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Responding to Change: Update on the Next Generation CPA Exam

Cpa examThe AICPA is committed to ongoing evaluation and improvement of the CPA Examination. Thoughtful enhancements help maintain the relevance of the exam for the current practice realities for newly licensed CPAs. Last year, the AICPA launched a practice analysis, a comprehensive research project to inform the development of the next version of the CPA Exam. 

An important part of the practice analysis was an Invitation to Comment called Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination. The ITC was designed to address the changing landscape of the CPA profession and asked a wide range of stakeholders to weigh in on possible changes to the next version of the Exam. In September 2014, the ITC was issued to members, boards of accountancy, firms, academia, standards setters and regulators, and business and industry.

The AICPA has analyzed the responses to the ITC. The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) and a BOE Practice Analysis Sponsor Group and Practice Analysis Sponsor Advisory Group consisting of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), state boards, BOE members and other representatives from the profession oversaw the completion of the analysis. The AICPA plans to issue a results report on the ITC this month.  In advance of that report, I’m pleased to share a few preliminary findings, as we develop the next version of the CPA Exam:

  • Our stakeholders reaffirm that the current structure of the Exam is appropriate for testing in the fundamental areas of Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC).
  • ITC respondents support the consideration of testing higher-order skills beyond basic content knowledge, i.e., critical thinking, problem solving, analytical ability and professional skepticism. The AICPA is increasing its assessment of these higher-order skills throughout each section of the Exam.
  • Because of its prevalence in the profession, respondents support the use of Excel in the CPA Exam to create an authentic user experience. The AICPA plans to launch a new testing interface utilizing Excel in 2018.
  • Candidates strongly requested additional opportunities to sit for the CPA Exam. Therefore, the AICPA is exploring extending the testing windows, allowing candidates to re-test a failed section within a testing window, and other ways to enhance convenience for candidates taking the CPA Exam.

The input gathered from the profession through the ITC is being evaluated in relation to other research data collected, the viability of implementation and final authority of the Board of Examiners. Decisions regarding test administration will be made together with NASBA, state boards and Prometric. We aim to balance meaningful enhancements to the Exam with overall practical issues related to test administration and scoring.

Next Steps

In addition to the ITC report, in September 2015 the AICPA will issue for public input a final proposal for the next version of the CPA Examination. Feedback from that exposure draft will drive the development of the Final Exam blueprint, structure, and design and administration model.

Thanks in advance for sharing your insights with the AICPA as we evolve and enhance the Uniform CPA Examination. We value your role in maintaining the relevance of the CPA Exam to the real-life environment in which newly licensed CPAs work. Preserving the strength of the profession and continued reliance on its services to businesses, organizations, governmental bodies and the public is the goal.

Michael A. Decker, Vice President-Examinations, American Institute of CPAs


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