ACAT Exam Development

The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation ensures the validity, reliability, and legal defensibility of the Accredited Business Advisor/Accountant (ABA), Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA), Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) and Accredited Retirement Advisor (ARA) certification programs. The ACAT examinations are assessment instruments which measure the competency of potential candidates against a body of knowledge, skills, and abilities designed to demonstrate the depth and breadth of knowledge appropriate for effective practice in the financial, accounting and taxation services professions.

The content of the ACAT examinations are based on the outcomes of job analyses studies. A job analysis is a comprehensive definition of the tasks performed by professionals currently holding the ACAT-credential. The purpose of the job analysis is to describe, in specific terms, the precise nature of the tasks performed by incumbent professionals who work in the field of accountancy and taxation for which the examination is being developed. Job analyses are conducted every 5-7 years, or more often as circumstances may warrant, to verify the content of the examination. The results of the job analysis influence to what extent the competencies are revised for the ACAT certification examinations. 

 The ACAT examinations are based on an explicit set of competencies. These competencies have been determined through a job analysis study conducted on practitioners. The competencies are grouped into domains, subdomains, and tasks. As the ACAT examinations may only assess knowledge pertaining to these competency statements, they serve as the outline, or blueprint for the examination. These Content Outlines are published on the ACAT website. 

The examination specifications are established or revised at the same time as the development of the examination blueprint. The specifications include the total number of test items, test item type(s), total test duration, and scoring methodology. The examination blueprint and specifications are based on the outcome of the job analysis study and are reviewed and approved by a panel of subject matter experts. 

All examination items (or questions) are directly linked to the approved examination specifications and are written and reviewed by panels of trained subject matter experts. The ACAT’s Item Writing and Subject Matter Examination Committees, working with the psychometric consultant, regularly review items and approve the examinations.

Examination Appeals

Complaints or appeals may be submitted in writing prior to the examination and up until thirty (30) days after examination administration. Written appeals must be submitted with supporting documentation or evidence to the ACAT Vice President.

The burden of proof is borne by the applicant. The decision of the Board is final. Complaints or appeals are not considered after the thirty (30) days have expired. Because of the thorough review and analysis of each question during the examination construction procedures, there are no appeal procedures to challenge individual examination questions or answers. Because of the secure nature of these examinations, ACAT will not disclose examination questions. Candidates responses to particular test questions (correct or not correct) will not be disclosed.


ACAT is committed to protecting confidential information related to applicants, candidates, and certificants. Confidential materials include, but are not limited to: an individual’s application, application status, personal applicant /certificant information, exam items and answers, exam forms, and individual exam scores.

Personal information about a candidate/certificant will only be released to that candidate/certificant if release of the information is authorized in writing by the individual or is required by law. Personal information submitted by applicant /certificants with an application or renewal application is considered confidential. Personal information retained within the applicant/certificant database will be kept confidential.

Examination scores are released only to the examination candidate unless a signed release is provided in writing by the individual or is required by law.

Release of Information

The names of certified individuals are not considered confidential and may be published by the ACAT.

Aggregate examination statistics (including the number of examination candidates, pass/fail rates, and total number of certificants) are made available on the ACAT website. Aggregate examination statistics, studies and reports concerning applicants/certificants contain no information identifiable with any applicant/certificant.

Record Retention

ACAT retains all examination forms, examination development documents, examination results, examination items, active examination application information, and active applicant/candidate/certificants data indefinitely.

*ACAT’s role is in developing and administering certification examinations to determine the qualifications of candidates for certification. ACAT does not approve, endorse, or recommend any education or training programs or products designed or intended to prepare candidates for ABA certification. Purchase of NSA review materials is not a requirement for testing, nor does use of any review materials (NSA or otherwise) imply successful performance on the ACAT certification examinations.