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Reaching Agreement to Embrace Change

CPA Exam changesAs we near the end of 2015, the AICPA’s Examinations team is wrapping up the development of the next version of the CPA Exam, and is confident in the depth and relevance of the final proposal we put forth in September. In the Exposure Draft, Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination, we captured feedback from a multi-year research initiative that ensures the Exam remains truly aligned with what the profession needs from its next generation of CPAs. Responses were sought to the Exposure Draft during the AICPA’s public comment period that closed on November 30, with critical feedback received from key stakeholders, including firms, state CPA societies, academics and state boards.

The Exposure Draft, which was driven by the comprehensive practice analysis, focused on how newly licensed CPAs are now required to perform more advanced tasks and contribute to increasingly complex projects earlier in their accounting careers. Professional content knowledge remains fundamental to protecting the public interest, but newly licensed CPAs must also possess:

  • higher-order cognitive skills, including critical thinking, problem solving and analytical ability, as well as professional skepticism
  • a thorough understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities
  • a strong understanding of the business environment and processes
  • effective communication skills

Our proposal for the next version of the CPA Exam captures these elements, which are critical to the profession and the future of licensure. Initial feedback has been positive and many in the profession have supported the direction outlined in the Exposure Draft. 

A recent article published last month by the Journal of Accountancy, CPA exam evolving to reflect shift in skills requirements, resonated with many of you as it was one of the more viewed articles on the site in 2015. This certainly reinforces the interest and importance in the evolution of the Exam, and how critical it is for the Exam to remain aligned with the profession. “You’re going to see an Exam that is more representative of what you will do when you get out and work for a CPA firm or work for a company,” said Rick Niswander, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance at East Carolina University, AICPA Board of Directors member and immediate past chairman of the Board of Examiners. “I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Additionally, in a recent article published by PWC, The Evolution of Auditors: How Skillsets are Changing, the need for auditors to have more technology-driven skillsets is emphasized. The AICPA is credited for recognizing and addressing this early on in their efforts to develop the next Exam. The article notes the need for academic curriculums to incorporate more hands-on, real-world case studies that encourage students to apply analytics and other tools encountered on the job. It goes on to note that this is already happening on some campuses, and is also reflected in the AICPA’s recent proposal to incorporate testing of some of these skills in the CPA Exam—namely, critical thinking, problem solving, analytical ability and professional skepticism.

All feedback received during the comment period will be considered by the AICPA’s Examinations team and Board of Examiners as the details of the next version of the CPA Exam are finalized. Even as the current changes are in process, volunteers and AICPA staff are looking forward to the continued evolution of the Exam, particularly in the rapidly progressing area of digital technology. This integral and continued focus on advancing the Exam ensures the preservation of its relevance and role in protecting the public interest.

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

Thinking courtesy of Shutterstock.


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