Difficulty Based on Passing Rates
If we were to assess which part is the most difficult based on the associated individual passing rates, part 2 would be the worst. The passing rates for each section in 2015 were 77%, 60%, and 87% for parts 1, 2, and 3, respectively.
This makes sense, as business tax is much more complicated than individual tax, hence the lower passing rate. Clearly, more people have trouble with part 2, which is useful to know when you are planning which section to take first. When compared to other exams like the CPA or the CMA, both with passing rates just below 50%, your chances of passing the EA Exam are dramatically better.
How Long You Should Expect to Prepare
You may take any part of the EA Exam in any order, which leaves you the option of choosing the hardest part first or last (I would start with the hardest first to get it done and out of the way, but your prerogative). And like I said before, what one person might consider the hardest part, you may consider the easiest. So which one would generally be the toughest to prepare for?
Unlike the CPA Exam, the EA Exam's 3 parts focus on the specific topic of federal taxation Click To Tweet
Each part focuses on a different facets within the tax code, which means your preparation time for each part will vary. Generally speaking, you will spend about 50 hours studying for part 1, 85 hours for part 2, and 40 hours for part 3. It makes sense that you would need to spend more time on business tax in part 2 since business tax is more complex than the other sections.
Unlike the CPA Exam, which requires over 300 hours of study of extended topics in business and accounting, the EA Exam’s three parts focus on the specific topic of federal taxation. Detailed business tax code, which is essentially a list of rules, requires more time to understand. As long as you know these rules and understand how to apply them to various tax filings, you will pass the EA Exam.
How Hard is The EA Exam Compared to The CPA Exam
There are some crazy people out there who love to get certified, so they have taken both the CPA and EA exam. These people are the ballers of the accounting and auditing world, and I would bet almost all of them would say the CPA Exam is much harder than the EA Exam.
Since the CPA Exam is a mile wide and an inch deep, it’s not exactly fair to compare it to the EA Exam, which is only a quarter mile wide but a whole lot deeper. If you have already taken the CPA exam, you will find that the REG section of the CPA Exam is comparable to the EA Exam.
The questions on the EA Exam are much more straightforward, unlike the tricker multiple choice questions and task based simulations you’ll find in REG. It will most likely take you less time to prepare for the EA exam than the CPA given the way the exams are formatted and depth of focus.
The CPA is a mile & an inch deep, but the EA requires a proverbial miner's depth of knowledge Click To Tweet
No matter how easy or hard certain parts of the EA Exam are, you can’t take this test lightly. You will need a prep course and a solid study plan to beat this exam and be on your way to becoming a certified Enrolled Agent!
Amy is a professional finance and accounting writer who has a passion for all things data driven. When this San Diego local isn’t writing, she can be found walking her dogs by the beach or sailing on a sunny day in the bay.
Favorite Quote: “The only time I set the bar low is for limbo.” -Michael Scott