We know receiving exam results can be stressful at the best of times, so to make sure you feel confident and calm before the day, we’ve put together a list of common myths about exams, alongside facts about the CPA Program and how your exam is marked.


✘ MYTH: Exams contain content from sources other than my study guide

✔ FACT: All of the examinable content for your exam is taken directly from your study guide

Every question in your exam is checked for fairness, clear phrasing, and relevance to your study guide.


✘ MYTH: Pass marks are set by CPA Australia

✔ FACT: We don’t set the pass mark – members do

Pass marks are set by members. When a subject or exam goes through a significant change or update we assemble a specialist panel of CPAs for each subject – and it is this panel who set the pass mark.

It is the responsibility of the panel to understand the subject content, exam questions and the minimum acceptable competency in the subject, to determine a reasonable passing scaled score for that subject. We often hear feedback that this results in “existing members making it harder for new members to pass” and this just isn’t the case. The process ensures that the quality standards are upheld and that a CPA today exemplifies the same standards as a CPA who graduated previously.


✘ MYTH: CPA Australia fails a set percentage of candidates each semester, to raise revenue

✔ FACT: There is no ‘set percentage’ of candidates we fail each semester, nor do we fail candidates intentionally

The simple truth is this: If you meet or exceed the passing scaled score, you pass. And if each and every candidate met the passing score, then we’d pass everyone.

If our failure rates seem to be at a consistent percentage each semester, it’s purely that a similar number of members have not met the passing score.

We make no apologies for demanding a high standard from our Associate members. Becoming a CPA is a mark of your professional expertise and so we do expect you to demonstrate a high competency in your exam.


Special consideration

There’s lots of information on our website about special consideration, but we often hear feedback that members don’t know how to apply and aren’t sure of the process that takes place once you’ve applied.

Here are the key facts about special consideration:

  1. You must have a valid reason, which are set out on our website.
  2. Your exam scaled score must fall within a pre-determined range which is an extremely narrow band below the passing score. If your scaled score fell well below the passing scaled score, it’s unlikely that you’d be considered for special consideration.
  3. If you have a valid reason and your score falls within the range, then your application is put before our Special Consideration committee. The committee comprises equal numbers of CPAs and CPA Australia senior education staff, all lead by an external chairperson who has the casting vote. All members of the committee are of senior rank and have deep expertise in the field of education. The committee will review the circumstances of each case using the application form and supporting documentation provided, and will also consider any relevant precedence to decide whether the candidate would have passed the exam if not for the extenuating circumstances. If the panel determine that yes, the candidate would have passed, then the result is adjusted to a pass. If not, the result will remain a fail.

Special consideration outcomes are confidential to avoid any chance of a candidate being discriminated by a current or future employer on these grounds. So, you won’t know whether special consideration was granted, nor are details of the committee’s deliberation on your case made available to you.


Myth-busting for your peers

We discourage you from spreading myths any further – and if you see that your fellow members are misinformed, then please do set them straight. We are here to support you and we believe that with the right focus and commitment to study, everyone has the ability to succeed in the CPA Program.