Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) account for 50% of the overall mark of the Regulations (REG)Auditing and Attestation (AUD) and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) CPA exam sections, and 35% of the Business Environment & Concepts (BEC) exam section. Therefore, it is important to know what they are and how to do them.

What is a TBS?

A TBS is a case study question that is based on a scenario that could happen in real-life. It is meant to test your knowledge, as well as your ability to sift through information and apply your knowledge to the presented task. This information can include the situational information, email and memo correspondence, financial documentation, charts and other pertinent information. You will then need to extrapolate the useful data from them in order to present the correct answer. The different types of TBSs are described further on.

How many TBSs are there in each CPA exam section?


Testlet 1: 36 MCQs
Testlet 2: 36 MCQs
Testlet 3: 2 TBSs
Testlet 4: 3 TBSs
Testlet 5: 3 TBSs


Testlet 1: 31 MCQs
Testlet 2: 31 MCQs
Testlet 3: 2 TBSs
Testlet 4: 2 TBSs
Testlet 5: 3 WCTs


Testlet 1: 33 MCQs
Testlet 2: 33 MCQs
Testlet 3: 2 TBSs
Testlet 4: 3 TBSs
Testlet 5: 3 TBSs


Testlet 1: 38 MCQs
Testlet 2: 38 MCQs
Testlet 3: 2 TBSs
Testlet 4: 3 TBSs
Testlet 5: 3 TBSs

How are CPA Task-Based Simulations graded?

The TBSs are graded on a scaled scoring system. This means that it utilizes a ‘multistage adaptive test delivery model’ which assesses your performance on the first TBS testlet (Testlet 3) to determine the difficulty of the next TBS testlet (Teslet 4). Therefore, while Testlet 3 is always of moderate difficulty, and the ones that follow are based on your performance. Once complete, the computer calculates the results to determine whether the next testlet will be a set of medium-difficulty or hard-difficulty. If it is moderate difficulty, then the questions’ weight will be the same as those of Teslet 3. However, if you are given more difficult TBSs for Testlet 4, then those grades will have a higher impact on your grade that Testlet 3.

What are the different kinds of TBSs?

There are five kinds of TBSs:

  • Research
  • Journal Entries
  • Matching
  • Fill-in-the-Blank
  • Document Review Simulations


These tasks provide the candidate with authoritative literature which they must then peruse in order to find the relevant information that will answer the question posed in that task. So, in essence, it is a simple search task where you will seek out and quote the code section that will provide guidance on the topic to be addressed.

Journal Entries

Journal Entry TBSs will provide the candidate with financial documentation that they will need to analyze and determine whether the data needs to be entered into the journal or not. They will typically provided with the option to enter the data into debits or credits, or to simply state ‘No Entry Given.’ In some cases, the candidate will be provided with name options and amount options to select, while in others they will need to enter everything from scratch.


This is a deceptively simple TBS which requires the candidate to match 5-10 terms with the correct option of a list of provided definitions and numbers. There are many more potential answers on the list than terms, so this will require some knowledge and calculations.


In these simulations, you are given information along with a spreadsheet and you are required to fill in the missing dollar amount based on your calculations. You could also be working with balancing documents such as a Balance of Cash Flows sheets or Operations and Investments documentation. The purpose of these tasks is to assess the candidate’s problem-solving and computation capabilities.

Document Review Simulations (DRS)

As it sounds, these tasks require the applicant to review examples of realistic source documents such as bank statements, invoices and memos. Within those documents will be highlighted keywords, phrases or paragraphs that the candidate will need to analyze. They will then need to ascertain whether the suggested edits are correct or incorrect. This will often entail looking through other source documentation that will provide the candidate with background information from which they will need to provide an opinion. Essentially, these tasks are designed to test your ability to trace back information and to analyze documentation.

How can I prepare for the Task Based Simulation Tasks?

If you are using premium study materials such as Becker or Wiley, they will cover this in their PDF study guide and online video course. They also provide sample TBSs to perform and be assessed on online. If not, there are also plenty of free resources that can help you.

Some examples include: