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Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rates: How to Beat the EA Pass Rate

enrolled agent exam pass rates

Do you know the Enrolled Agent pass rates? After all, if you’re a tax accountant hoping to enhance your career, you can’t go wrong with the enrolled agent designation. To become an enrolled agent, though, you must first pass the Enrolled Agent (EA) exam (also known as the Special Enrollment Examination or SEE). But don’t let that discourage you from the EA. When you consider the Enrolled Agent exam pass rate, you can see that your chances for exam success are good. Therefore, in this post, I’ll answer the question “What is the pass rate for the Enrolled Agent exam?” And after showing you the latest EA exam pass rates, I’ll share some tips on how to pass it.

Enrolled Agent Exam Parts

First of all, it’s important to understand that the Enrolled Agent –officially known as the SEE or Special Enrollment Examination — is actually divided into three sections that candidates usually take separately. Consequently, the pass rate for the Enrolled Agent exam is normally reported by part.

The SEE exam has three parts:

  • Part 1: Individuals
  • Part 2: Businesses
  • Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures

Latest Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rate

This table provides the Enrolled Agent exam pass rates for each part from the last several years. (Note: The pass rate for the Enrolled Agent exam in 2022 is not available yet.)

Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rate

Part 2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021
Part 1 72% 61% 61% 62% 61% 66%
Part 2 57% 64% 65% 69% 70% 74%
Part 3 88% 82% 86% 86% 81% 83%

If you average together all three parts of the exam, then the EA pass rate last year was 74.33%. In contrast, the average pass rate for the EA exam from 2015 to 2020 was between 69% and 72%.

Average EA Exam Pass Rate

Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rates Compared to Other Accounting Certification Exams

If the EA exam pass rates look high to you, that’s because they are. For instance, take a look at how the EA exam pass rates compare to the pass rates of the CPA, CMA, and CIA exams.

Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rates Compared to Other Accounting Exams

EA Exam CPA Exam CMA Exam CIA Exam
Average Pass Rate 69% 48% 45% 40%

Considering the pass rates of these other popular accounting exams, the EA exam pass rate is encouraging. It’s certainly a full 20+% higher than the CPA Exam pass rate.

While these pass rates may make the Enrolled Agent exam seem easier than other exams, we shouldn’t jump to this conclusion. After all, the passing score largely affects the pass rate. And the passing score is a conscious decision of the examiners.

What’s more, the natures of the major professional accounting certifications exams are quite different.

Enrolled Agent passing rate vs CPA exam

But based on the feedback from my readers who have completed both the CPA and EA exams, they seem to agree that the CPA Exam is harder. Some readers have pointed out that the coverage of the CPA Exam is a lot broader as well. Also, others feel that the EA exam questions are less tricky.

In this case, the pass rates do seem to indicate relative difficulty among professional accounting exams.

So are the Enrolled Agent exams easy?

However, the high EA exam pass rate percentage does not indicate that the exam is easy.

Instead, Enrolled Agent pass rates tell us that passing the EA exam is completely possible. Basically, if you put the time and effort into your studies, you can be completely ready to pass each part.

As a matter of fact, you can even pass on the first try! You just need to use the right EA review course for you and consistently follow your study schedule.

Surgent EA Review

Enrolled Agent Exam Difficulty Overall

So, what makes the EA exam pass rates rise and fall? Is it the difficulty of the exam?

The testing center that administers the exam, Prometric, advises against drawing this conclusion because significant discrepancies in candidate populations exist. For example, Prometric releases the EA pass rates several times a year. With each release, Prometric explains that not all candidates take all three EA exam parts. Nor are the exam parts taken in a particular order. Consequently, there are big differences between the candidate populations for each exam part.

For example, the total number of test-takers for Part 1 is nearly double the number of candidates taking either Part 2 or Part 3. After all, some candidates fail Part 1 and give up tackling Parts 2 and 3. For this reason, Prometric doesn’t feel that effectively comparing the EA pass rates is possible.

Furthermore, on the company’s website, Prometric states, “It is important to understand that comparison of pass rates among the three tests is not appropriate. The differences in the tests and the composition of the test-taking populations make comparison impossible.”

What can we learn from the IRS Enrolled Agent passing rate?

However, the additional EA pass rate information we get from Prometric does have some implications.

