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Jay-Z Learned the Value of a Good "Blueprint"

Jay zWhen New York-based rapper/producer/entrepreneur Jay-Z released his critically-acclaimed The Blueprint in 2001, he cemented his place at the top of the music industry with an album that serves as a model for his music genre and those who came after him.

Much has been written about The Blueprint and its impact on Jay-Z’s career, with critics noting that it was a defining moment. The album became the foundation of a young man’s rise from just another rapper to that of a world-renowned musician, entrepreneur and investor.

Now, I admit that pivoting from Jay-Z to the next version of the CPA Exam might seem like a stretch. But think about the figurative title of The Blueprint and what the album did for future rappers. Now compare that to what the new CPA Exam blueprints (unveiled on April 4) mean to a candidate in their quest to become a CPA. Both serve as a valuable guide and resource.

Blueprints are the foundation of the next version of the Exam. These new, informative guides were developed by experienced CPAs and psychometricians to provide candidates with a detailed look into the content, skills and related representative tasks that may be tested when they sit for the Exam. Expanding on the information presented in the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SSO), the blueprints go beyond generalized descriptions or short explanations to provide a great deal of useful information.

A quick example of the positive change the blueprints offer candidates is Area III within the Auditing and Attestation section. Under the current Exam, the only clue given to a candidate with regard to what will be tested in a particular group is the term “Analytical Procedures.” Using the new blueprints, the candidate will not only know the topic and content group, but also have six representative tasks associated with it and understand that these will be assessed at the Analysis and Evaluation levels. How’s that for a blueprint?

Approximately 600 representative tasks that are critical to the role of a newly licensed CPA are included in the blueprints, combining both the applicable content knowledge and skills required in that context. They were developed with input from newly licensed CPAs and their supervisors, whose feedback played a significant role in validating the Exam’s content and skills. Based on the nature of a task, one of four skill levels derived from the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy[1] is assigned to each task. Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies a continuum of skills that students can be expected to learn and demonstrate. In short, by simply reviewing the blueprint for an Exam section, a candidate will be able see a task they may face, the skill level at which it would be tested and the content weight for the related area.

While candidates will see a tremendous benefit from the new blueprints, so too will the academic community that prepares students to enter the profession and earn the CPA license. Throughout the college and university system, educators craft realistic scenarios and case studies for the classroom that challenge students to function as they would on the job. The representative tasks included in the blueprints will serve as a valuable guide for the creation of these assignments, as they accurately reflect what may be tested on the Exam, as well as the work being performed by newly licensed CPAs.

The new CPA Exam blueprints are a significant part of the Exam’s evolution to maintain its rigor and relevance. It may be difficult to imagine the Exam and Jay-Z in the same thought, but just as The Blueprint provided a model and guide for future artists, the Exam blueprints will serve as a model and guide by which candidates will have a very clear picture of the Exam and what they can expect come testing time.

Joe Maslott, CPA, CGMA – Sr. Technical Manager, Content Management, American Institute of CPAs.

[1] Revised taxonomy see Anderson, L.W. (Ed.), Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.), Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E., Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M.C. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Complete Edition). New York: Longman. For original taxonomy see Bloom, B.S. (Ed.), Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., & Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.


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