Foundation exams FAQs
- Not every CPA Program candidate needs to sit the foundation exams. Your eligibility depends on the study you’ve completed at a tertiary level. If you’ve already completed an eligible course, you may be able to enter the CPA Program directly.
- Yes. All learning materials, instructions and exams are conducted and written in English.
- Yes. These are two separate processes and assess your eligibility for different things. Even if your qualifications are assessed for migration purposes, our membership requirements are different. So, if you'd like to enrol into the CPA Program, a skills assessment is compulsory.
If you've completed any of the following bridging units, you'll receive an exemption for the corresponding foundation exam when you apply for your assessment. Ensure you quote the original reference number on your application to receive the exemption.
BUP001: Introduction to Financial Accounting
The corresponding foundation exam is Financial Accounting and Reporting.
BUP002: Introduction to Management Accounting
The corresponding foundation exam is Management Accounting.
BUP003: Introduction to Business Finance
The corresponding foundation exam is Business Finance.
- CPA Australia’s membership entry changed in 2010. As a result, we no longer offer bridging units. You’ll need to complete an assessment to determine how to enter the program.
- Yes. You'll still need to complete an assessment so we can determine your knowledge and strengths. You may still be required to complete some foundation exams. To have your prior study assessed and determine your pathway to become a CPA, start a membership assessment.
Yes. You can choose to complete the required knowledge areas through a higher education provider.
Auditing and Taxation Law can be completed as part of the CPA Program if you need to meet that requirement.
- No. The foundation exams are a series of exams to demonstrate the knowledge areas required to commence the CPA Program and are not suitable for CPD.
- You need to wait at least 30 days before you can re-sit an exam.
- Your enrolment fee covers one foundation exam attempt. You can try a foundation exam a maximum of four times. You’ll be unable to enrol for a fifth attempt at an exam. We recommend that you contact us if you fail an exam repeatedly to discuss further study options before you sit a fourth and final attempt.
Yes, though we recommend that if you fail an exam repeatedly, you contact us to discuss further study options before your fourth and final attempt.
You can apply for an exemption for the foundation exam. There'll be no charge for the additional assessment of your qualifications.
Enrolment and scheduling
- CPA Australia strongly advises you to schedule your exam as soon as possible to secure your preferred date, time and location. You can schedule a foundation exam any time via My CPA Program. You must schedule your exam appointment within your enrolment period.
- If you are unable to sit your exam within 12 months of your enrolment, you may extend your enrolment on a month-by-month basis, up to a maximum of six months. A monthly fee applies. Extending your enrolment won’t automatically reschedule your exam booking: you must also reschedule your exam appointment. Failing to move your exam will result in a 'Did Not Sit' result.
- Yes. You can cancel your subject enrolment up to five days before your scheduled exam without a cancellation appearing on your exams history. We don’t issue refunds for cancelled exams.
- No. Some exam centres have limited capacity so we encourage you to schedule your exam when you enrol or as early as possible. If your first preference isn’t available, try another date or be prepared to travel to the next closest exam centre.
If you've scheduled an exam but haven't received a confirmation email, it could be because:
- the email is on its way. It could take up to 24 hours after enrolling to arrive
- the email has been trapped in your junk or spam mail filter
- the email address recorded with CPA Australia needs to be updated.
If you didn't receive or have lost your confirmation email, you can print a copy of your appointment details from My CPA Program.
- Based on demand, we may consider opening additional centres for future exam periods. If you would like to suggest a test centre location for our future consideration, email your suggestions to [email protected]
If you're sitting our foundation exams, you're not eligible for Associate membership. You'll only pay Associate membership fees once you're eligible for the CPA Program and activate an Associate membership.
Your enrolment fee includes:
- access to a study guide to prepare you for the foundation exam
- exam, marking and administration fees.
- There is a nominal cost to extend your enrolment expiry date or exam window on a month-by-month basis, up to a maximum of six months. This covers the administration costs associated with changing your enrolment.
You can reschedule your exam to a different date, time or location, subject to availability.
- If you reschedule your appointment up to 72 hours before your exam, there is no fee.
- If you reschedule your appointment between 24 and 72 hours before your exam, a $44 fee will apply.
No changes can be made to your exam appointment within 24 hours of your exam start time.
No refunds will be issued if you cancel your subject enrolment or if you don't attend your scheduled exam appointment. To avoid a 'Did Not Sit' result, you must reschedule your exam at least 24 hours before the start time.
If you don't attend your scheduled exam, you'll receive a 'Did Not Sit' result.
- Each candidate brings their own level of experience and knowledge to each of the foundation exams. The time you’ll need is entirely dependent on your knowledge of the subject. You’ll need to develop your own study plan.
- There aren’t study groups for foundation exams. You’ll need to arrange your own study group.
The study guide will occasionally be updated to ensure technical accuracy, currency and relevance. If this occurs, we'll notify you by email well before the change is implemented which will allow you to decide whether you'd like to be examined on the current or the new content. If you're not certain that you have the current version of the study guide, you can check My Online Learning.
If you feel you have enough knowledge and skills as outlined in the foundation exam learning objectives, you can choose not to use the study material. We provide study materials to help you determine if you have the required knowledge and skills to pass the foundation exams.
- All the content in the study guide is examinable. Based on your previous knowledge at the time of enrolment, you may wish to use further resources to help consolidate your learning.
General exam information
The content, length, structure and exam environment are the same for both exam options. The main difference will be where you sit your exam.
For test centre exams, you'll need to travel to the test centre location, and you'll be supervised in-person. Online proctored exams can be completed in any location that meets the environment requirements. You'll be supervised by an online proctor who'll monitor you through your webcam.
The only other difference is how you'll take notes. During a test centre exam, you'll have access to an erasable whiteboard and online scratchpad. If you take an online proctored exam, you'll need to use the online scratchpad or an online whiteboard. Due to COVID-related health regulations and restrictions around the world, you may also need to follow local safety requirements during a test centre exam. Please view the location-specific information at the bottom of the Pearson VUE website to understand your local requirements.
- Please be reassured that multiple options will be available if COVID-19 restrictions mean you can’t attend your test centre exam. This includes a guaranteed online proctored exam appointment, if it’s available. We’re monitoring all locations closely and will provide timely updates if new or changed restrictions will impact your exam.
- There will be 100 multiple choice questions. Each question has four options and there’s only one correct answer.
- Exams are 195 minutes long (3 hours 15 minutes) plus your allowed five (5) minute unscheduled break. Exams in both test centres and online will include a tutorial at the beginning and survey at the end, meaning your total time at the computer will be 220 minutes. The tutorial and survey do not impact your actual exam time.
We have introduced a ‘Pause Exam’ function to both online proctored and test-centre computer-based exams. This allows you to take a five-minute unscheduled break while your exam clock is paused. During test centre exams, you can raise your hand and request a further bathroom break. In this instance, your exam clock will not be paused. During online proctored exams, you can only leave your exam desk or screen during the five-minute ‘Pause Exam’ break. Because of the risks to exam security, we don't permit additional breaks during online proctored exams.
The exam timer will recommence and will continue to count down once the permitted five minutes have elapsed.
If your computer locks while you’re on a break, your exam will be terminated. We recommend you change the settings on your computer so the screen doesn’t lock while you’re away.
- There’s a complimentary tutorial to help you become familiar with the software you’ll use to take your exam. You can take this tutorial at any time and as often as you like. On the day of the exam, there’ll be a 10 minute tutorial showing you how to navigate the exam. This time isn’t included in your total exam time.
- No. All foundation exams are closed book exams. That means you aren’t allowed to refer to any materials other than what we provide during the exam.
Your exam will include an online standard and scientific calculator. Online proctored exams also have an online whiteboard and online scratchpad for note taking. If you take your exam at a test centre, you’ll have access to an online scratchpad and a physical whiteboard. The following exams will have on-screen tools specific to the subject:
- Business Finance: discount tables and formulae
- Economic and Markets: formulae
- Financial Accounting and Reporting: formulae
Examples and more information can be found in My Online Learning.
Test centre exams
Rigorous measures are being taken within test centres around the world to ensure your health and safety. Please visit the Pearson VUE website for the current COVID-19 safety precautions in your region. These measures will vary between countries to comply with local health authorities.
You must use the equipment provided at the test centre. Please be assured that extensive health and safety measures are in place to ensure your safety and security at all test centres. Please refer to the Pearson VUE website for up-to-date information about the COVID-19 safety measures in your local area.
- You can’t enter the exam room more than 30 minutes after the exam begins. This is to reduce any disruption to other candidates. We recommend you arrive at the test centre at least 30 minutes before your exam is due to start.
- You can bring a calculator but it must follow the requirements provided on this page.
- You must have two original forms of valid and current identification documentation (ID):
- your primary ID must be government issued and it must contain your photograph and signature
- your secondary ID must contain either your photograph or signature.
- Full details about your ID requirements can be found on this page.
A physical, erasable whiteboard is available at test centres for taking notes. For a full list of what you can and can't bring with you to your exam, please review your confirmation email from Pearson VUE.
- All foundation exams are closed book, so you can't bring your Study Guide or any other materials to the exam.
- You can't have a pen or paper in either exam format.
- You can't bring any electronic devices into the test centre. This includes mobile phones, smart phones, pagers, USB drives, tablet devices, laptop computers, electronic dictionaries, personal communication devices such as, and similar to, a Palm® device, electronic scanners or headphones.