With such variations in candidate populations and other factors coming into play, we cannot assume the pass rates tell us which part of the SEE exam is harder than the others. To investigate that matter, you should consider the feedback of enrolled agents and the content of the exam parts.

Enrolled Agent Exam Questions and Content

Each part of the EA exam contains 100 multiple-choice questions covering the following topics:

  • Federal taxation
  • Tax accounting
  • Ethical considerations
  • Procedural requirements
  • The use of tax return forms for:
    • Individuals
    • Partnerships
    • Corporations
    • Trusts
    • Estates
    • Gifts

Your raw percentage of correct answers is converted to a scale between 40 to 130. In addition, your EA exam score must be at least 105 to pass. So even though the highest EA exam score is 130, you don’t have to get a perfect score to become an Enrolled Agent.

The EA exam syllabus outlines the topics that appear in each of the three parts. Regardless, you may find some parts easier or more difficult than others, depending on your personal knowledge and background.

EA Exam Pass Rate Influences

Because your own knowledge levels affect how hard the EA exam will be for you personally, one major influence on EA exam pass rates is candidate preparation.

Despite the high pass rates in these SEE exam statistics, the Enrolled Agent exam is challenging. As I have noted, the SEE is a long and complex assessment of your familiarity with a great deal of federal taxation and tax accounting information. And of course, it requires you to answer hundreds of multiple-choice questions. As a result, the only way you can pass the EA exam is to study well for several months. Moreover, when people don’t study, they have a high chance of failing, affecting the overall EA exam passing rate.

To ensure that you study effectively until exam day, you must create an EA exam schedule that leads you through an EA review course. With the best EA review course for you, you can be completely ready to pass the exam and even pass it on your first attempt.

EA Exam Changes

Another circumstance that can impact the pass rates is EA exam changes. Because remember: the Enrolled Agent exam changes every year in response to near tax laws.

Furthermore, when totally new and complex tax laws are introduced, the Enrolled Agent pass rates can go down.

EA Exam Pass Rates by Part

Enrolled Agent Exam Part 1

Part 1 EA Exam Pass Rates

Part 1 Passing Rate for the Enrolled Agent Exam

The Part 1 pass rate was at a high a few years ago in 2015-2016. But then, the Part 1 pass rates took a turn for the worst. Since the Tax and Job Cuts Act was introduced in 2017, it’s possible that these changes affect the EA pass rates.

Regardless, the Part 1 pass rates have recently increased and are almost as high as they were in 2015-2016.

Enrolled Agent Exam Part 2

Part 2 EA Exam Pass Rates

EA Exam Part 2 Pass Rate

It’s obvious from the chart above that the Part 2 EA exam pass rates have been steadily increasing. The reasons for this increase are unknown, but maybe test-takers are just better prepared.

Enrolled Agent Exam Part 3

EA Exam Part 3 Pass Rate

The Part 3 EA pass rates have generally remained strong over the years. In fact, Part 3 rates have been higher than 75% for a while now.

And really, these pass rates are almost unheard of among other accounting credential exams.

Conclusions about the Part 3 pass rate for the Enrolled Agent exam

So, is Part 3 the easiest?

Again, Prometric warns us against this conclusion because different candidates may have taken different parts. Therefore, many factors are at play here.

However, in my opinion, the high pass rates for Part 3 do have some sort of indication of the relative difficulty. Furthermore, many of my readers consider Part 3 to be the easiest.

EA Exam Pass Rates by Year

EA Exam Pass Rates

The yearly view of the EA exam pass rates helps us reach a more accurate understanding of the trends.

When we pull back a bit, we can see that it’s actually Part 1and Part 3 that have been a pair historically. Though Part 1 had the lowest pass rates for 2 years running, its pass rates gave the Part 3 pass rates a run for their money for a good while in the recent past.

Part 2 boasting higher pass rates than Part 1 has only been a recent development. In fact, Part 2 has been in last place most often in the last 10 years.

For just as long, the Part 3 pass rates have been the highest and the Part 1 pass rates the most varied.

EA Exam Difficulty by Part

As you can see, Part 1 pass rates have dropped a little bit in the last few years, while the pass rates for Part 2 and Part 3 have been rising.

