Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) Certification

Updated September 26, 2022

Learn what it takes to earn an accredited in business valuation (ABV) certification, including eligibility requirements, examination process, and overall cost.

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The accredited in business valuation (ABV) credential is a professional accounting certification. People with ABVs are experts in determining a business's value, also known as business valuation. Owners may want to know their business's value for tax reasons. They may also seek valuation if they want to bring on a new partner or if they plan to sell their business.

Unlike other accounting credentials, the ABV certification is only offered through the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The AICPA is the national professional organization for certified public accountants (CPAs) in the United States. Founded in 1887, the organization now boasts more than 421,000 members.

Certification is not mandatory for business valuation professionals. However, an ABV credential can give applicants a competitive advantage in the field. ABV certification may particularly benefit people who want to work at large accounting firms or in the investment banking industry.

Why Get ABV Certification?

  • Boosts Credibility: Earning an ABV certification takes work, including more than 1,500 hours of real-world valuation experience. ABV-holders must also complete continuing education to maintain their certification. This training helps boost clients’ confidence that an ABV-certified professional can fairly evaluate their business’s worth.
  • Creates Career Opportunities: An ABV can help accounting professionals stand out when applying for jobs. Since ABV-holders specialize in business valuation, the certification can lead to new and more advanced career opportunities.
  • Increases Income: According to Payscale, accounting professionals with an ABV certification earned an average annual salary of $89,000 as of May 2022. In comparison, Payscale reports that as of May 2022, CPAs in general made an average of $70,390 per year. That means an ABV certification may increase a person’s salary by nearly $19,000 a year.

How Do You Qualify for the ABV Credential?

The AICPA offers two pathways to the ABV credential. The first is for licensed CPAs. Current CPAs must meet the following eligibility requirements to earn their ABV designation.

  • AICPA Membership: A person must hold regular AICPA membership in good standing. This involves paying the AICPA annual dues.
  • Valid CPA License: Candidates need a valid CPA license to sit for the ABV exam.
  • Business Experience: A person needs 1,500 completed hours of business valuation experience within the previous five years.
  • Continuing Education Requirement: Candidates must complete 75 hours of continuing education about valuation within the previous five years.

If a person is not a CPA but works as a valuation professional, they can qualify for ABV certification if they meet the following criteria.

  • AICPA Membership: A person must hold associate, non-CPA, or CPA exam candidate affiliate membership and pay annual dues.
  • General Education Requirement: Candidates need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school.
  • Business Experience: A person must complete 4,500 hours of business valuation experience within the previous five years.
  • Continuing Education Requirement: Candidates must complete 75 hours of continuing education about valuation within the previous five years.

Candidates must also take the ABV exam. The AICPA waives the exam requirement for people who have already passed the American Society of Appraisers credential exam, the CFA Institute's chartered financial accountant exam level III, or the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators' chartered business valuator exam.

Once a candidate passes the test, they can submit their credential application for approval. Both valuation professionals and CPAs must also sign a declaration of intent to comply with the ABV recertification process.

Educational Requirements

ABV certification candidates need either a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or current CPA licensure. Most states require CPAs to hold a bachelor’s degree.

That means that most ABV candidates need a bachelor’s. A bachelor’s degree in accounting can give candidates the foundational accounting knowledge they need. Some programs even offer courses in valuation. Candidates may also choose to pursue a master’s degree in accounting to prepare to become a CPA.

ABV candidates must also complete 75 hours of continuing education in business valuation. The AICPA offers several qualifying classes.

Professional Requirements

ABV candidates need real-world business valuation experience before they can earn their credential. CPAs should complete 1,500 hours of business valuation experience within the previous five years before taking the ABV exam. Valuation professionals who are not CPAs need 4,500 experience hours within the five years prior to the exam.

Candidates earn these hours by working in the business valuation field. Qualifying experience includes reviewing other professionals' valuations and performing valuation services as an employee or consultant. Professors can count their instruction hours as valuation experience.

Candidates must also hold AICPA membership before they can apply for their certification.

What Does the ABV Exam Cover?

The ABV exam comprises two multiple-choice modules. Candidates must pass both exam sections, in any order, within a 24-month period. Test-takers can schedule their exam at an in-person test center or take a self-proctored test online.

The first section of the ABV exam covers foundational valuation theory. It tests these topics:

  • Professional standards
  • Financial reporting
  • Defining the engagement
  • Sources of economic and industry data
  • Macroeconomic and environmental analysis
  • Industry analysis
  • Subject entity analysis

The second section focuses on how to implement valuation methods. It covers these topics:

  • Valuation approaches
  • Intellectual property and other intangible assets
  • Discounts, premiums, and other adjustments
  • Conclusion of value

Candidates may use a non-programmable calculator and scratch paper on the day of the exam. The ABV is a closed-book exam, so no notes are allowed.

The table below shows a breakdown of the ABV exam structure.

ABV Exam Structure
Section Format Time
Section 1: Foundation of Valuation Theory (50% of total score) Multiple choice 3 hours, 15 minutes
Section 2: Implementation of Valuation Methods (50% of total score) Multiple choice 3 hours, 15 minutes

Scoring the Exam

The ABV exam is a pass/fail test. Test-takers receive their score as soon as they submit their exam. The AICPA also sends an exam results email two weeks after the exam date.

