New Version of CPA Exam Tests Critical Thinking, Analytical Ability

The AICPA, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and Prometric have announced the successful launch of an updated version of the Uniform CPA Examination.

The next-generation exam, which began testing April 1, has added additional assessment of “higher-order cognitive skills that test a candidate’s critical thinking, problem solving and analytical ability,” the AICPA says. The exam also makes greater use of task-based simulations to assess these higher-order skills. Research shows that CPAs are now performing tasks that rely upon these skills earlier in their careers.

“The roles and responsibilities of newly licensed CPAs are constantly evolving, so it’s crucial for the CPA Exam to stay ahead of the curve. The CPA Exam now better reflects the knowledge and skills essential to today’s profession,” says Michael Decker, AICPA vice president of examinations.

Among the most important changes to the CPA exam:

  • Exam blueprints that contain about 600 representative tasks across all four exam sections are available on the AICPA website. The blueprints have replaced the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SSO) as CPA candidates’ primary source of the content and skills that they will be tested on.
  • The exam remains composed of the four existing sections – auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting and regulation.
  • Any combination of passing exam sections prior to April 1 and passing exam sections on or after April 1 (within the 18-month window following passing one section) will count toward licensure.
  • Total CPA exam testing time increased from 14 to 16 hours – four sections of four hours each.
  • A new, 15-minute standardized break during each section that will not count against a candidate’s testing time had been added.

For candidate convenience, the 10-day extension of the testing window introduced in April 2016 will continue in the third and fourth quarters of 2017. The 10-day extension will not be available during the current April/May testing window to allow the AICPA to follow the standard-setting process and analyze exam results to set new passing scores. To provide sufficient time for the process, scores will be released only once following the close of each testing window.

In addition to the changes to the CPA exam that have already occurred, the AICPA is working on an improved user experience, which is expected to launch in 2018. More information on that project will be announced later this year.

Detailed information on the exam is available online at www.aicpa.org/cpaexam and https://nasba.org/exams/the-next-version-of-the-cpa-exam/.