New Era Begins for Uniform CPA Exam

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Terry Sheridan
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The next generation of the Uniform CPA Examination was launched on April 1, with greater emphasis placed on “higher-order cognitive skills” now required of new CPAs.

The updated version of the exam was released by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and test developer Prometric.

The new CPA exam adds more assessment of higher cognitive skills that test critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical ability, the three groups announced. Along those lines, the exam uses task-based simulations to assess these higher-order skills. CPAs are now performing tasks that rely upon these skills much earlier in their careers, the groups said.

So, as the roles of new CPAs are evolving, so, too, must the exam, said Michael Decker, AICPA vice president of examinations.

“The CPA exam now better reflects the knowledge and skills essential to today’s profession,” Decker said in a prepared statement. “With an eye toward the future, we’ll continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that the CPA exam, along with the experience and education requirements, maintains the high bar for entry into the profession.”

In addition, new Exam Blueprints showcase the exam’s evolution, which bolsters the public protection mission of state boards of accountancy, said Colleen Conrad, CPA, NASBA executive vice president and COO. The exam, along with education and experience, are the three legs of the licensing model that regulates the more than 700,000 licensed CPAs in the United States.

Key changes to the CPA exam include the following:

  • The Exam Blueprints have replaced the Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline as CPA candidates’ primary source of the content and skills that they will be tested on.
  • Test-takers can combine passing exam sections prior to April 1 and on or after April 1 (within the 18-month window following the passing of one section) to count toward licensure.
  • Test time has increased from 14 to 16 hours, and four hours will be allotted to each section. The four sections of the exam are Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG)
  • A new 15-minute break during each section will not count against a candidate’s testing time.

The 10-day extension of the testing window introduced in April 2016 will be extended into the third and fourth quarters of 2017. However, that extension will be unavailable during the current April-May test window to allow the AICPA to follow the standard-setting process and analyze exam results to set new passing scores. Because of the time involved, scores will be released once after each testing window closes.

Besides these changes to the exam, the AICPA is expected to launch “an improved user experience” in 2018. More information about that is expected to be released later this year.

Related articles:

No Foolin’: Next Version of CPA Exam to Launch April 1, 2017
How to Prepare for the 2017 CPA Exam Changes


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Apr 20th 2017 11:11

The CPA exam is, and always has been, almost totally irrelevant to the ability of a CPA candidate to perform well in the practice of accounting. I was an A student in accounting in college. I took the CPA exam. No connection. I finally took Becker (teaching to the test) and got the [***] exam.

First day of work, my senior (at a Big Eight firm) said: "Hmm you were a straight A student? You already took the exam? Well, forget it all. If you know which side the debits and credits are on, that is all you need. The rest is BS. We'll teach you accounting". 42 years later, I still agree with him.

College had nothing to do with the exam, and neither college nor the exam had anything to do with practicing accounting in the real world.

CPAs could learn something from lawyers. After practicing accounting for many years, I went to law school, passed the Bar, and now also practice law. IF you did well in the ESSAYS in law school exams, and learned how to reason, you also did well on the ESSAYS on the Bar Exam, and then you also did well in practice as a lawyer.

Make sense? Why can't CPAs learn the same? The only thing CPA licensing ever had over attorney licensing was the 2- year experience requirement. Now, California, for one, has traded off one of those two years in exchange for another year in a classroom. So now, muddle-headed, inexperienced arrogant fool accountants can start committing malpractice after only ONE year with any marginal one-horse CPA firm.

I'm disgusted.

Thanks (3)
Apr 28th 2017 00:21

The CPA exam has little practical value. It is overly broad, and you can do well on the exam and still be a lousy accountant. The vast majority of small business accountants will do little in the way of auditing or government & non-profit accounting. If you are going to work in those areas, you will probably be a dedicated specialist and gain practical experience on the job.

The vast majority of what you need to know in your day to day work, you will learn in two semesters of principles of accounting.

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