CPA Subjects – what order & combination works best?

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Choosing your CPA subjects can be tricky, and at Knowledge Equity (KnowledgEquity or sometimes known as KEQ) we often get asked:

‘what order should I do my CPA subjects in?’ and ‘what CPA subject electives should I choose?’, so we hope this helps.


Most candidates start the CPA Program with the Ethics & Governance subject as this provides a good background to the profession and the professional, ethical and governance issues facing the professional accountant. However, many are unsure on what CPA subjects to do next.

Our advice on subject selection is simple – do the subjects that are likely to assist with your future career direction. Getting your accreditation as a CPA is critical but you should have also mapped out some idea of where your next career steps will likely be.

For instance if you intend to pursue a career in Public Practice, then in addition to the core subjects, the selection of elective subjects is almost ready made for you in that Advanced Audit and Assurance and Advanced Taxation would be the best fit. If you are more interested in working inside a business and performing a broader range of tasks, you will focus more closely on managerial type subjects such as Contemporary Business Issues.

CPA subjects order and combination

Public Practice or technical accountant versus consultant or adviser

CPA Subjects public practice



CPA Subjects consultant or business adviser


CPA Subject choice tips

  • Don’t leave FR until last – even though it is really tough. If you get stuck on FR you want to find out earlier rather than later, so you can decide whether to continue with your studies.
  • Don’t do AAA before FR – Audit involves careful consideration of financial reporting and standards, so you need FR knowledge to do this well
  • If you are not sure of your career plans then choose subjects that interest you. Why? Because if you are motivated this generally translates into good results.


CPA subject electives

If you have not completed Auditing and Australian Taxation at an under graduate level, these two subjects will be compulsory.

In reality there are only six combinations of electives:

CPA subject elective combination

If your preference is for conceptual subjects then combination 1 is ideal (CBI and FRM) and if your preference is for theoretical subjects (that is, subjects that have frameworks, standards, law / legislation) then combination 6 is better (AAA and AT).

There is no magical formula but by completing subjects in a logical order it can mean that you are better prepared or have the right background knowledge.

Doing Two CPA Subjects or more in a Semester

Integration combined apple orange_000004876605_LargeHigh study workloads coupled with hard subject combinations often leads to poor results. So at Knowledge Equity do not recommend this for most students. However, people do ask us for advice here – so if you are going to try it, here are some tips to provide greater chances of success and to protect your sanity.


  • Avoid Advanced Taxation with another subject as there is a significant volume of study material (there are 13 modules and around 1000 pages) to go through, especially if it has been some time since you completed Taxation at university level.
  • Avoid Financial Reporting with another subject – it is also very long, very difficult, and requires significant effort.
  • If you are working full time you will find it very difficult to do two subjects well unless you are extremely disciplined.

Strategic Management Accounting goes well with Ethics & Governance, or Contemporary Business Issues or Financial Risk Management. If you are really disciplined and organised, then you may consider Financial Reporting and Advanced Audit and Assurance together.

Try to ensure that you have allowed yourself sufficient time between exam dates (perhaps schedule one exam at the start of the exam week and the other exam at the end). You will need to be disciplined with your study technique to ensure that you are allocated an adequate amount of study time to both subjects.

Some other things to keep in mind are

  • Try not to use previous semester CPA pass rates as a factor to inform your subject selection.
  • Try not to be influenced by the opinions of others on the difficulty levels of subjects. This is as what one person finds difficult, another person might find easy.
  • Length of the study guide (for instance number of modules or number of pages) is not always relevant. Some people find it much easier to master technical, rule based content – while others prefer conceptual and narrative based reading.


Some useful links to other sites include the CPA Australia CPA Program discussion on CPA subjects structure and requirements and whirlpool discussion forums.



April 28, 2017

4 responses on "CPA Subjects - what order & combination works best?"

  1. Are you able to advise regarding the requirements for being able to provide financial advice – I understand from the information on the cpa website that there are two base modules then one of two electives to complete. I already know that I want to do advanced tax as part of the cpa program, which only leaves one elective. What are the avenues for completing the remaining requirements?

  2. Hi Tracie,
    With the current structure you would be required to complete any additional subjects of study after you have completed the CPA program to meet the requirements. There is a bit more detail in this blog post:

    Kind regards, Courtney

  3. Hi Courtney..
    I have done EG and I am doing SMA this semester (2018 sem 1)
    In Q1 &Q2, I am hectic at work. Although you suggest CBI after SMA, if I decided to take FR as my 3rd subject, would that be much of an impact?
    Thank you in advance.

  4. Hi – doing FR 3rd is also an appropriate choice, and many students do this after E&G and SMA so that they have completed the 3rd core unit. Just make sure you understand the level of work involved in FR. CPA recommends 165 hours, and I would say this is a minimum to get through the material and be confident of performing well in the exam.

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