Computer Based CPA Exam Officially Launched

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and Thomson Prometric have officially launched the computer-based Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination.

The CPA Examination, which has a long and trusted history in the licensing of CPAs, will now be delivered on behalf of boards of accountancy through 300 Thomson Prometric testing labs in the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The conversion to a computer-based test is a collaborative effort of the AICPA, the NASBA and Thomson Prometric.

“The computer-based CPA exam is more closely aligned with the real-world requirements of entry-level CPAs,” said Arleen Thomas, AICPA Vice President of Professional Standards and Services. “Moreover, the exam now enables us to evaluate a candidate’s research, analytical, judgment and communications skills, which are essential in a CPA’s daily work.”

Computer-Based Testing Benefits

More than 55,000 people took the paper-and-pencil-based exam twice a year, in May and November. That exam was administered in large auditoriums to accommodate hundreds or thousands of CPA candidates simultaneously. With the computerized format, the exam is available almost year-round, and candidates in most states may choose to take the exam sections individually or at different times. In return for this new flexibility, candidates must pass all four exam sections within 18 months in most jurisdictions to retain credit. Here is a summary of all the computer-based testing benefits:

  • The exam is offered year-round -- two out of every three months instead of only twice a year;
  • Candidates can take the four exam sections all at once or individually, and grades on one section will not affect credit on other sections;
  • Candidates have flexible scheduling options – Web (, phone or on-site;
  • The exam integrates case-study simulations with technology to test candidates on skills required of entry-level CPAs;
  • Over 300 test labs nationwide offer the exam; and
  • Thomson Prometric test centers are quiet, temperature-controlled, well-lit, well-ventilated, and contain private testing carrels.

“Historically, the basic mission of the CPA Examination is to ensure state boards of accountancy that CPA candidates demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to fulfill their ultimate responsibility - protecting the public’s financial interests through their independent reports on business,” said Lorraine Sachs, NASBA Executive Vice President. “The state boards of accountancy are the gatekeepers to the profession – the organizations that determine who can and who cannot practice public accountancy in the United States.”

Since 1917, the AICPA has been developing the CPA Examination for boards of accountancy. The AICPA, NASBA and Thomson Prometric have collaborated since 2000 to develop the exam’s technical requirements, operational procedures and policies to guarantee the effective transition from paper-and-pencil to computer-based format. This transition includes improved security, such as video monitoring and digital photo capture of exam candidates to verify test-taker identity and prevent cheating.

“Utilizing Thomson Prometric’s innovative technology, the AICPA and NASBA have the ability to continue reviewing and enhancing the computerized exam as necessary,” said Alison Indrisano, Executive Vice President of Client Services at Thomson Prometric. “The computerized CPA exam launch is an example of Thomson Prometric’s partnering approach as the leader in successfully converting paper-and-pencil exams to computer-based format.”

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