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How to Prepare for the 2017 CPA Exam Changes

Apr 11th 2016
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Last week, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) announced the latest details of the new CPA Exam that will debut in April 2017 – the first major update since 2011. While the exam will remain a four-part exam – Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG) – newly licensed CPAs will also be tested in higher-order cogitative skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical ability.

The AICPA developed the new CPA Exam based on the results of a research project it launched in 2014. The AICPA found that in order to protect the public interest, those seeking licensure as a CPA must demonstrate the following:

  • Have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform more advanced tasks.
  • The ability to contribute to complex accounting projects early in their careers.
  • Possess higher-order cognitive skills and professional skepticism.

As a result, the new CPA Exam will test four major skill levels – remembering and understanding, application, analysis, and evaluation. These additions will likely increase the exam’s difficulty, length, and price.

The following is a recap of the top six ways the CPA Exam is changing in April 2017:

1. Higher-Order Thinking and Analysis  

In April 2017, the new CPA Exam will increase emphasis on higher-order thinking by ramping up its task-based simulations to test a person’s ability to evaluate and analyze. Also, candidates can expect the BEC section to have task-based simulation in addition to multiple choice and written communications, making the section longer.

2. Standardized Test Break

Those who take the new exam will be provided with a standardized 15-minute break that does not count against your total time. To avoid the additional sections, you may want to consider taking the BEC portion before the exam changes.

3. New Scoring System

Another major change is the new scoring system. Three of the four exam sections (AUD, FAR, REG) will have a new scoring split – 50 percent on multiple-choice questions and 50 percent on task-based simulations. The other section (BEC) will be scored with multiple-choice questions counting for 50 percent, written communications at 15 percent, and task-based simulations at 35 percent. The AICPA made this change to ensure the CPA Exam was more reflective of situations a newly licensed CPA would experience in the workplace.

4. 2016 Exams Passed Count in 2017

If candidates decide to take parts of the exam in 2016, they will be counted and will not have to be retaken when the changes occur in 2017. But all four sections still need to be completed within the 18-month allotted timeframe provided by the AICPA.

5. Ten Additional Test Dates

Furthermore, the AICPA expanded the testing windows. The AICPA will add 10 more testable days to the last month of every testing window in 2016 and 2017, except the exam launch window (Q2 2017).

6. Test Score Timeline

The final major change in the new exam relates to the test scoring timeline. The current exam releases the scores on a 20-day rolling window. To ensure precise scoring, the AICPA will release scores 10 weeks after the last exam date for exams taken in April/May 2017. The other two exam windows in Q3 and Q4 will release exam scores 10 days after the testing window is complete.

Editor's Note: Additional thoughts and insights from Angie can be found in this video:

Related articles:

No Foolin’: Next Version of CPA Exam to Launch April 1, 2017
Proposed Changes to CPA Exam Up for Public Review
Revised CPA Exam Is Expected to Launch in 2017


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Apr 14th 2016 10:17 EDT

Will they allow more time, less questions for each section, to give candidates the opportunity to complete the exam before their time runs out?

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