- You can't bring a wrist or handheld watch to either exam format. This is a new rule because of the proliferation of smart watches. There will be clocks in exam rooms, or the supervisor will note elapsed time on a white board.
- You can't bring a coat, scarf, headwear or other clothing accessory to your exam desk, unless you wear it for religious purposes. You may wear a coat that doesn't have pockets and isn't bulky. It is at the supervisor's discretion to decide whether an item is acceptable to wear at an examination desk and pockets may be checked.
- Personal tissues are not permitted into the exam room. There will be tissues available at the venue if required.
- Food and drink are not permitted into the exam room.
If you experience exam irregularities at the test centre, you must register your concerns with the test centre administrator on the day. All exam irregularities are formally logged and addressed by Pearson VUE and CPA Australia program managers.
Please note: this information is supplementary to the Foundation Enrolment Rules and Regulations. The Foundation Enrolment Rules and Regulations from time to time will apply to the extent of any inconsistency.
Online proctored exams
- Online exams are delivered by Pearson VUE, our long-term exam delivery partner. Due to a variety of factors, Pearson VUE is unable to offer online exams in all locations. This means candidates in Mainland China, Japan, South Korea and Slovenia must sit a test centre exam.
- A proctor is someone who supervises you during your online exam through your webcam. This has been introduced to ensure a similar experience across both exam formats, as test centre exams have in-person supervisors.
- You won't be able to see your proctor, but you can communicate with them using a chat function during your exam.
- Your proctor may interrupt you, if necessary. It may be to offer a reminder or to investigate an incident.
Current mobile internet technology isn’t reliable enough for you to maintain a consistent connection for the duration of the exam. For optimal performance, we require a reliable and stable connection speed of 3 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up.
Wherever possible, we recommend you use a wired network rather than a wireless network. If testing from home, you may wish to ask others in your household to avoid internet use during your exam to ensure you have a consistent connection.
Make sure you have access to a suitable environment to undertake an online exam. Your room must be:
- walled and have a closed door
- a quiet space: background noise may interfere with your exam session and affect the proctor’s ability to supervise your exam
- free from disruptions: you can’t be interrupted during your exam appointment, including during the survey, so inform others in your household they can’t enter the room during your exam
- well lit: your room will need to have enough light for the full duration of the exam. Please avoid sitting in front of a window or a strong light as you won’t be clearly visible to the proctor
- be clear within arms' reach, except for your ID, calculator and a clear glass of water
- closed to any other person: no one can be in or enter the room during your exam, and no one else must be able to view your computer or monitor, even through a window or clear glass panel.
- Select your computer for exam day. We recommend you don’t use a work computer as they may have corporate protections (including VPNs) which could prevent the launch of your exam.
- Check your computer is suitable using the checklist at the bottom of the page.
- Undertake this systems test to identify any technical issues.
- We recommend you don’t use a work computer as it may have corporate protections (including VPNs) which could prevent the launch of your exam.
- A Mac or PC desktop or laptop are acceptable and you may connect an external mouse or keyboard if that’s your preference. Tablets and touchscreen devices are not permitted, nor is a second monitor.
- Please ensure you have checked your device against the criteria in the device checklist (below) before starting the exam.
- During the check-in process, you'll be asked to take photos of your work area. These will be checked by a greeter before the exam begins. The greeter will work with you to remedy any concerns that arise during the check-in process.
- Before your exam, ensure your desktop is clean and that you don't have books, notepads, sticky notes, paper, pens, pencils or other writing instruments or objects within arm's length. Additional monitors and computers must be unplugged and turned off. Items on the wall with writing on them, such as whiteboards, will be inspected.
- A studio apartment is an acceptable location if it's quiet and aligns with all the other criteria listed above.
- A proctor will review your testing environment photos. If they identify any anomalies, such as an additional monitor or a camera, they'll ask you to complete a live room scan and will work with you to amend any issues.
- If the issues can't be resolved and you don't pass the room scan, you won't be permitted to proceed with the exam.
- You may have a calculator with you, so long as it aligns with the requirements outlined on this page.
- You must have one form of valid and current identification documentation (ID), which is government issued and contains your photograph and signature. Full details about your ID requirements can be found on this page.
- You're permitted to have a clear glass of water during your online exam.
- All foundation exams are closed book, so you can't have your Study Guide or any other materials in the room during your exam.
- You aren't allowed to have a pen and paper for notetaking. An online whiteboard and online scratchpad will be available throughout your exam for note taking.
- You can't have any electronic devices in the room. This includes pagers, USB drives, tablet devices, laptop computers, electronic dictionaries, personal communication devices such as, and similar to, a Palm® device, electronic scanners or headphones. You can have your mobile phone with you throughout the exam check-in process. Once the check-in is completed, you'll need to move your phone out of reach.
- Watches must be removed and placed out of sight and reach during the exam.
