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Before we get into this question, one needs to understand the structure of the US CPA Exam. Any exam in my opinion has to test the following 5 traits in a student :

  • Remembering - How much a student is able to remember what he has studied
  • Understanding - How much a student has understood in what he has studied
  • Application - How much a student is able to apply practically in what he has studied
  • Analysis - How much a student is able to analyse what he has studied based on his application
  • Evaluation - How much a student is able to evaluate based on the outcome of his analysis as above

Majority of the exams conducted in India (remember its only a majority and not the entirety) focus on the Remembering and Understanding traits in a student with very little attention to the Application and Analysis and Evaluation traits. Thus the knowledge of a student tends to be more theoretical as compared to being practical in such cases. Compare this with the exams in the US. Majority of the exams conducted in the US (remember again its only a majority and not the entirety) focus more on the Application, Analysis and Evaluation traits of a student. The simple logic is if only does a student remember and understanding something can he apply, analyse and evaluate and hence the focus is more on the latter than the former.

The US CPA exam is predominantly an objective type of an exam (only 15% of one of the 4 papers in the CPA Exams is descriptive in nature) and this consists of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) and something called Task Based Simulations (TBS) or Document Review Simulations (DRS). TBS / DRS enables a CPA Exam Candidate to demonstrate their ability to apply relevant technical knowledge to practical situations with refined skill and appropriate judgment and hence can also be considered as an Objective type question too. The trickiest part of an objective type of an exam is that a student is either right or wrong in full and there are no partially right answers. Everything is either Black or White with no grey shades absolutely. Thus a student has to be accurate and precise when answering and has no room for silly or careless errors as compared to a descriptive type of an examination where these are permitted since some credit is indeed given to the process and not just for the end results. Each has its own merits and demerits but one needs to remember that CPAs are an integral part of a $20 Trillion economy and are recognised across the globe. There' s one school which talks of intelligent guessing to get answers right without proper knowledge and hence does not advocate objective type of testing for an all important exam like the CPA. However one needs to understand Intelligent Guessing alone cannot ensure a student getting 75% in each paper which is the minimum score to pass the CPA exam.

Coming back to the query, a Chartered Accountant from India proves his expertise in as many as 20 papers before he is declared to have qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Its not just the numbers but also the structure of the exam (taking up a minimum of 4 papers at a time, clearing all 4 papers with a minimum of 40% in each paper and an aggregate of 50% overall) which makes it difficult for most of the students to clear the same which results in the low percentage of passing. Thus to a great extent one can state that by the time a student completes the Chartered Accountancy his knowledge levels have been adequately and appropriately tested by the ICAI.

With such a strong background, it definitely is relatively easy for a Chartered Accountant to pass the CPA exam provided he / she adapts himself / herself to the new format and structure of the CPA exam. Content-wise there is a lot of similarity between the CA and the CPA exams (but for the Tax portion which essentially and understandably focuses on the US Taxation). With just 4 papers to complete and a strong educational background a Chartered Accountant should find it relatively simpler to pass the CPA exams and hence should not be looking at any exemptions. Thus to answer the query, there are no exemptions for a Chartered Accountant when he / she takes up the CPA exams.


Published by

Ganesh Vaideeswaran
(Director, Grey Matter Academics Pvt. Ltd)
Category Students   Report

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