One of the metrics that potential Enrolled Agents love to check 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?
Here is the EA exam pass rate for 12 months ended March 2018:
EA Exam Parts
To analysis the trend, we have a 10-year EA exam pass rate trend based on the data from the Prometric.
There has been a trend forming until 2016 when we see substantial changes in EA Part 1 and Part 2 exams. Here is our attempt to explain what happened:
We don’t have further breakdown by region, gender or age, but based on this data, I have the following conclusion.
Compared to other accounting tax professional exams, the EA exam pass rates are very high. Even the lowest part at 60% is still higher than any parts in CPA, CMA and CIA.
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.
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.
Also, it used to make sense that Part 2 is tougher than Part 1 because business taxation is more complex than that for individual. The mix has changed since 2017 as reflected in the change in pass rates.
As you can see below, 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:
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