AICPA has announced the official changes to the Uniform CPA exam that will take effect starting in April 2017.

We at the MACPA and the Business Learning Institute have talked a lot about how rapidly business is changing and how the role CPAs play is, or at least should be, changing right along with it. It only makes sense that the exam must change, too.

In 2013, the AICPA began the journey of re-evaluating the CPA exam and the content it tests. The content of the exam is reviewed regularly, but at least every seven years a more comprehensive practice analysis is done to ensure that the exam is assessing the technical knowledge and skills that are necessary for those seeking initial licensure. Through  interviews, focus groups and surveys of boards of accountancy, firms, academics, standard setters, regulators, and others, it was determined in 2014 that the knowledge and skills new CPAs needed go beyond what was currently being tested on the exam.

“With this practice analysis, we heard from the profession that newly licensed CPAs not only need to have the knowledge, but they need to have higher-order skills,” said Michael Decker, the AICPA’s vice president of examinations. “They need to analyze financial and tax information. And they must be able to think critically and problem-solve in their day-to-day jobs.”

In 2015 the AICPA began designing the new exam and released the exposure draft Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination. Comments were submitted and considered, and the official changes were announced on April 4.

So what’s changed?

The exam will now cover not just remembering, understanding and application, but will now test the higher-order skills of analysis and evaluation. Included in that are things like professional skepticism, critical thinking and problem solving.

The following changes to the structure of the exam will also be made.

The Regulation exam will go from three hours to four, making room for a few additional multiple-choice questions and two to three additional task-based simulations.

The Audit exam will remain four hours but will decrease the number of multiple-choice questions from 90 to 72 to allow for an additional two to three task-based simulations.

The Financial Accounting and Reporting exam will remain four hours but will decrease the number of multiple-choice questions from 90 to 66 to allow for an additional two to three task-based simulations.

Finally, the Business Economic Concepts exam (also known as “the hodge podge of other things you should know” exam), will expand from three hours to four. This time increase and a decrease in multiple-choice questions from 72 to 62 will make room for task-based simulations, which had previously not been included, along with the written communication tasks.

Overall, the exam will be two hours longer than the previous exam.

But wait − there is good news! For those of you who have contemplated wearing adult diapers for fear of wasting precious time by relieving yourself of the 10 cups of coffee you downed the night before, there is now a more dignified solution. An optional 15-minute break has been inserted halfway through each exam, and it does not count against your time! It appears the exam really is trying to test the real environment new CPAs will face, complete with bathroom breaks.

As for further changes in the future, Decker said, “The goal is to keep the exam on the cutting edge of assessments. At the same time, we’re exploring all the things that a newly licensed CPA needs to do and when they need to do them. Because the rate of change in business and the profession is so great, we really need to make sure the exam stays on par with that evolution.”

Want to learn more?
Are you ready to start the CPA licensure process? Check out our Guide to Becoming a CPA and our review course partner discounts.

Are you an educator and want to learn more about the new changes? Register for our Educator’s Conference on June 3, where the AICPA will be presenting the changes in depth.

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