KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: EXAM CHANGES

The CPA exam recently underwent an evolution, much like the world of accounting. Research conducted by the AICPA indicates that, in order to meet the shifting needs of the profession, newly licensed CPAs must possess and demonstrate higher-order skills such as critical thinking and analytical ability.

Read the AICPA Exam Blueprints

Testing of higher-order cognitive skills

There are additional task-based simulations (TBSs) on the exam that require candidates to examine background material in order to determine what information is or is not relevant to the question. This tests not only candidates’ memorization and application skills, but also their ability to analyze and evaluate information and situations. All four parts of the exam included TBSs.

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Introduction of Document Review Simulations (DRSs)

This change went into effect in mid-2016. These questions test candidates’ abilities to apply their knowledge of documentation review, which involves looking at related source documents (exhibits) and discerning what’s important and what’s not important for solving the problem. Starting in 2017, DRSs also test higher order skills, including analysis, and/or evaluation of realistic documents and related source documents.

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Condensing of testing sections

While each of the four exams (AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG) still have distinct content sections, the number of these sections is decreased. The sections are becoming more streamlined in order to better integrate concepts under larger topic “umbrellas.” For example, in BEC, the “Strategic Planning” section no longer exists independently, but is now incorporated into each of the five remaining sections: Corporate Governance, Economic Concepts and Analysis, Financial Management, Information Technology and Operations Management.

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Expansion of testing time

Beginning in April 2017, each exam now has a four-hour testing time. This is an expansion of one hour each from BEC and REG’s former testing times of three hours. Because of this time increase, the fees for BEC and REG increased.

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Addition of standardized breaks

Candidates are automatically offered a standardized, 15-minute break approximately midway through each exam, which may be accepted or declined. This break will not count against your testing time. In addition to the standardized break, optional breaks between testlets, which do count against candidates’ testing times, will continue to be offered as they were previously.

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Timing of score releases

 Continuous testing replaced “testing windows” starting July 1, 2020. Scores are now released approximately 10 – 18 days after the AICPA receives the exam data from Prometric, which is usually within 24 hours of testing. Scores for BEC may be delayed approximately one extra week because the written communication tasks may require additional grading. You can learn more about score releases here.

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CPA Exam Structure By Section

Check out this chart to see how the new exam breaks down.

Section Item
Type Weighting
Testlet
Auditing And Attestation (AUD)
72 MCQs 50%
9 TBSs 50%
#1: 36 MCQs
#2: 36 MCQs
#3: 2 TBSs
#4: 4 TBSs
#5: 3 TBSs
Business Environment And Concepts (BEC)
62 MCQs 50%
5 TBSs 35%
3 Written Responses 15%
#1: 31 MCQs
#2: 31 MCQs
#3: 2 TBSs
#4: 3 TBSs
#5: 3 Written Responses
Financial Accounting And Reporting (FAR)
66 MCQs 50%
9 TBSs 50%
#1: 33 MCQs
#2: 33 MCQs
#3: 2 TBSs
#4: 4 TBSs
#5: 3 TBSs
Regulation (REG)
76 MCQs 50%
9 TBSs 50%
#1: 38 MCQs
#2: 38 MCQs
#3: 2 TBSs
#4: 4 TBSs
#5: 3 TBSs

For a complete guide to recent and upcoming exam changes, check out the AICPA’s announcements here.