CPA Exam Changes - Remaining Current, Relevant, Reliable, and Legally Defensible

Human Resources

By Brittany Bunner

On April 1, 2017, the Uniform CPA Examination underwent its largest change since the exam transitioned from a pen-and-paper exam to a computerized exam in 2004.  The new exam has been designed to be more relevant with the day-to-day job expectations of a newly licensed Certified Public Accountant.  It now focuses on higher-level skills such as critical thinking, communication, analytical skills and professional skepticism, with reduced emphasis on memorization skills.  In order to adjust to the “higher-order” skill requirements, exam changes include: content, test structure and exam length.

The original CPA Exam tested 50% remembering and understanding and 50% application.  With the updated exam, remembering and understanding now only comprise about 10%-40% of the exam content, while application, evaluation, and analysis comprise the remainder of the tested content.  In addition to the change in skills tested, REG and BEC have been extended by one hour, making each exam four hours in length, with total testing time of 16 hours.  Because of the increased skill level tested, a 10-15 minute break has also been included in each exam section.  Compared to the original exam, in which break time deducted a candidate’s total exam time, the new break does not affect a candidate’s allotted testing time.  One of the most notable changes to the exam is the increase in the number of Task-Based Simulations in all exams.  Task-Based Simulations have historically been the section that candidates find most difficult within the CPA exam.  The increase in simulations is meant to emphasize analysis and evaluation and to allow the exam to test scenarios for the day-to-day job expectations of a CPA.

Overall, the updated CPA exam has been created to better prepare newly licensed certified public accountants for current responsibilities within the workforce.  According to the AICPA, the changes ensure that the exam “remains current, relevant, reliable, and legally defensible.”  In order to succeed with the new testing structure and content, candidates will need to display strong higher-order, cognitive skills and show the ability to think both analytically and critically. For more information on the CPA exam updates, contact us. 

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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