Foundation

When you apply for the CPA Program, your previous education and qualifications are assessed to determine if you have acquired competency in required knowledge areas to begin the CPA Program.

If you require further competency in key knowledge areas, your assessment outcome will outline one or more of the below foundation exams you need to pass in order to commence the CPA Program.

These exams are flexible and reasonably priced, allowing you to study in your own time without the need to return to university or cease employment. This is a fast way to ensure you can meet the requirements to enrol in the CPA program faster.

All learning materials, instructions and exams are conducted and written entirely in English.

The following table displays eight competencies against CPA Australia's foundation exams:

Competency requirements 

Foundation exams 

Economics, Quantitative Methods 

Economics and Markets

Accounting Systems and Processes

Foundations of Accounting 

Business Law
(comprised of Commercial Law and Corporations Law)

Fundamentals of Business Law

Finance and Financial Management

Business Finance

Financial Accounting and Reporting
(comprised of Financial Accounting and Accounting Theory)

Financial Accounting and Reporting

Management Accounting 

Management Accounting

Auditing 

Not Applicable 

Taxation Law

Not Applicable  

You can also complete the required knowledge areas with a higher education provider. For those doing multiple exams, the order that you complete these is optional, however to assist with continuity, we recommend the following order:

  1. Foundations of Accounting
    This exam tests your knowledge of fundamental accounting concepts, including what accounting is, users of accounting information and an introduction to recording data and producing financial statements. Note: There are important changes to the content for Foundations of Accounting foundation exams, depending on when you schedule your exam. 
  2. Economics and Markets
    This exam is designed to test your knowledge of quantitative methods, microeconomics and macroeconomics.
  3. Fundamentals of Business Law
    This exam covers your general legal knowledge relating to the business environment, a basic knowledge of the law of contracts, and an understanding of the responsibilities and risks that arise in business, with particular regard to the law relating to corporate entities.
  4. Business Finance
    For this exam you will be tested on your understanding of business finance and treasury function (in terms of fundamental capital, investment, funding and risk decision concepts), the analysis and management of an entity’s financial position, and recent developments in the international financial and treasury scene.
  5. Financial Accounting and Reporting
    This exam will test your understanding of the form and function of financial statements, how financial transactions are recorded (both for individual businesses and company groups) and the theoretical concepts and contemporary issues underlying accounting practice. Note: There are important changes to the content for Financial Accounting and Reporting foundation exams, depending on when you schedule your exam. 
  6. Management Accounting
    This exam tests your understanding of developments in management accounting including an understanding of the nature, functions, structures and operations of management.

As a candidate completing foundation exams, you will enrol in and schedule each of your exams via My CPA Program

Preparing for your foundation exam

Note: There are important changes to the content for Foundations of Accounting and Financial Accounting and Reporting – depending on when you have scheduled your exam. These changes are significant – ensure you familiarise yourself with these changes.

When enrolling in each foundation exam, you will have access to a digital study guide, located within My Online Learning.

Your study guide is the only resource you’ll need to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully pass your foundation exam. If you feel you require additional help with your study we also offer a range of additional learning support.

Your study guide will occasionally be edited to reflect modifications to examinable content. If this occurs, we will notify you by email. You’ll need to ensure your email address is current and you can review and update it as needed by logging into My CPA Program.

How to plan for a pass

  • Review all the learning objectives thoroughly. Use the topic exam weightings in your study guide to develop a study plan to ensure you provide yourself with enough time to revise each learning objective. 
  • Don’t leave your study to the last minute. You may need more time to explore learning objectives in greater detail than initially expected. 
  • Be confident that you understand each learning objective. If you find that you are still unsure after reading the study guide, seek additional information from other resources such as text books, supplementary learning materials or tuition providers.

Study techniques

  • There are no recommended hours of study. You will need to create your own study plan. Each candidate brings their own level of experience and knowledge to each of the foundation exams. The amount of study required will depend on your prior knowledge of the subject.
  • In addition to being able to complete the revision and self-assessment questions in the study guide, ensure you can apply the concepts of the learning objectives rather than just memorising responses.
  • Some exams have formula and discount tables available to candidates throughout the exams. My Online Learning lists the tools available for each exam.
  • Check My Online Learning on a weekly basis to keep track of announcements or updates to the study guide.
  • My Online Learning also features a software tutorial so that you can familiarise yourself with the exam environment at the computer-based test centre. You may take this tutorial whenever you wish, and as many times as you like.

Tips for your exam

  • Plan to arrive at the test centre at least 15 minutes before your exam. Allow for possible delays with public transport or traffic. 
  • You have three hours and fifteen minutes to complete the exam. As soon as you commence the exam your exam clock in the top right hand corner of the screen begins to count down. Watch your time carefully. 
  • Foundation exams have 100 multiple choice questions; each question will contain four possible options.
  • Some exams may have on screen tools to assist you, you can familiarise yourself with these tools through My Online Learning.
  • Attempt every question; marks are not deducted for incorrect answers. You are able to flag questions and return to them easily once you have viewed all exam questions. Aim to have 10 minutes left at the end of the exam to review such questions.
  • Read each question carefully and attempt to calculate the answer before you read the multiple-choice answers provided, as referring to these first may confuse you. Take note of important terms and dates in the question to ensure that you focus on exactly what is being asked. Be careful with numerical questions, as the distractors are designed to match answers that incorporate common errors. Check that your calculation is correct. Have you followed the requirement exactly? Have you included every stage of the calculation?
  • You may find that none of the options matches your answer:
    • re-read the question to ensure that you understand it and are answering the requirement
    • eliminate any obviously wrong answers.
    • consider which of the remaining answers is the most likely to be correct and select that option.
    • revisit unanswered questions. When you come back to a question after a break you often find you are able to answer it correctly straight away. If you are still unsure, have a guess – you are not penalised for incorrect answers so never leave a question unanswered.

Past exam papers

  • Due to the secure nature of the exams and the process adopted by CPA Australia in establishing pass standards, questions and answers from past exams are not released or available for viewing.
  • Frequent changes in the content of the study guides and changes to legislation and accounting standards can also mean that past exams may not be appropriate guides for current exams.
  • Self-assessment test questions and answers are available in the study guides. These questions provide an opportunity to review each topic covered.