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3 ways new software enhances CPA exam experience

ManLookScreenIf you took the CPA exam any time before 2004, images of an arena or hotel ballroom and No. 2 pencils and scratch paper still hold a prominent place in your memories. For those of you who took the exam after the American Institute of CPA’s launch of computer-based testing in April 2004, it was a much different experience. This important move helped the AICPA become a model for high-stakes testing, known for our ability to manage, deliver and score exams faster and more efficiently for candidates. 

Since computerizing the exam, we’ve remained focused on our ability to provide the best possible test experience. Some recent projects include the exam’s move to a web-based application for better test delivery, as well as a new item type (Document Review Simulation) that offers a more realistic simulation experience. 

On April 1, we’ll take another step forward with the launch of new exam software. Candidates will gain improved exam functionality with a format that closely resembles their professional work environment and tools. These are the types of changes allows the candidate to focus on what’s most important– showing that they have the relevant knowledge and skills to pass the exam. Here are three ways the new software will enhance the CPA exam experience:

Incorporates candidate feedback Over the last several years, we have taken strides to enhance the user experience and usability of the exam to better meet the needs of our candidates. We asked ourselves: what is most important to a CPA candidate who takes the exam? The best way to find out was to engage candidates directly through “test drives” of early software versions.

During the process, we gained valuable feedback that guided our development. As candidates tried the software’s various design versions, we heard comments such as “this is just like my workspace,” and the design “makes it much easier to navigate a slew of documents.” This feedback was instrumental in our development of the software solution we have today – one that better simulates a candidate’s real workspace in a test environment.

Simulates candidates’ everyday workspace

Think of how you work each day. More than likely, you probably use large monitors to easily view multiple documents, screens and applications. You quickly copy and paste information, highlight important details, and use Microsoft Excel®, one of the most common tools of the trade.

Keeping that in mind, we designed the new software to give candidates:

  • a modern and intuitive user interface on a Prometric 23-inch HD monitor
  • dedicated on-screen workspace to review exam exhibits and documents
  • use of a highlight tool to remember important text
  • seamless cut-copy-paste functionality
  • Microsoft Excel® as a tool to complete items (Excel proficiency not tested)

While the software was primarily designed to benefit candidates, it will also allow our team of exam developers to easily make future exam enhancements. We all know the profession continues to rapidly evolve with new technologies and practice areas coming into play. This software ensures the exam remains ready to adapt to future testing needs.

Improved exam preparation

We’re just a couple of weeks away from the software launch – the next phase of the exam’s evolution. It’s been quite a journey from paper-and-pencil testing to computerization to the new exam format candidates will soon use.

Many of you may know exam candidates and want to support their studying and help them thoroughly prepare for the exam. Take a moment to pass along a tip to the candidates you know. Direct them to the sample tests and tutorials on the AICPA website and tell them to take the software for a trial run so they know what to expect on test day.

It’s always best to be ready and avoid surprises. Good luck to your candidates as they experience the next generation of CPA exam software technology.

Niall Hennessy – Sr. Product Manager, Technology, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants



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