GMAT vs CPA Exam: Which One Should You Take?

How does the GMAT compare to the CPA Exam? When it comes to the GMAT vs CPA Exam, what can you expect?

Some of you might believe the GMAT is the harder of the 2 exams, so you should pursue the CPA certification in order to secure a career in public accounting. Or you should at least take the CPA Exam first and then take the GMAT so you can get into an MBA program later in your career.

But then again, some of you might think the opposite.

You might assume that the GMAT is a well-rounded test of logic, mathematical abilities, and reasoning as well as language proficiency, while the CPA Exam just focuses on auditing, business, and finance. Therefore, you’ve made up your mind to take the GMAT for your Master’s in Accounting program (MAcc) and then eventually earn the CPA.

These are good career plans, and they may be the best for you, but these perceptions about the GMAT and the CPA Exam aren’t quite accurate.

People with different mental strengths might find one of these exams harder or easier than the other. But, both the CPA Exam and the GMAT have their own relevance and are very much all-encompassing in more ways than one.

So, no matter when you plan to take these exams and if you plan to take both, you need to know that each is difficult yet useful for different reasons.

GMAT vs CPA Exam: Understanding the CPA Exam

The CPA Exam is not actually one exam. Instead, it is a compilation of 4 distinct competency exams, namely:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

Each section of the CPA Exam comprises a set number of multiple-choice questions (MCQs). They will also include task-based simulations (TBSs) and/or written communications (WCs). The question counts, time limits, and question scoring weights for each exam are as follows:


Total Testing Time

MCQ Number & Weight

TBSs Number & Weight

WCs Number and Weight


4 hours

72 (50%) 8 (50%)


4 hours

62 (50%) 4 (35%)

3 (15%)


4 hours

66 (50%) 8 (50%0


4 hours

76 (50%) 8 (50%)

To pass a CPA Exam section, you must earn a 75 or above from a scaled scoring range of 0 to 99. The CPA Exam pass rates for each section typically fall between 45-55%.

GMAT vs CPA Exam: Understanding the GMAT

When we compare the GMAT to the CPA Exam, we find that the GMAT is on the other end of the spectrum. It is a single entrance exam with 4 parts:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

The GMAT has a variety of questions to answer and problems to solve. The exam follows this format:


Total Testing Time

Number of Questions

Question Type

Score Range

Analytical Writing Assessment

30 minutes

1 Analysis of an Argument

0-6 in .5-point increments

Integrated Reasoning

30 minutes

  • Multi-Source Reasoning
  • Table Analysis
  • Graphics Interpretation
  • Two-Part Analysis

1-8 in 1-point increments

Quantitative Reasoning

62 minutes


  • Data Sufficiency
  • Problem Solving

6-51 in 1-point increments

Verbal Reasoning

65 minutes


  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Reasoning
  • Sentence Correction

6-51 in 1-point increments

For the GMAT, there is no set passing score. But, if you to get into the top-ranking MBA or Ph.D. program of your choice, you need to score in the 700s at least. You should also know that while the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning sections might not affect your score very much, doing poorly in these sections can still reduce your chances of being accepted into a reputed MBA or Ph.D. program.

GMAT vs CPA Exam: Finding the Connection

For many Certified Public Accountants, the path to the CPA often leads through the GMAT. That’s because one way to fulfill the CPA education requirements is to earn a Master’s in Accounting (MAcc). The CPA education requirement expects candidates to acquire 150 credit hours of higher education. A MAcc supplies the appropriate number of hours. And, to get into this program, you’ll need to take the GMAT.

GMAT vs CPA Exam: Determining the Difficulty

Honestly, both the CPA Exam and the GMAT are very challenging exams. Specifically, they are hard because both of these exams adjust the difficulty level of the questions according to your performance.

The first MCQ testlet you’ll see on the CPA Exam will have a medium difficulty. Then, your performance on this testlet will determine the difficulty level of the second MCQ testlet you receive. If you perform well on the first MCQ testlet, you’ll get a more difficult testlet next. However, if you don’t do super well on the first MCQ testlet, the exam will serve you another medium-difficulty MCQ testlet.

On the GMAT exam, the Quantitative and Verbal parts will work a little differently. These sections still vary the difficulty level according to your performance, but they adjust the difficulty level of each question. Therefore, if you answered a medium-difficulty question correctly, you may get a harder question next. If you got a medium-difficulty question wrong, you will probably get another medium-difficulty question next time.

Furthermore, the GMAT and CPA Exam are hard because of the type and depth of knowledge they demand. To pass the CPA Exam and become a CPA, you must have a deep understanding of a great number of accounting topics. So, you won’t need to rely on your logic and reasoning skills quite so much. On the other hand, you’ll need to really hone and refine your logic and reasoning in order to do well on the GMAT. And you won’t need as much expertise in one particular subject, like accounting.

GMAT vs CPA Exam: Learning How to Pass

Based on your score, you can definitely pass or fail the CPA Exam. But the evaluation of your performance on the GMAT is not as definitive. Instead, how well you do on the GMAT depends on the target score of your institution of choice. So, you may have scored high enough for one school but not quite in the range of another school.

But, for both exams, the best way to brace yourself for the difficulty level and achieve the score you need is to complete extensive, effective training. That means you need good preparation materials. So, if you’re sitting for the CPA Exam, you must learn more about best CPA review courses. If you’re taking the GMAT, you need to know what your options are for GMAT prep courses.

After that, you’ll need to put a lot of hard work and dedication into your studies. Then, you’ll be well on your way to GMAT or CPA Exam success.

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