About the BEC CPA Exam

FREE eBook:
CPA Exam Basics

Your 1-stop-shop to CPA requirements, exam content & structure, plus tips to pass!

The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the CPA Exam covers all business concepts as well as the importance of a CPA's professional obligations and responsibilities in the greater context of the business environment. Like all the other sections of the CPA Exam, BEC is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Corporate governance, economic principles and analysis, financial management, information systems and communications, strategic planning, and operations management are all covered in the BEC part of the CPA Exam. One unique aspect of BEC is that it is the only section that requires candidates to prepare and submit three Written Communication responses.

Many CPA candidates consider BEC to be the easiest section of the CPA Exam. However, BEC pass rates have historically been only slightly higher than those for other sections, and the exam still requires a serious study effort.

BEC CPA Exam Format and Structure

Multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, and written communication assignments make up the BEC exam. There are five testlets in the BEC Exam: two testlets of multiple-choice questions (MCQs), two testlets of task-based simulations (TBSs) and one testlest containing written communication (WC) questions. While the MCQ component of BEC exam accounts for 50% of the exam score, the TBS and WC sections account for 35% and 15% respectively for the remaining 50%.

BEC Exam Testlet selection BEC Exam Testlet selection

Pre-Exam

Before you begin testing at the Prometric Testing Center, you will be given two welcome screens. The first of these displays will ask for confirmation of your name, ID, exam portion, and launch code. Before moving on, you must accept the confidentiality declarations on the next screen. It's vital to remember that if you don't finish these screens in under 5 minutes, your exam will be canceled and you won't be able to continue.

Exam

Like the other three sections of the CPA Exam, BEC is organized into five testlets, which include both operational and pretest questions. Pretest questions are not scored, but operational questions are. There are three basic question types on the BEC exam, and each testlet contains questions from only one of these question types:

  1. Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQ) - One question with four potential answers. MCQs make up the majority of the exam.
  2. Task-Based Simulations (TBS) - Questions that require you to apply practical knowledge. This could include filling out a document or finishing a research question.
  3. Written Communication - Questions that require properly composed written essay responses. This question type is unique to the BEC exam.

The MCQs are divided into two testlets, each with 31 questions. Following the MCQ testlets, there are two testlets containing two TBSs each, for a total of four TBSs. The final testlet has three Written Communication questions, one of which is pre-tested, that require a written response in memo format.

Post Exam

Following completion of the BEC exam, you will be asked to complete a 5-minute survey in which you will be asked your thoughts about the exam.

Allocated Time

Understanding how much time you have to complete each portion of the CPA Exam and the timing of scheduled breaks will help you construct a smart game plan for exam day.

  • The BEC CPA Exam section has a 4-hour time limit.
  • There are optional breaks between each testlet. However, during these optional breaks, the timer continues to run and count towards your total exam time.
  • There is a 15-minute optional standard break that occurs after you complete the third testlet. At this time, you can pause the timer on your exam. It is highly recommended that you take advantage of this break.

Time Management for the BEC CPA Exam

The total testing time for the BEC exam is 4 hours. To ensure you keep a pace that ensures you finish the entire exam on time, here is our suggested per-question time allotment for each question type:

  • There are 62 MCQs, 1.25 minutes each.
  • 4 Task-Based Simulations, 18 minutes each
  • 3 Written Communications for 25 minutes each

It is important to understand time management systems like this to effectively allocate time for the BEC section on the exam Day. The chart below is a sample time strategy breakdown to consider for the BEC CPA Exam.

Testlet Question Type Suggested Time
Testlet 1 31 MCQ 38 Minutes
Testlet 2 31 MCQ 38 Minutes
Testlet 3 2 TBS 36 Minutes
15-minute break (does not count toward total exam time)
Testlet 4 2 TBS 36 Minutes
Testlet 5 3 WC 75 Minutes
Extra Time 17 Minutes
Total Time 240 Minutes

Once you sit down to take the exam, write down your countdown timings right away. This will help you maximize your time during the exam. We recommend:

  • After Testlet 3, aim to be around halfway through your time.
  • Take the 15-minute scheduled break.
  • To stay on pace, keep in mind the estimated time per question time:
    1. 75–84 seconds for MCQ
    2. 15-20 minutes for TBS (general)
    3. 20-25 minutes for TBS (Complex)
    4. 10 minutes for research questions
    5. 15-20 minutes for written communication
Don't take the BEC Exam for granted!
Pass the most underestimated section with the highest-quality BEC MCQs and TBSs.

