Changes Coming To The CPA Exam

For every CPA, the CPA Exam is a rite of passage, one of the first milestones on the path to a career in accounting. Long hours of study and prep work and the stress of the test itself are rewarded with the joy and/or relief of passing scores on all parts of the exam.

If you or anyone you know is planning to enter the field of public accounting, be aware changes are coming to the Uniform CPA Examination in April 2017, the first major update to the exam since 2011. Periodically, the AICPA conducts a practice analysis, seeking input from state boards of accountancy, state CPA societies, public accounting firms, and other stakeholders to assess whether the test is able to measure the skills and knowledge needed by newly licensed CPAs. This analysis determined that due to the automation and outsourcing of routine accounting tasks, greater critical-thinking skills were needed of new hires.

The four basic content areas of the exam – Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation – are not changing. How those areas are tested, however, will be. There will be fewer multiple-choice questions, and a greater emphasis on task-based simulations that better assess higher-order critical-thinking skills. Because of this, total test time will be increased from 14 to 16 hours.

To aid new candidates with preparation for the exam, an array of preparation and support materials reflecting the new exam format are being rolled out. The current Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline are being replaced by new “blueprints” that will contain about 600 tasks across the four exam areas that will align with the skills expected of new accountants. AICPA.org will offer a sample of the new exam at aicpa.org/nextcpaexam, as well as a LinkedIn group for exam candidates.

Based on historical trends in advance of previous changes to the exam, the AICPA expects a surge of exam candidates in 2016. Forty total testing days will be added – ten each quarter beginning in April 2016.

Jake Freppel, Senior Accountant

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