One of the metrics that potential EAs love to check before the exam is the historical pass rate. Are they reasonable (not too high and not too low)? How is it compared to other accounting and tax qualifications?
Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rate since 2009
We have a 8-year EA exam pass rate trend based on the data from the Prometric.
After a considerable change in 2012, the pass rates has stabilized for the last 3 years. Part 3 is the highest at around 87%, followed by Part 1 at 80%, and Part 2 at 60%.
What We can Learn from these Statistics
We don’t have further breakdown by region, gender or age, but based on this data, I have the following conclusion.
1. Overall Pass Rates are Comparatively High
Compared to CPA and CMA, the EA exam pass rates are very high. Even the lowest part at 60% is still higher than any parts in CPA and CMA.
While we may want to think that the EA exam is easier, we shouldn’t jump into conclusion because the pass rate in large part is set by the passing score, which is a conscious decision of the examiners. Also, the nature of the exams are quite different.
Based on the feedback from my readers who have done both the CPA and EA exams, they do seem to agree that the CPA exam is harder. Some pointed out that the coverage is a lot broader, and others feel that the EA exam questions are less tricky. In this case, the pass rates do seem to indicate the relative difficulty among these professional exams.
2. Does It Mean Part 2 is the Most Difficult?
The Prometric warns us against this conclusion, because different candidates may have taken different parts, and therefore many factors are involved.
In my opinion, however, it does have some sort of indication on the relative difficulty. My readers do think the Representation (Part 3) is the easiest. It also makes sense that Part 2 is tougher than Part 1 because business taxation is more complex than that for individual.
3. Is There a Seasonal Trend?
As you can see from this report, there seems to be a slight seasonal trend for Part 1 and Part 2, with the dips at the beginning and the end of the testing window (May and Feb respectively).
I can see why the performance could be lower towards the end. One obvious reason is that it is around the busy tax season. Another reason is that people cannot postpone the exam by rescheduling (since it is the last month of the testing window), and they are forced to take it without proper preparation.
I can’t really think of a reason for the relatively lower performance in May. If you have an idea, do drop us a note in the comment section!
There isn’t a noticeable seasonal trend for Part 3.
What Do I Learn from All These?
Rest assured that the overall pass rates are encouraging. If you prepare well, you have a good chance of passing.
Also, you might want to avoid planning the exams towards the end of the testing window.