BEC CPA Exam Content Areas

The AICPA CPA Exam Blueprints contain the knowledge, skills, and subject themes that candidates are tested on within the CPA Exam. It also contains information about the exam changes that will be implemented each year. The CPA Exam Blueprints provide a detailed description of each exam section, allowing applicants to better understand what they need to study in order to pass the exam.

The Business Environment and Concepts section of the CPA Exam comprises enterprise risk management, internal controls and business processes, economics, financial management, information technology and operations management. The content areas tested under the BEC section include the following five content areas:

  • Internal control and enterprise risk management frameworks
  • Other regulatory frameworks and provisions
  • Economic and business cycles
  • Market influences on business
  • Financial risk management
  • Capital structure
  • Working capital
  • Financial valuation methods and decision models
  • IT governance
  • Role of IT in business
  • Information security/availability
  • Processing integrity (input/processing/output controls)
  • Systems development and maintenance
  • Cost measurement concepts, methods, and techniques
  • Variance analysis
  • Process management
  • Planning techniques

Skills Tested on the BEC Exam

The questions on the BEC Exam are divided between the following skill levels: remembering & understanding, application, and analysis.

  • (20–30%) Analysis - the investigation of the interrelationships of separate areas to identify causes and find confirmation to support implications.
  • (50–60%) Application - the use or exhibition of knowledge, concepts, or techniques.
  • (15–25%) Remembering & Understanding - the observation and understanding of the significance of an area utilizing knowledge gained.

From the AICPA website, you can access a complete list of the content group and topics organized by abilities and representative tasks.

How is the BEC CPA Exam Scored and Graded?

The BEC Exam is scored on a scale of 0 to 99, and candidates need a score of 75 to pass. These aren't percentages, and they shouldn't be treated as such. Scaled scores on exam questions are determined using algorithms that take into account whether the question was successfully answered as well as the difficulty level of each question.

The higher the value of a question, the more difficult it is. As a result, a candidate who answers 10 difficult (higher value) questions correctly will receive a higher score than a candidate who answers 10 easy (lower value) questions correctly.

Answering 75% of the questions on the exam correctly does not translate into a score of 75. There are many factors that go into your CPA Exam score, which can be accessed at How the CPA Exam is Scored.

The BEC section score is a weighted average of the results from multiple-choice questions (50 percent of the exam), task-based simulations (35 percent of the exam), and written communication (15 percent of the exam).

BEC Exam Testlet selection BEC Exam Testlet selection

For the purpose of scoring the BEC exam, consider the MCQ and the TBS/WC as two different exams. The grades from each are added together (as shown by the 'weight' percentages above) to give you an overall score. Although it would appear that properly answering 75% of the MCQs and scoring 75 or above on the TBS/WC would result in a passing mark, this is not the case due to question pretesting and the varied point values provided to each question. Learn more about CPA Exam scoring and pass rates on the AICPA website.

BEC CPA Exam Pass Rates

BEC is considered by many candidates to be the least intensive section of the CPA Exam. It is also the CPA Exam section with the highest cumulative passing percentage. One explanation for the higher BEC pass rates could be that candidates typically appear for this section of the exam last, restricting the pool of candidates to those who have completed the previous three parts successfully.

Steps in computing BEC exam score Steps in computing BEC exam scoren

However, BEC pass rates have generally been slightly higher than other portions, and the test still necessitates a significant amount of study time. While many people pass it, many also fail it. So don’t underestimate the BEC section and not give it enough of your time and effort. Here are the Top 5 Most Difficult Topics for BEC exam candidates. Below are the historic pass rates for the BEC exam.

It's no secret that the CPA Exam is one of the most difficult professional tests to pass; success necessitates commitment, dedication, and well-designed CPA study resources. UWorld Roger CPA Review has helped hundreds of thousands of students achieve their goals with a 94 percent pass rate.

The AICPA publishes the average CPA Exam pass rates, broken down by section, every quarter. The overall pass rates vary slightly by region and quarter, but it tends to settle around 45-55 percent. View the pass rates for each section of the CPA Exam from prior years in CPA Exam Pass Rates

How to study for the BEC CPA Exam section?

