Is Microsoft® Excel Available on the CPA Exam?

September 18, 2019

Yes! Excel is Now Available on All Testlets Except the Written Communication Testlet of Business Environment and Concepts (BEC).

As of April 1, 2018, Microsoft® Excel 2016 desktop version has been used on the CPA exam. Excel’s formulas and sort & filter functionalities are available for use, and the spreadsheet can be opened, closed, moved and resized to suit each tester’s preference for space utilization on the viewing screen. For security reasons, some Excel functions are not accessible. 

Information entered into an Excel spreadsheet is saved automatically while navigating within each testlet, but navigating to a new testlet closes that spreadsheet and opens a clean one. 

Microsoft Excel CPA Exam Questions

Why Was the Change Made to Use Excel?

The AICPA Examinations team has updated and modernized the testing experience to incorporate software and technology that is, “consistent with modern user-experience and usability standards,” according to the Journal of Accountancy. The Examination team chose Excel because, “Microsoft Excel remains the current standard used by most, if not all, newly licensed CPAs.” The AICPA sees this technological update as, “an investment in the future of the Exam that will increase our ability to make changes to both the technology and content.” 

How Proficient Should I Be in Excel for the CPA Exam?

Although Excel has many functions, only basic ones are used on the CPA exam testlets. The AICPA website points out that, “You will not be tested on your ability to use Excel. The program is available only as a tool to use during the Exam.” Only basic computer skills are needed to take the CPA exam, such as familiarity with using a mouse and keyboard, plus the ability to use both a spreadsheet and a word processor. In addition, the use of a basic calculator is required.

How to Copy & Paste Microsoft Excel

Does Copy/Paste Work in Excel?

Although some keyboard shortcuts are not allowed for the exam, the standard copy/paste shortcuts are available. This includes copying and pasting from and into both Excel and the word processor plus copying into the display section of the calculator. Right-clicking with a mouse to copy/paste, though, is not available at the Prometric testing centers. Please see both the “Sample Test” and the “CPA Exam Features and Functionality Video” information here

How Can I Prepare for Using Excel on the CPA Exam?

As you do homework and practice exams:

  • Solve the questions using Excel spreadsheets to gain confidence and speed.
  • Know where to find the formulas you need, their names and abbreviations and how to apply them to both a single number and an entire row or column of data.
  • Practice sorting and filtering data, particularly in the task-based simulations (TBSs). 
  • Take the AICPA practice exams and use the tools provided. 
  • Go to the exam knowing you are prepared!

Note: If you click on the Excel button within a practice exam on the AICPA’s site, information about Excel will be displayed, but it directs you to use Excel on your computer during the practice exam. Detailed information on using Excel in the exam can be found in the “Help” file in each practice exam.

Person Studying for CPA Exam

Where Can I Get Help Preparing For the CPA Exam? 

MDS CPA Review has books, videos, practice questions and more to help you prepare, plus instructors who are available to personally answer your questions. See how MDS can help you prepare for the big exam here.