APA® Program Overview

COPAS Organization And The APA®

The Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies, Inc. (COPAS) was established in 1961 by representatives from various independent local societies throughout the U.S. and Western Canada. In accordance with COPAS’ mission to provide expertise for the oil and gas industry through the development of accounting procedures, publications and education, COPAS initiated the Accredited Petroleum Accountant® (APA®) certification program in 1996. Its purpose is to certify accountants within the oil and gas industry and to ensure that practicing petroleum accountants are proficient in the basic elements of knowledge essential for oil and gas accounting.

In 1996, the original design of the program was a series of eight knowledge-based exams covering the areas of Operations, Law, Financial Reporting, Audit, Joint Interest, Managerial Accounting, Tax, and Revenue. A job analysis study was performed in 2014 to enhance the benefits of the credential to the oil and gas accounting profession by ensuring that the exam was assessing the key knowledge required by practicing petroleum accountants. The results of that study resulted in the development of a single certification exam (effective January 1, 2016) covering five content domains that were determined to be essential for competent practice as a petroleum accountant. 

  • Fundamentals of Oil and Gas Accounting
  • General Accounting
  • Upstream
  • Midstream
  • Downstream

Purpose Of Having An APA® Credential

The Accredited Petroleum Accountant® Certification is a unique credential among other accounting certifications. While the Petroleum Accountant needs the basic concepts and understanding of all accounting matters, the petroleum industry operates under unique guidelines and principles. In preparing for and earning the APA® credential, the accountant will be exposed to all facets of the petroleum industry and achieve or exceed the knowledge required for competent practice as a petroleum accountant.

The APA® certified professional is equipped with knowledge and understanding of the industry and petroleum accounting sufficient to excel in job performance and provide a heightened level of accuracy and ethics in performance of tasks. The APA® designation should be a required element for employee selection, promotion, and retention in the petroleum industry.

The APA® Certification and trademark are owned by COPAS. COPAS membership is not a requirement to take the exam or to retain the credential.

This APA® Certification Candidate Handbook covers the requirements and processes necessary to earn and maintain the APA® certification.

What Is A Certification?

A professional certification like the APA® credential offers candidates the opportunity to validate their knowledge and skills and communicates to employers, the public, and other stakeholders that certificate holders have met the requirements for competent practice in the Petroleum Accounting profession. Professional certifications are earned by meeting several important criteria:

  • Demonstrating a specified level of work experience and/or education
  • Passing a certification exam
  • Meeting annual continuing education and certification maintenance requirements

All three criteria must be met in order to earn and maintain the certification, at which point an individual may use the APA® credential after his or her name. 

Earning An APA® Certification

To earn the APA® certification, candidates must first meet the eligibility requirements for education and/or work experience, and must then register for, take and pass the APA® certification examination. The APA® certification is valid for one (1) year, and must be renewed by participating in the specified number of continuing education hours and paying applicable renewal fees as specified in the section “Maintaining your APA® Certification.”

The APA® credential program does not discriminate against any individual on the basis of religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, age, national origin, or physical disability.

Certification Exam Eligibility Criteria

To register for and take the APA® certification exam, a candidate must meet ONE of the following requirements:

  1. Hold a four (4)-year degree with a minimum of twelve (12) credit hours in Accounting and one (1) year of oil and gas industry work experience; OR
  2. Have five (5) years of oil and gas industry work experience.

The exam application will include a Work Experience Verification Form to provide the candidate’s Employer(s), job title, job duties, Supervisor(s), and their contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses. Documentation of Educational Requirements may be satisfied with a photocopy of the candidate’s transcript and diploma.

NOTE: If the candidate has an International Degree, evidence of equivalent academic credentials will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Overview Of The APA® Certification Exam

The APA® certification examination is a knowledge-based exam designed to assess professional competence in the field of petroleum accounting. The exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions, 160 of which will count towards the candidate’s score and 15 of which are unscored, pilot test questions that do not count towards the candidate’s score. These unscored pilot test questions are necessary because new questions are written for inclusion on the APA® exam on an ongoing basis, but are not included as scored questions until they demonstrate that they are statistically and psychometrically sound. Inclusion of a small number of pilot test questions is very common on professional certification exams and other types of standardized tests, as it is the best way to ensure that candidates are evaluated on questions that meet pre-established criteria for fairness and effectiveness. These unscored pilot test questions are distributed randomly throughout the exam and candidates will not be able to distinguish them from the scored questions. The 160 scored items are based on the exam content outline, also called the exam blueprint (Exhibit A), and are administered in random order. Candidates are given three and one-half (3.5) hours to complete the multiple-choice exam.

COPAS, on behalf of the APA® Board of Examiners, contracts with Scantron, a full-service, third party testing company, to ensure that the APA® certification exam adheres to national testing standards. The APA® examination is developed by the APA® Board of Examiners, in conjunction with a pool of working petroleum accounting professionals who have been identified as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) for the APA® certification program. All aspects of the development, administration, and scoring of the APA® exam follow professional testing industry standards, guidelines, and best practices.

Each multiple-choice question that is developed must be referenced to an appropriate text or resource, such as COPAS published documents—including Accounting Guidelines, Model Form Interpretations and Training documents—or other commercially published materials providing petroleum accounting principles and standards. Each multiple-choice question is written by one or more SMEs and reviewed and validated by a minimum of two (2) additional SMEs to ensure that each question is objective, clear, fair, and reflective of current practice, maps to the exam content outline, and has only one clearly correct answer (response) and three incorrect responses.

The APA® certification exam includes three types of multiple-choice questions: recall, application, and analysis. Recall questions are cognitive in nature and test a candidate’s ability to recall knowledge, whereas application and analysis questions measure problem solving and decision making skills. 

Interested in Getting Earning Your APA®? Let us Know!

We’ll send you our candidate handbook and notify you when enrollment for our next testing window becomes available.