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The CPA Exam Changes in 2017

The AICPA has studied what CPAs actually do on a day-to-day level, and on the skills and qualities that the marketplace wants from them. They've realized that the exam needs to do better at testing higher order thinking: critical thinking, professional skepticism, analysis, evaluation, communication and research.

This will result in a new CPA exam that is less weighted on memorization and more weighted on a broader range of skills as applied to real-world tasks.

BEC and REG Will be 4 Hours

Starting in 2017, each section of the exam will be 4 hours in length, for a 16 hour exam in total.

A standardized 15 minutes of break time will be included for each section. This is time you can spend to gather your thoughts in between questions. It will not count against the duration of the exam.

Multiple Choice Questions Task-Based Questions Written Communication
Section Current 2017 Current 2017 Current 2017
AUD 90 90 90 90 - -
BEC 72 72 72 72 72 72
REG 90 90 90 90 - -
FAR 90 90 90 90 - -

Scoring Changes

The current CPA examination equally weights Remembering and Understanding and Application level skills throughout the four examinations. The 2017 changes will adjust the weightings to include the new higher order skills.

Evaluation (5-10%) Analysis (20-30%) Analysis (25-35%) Analysis (25-35%)
Analysis (15-25%) Application (50-60%) Application (50-60%) Application (35-45%)
Application (30-40%) Remembering & Understanding (15-25%) Remembering & Understanding (10-20%) Remembering & Understanding (25-35%)
Remembering & Understanding (30-40%)      

The New Skills

The current CPA Exam focuses on two main skills: Remember and Understanding, and Application. The 2017 examination will expand this to cover the higher-order skillsets of:

  • Remembering & Understanding: Identify, Classify, Recall, Explain, Categorize, Clarify, Compare, Define
  • Application: Calculate, Implement, Test, Represent, Prepare, Use, Execute, Carry Out
  • Analysis: Reconcile, Deconstruct, Validate, Deduce, Imply, Integrate, Distinguish, Organize
  • Evaluation: Justify, Critique, Conclude, Judge, Detect, Verify, Recommend, Assess

Document Review Simulations

Starting July 2016, there will be a new kind of task-based simulation on the CPA exam: the Document Review Simulation.

This simulation sets up a given problem to solve, and then provides the candidate with documents - legal letters, conversational transcripts, bank statements, and other documents encountered in the business world. The challenge is to separate the important information from the unimportant information, given the situation at hand. This is based on real-world challenges regularly faced by CPAs in the workplace.

The document review simulation will be a part of AUD, FAR and REG from July 2016, and part of BEC from 2017.


The AICPA is doing away with CSOs (Content Specification Outlines), and instead will publish blueprints.

The idea behind blueprints is to be a bit clearer about what might be covered on each exam section.

You can view the 2017 blueprints here.

Task-Based Simulations Will be Added to BEC

BEC will include four to five task-based simulations from 2017 onwards. That means BEC will now be a three part section: multiple choice, task-based simulations, and written communication.

The Cost of BEC and REG Will Increase Slightly

The BEC and REG sections will each become an hour longer. Each will cost an additional $20 to cover this extra time.

What Does This Mean for You?

The new Document Review Simulations and the increased emphasis on task-based simulations are both worth preparing for.

It might be tempting to want to do the exam as soon as possible to avoid these changes. That's a great idea – if you're actually ready. On the other hand, if you're not quite ready yet, rushing to the finish line is not a great idea. Instead, adjust your preparations to account for the new exam format.

Overall these changes are to be welcomed. By responding to what the marketplace wants, the AICPA is working to keep the accreditation highly valued in the wider world. That's in all our interests.

Of course, you might be cursing the fact there's more now to study for. But this has an upside too: you're less reliant on the multiple choice questions for the score you need to become a CPA.

Prepare the right way and make these changes work for you. See how Fast Forward Academy’s cutting-edge CPA exam review can help you pass the first time.

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