The BEC exam is often dismissed because it has a reputation for being the easiest portion of the CPA Exam. Don’t fall into this trap. While the overall breadth of content is less than other CPA Exam sections, BEC will still be challenging! Here are some tips on how to best study for this exam.

  • Develop a solid study plan

    Having a solid plan, and sticking to it, is your best bet to passing the BEC CPA Exam. Most successful candidates allocate about 51-68 hours of study time to passing this exam. This time can be mapped out over a series of weeks, depending on your schedule. Determine which topics will be covered on each day, days off, and days dedicated to final review. Make sure your plan fits your lifestyle. And if you miss a day, make it up!

  • Focus on weak areas

    As you work through your BEC review course practice questions, your course should be providing analytics on your performance so that you can identify your strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you are continuously focusing on those weak areas so that you can ensure you are adequately prepared for all topics.

  • Learn by Doing

    According to the National Training Laboratory’s Learning Pyramid, students only retain 5-10% of the information delivered in traditional passive learning styles, such as lectures and reading from a textbook. We recommend students implement an active-learning methodology to prepare for the CPA Exam. Consequently, students who are actively engaged in the learning process can increase their retention to the 75-90% range. When it comes to preparing for the CPA Exam, the doing comes from practicing real CPA Exam questions. Therefore, in the UWorld Roger CPA Review course, the bulk of the learning happens through our high-quality question bank.

  • Know top BEC topics

    One of the main reasons we suggest candidates take the BEC section last is because it’s an accumulation of many of the topics that were covered in previous CPA Exam sections and their effect in the business environment. So when you are working through the material, you will gain a deeper understanding of the content if you approach it from that lense. There’s a wide range of topics covered on this exam, including some topics that are more difficult than others. This includes one of accounting students’ least favorite topics from school, Cost Accounting. We’re sorry to say that it’s back! For more, checkout our blog on the Top 5 Most Difficult Topics on the BEC Exam.

  • Study with a CPA Review Course

    Your best bet for success on the CPA Exam is to study with a top quality CPA Review. At UWorld, it is our job to take all of the information laid out in the AICPA blueprints and deliver it to you through a program that will get you to the finish line efficiently and effectively.

BEC CPA Exam Study Tips

If you're ready to begin preparing for the BEC CPA Exam right now, we recommend using some of the study techniques listed below.

  • The BEC exam is an endurance test. Commit to spending the time necessary to properly comprehend the content.
  • Make a study regimen or a game plan and stick to it with the aid of our Study Planners.
  • By saying "no" when you need to study, you may safeguard your study time.
  • Consider blocking Internet access, turning off alerts, and notifying family, friends, and coworkers that you will be absolutely unreachable during your specified study periods.
  • Solicit help from relatives and friends.
  • Get plenty of rest, eat healthy, and exercise often.
  • Turn a stroll, workout, or time waiting in line into a study session by using mobile devices.
  • Study more effectively by avoiding poor study approaches, such as working through endless practice questions and not actually taking the time to learn.
  • Practice the mnemonics not just to memorize them, but also to comprehend them—recite them while describing what each part means and how it fits into the broader picture in your own words.
  • Keep your sights set on the finish line and remember why you're on this adventure.
With a 94% pass rate—it works!
Reach your goals with the course that’s raising the bar in CPA Exam preparation.
uworld cpa review course mobile app

Tips for the Written Communication Section of BEC

The Written Communication portion of BEC not only tests your proficiency in articulating a problem and solution in well-thought-out content, but also your technical use of standard English and professional documentation creation. So here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you construct your entire written communication strategy:

  • Spelling, grammar, and Standard English should all be followed.
  • Use whole sentences and write clearly and simply.
  • Include an introduction, body, and concluding paragraph.
  • Bullet points, acronyms, charts, and graphs should all be avoided.
  • Stay on topic. It is critical that your written response is relevant, on-topic, and addresses the query.
  • Incorporate keywords into your responses. For instance, in certain replies, you may include terms like "changing accounting principle," "change in estimate," and "retrospective." It depends on the nature of the query. In any case, be sure to include some of the question's primary components in your response.

In order to do well on the BEC Written Communications questions, it's important to know what graders are looking for in a well-written response.

FAQs

Many CPA candidates consider BEC to be the easiest section of the CPA Exam. However, BEC pass rates have generally only been slightly higher than other portions, and the test still necessitates a significant amount of study time. While many people pass it, many also fail it. So don’t underestimate the BEC section and not give it enough of your time and effort. Here is what guest blogger, Margo Pacific, considers to be The Most Difficult Topic on BEC

The sequence in which a candidate takes the four parts of the CPA Exam varies based on a variety of criteria, but we usually advise taking BEC last. Keep in mind, you must complete all exam parts within an 18-month window.

We estimate that 51-68 hours of study time is necessary to pass BEC, although each student is different and has different time constraints.

The BEC exam is an endurance test. Commit to spending the time necessary to properly comprehend the content. The written communication portion of the BEC exam is graded for both technical content and writing skills. In order to do well on written communication questions, it is important to know what the graders are looking for in a well-written response:

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. On topic
  4. Proper grammar
  5. Complete sentences
  6. Organization
  7. Supporting details
  8. Proper formatting
  9. Introductions and conclusions

The CPA Exam’s BEC portion covers all business concepts as well as the importance of a CPA’s professional obligations and responsibilities in the greater context of the business environment. Corporate governance, economic principles and analysis, financial management, information systems and communications, strategic planning, and operations management are all tested in this exam part.

Yes, you can receive partial credit on WCs and TBSs. A candidate’s BEC score consists of 50% MCQs, 35% TBSs, and 15% WC. Of the 62 MCQs, 50 are operational, meaning they count toward the exam score, while 12 are pretested and do not count toward the exam score. Of the four TBSs, three are operational and one is pretested. Of the three WCs, two are operational and one is pretested.

For the purpose of scoring the BEC exam, consider the MCQ and the TBS/WC as two different exams. The grades from each are added together to give you an overall score. Although it would appear that properly answering 75% of the MCQs and scoring 75 or above on the TBS/WC would result in a passing mark, this is not the case due to question pretesting and the varied point values provided to each question.

According to the AICPA, changes in federal legislation are testable on the CPA Exam in the calendar quarter beginning six (6) months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the calendar quarter beginning one (1) year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.

The written communication portion of the BEC Exam is scored for both technical material and writing abilities, according to the AICPA. Therefore, keep the following guidelines in mind as you design your overall Written Communication strategy:

  • Spelling, grammar, and Standard English should all be followed.
  • Bullet points, acronyms, charts, and graphs should all be avoided.
  • Use whole sentences and write clearly and simply.
  • Include an introduction, body, and concluding paragraph.
  • Keep the conversation on track.
  • Incorporate keywords into your responses

You can access the above tips in detail in our CPA Exam Tip: BEC Written Communication blog

Other CPA Exam Sections

AUD CPA Exam
Your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the AUD portion of the CPA Exam. To ace the AUD CPA Exam, learn about the format, content, length, current revisions, scoring, pass rates, and study advice.

FAR CPA Exam
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) is the most comprehensive section of the CPA Exam. Learn all about the section that requires you to know a little bit about a whole lot!

REG CPA Exam
The CPA Exam's Regulation (REG) portion assesses a candidate's knowledge and skills in federal taxation, business law, business ethics, and professional and legal duties. Here’s everything you need to know about the REG CPA Exam format and REG test.

Read more about the BEC CPA Review Exam

UWorld Roger CPA Review provides CPA candidates with all the study materials and resources needed to prepare and successfully pass the US Uniform CPA Exam online.

Students achieve topic mastery as they go through the highest-quality practice questions and answers prepared by a team of the profession’s finest educators and practicing CPAs in our active learning style.

With limitless full-length Practice CPA Exams included in all UWorld Roger CPA Review course packages, you can hone your abilities and time management. CPA Practice Exams are an online version of the real CPA Exam that follows the same four-hour, five-testlet format you will encounter at the Prometric Testing Center.

UWorld Roger CPA Review is the only CPA course that includes the highest-quality BEC Exam review course questions and answers, the profession’s most entertaining and effective lectures, and time-saving technology—all of which have been proven with a 94 percent CPA Exam pass rate.

Scroll to Top