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.
Starting in 2017, the CPA examination will include more task-based simulations and less multiple-choice questions. To accommodate this change, all sections of the CPA examination will be 4 hours in length. So be prepared for a total testing time of 16 hours.
But, it is not all bad news here. A standardized 15-minute break will included for each section. This is time you can spend to relax and collect your thoughts before continuing through the examination. This time will not count against your testing time.
Here is how the question count is changing:
|Multiple Choice Questions||Task-Based Questions||Written Communication|
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.
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 BEC and REG sections will each become an hour longer. Each will cost an additional $20 to cover this extra time.
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.
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