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The Daily

AICPA Releases Exposure Draft of Proposed CPA Exam Changes

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 1, 2015
TestTakingWith business and technological environments experiencing rapid change over just a few short years, the role of the modern CPA has had to change, too. While the technical competencies expected of any accounting professional remain fundamental, today's CPA is also expected to be an effective communicator possessing strong critical thinking and problem solving abilities, as well as a thorough understanding of both professional ethics and business processes on both the micro and macro level. To ensure prospective CPAs are able to meet these evolving expectations, the AICPA today released proposed changes to the Uniform CPA examination that it feels more accurately reflects the essential skill sets required of today's accountant. 

While the exam will retain the existing four-section structure (AUD, BED, FAR, and REG), the design will be more geared toward testing what the AICPA calls "higher-order cognitive skills," such as critical thinking, problem solving, analytical ability and professional skepticism. To this end, the new exam will have more emphasis on task-based simulations than the current one, including in the BEC section, which previously hadn't had any at all. In order to better illustrate exactly what types of skills and knowledge will be tested, and how they are relevant to the tasks expected of a newly licensed CPA, the current Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline will be replaced with a blueprint attached to each section that the AICPA hopes will be more informative for candidates, academics, regulators and other stakeholders. 

The proposed new exam will also be longer than the current one, going from 14 to 16 hours, with an extra hour being added to the BEC an REG sections, meaning that each section will be four hours each. The exam will also include a 10-15 minute break for each exam section that will not count against testing time. 

Candidates taking this proposed new exam will also, when appropriate software is available at test centers, be able to use Microsoft Excel, versus the current generic spreadsheet, reflecting the widespread use of the software throughout the industry, though candidates will not be tested for their ability to use Excel specifically. 

With these proposed changes, the exposure draft said that the cost of taking the exam will increase, with the BEC and REG sections costing an additional $20 each. 

The AICPA is currently accepting comments on the exposure draft. Those that wish to send their feedback may do so by writing to by Nov. 30, 2015.