Candidates take the exam parts in any order, but most candidates start with Part 1. If more candidates are sitting but fewer are passing, then Part 1 is presenting more of a challenge than Part 2 or Part 3. But the challenge probably has more to do with candidate preparation than exam part difficulty.

Why does Part 1 have the lowest Enrolled Agent pass rate?

If Part 1 is the first encounter many candidates have with the EA exam, the low pass rate is likely the outcome of candidates being insufficiently prepared. These candidates either underestimated the difficulty of the exam or the amount of study time necessary to learn all the material.

Either way, their lack of knowledge caused them to fail. And as a result, some decided to drop the exam process. Conversely, the candidates that were truly ready passed Part 1 and moved forward with the exam. They continued to apply their effective study habits to their review of Part 2 and Part 3. Consequently, their prudence paid off.

In this way, the increased number of strong and successful candidates pushes the pass rates for Part 2 and 3 above those of Part 1, regardless of the exam content.

Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rate Seasonal Trend

Some data suggest that there are slight seasonal trends for Part 1 and Part 2, with the dips at the beginning and end of the testing window (May and February respectively). I believe several conditions can account for these drops in performance.

One obvious reason is the overlap of the testing window’s beginning and end with the tax busy season. For individual tax preparation, the busy season ends in April. So, my theory for May’s pass rate slump is that tax preparers are burned out and lack the energy needed to do better on the EA exam.

Additionally, if tax preparers studied for the exam in April, they probably couldn’t study very well during the rush to close the busy season. This scenario also decreases their chances of passing the EA exam.

Another reason for the low pass rates is that in February, people cannot postpone the exam by rescheduling because February is the last month of the testing window. Therefore, a number of candidates are forced to take the exam without sufficient preparation.

Enrolled Agent Exam Pass Rate Conclusions

Looking at the Enrolled Agent exam pass rates compels me to draw 3 conclusions for EA candidates.

  1. Rest assured that the overall Enrolled Agent exam pass rate is encouraging. If you prepare well, you have a good chance of passing.
  2. Your chance of passing goes down during the busy season, so avoid taking the EA exam during this time.
  3. The end of the testing window is also a bad time to take the exam because you can’t reschedule your testing appointment even if you’re not ready.

How to Beat the Enrolled Agent Exam Passing Rate

Even though the Enrolled Agent exam has a higher pass rate than some other accounting credential exams, plenty of candidates still fail every year. However, you can take some concrete steps to make sure you pass on your first try.

FAQs about Enrolled Agent Pass Rates

What is the Gleim EA pass rate?

Like many EA review courses, Gleim EA Review does not make the EA pass rates of its users public. However, Gleim does advertise that it has a 99% satisfaction rate. You can read more in my full review of Gleim EA.

What’s the Fast Forward Academy pass rate for EA exams?

The Fast Forward Academy pass rate for Enrolled Agent users is unknown. Besides, Fast Forward has a policy of not publishing its pass rates for the EA exam. To learn more, check out this post about Fast Forward EA Review.

Do you know the Lambers EA pass rate?

Unfortunately, I do not. Lambers does not make its pass rate publicly available.

What is the TaxMama pass rate for the SEE exam?

Like many other EA prep courses, the TaxMama pass rate is unknown. However, you can read my TaxMama review to learn more about this popular EA training course.

Is the Surgent EA pass rate available?

Yes! In fact, Surgent EA is one of the few prep companies to publish their pass rate. Specifically, about 96% of Surgent’s EA users pass their exams. And Surgent EA has lots of discounts available, too.

What is the WiseGuides Enrolled Agent pass percentage?

Again, like many of the best EA review courses, WiseGuides doesn’t publish the pass rate of its users.

EA Exam Strategy

No matter what the Enrolled Agent exam pass rates are, you must do your best and take certain steps in order to pass.

The total testing time for each part is 3.5 hours. To ensure you can answer every question well in this amount of time, you must study consistently for several weeks. During this time, you must also practice your time management system.

You should expect to spend anywhere from 5 to 12 weeks studying for 1 part of the EA exam, putting in at least 10 study hours each week.

Need more info about the Enrolled Agent examination?

To get a more accurate impression of what passing involves, you should learn more about how hard the Enrolled Agent exam is and how it is scored.

For more help with the EA exam, check out my enrolled agent blog and sign up for my EA newsletter.


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About the Author Stephanie

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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