CPA Exam: Tackle BEC Next

Chris Ferro CPA adds thoughts to how to approach, study for, and pass the AICPA exam. Discipline, patience, and dedication to the task will help you achieve the goal of gaining the CPA credential! — Donna Rodgers, Financial Services Guide

This week we will look at the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the CPA Exam.

Last time, I said FAR was the best section to take first, because it is the longest and considered to be the hardest. This time, I recommend taking BEC, because it is the opposite – the shortest, and in my opinion, the easiest, section.

After all of the uncertainty of what to expect before taking the first section, it is normal to feel a bit of a lull in your motivation and energy level. On top of that, you will be waiting anywhere from 3-10 weeks to find out what your score was on the section you took. Until you receive that first score, it’s hard to know if the way you have been preparing has been effective, or if you need to change strategies. Obviously you can’t just sit and wait to see what your score was, you need to move on – so BEC is the logical section. It takes less time to prepare for than the others, so you can study and take BEC while waiting for your FAR score.

While I consider BEC to be the easiest topic, not everyone agrees with me. From everything I have seen, BEC has the biggest divergence of opinion on how easy/difficult it is. This section deals with general business topics, math, and economics, which are topics that were covered in classes that you likely took before you started studying Accounting at all, so you are now reaching farther back for this knowledge. For this reason, some people have a hard time with this section. Because it is so short compared to the other sections, though, it is not at all difficult to review everything and relearn anything that may have slipped from your memory.

BEC is the only section that doesn’t have a task-based simulation testlet. The entire section is three hours long, with four testlets total. The first three each have 24 multiple choice questions and the last has three written communication questions. The written questions are graded on both content and grammar, so don’t forget to make sure that your writing skills are up to par! I have come across quite a few stories from people who didn’t pass this section, but would have if they had scored better on the written section.

Topics in the BEC section include knowledge of corporate governance; economic concepts essential to understanding the global business environment and its impact on an entity’s business strategy; and financial risk management; financial management processes; information systems and communications; strategic planning; and operations management.

While this section may look easy (and really, I think it is compared to the other sections), don’t make the mistake of looking past it! It deserves the same energy and attention as any of the others. Practice and practice some more, from both your review books/class, and then with CPA Review for Free questions, and you’ll do well here. You’ll be halfway done with the exam!

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