Risk associated with IT
      • Risk assessment
      • Change management
      • Security availability, confidentiality and privacy
    • Controls that respond to risks associated with IT
      • General IT controls
      • Logical and physical controls
      • Business resiliency
    • Data management and relationships
      • Governance
      • Extract, transform and load data
      • Visualization
  • Area VOperations Management
    • Cost measurement concepts, methods and techniques
    • Variance analysis
    • Process management
      • Approaches, techniques, measures, benefits to process- management driven businesses
      • Management philosophies and techniques for performance improvement
    • Planning techniques
      • Budgeting and analysis
      • Forecasting and projection

Recommended study time for the BEC exam

The AIS-CPA suggests spending at least 55-75 hours into preparing for the BEC exam. This amounts to about 2-3 hours a day over 4-5 weeks. This is because, with a usually pass rate of about 63%, it is considered by most to be the easiest exam section. However, that also means that approximately 37% of applicants fail the exam, so it is best not to take it easy until you have actually passed it.

How difficult is the BEC exam?

With a pass rate averaging around 63%, the BEC section of the exam is considered to be the easiest by many, but that can also trip people up, as they can feel over-confidant and not prepare enough for it. What also makes it trickier is that it is the only exam part that includes written communication tasks in addition to the usual MCQs and TBSs. People who struggle with calculations may also find this exam challenging, as many of the MCQs tend to be based on them.

BEC study guides

Thankfully, whether paid or free, there are many study guide options available both on- and offline. A couple of these include: