The writers of CPA Exam questions work hard on their wording to ensure each multiple-choice question has one — and only one — right answer.
According to this AICPA overview, a CPA Exam question can go through as many as 20 reviews with 20-30 analysts before it appears on a test.
Test Development Manager Tim Habick combines his background in linguistics and logic to ensure every word in every sentence of the test questions are clear on first reading.
“All incorrect answer choices are designed to be clearly incorrect, and the correct answer choice is designed to be clearly correct,” Habick said. “If you understand the content, you should be able to distinguish the correct choice from the incorrect choices.”
And there’s no need to be overly suspicious on multiple-choice tests. While the choices in a multiple-choice question are designed to be plausible, the correct answer is one that meets the parameters of the query. The wrong choices may only be correct either occasionally or if the test taker assume other facts to be true.
“Do not introduce unrealistic possibilities into question scenarios,” Habick advises. “There is no reason to make assumptions about facts not in evidence in the question. All relevant facts are already established in the construction of each question’s scenario, so don’t overthink with ‘What if?’ digressions.”
Emotion-laden words and concepts are removed from questions so CPA candidates will hone in on the intended content.
“An item might test the important concept of disaster recovery,” Lead Manager of Test Development Jeff West said by way of example, “but we refrain from providing any unnecessary and upsetting details about the disaster itself.”