The CPA Exam is Changing – What Do You Need to Know???

The mere thought of the CPA exam can be stressful, and now to shake things up even further, the exam is going through a metamorphism in 2017. A metamorphism that is said to make the exam more difficult and will test candidates at a higher level of knowledge. The changes in the exam stem from the thought that as the business environment changes so does the work that newly licensed CPAs perform. Gone are the days of solely remembering and understanding information, CPAs need to analyze information, be able to think critically, and problem solve in their day-to-day jobs.

The next exam is set to launch on April 1, 2017 (the first major update since 2011), and will continue to have four sections (AUD, BEC, FAR and REG). For those who have already taken parts of the exam, not to worry, The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (“NASBA”) and the AICPA have agreed that any combination of passed current exam sections and passed next exam sections will count toward licensure.

According to the NASBA’s website, the changes to the exam have been implemented in order to test higher order cognitive skills. This will be accomplished through additional task-based simulations (TBSs) on the exam. The purpose of TBSs is for candidates to determine what information is relevant and what information is not relevant to the questions.

Another new part of the exam is “Exam Blueprints.” Along with an introduction, each section will have a blueprint which will replace the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SPO). According to the AICPA’s website the blueprint for each section’s purpose is:
• Document the minimum level of knowledge and skills necessary for licensure
• Assist candidates in preparing for the exam by outlining the knowledge and skills that may be tested
• Apprise educators about the knowledge and skills candidates will need to function as newly licensed CPAs
• Guide the development of exam questions.

The blueprint is organized by content AREA, content GROUP and content TOPIC. You can find great comparative information on blueprints vs. CSOs and SPOs on GLEIM Exam Prep’s website here.

Also from GLEIM Exam Prep’s website, I found an informative comparison chart of the 2017 version of the exam vs. the previous version (which ends March 2017). You can find that here.

The changes in the 2017 CPA exam are setting the stage for more exam enhancements in future years. It is anticipated that after this update the exam could continue to be updated every couple of years. Michael Decker, AICPA VP-Examinations stated that, “the goal is to keep the exam on the cutting edge of assessments. Because the rate of change in the business profession is so great, we really need to make sure the exam stays on par with that evolution.”

Sources to find more information on this topic:
AICPA’s Website –
Journal of Accountancy –
GLEIM Exam Prep –
The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy –