Last Updated:February 17, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA

Many students assume that the BEC (Business Environment and Concepts) section of the CPA exam is the easiest one, don’t make this foolish mistake. In recent years the BEC portion has a pass rate around 48%. This section requires quick-thinking application skills about generalized business concepts. Students who excelled in their economics and finance classes tend to score better on this portion than others. And there are significant changes for 2017.

The BEC CPA exam has 62 multiple choice questions instead of the previous 72 with a reduced weighting of 50% from the previous 85%. In addition, the BEC will now include 4-5 task-based simulations going forward which are weighted at 35%.  The remaining 15% comes from a written communications section where you are required to answer 3 separate questions about relevant BEC topics. You will also be allocated 4 hours instead of the traditional 3 to accommodate the new format. You need to score a 75% or higher in order to pass.

BEC Exam Format

Strategic Planning

  • 10% to 14% of the exam
  • Includes Market and Risk Analysis, Strategy Development, and Planning Techniques

Information Systems and Communications

  • 15% to 19% of the exam
  • Topics include basic IT Principles such as OS, File Organization and Security, Disaster Recovery, Business Information System Roles in Transaction Processing and Management Reporting, and IT Function Roles

Financial Management

  • 19% to 23% of the exam
  • Examples include Financing Options such as Various Capital Cost (Debt versus Equity), Loan Rates (Fixed versus Variable), Derivatives and Loan Covenants, and Financial Modeling such as NPV, EVA, DCF, IRR

Operations Management

  • 12% to 16% of the exam
  • Examples include cost measurement methods, process and performance management, and project management.

Economic Concepts and Analysis

  • 16% to 20% of the exam
  • Examples include Deflation, Inflation, Exchange Rates, Interest Rates and Impact of Foreign Currencies on Businesses

 Corporate Governance

  • 16% to 20% of the exam
  • Includes rights, duties, and responsibilities of the company and their employees as well as monitoring the control environment.


BEC CPA Exam Tips

Conquering the CPA BEC exam is not an easy feat and most certainly should not be taken lightly. It is notorious for being tricky and ambiguous often leaving students feeling more uncertain about their results than any other exam. Here are several handy tips to help you end up on the passing side:

1. One Topic at a Time

The best way to prepare for the BEC exam is to study consistently rather than lumping the required study material together during the last few days before the exam, concentrate on tackling each topic one at a time. Don’t underestimate the BEC exam at any cost. Make sure you study consistently and start weeks if not months before your actual test date.

2. Brush Up On Your Writing Skills

Most candidates tend to shrug off the written communications section – don’t be one of them. This section is comprised of 3 questions requiring you to respond in some form of business writing, such as a memo to a client. Don’t waste time engaging in flowery statements – just be succinct, concise and stay relevant. Using vocabulary and accounting jargon relevant to the topic is a sure way to increase your score. I remember having only 5 minutes left to finish this section due to poor time management. I was not completely familiar with any of the 3 questions, however, I managed to rapidly type 3-4 fluffy sentences  for each of them using vocabulary I hoped might make me sound somewhat competent.  I thought I would completely fail this section but it in the end I got an “average” grade. When in doubt, use fancy lingo!


Other CPA Exam Sections

Audit Exam



Check out the AICPA webpage to learn more about the material covered in all 4 parts of the CPA exam.