CPA Scaled Score – What is the pass mark?


With the new exam structure (2 hours / 100% MCQ) for all subjects we have created a new ‘estimate’ of your grade that applies only for this semester.

How did we do it? We looked at the percentage rates for each grade in Semester 2 2019. For example, Ethics & Governance had the following:

5% High Distinction | %7.75 Distinction | 14.8% Credit | 38.6% Pass | 33.9% Fail

Then we ranked all the people who had done practice exam 1. Therefore, the top 5% could be expected to get an HD. (Yes – this is quite a guess..but it’s the best we can do).

We found that the top 5% all scored at least 46 or higher out of 50. We found the next 7.75% scored between 44 and 45, and so on. From this – we now have a table for each subject to compare your score against, to get an estimated grade.


Is it 100% accurate – No. This is not an exact science, but it is a reasonable estimate. If you are a bit below the pass mark – don’t panic. Study more and practice more questions. If you are a bit above the pass mark – don’t relax…keep on learning.

These are based on Practice Exam 1. We will add in Practice Exam 2 comparisons by Tuesday 5 May.

AAA Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Average 31 / 50 (62%).

Scaled Score Estimate

Result AAA – Out of 50
HD 40 – 49
D 37 – 39
C 34 – 36
P 28 – 33
F 1 – 27


AT Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Result AT – Out of 35
HD 30+
D 26 – 29
C 25
P 21 – 24
F 1 – 20


ATA Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Average 22 / 40 (55%)

Result ATA – Out of 40
HD 34 +
D 32 – 33
C 30 – 31
P 22 – 29
F 1 – 21

CBI Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Average 22 / 40 (55%)

Result CBI – Out of 40
HD 28 +
D 27
C 25 – 26
P 22 – 24
F 1 – 21



EG Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Practice Exam 1: Average 34 / 50 (68%)

Practice Exam 2: Average 30 / 50 (60%)


Result EG –
Out of 50
Exam 1
EG –
Out of 50
Exam 2
HD 45+ 40+
D 43 – 44 37 – 39
C 40 – 42 34 – 36
P 31 – 39 27 – 33
F 1 – 30 1 – 26


FR Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Average 20 / 35 (57%).

Result FR – Out of 35
HD 31 +
D 29 – 30
C 26 – 28
P 18 – 25
F 1 – 17


For FR Practice Exam 2 the average increased to 22 / 35 (63%) but the scaled score changes as a result of this too.

Result FR Practice Exam 2
– Out of 35
HD 32 +
D 31
C 28 – 30
P 21 – 27
F 1 – 20

FRM Scaled Score Estimate based on Exam 1

Practice exam 1: Average 25 / 40 (62.5%)

Practice exam 2: Average 28 / 40 (70%)


Result FRM – Out of 40
Exam 1
FRM – Out of 40
Exam 2
HD 33+ 34+
D 31 – 32 33
C 28 – 30 31 – 32
P 21 – 27 25 – 30
F 1 – 20 1 – 24


GSL Scaled Score Estimate

Practice exam 1: Average 32 / 50  (64%)

Practice exam 2: Average 30 / 50 (60%)

Result GSL – Out of 50
Exam 1
GSL – Out of 50
Exam 2
HD 39 + 37 +
D 36 – 38 34 – 36
C 34 – 35 31 – 33
P 25 – 33 23 – 30
F 1 – 24 1 – 22



SMA Scaled Score Estimate

Practice exam 1 Average 29 / 50.

Practice exam 2 Average 30 / 50.

Result SMA – Out of 50
Practice Exam 1
SMA – Out of 50
Practice Exam 2
HD 40+ 41+
D 37 – 39 38 – 40
C 34 – 36 34 – 37
P 26 – 33 26 – 33
F 1 – 25 1 – 25



What CPA scaled score do I need to pass the CPA exam?

CPA Students want to know what a CPA scaled score means, and what is the pass mark on CPA exams. Here is a short video that explains a bit about it.