- You can't wear a coat, scarf, headwear or other clothing accessory, unless worn for religious purposes, to your examination desk.
For a full list of what you can and can't have with you during your exam, please review the confirmation email from Pearson VUE.
- You may be interrupted by a proctor if you are engaging in any suspicious behaviours or violating exam rules. It may be to offer a reminder or to investigate something.
- During the check-in process: you may use your mobile phone during the check-in process to take photos of yourself, your ID and your testing environment. Once you've completed the check-in process, turn your phone to silent or vibrate to reduce any disruptions and move it out of reach.
- After the check-in process: if you lose connection during your exam, your proctor may need to contact you. This will only occur if you cannot be reached via the online exam chat function. Only then are you allowed to leave your desk and answer your phone. If your phone starts vibrating during your exam and you aren't experiencing technical issues, you must ignore the call.
- If you’ve lost connection to your exam and your proctor can’t reach you via the chat function, they will call to help you reconnect. This is the only time you’ll be able to move and answer your phone.
- If your phone starts ringing or beeping during your exam and you haven’t lost connection, you must ignore it. If the proctor questions you about the noise, you can explain that it’s your phone. If you have an alarm or reminder that goes off during your exam, you may ask your proctor to turn it off.
- Only water in a clear glass is allowed during your online proctored exam.
- No, earplugs or headphones of any kind are not permitted in an online proctored exam.
- If you encounter technical issues or have other concerns during your exam you can contact your proctor using the exam chat function. You may not leave the room to call CPA Australia. You may not allow another person into your exam space while you are undertaking your exam.
- We strongly recommend a wired internet connection for online proctored exams to reduce the risk of internet connectivity issues. Before scheduling or undertaking an online exam, make sure to complete this systems test. This will advise if your internet is stable and will be acceptable for an online proctored exam.
- If you experience a temporary technical issue during your exam, you can use the OnVUE chat function to discuss the problem and how to solve it with Pearson VUE support staff.
- If you do happen to lose connection to your exam momentarily, whether due to internet issues or a loss of power, your exam will temporarily shut down. Once you regain internet or power, you can relaunch your exam from where you left off and your progress will have been saved.
- In the event of a disconnection, your exam timer will stop and when it relaunches, you’ll resume at the same question and moment you left your exam.
- Once you click ‘Relaunch’, a proctor may contact you via your computer to help you recommence your exam.
- You’ll have unlimited opportunities to relaunch your exam if you encounter any issues, and your exam timer will only restart once you have relaunched your exam.
- You can start checking in for your exam 30 minutes before the scheduled start time.
- To access your exam, go to My CPA Program, and select ‘Manage Exam’ for the subject for which you have an appointment. You will be taken to the exam delivery website.
- The exam you are scheduled to take will appear once you log in to your account. Select the exam link and then select “Check In.” If that isn't visible, you're either too early or too late for your exam. Please check your appointment details to make sure you're trying to start at the proper time.
- You'll be asked to download OnVUE, the online proctoring software, if you haven't previously downloaded it. Follow the instructions in the application to complete the required check-in steps.
- Have your acceptable ID available so that the proctor can verify your identity.
- Shut down any non‐essential applications, such as email, chat, Facebook or Skype.
- The check-in process takes around 15 minutes if you have already completed a system test, and will include the following steps:
- a short systems test to verify that your microphone is working, you have a stable internet connection and that your webcam can stream video
- the OnVUE software will then guide you to use your phone or webcam to take photos of your government-issued ID and your testing environment, as well as a headshot. This will include a photo of your desk with your personal calculator visible (if using); a photo of the area to the left of your screen; a photo of the area to the right of your screen; and a photo of the area behind you
- your photos will be reviewed and your exam will be queued up
- if your pictures don't pass review, you'll be joined by a greeter as soon as possible to help you troubleshoot
- if you pass the check-in process, the secure browser and exam will launch.
- You will be placed in a queue and connected with the next available proctor to begin your exam. The proctor will monitor you remotely throughout the entire exam to ensure you abide by the exam rules, to document any security concerns, and to assist you if you encounter any technical issues.
- An online whiteboard and online scratchpad will be available for note taking and workings during your online proctored exam.
- Each answer is submitted when you progress to the next question.
- Once you’re happy with your exam responses and are ready to finish, click ‘End Exam’, and your answers will be submitted for scoring. If you run out of time to complete your exam, you’ll receive a message indicating that time has run out.
- After clicking ‘OK’, you will be taken to a screen to end your exam. Once you have completed your exam, you can commence the exam survey.
- Please be aware that you will continue to be supervised while you are completing the survey.
If you’ve scheduled or you’re interested in scheduling an online proctored foundation exam, you may find our checklist helpful in preparing and ensuring you’re well equipped to succeed on the day.