If a test-taker fails the exam, they can retake it. Retake fees cost $60 per module. Candidates can retake the exam multiple times within the 24-month exam window.

How Do You Register for the ABV Exam?

ABV certification candidates register for the test through the AICPA website. Candidates do not need to have completed the education or business experience requirements to register.

Test-takers can visit the official ABV Exam registration website to start the signup process. Candidates register for each of the two exam modules separately.

The AICPA sends registered candidates an email explaining the process for scheduling an exam date at an in-person testing center or through the online remote proctoring system. The AICPA only schedules exam dates by email, so test-takers should check their inboxes regularly for at least two weeks after registering.

ABV candidates can retake either test section as long as they pass both sections within 24 months. The AICPA offers the ABV exam year-round. Candidates can reschedule their test up to 72 hours before their exam date.

Paying for the Exam

The ABV exam includes two modules, which test-takers pay for separately. Here is how the cost breaks down for first-time test-takers as of June 2022 by membership type:

  • FVS Section Members: $176 per module ($352 total)
  • AICPA Members: $220 per module ($440 total)
  • Non-Members: $275 per module ($550 total)

Retaking the exam costs $60 per module. These fees are non-refundable.

Candidates can qualify for a volume discount of $60 per module if their firm registers two or more candidates at the same time. Individuals can get a $100 discount if they buy the live version of the ABV Exam Review course and register for the ABV exam.

How Can You Prepare for the ABV Exam?

Passing the ABV exam involves preparation. Candidates can give themselves a better chance of success by starting the study process early. The tips below can help test-takers make the most of their study time.

Top Tips

  1. Take the ABV Assessment: The AICPA's free online assessment tool helps test-takers check their knowledge and pinpoint areas for improvement. The assessment comprises nine topics covering information like the cost of capital and fair value for financial reporting. Each topic area includes ten assessment questions.
  2. Buy a Business Valuation Prep Course: The AICPA offers live and self-study courses to help people prepare for the ABV exam. The interactive live course features ABV expert instructors. The online self-study course includes more than 300 practice questions.
  3. Look for Real-World Learning Opportunities: As students gain business valuation experience, they may find ways to test their knowledge on real-world problems. This can help candidates better understand important business valuation concepts and may improve their exam performance.
  4. Create a Study Plan: Work and family responsibilities can make studying for the ABV exam challenging. Setting aside dedicated study time — and adding that time to the calendar —can help candidates stay focused.
  5. Form a Study Group: Studying alongside other ABV candidates can motivate test-takers to stay focused on their test preparation. By working together, candidates can help each other master tough topics. Study groups can also provide emotional support during the ABV certification process.

Practice Exams and Study Resources

Global ABV Examination Blueprint

This top ABV resource gives candidates a complete overview of the ABV exam. The blueprint breaks down the topics covered in each module. It also includes definitions and formulas for easy reference, plus an index of further resources.

AICPA’s Free Business Valuation Resources

The AICPA website includes free resources that can give test-takers an overview of business valuation topics. Users can access quick reference guides, articles, blogs, and videos.

ABV Champions Program

This program can help ABV hopefuls seeking guidance or mentorship. ABV champions take on leadership roles in the ABV community. Most states have at least one ABV champion who can connect test-takers with other helpful resources in their area.

How Do You Maintain Accredited in Business Valuation?

ABV-holders must recertify every year. Along with maintaining an active AICPA membership, ABV-holders must also complete four hours of professional ethics education and 60 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every three years. Each ABV-holder should complete at least 10 hours of CPD a year.

The ABV certification does not have an inactive status. If an ABV-holder does not meet the recertification criteria, they must go through the credentialing process all over again or file a petition for reinstatement.

Should You Get Multiple Certifications?

The AICPA offers two other valuation certifications: certified in entity and intangible valuations (CEIV) and certified in the valuation of financial instruments (CVFI).

Professionals with CEIV certification can establish the value of intangible assets, like customer relationships and patents. The CVFI qualifies someone to provide fair value estimates on financial instruments used for financial reporting.

Since these certifications relate to business valuation, they can benefit people who want to expand their career opportunities in the valuation field. Keep in mind that most certifications require maintenance, like continuing education or recertification programs. That means that the more certifications a person has, the more time they should set aside to maintain them.

Best ABV Certification Questions

How do you get an ABV credential?

The AICPA awards ABV credentials. To earn an ABV certification, people must become AICPA members and pass the ABV exam. Candidates must be CPAs or valuation professionals. They must also complete business experience and continuing education requirements.

Do you need to be a CPA to get an ABV?

No. Valuation professionals who are not CPAs can also earn ABV certification. However, the certification process is slightly different. Non-CPA candidates need a bachelor's degree and must complete 3,000 more business valuation experience hours before qualifying for an ABV.

How is the ABV exam administered?

Candidates can either sit for the exam in person at a testing center or take a self-proctored exam online. Test-takers can choose their method once they receive their notice to test email after purchasing their test module through the AICPA website.

How long is the ABV exam?

The ABV exam includes two parts. Candidates sit for each part separately. Each section is three hours and 15 minutes long and includes a 15-minute break.


Featured Image: Milan_Jovic / E+ / Getty Images

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