Tell me more x
, there is a new speed test available. Give it a try, leave feedback!
dslreports logo
    All Forums Hot Topics Gallery


Search Topic:
share rss forum feed


Is the CPA exam really harder than the bar exam?

I had always heard the CPA exam was hard, but the other night my wife and I were having dinner with an acquaintance who is a Tax Attorney and also a CPA. I'm not sure how the topic came up but he said that the CPA exam was harder than the Bar exam. He said it wasn't even close and the CPA was significantly harder. I always though the Bar exam was about as hard as exams get. He obviously took both exams so he should have a good idea, but at the same time I realize how hard an exam is, is subjective.

Anyone else have an opinion on this?

Imperial, MO
I work in an office full of CPAs. Most of them did not pass the test on their first or even second try.

Made of Hamburger
Dupont, WA
reply to Mustang122
I have not taken either but I would be willing to bet both are fairly hard and require you to demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter. Maybe your friend has a harder time with numbers? Other people may understand numbers better but not legal matter. I kinda feel it is like comparing apples to oranges.
Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war

Germantown, TN
reply to Mustang122
My son took the CPA exams. A four part exam usually requiring a couple of months study between them taking all day for each. Don't know of the lawyer exam.

Kill cancer
reply to Mustang122
The CA's I know laugh at the CPA exams.
I don't know any lawyers who laugh at the bar exams.

The Pig
I know you want to be me
reply to Mustang122
I guess it depends on the person taking the test!


Lancaster, OH
·Time Warner Cable
reply to Mustang122
A combination, I believe.
1) The one you take first is probably the one you call easiest because it is most likely your main area of interest and probably talent
2) Personality. I believe, generally, the attorney is consumed with legality, loves a debate and is more social, whereas the CPA leans toward the more analytical and conscientious.

I have known several attorneys who say the CPA was harder but they took the CPA exam afterwards for professional reasons. And as an accountant, my opinion would be that in order to get a balanced view you would need to talk to CPAs who have latter decided to take the Bar exam (probably not a large group).
There's nothing big I want to prove,
No mountains that I need to move,
Or even claim what's right or true for you.

Nags Head, NC
reply to Mustang122
The CPA exam sure would be harder for attorneys with no training in accounting. Too many variables here, and the one person you know, OP, who was trained in both fields and who took both tests has an interesting view, but maybe accounting is harder for him than law. Doesn't make it that way for everybody.

If I recall correctly, the difficulty of the bar exam (as reflected in pass rates) varies significantly by state. California, NY, and DC (where there are too many attorneys already and the ones who passed the bar want to restrict competition) are thought to have some of the hardest bar exams. There was a Harvard law prof/judge who moved to California and famously failed the California bar exam. Of course, the candidate quality may vary significantly by state as well..

Displaced Ohioan
Denver, CO
reply to Mustang122
Now don't get me wrong, I know accountants are needed and they serve an important purpose. But, after taking two graduate level accounting classes (and doing well in them), I cannot fathom why anyone would ever want to be an accountant.
What smells like blue?

Mce Saint
Saint Louis, MO
reply to Mustang122
My ex-wife is a CPA as is my current brother-in-law. I'm a lawyer and passed two states' bar exams (though I'm inactive in one of those states now).

Here's my perspective:

Test to test, I'd say the CPA is harder to pass. As someone else mentioned, it's a four part test and you have to pass at least 2 parts to "keep" the parts you passed. Passing one part is not enough. The bar exam is usually a two-parter (3 if you count Ethics - and that test isn't that hard). The two parts being the multi-state (contracts, property, torts con law. criminal law, and evidence) and the second part being the "state specific subjects" (state procedure, estates, commercial law, etc.). The multistate is only 6 hours long and it has 200 multiple choice answers.

BUT - the Bar Exam is more nerve-wracking because of the difference in the way CPA firms and Law firms staff and bill.

At a CPA firm, you need a lot of bodies to do audits and prepare tax returns. These audits and returns can be done by people who haven't passed the CPA exam yet - so long as they aresupervised by people who are CPAs (and who will sign off on the audit or return). NOT passing the CPA exam is not a career killer if it takes you a couple of years to pass it because the CPA firms can still put you to productive use (i.e., make money off of you) until you do.

At a law firm, a law graduate who doesn't pass the bar exam cannot appear in court. So, if you're employed by a litigation firm you're not much use to them unless and until you pass the exam because going to court and doing traffic tickets and small trials is part of how they make money on you and how you do your on the job training.

Even among non-litigators - not passing the bar exam is going to raise eyebrows about your abilities. The bar exam pass rates in most states is pretty high - 80% or more. So - rightly or wrongly - if you didn't pass there's a "what's wrong with you" attitude. (Never had it happen *to* me, but knew several colleagues who had it happen to them).

reply to EUS
"The CA's I know laugh at the CPA exams.
I don't know any lawyers who laugh at the bar exams."

They aren't laughing at the CPA exam in the United States. They are laughing at the CPA exam for other various countries which is not the same thing thing.

Many countries have two tieres of Accountants. CA's and CPA's. The United States doesn't have CA's they have CPA's and in some states PA's. Unites States CPA's are similiar to foreign CA's while the foreign CPA's are typically similiar to the USA's PA's.