CPA Australia do not provide a pass mark, but they do explain what a CPA scaled score is here. As a result, the team at KnowledgEquity have CPA practice exams that give you feedback about your current ability and where you need to improve. We also strongly advise you to focus hard on mastering the CPA study guide materials, rather than figuring out what a minimum pass might be.

NOTE: Everything below is valid up to 2019 Semester 2….but things changed in S1 2020 – so…stop reading…

CPA pass mark based on our CPA practice exams

We have compared our CPA practice exam results against the scaled scores students have received to create a comparison table showing an estimated pass mark for each CPA subject. Here is the comparison for CPA Ethics and Governance.

CPA Ethics and Governance Scaled Score comparison

CPA Scaled Score for Ethics and Governance

Of course – it will not always be accurate. Some people who do poorly in our practice exams revise heavily and have lifted their results. Sometimes people who have done well in our practice exams are not as successful in the CPA exam. However, they are still accurate for most students, so they provide useful guidance. 


Is a passing score of 540 / 900 the same as 50%?

No. The CPA scaled score is definitely not a percentage of the number of correct answers you achieved, and 50% is not the pass mark in your CPA exam.

Calculating a CPA pass mark percentage


Why isn’t there a simple ‘CPA pass mark’ so I know what to aim for?

CPA Australia have multiple exams for each subject to protect the integrity of the exams. Each exam may have a slightly different level of difficulty – so 45% in one version of the exam may be the same as 60% in another version. Therefore, scaling helps adjust the results so that each student receives a fair grade. This is why you can’t just give someone a percentage CPA pass mark.

Put simply, a CPA exam with harder questions will need a lower number of correct answers to achieve a pass. If it is an easier exam, you will need to get more answers correct to pass your CPA exam.

CPA Australia make it very clear in the following video that a scaled score of 540 is not 67.5%. (This would be very bad mathematics – because the scale is between 100 and 900 not 0 and 900).

KnowledgEquity’s CPA pass mark project

When you sit a CPA Practice Exam with KnowledgEquity you obtain a mark. When you complete your actual CPA subject you receive a scaled score. Now that we have several thousand practice exam results we have built a comparison chart between our CPA Practice Exam Results and the CPA scaled score you receive. You now have a clearer indication as to whether you are on track to succeed with your CPA exam, or if you need to start revising heavily.

KnowledgEquity practice exams

The team at KnowledgEquity have worked hard to create useful questions at various levels of difficulty. These are designed to help you prepare for your exams and be confident that you know the materials well. We have practice exams for all the CPA core units and 5 electives (we do not provide tuition resources for the CPA Financial Planning subjects). The core units and Australia Taxation and Australia Taxation – Advanced practice exams include both an MCQ and written answer component, that matches the weighting in the actual CPA exam. The elective subjects are all MCQs as per the CPA elective exam structure.



Courtney Clowes


May 6, 2020

43 responses on "CPA Scaled Score - What is the pass mark?"

  1. Hi,

    Im doing SMA. I done one practice exam with 60 MCQs. what is the ideal mark? Iv got 40 out of 60

    Thank you.

  2. Hi Dineesha, We haven’t got an estimated pass mark for only the MCQs, you also need to do the written responses to get a combined result that we compared against your scaled score. Based on our analysis,
    Getting less than 48: scaled scores hover around the low 500s.
    48 – 52: Borderline pass (i.e. don’t be confident with this – do more study. Scaled score of around 542 – 553. 
    53 – 61: Scaled score of around 550 – 565 (but – be careful, not everyone gets through with this result…keep studying). 
    62-65: Usually leads to a strong pass (around 570) or a credit (of around 600 scaled score)
    65-73: Usually leads to a distinction…(but note my warning above…)
    >73: Good chance of an HD (Scaled score around 650 – 750).

  3. Hi Courtney,
    Is there an analysis of the exam mark to scaled score for FR?

  4. Some guidance (but not guarantee)

    <20: Low fail (Scaled score around 460 - 500)

    20 – 25 Fail (Scaled score around 500 – 520)
    26 – 29 Borderline fail (Scaled score around 539)

    30 – 35: Usually a pass (but not always…be careful)

    36 – 40: Moving towards a credit (scaled score around 615 – 640)

    40 – 43: Distinction territory (640 to about 675 scaled score)

    44 – 50: High Distinction (around 675 scaled score)

    55 +: High Distinction (around 780 scaled score).

  5. Hi Courtney,

    I’ve done one of the AAA practice exams with a score of 63/90. What would the ideal mark be?

    Thanks in advance

  6. For AAA:

    Some guidance (but not guarantee)

    Fail: <48 (scaled score of 480 – 519)

    Borderline Fail: 48 – 53 (scaled score of 520 – 539)

    50/50 either way: 54 (scaled score of 539/540)

    Borderline Pass: 55 – 57 (Scaled score of 540 – 569) (most people here pass, but quite a few do not)

    High Pass: 58 – 62 (Scaled score of 570 – 629)

    Credit: 63 – 66 (Scaled score of 630 – 644) Distinction: 67 – 70 (Scaled score of 645 – 679) High Distinction: > 71 /
    90 (Scaled score of 680 +)

  7. Hi Countney,

    What’s the marks range for E&G?

    Thank you.

  8. Some guidance (but not guarantee) based on our practice exams (out of 85 marks)

    < 37: Low Fail. 
    38 – 46: Fail.

    47 -52: Borderline…fail (some make it through)

    53 – 60: borderline…pass (i.e. usually students pass in this category but quite a few don’t)

    60 – 65: High Pass / Credit

    66-70: Distinction

    >70: Usually a High Distinction.

  9. Hi Courtney,

    Can you please give an analysis for passing rate for the Advanced Taxation ?

    thank you

  10. For Advanced Taxation:

    <21: fail

    21 – 24: Borderline Pass / Fail (about 50% fall into each category – so please, do some extra revision)

    25 – 29: Pass (but some people don’t make it through – be careful)

    30 – 33: Credit (some will get a distinction or HD here)

    >33: Distinction or High Distinction

  11. Can anyone please suggest passing mark for GSL (New exam format).
    Thank you

  12. Last semester everyone who scored over 50 / 80 on our practice exams achieved a CPA Pass. Most students who scored over 40 also received a pass (so not everyone). So, to be ‘confident’ we recommend a 50, but a 40 is usually good enough.

  13. Thank you Courtney for your prompt reply.
    Will that be same for CPA exam.

  14. CPA have different pass marks for different versions of the exam. They have around 6 different exam papers, and so some will be harder, and some will be easier. So, they set a lower pass mark on the harder paper. This is why we provide a comparison of what to expect, so you can estimate whether you will get a pass based on your practice exam result.

  15. Hi Courtney. Any predictions on the new advanced tax analysis?

  16. Hi – although we can’t predict what it will look like, we think that based on the content it will be a tough exam, but the pass mark will not be set very high. A similar thing happened with the GSL exam changed – the overall pass mark was much higher than usual.

  17. Thanks a lot Courtney for the quick reply. Also, do you have an approx. passing analysis for financial risk management as well? Little urgent. Thanks 🙂

  18. <40: Fail
    40 – 42: Borderline pass / fail (about 50% fall into each category – so please, do some extra revision)
    43 – 50: Pass (but some people don’t make it through – be careful)
    51 – 59: Credit (some will get a distinction or HD here)
    >60: Distinction or High Distinction
    Regards, Courtney

  19. Hi what would be the scaled score for 61 in Gsl?

    • Hi – the scaled scores for each subject are in the PDF that goes with the Exam preparation webinar (you will find this in the weekly webinars unit. Let me know if you have trouble finding it.
      Regards, Courtney

  20. Hi, can I know what is the exam passing mark for FR?


    • Hi Irene,

      There is no ‘pass mark’ for any of the CPA exams. It is a scaled score based on a minimally competent candidate.

      We have previously provided a scaled score comparison (so if you do the practice exam you can see what others before you have achieved in the CPA exam). But, it is a new study guide this semester, so we cannot be sure how accurate our past analysis was when estimating this. Here is the previous analysis:
      Some guidance (but not guarantee)

      <20: Low fail (Scaled score around 460 - 500)

      20 – 25 Fail (Scaled score around 500 – 520)
      26 – 29 Borderline fail (Scaled score around 539)

      30 – 35: Usually a pass (but not always…be careful)

      36 – 40: Moving towards a credit (scaled score around 615 – 640)

      40 – 43: Distinction territory (640 to about 675 scaled score)

      44 – 50: High Distinction (around 675 scaled score)

      55 +: High Distinction (around 780 scaled score).

      Regards, Courtney

  21. Hi Courtney,

    Currently doing Australia Taxation.

    Could you please tell me what the estimated marks are for this subject (don’t think anyone has asked this yet).


  22. Hi,
    I’m giving the first paper under MOU of CPA Australia with ICAI (India) of GSL. we are supposed to give only 2 paper – GSL and Better Practice in Governance and Accountability. How much we need to score to pass both the exams?

    • Hi Shaily,
      I am not familiar with Better Practice in Governance and Accountability, so I cannot help with this.

      For GSL, CPA do not publish a pass mark. The best thing you can do to get a comparison is to use the Practice Exams for feedback. You can compare your result to the average, and if you are above average then you are on track for a pass, because the pass rate is about 80%. Just make sure you are not in the bottom 30 – 40% to be sure.

      Regards, Courtney

  23. Hi Courtney, I am able to score 70% in GSL practice exam 1, what’s the estimated scaled score comparison for actual CPA exam? Thank you so much

    • Hi Widdy,

      We don’t have a scaled score estimate this semester with the new exam format, as they haven’t been run before. One thing we are doing this semester instead of a ‘scaled score comparison’ is ‘compare yourself to the average’. Once there is a large data set we can compare this to the pass percentages (lets say 80% of candidates pass – then the top 80% are roughly on track, and we can set the pass mark estimate somewhere around that).
      Regards, Courtney

  24. Thank you Courtney. Any update on the estimated timeframe if the average data will be published ?

    • In about a week there will be enough data for this to be available. You can access it by going back to the practice exam and clicking on the ‘graph’ icon, which shows you this.

      Regards, Courtney

  25. Hi Courtney.
    How about FRM practice exams – 2 scaled score?


  26. Hi, What’s the marks range for E & G? I got 31 out of 50 in the practice exam 1. Is there any chance for me?

    • Hi Monika,
      there is a table in the post that shows the estimated result based on your score in practice exam 1 – so you can check against that and get an estimate of how you are going.

      Regards, Courtney

  27. Thanks Courtney, That table shows out of 85 marks for E & G.

  28. Hi Courtney,
    I am planning to take SMA first. As a new student to the CPA program, Am i supposed to concentrate on the study guide which is provided or any other resource? Also can you suggest me a strategy to get started learning SMA??

    • Hi Sheby,
      The study guide is the whole focus of the exam. Nothing else is examinable, so yes, you should know it inside out. The best way to learn it is to start reading it, and also watch the video tutorials that go along with it to help guide you through. Check out our free resources for SMA from 20 May to get a headstart on semester. Just sign up via our website after the CPA exam period finishes in a few weeks.
      Regards, Courtney

  29. Hi Courtney,
    How about AT practice exam – 2 scaled score?

  30. Hi Courtney,
    How about ATA and CBI practice exam – 2 scaled score? Thanks

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