CPA Exam Review News Blog

The ever-evolving CPA Exam – are changes on the horizon?

Posted by Dr. Phil Yaeger on Jun 13, 2018 8:12:37 AM

The CPA exam is constantly changing to ensure that a newly-licensed CPA has the required knowledge and skills to operate in a modern accounting environment. It is a time of advancements in technology and automation and Mike Decker, the Vice President of Examinations for the AICPA and his team of 70 staff are responsible for continuously improving the exam to meet the needs of stakeholders across the country. But what does that mean for candidates? Are there further changes on the horizon that candidates need to be aware of?

Testing Windows and Score Holds

In early June, Mike Decker spoke to the Journal of Accountancy about candidate feedback that has prompted the AICPA to consider implementing continuous testing. Frustrated with score holds and elimination windows, candidates want faster feedback on their performance. The AICPA is working with NASBA and Prometric to see if continuous testing would be possible – effectively meaning that a candidate could test at any time and be able to re-take a failed section in the same window.

The catch: you’d still need to wait a couple weeks for your score.

Why are there score holds anyway? It’s a reasonable question that candidates have – but it is an important part of the exam process. Typically, since 2011, the AICPA have been able to release scores within 20 days. When major changes occur, the wait time increases. This was to ensure that when the results have undergone analysis that the data produces a strong and standard result. If a question appears to have a consistently negative score, then the AICPA can remove it from the pool of questions.

Content Changes

There has been a move over time, in response to feedback from educators and stakeholders, towards assessment of critical thinking and higher-level skills. Assessment of professional skepticism and situational judgement has become more important than fact-based memorization. A candidate must show what something means, but they also must be able to show how it applies and offer their perspective on it. Yaeger CPA Review understands this move towards analysis and application rather than merely memorization of terms by highlighting a textbook and have developed a unique learning experience for candidates in their CPA review course which you can read more about here.

Of note, the Tax Reform Act, signed in late 2017, has impacted hundreds of Regulation section questions. The AICPA worked with constituents and the Board of Examiners gained approval to launch the new version of the Regulation section in January 2019. The delay in the implementation of the changes was to allow teachers to come up to speed, time for textbooks to be printed and to allow for time to educate students. Yaeger CPA Review have been diligently working to update materials in time for the changes. Start studying today and rest assured that you’ll have free digital access to updates as they are available. Learn more about our always up-to-date review course here.

While the Regulation section is about to undergo changes, the Audit and Attestation (AUD) section is also due for a practice analysis. The AICPA has a policy of not allowing any section to go more than seven years without an analysis. The goal is to keep the CPA Exam relevant and identify when there has been sizeable shift in the knowledge of skills required for a newly licensed CPA. Factors causing it are changes in the profession, automation, technology, or tools used. Audit is the area of the examination that the AICPA believes is incurring the greatest change. Expect to see some changes soon – but until then, smaller changes are implemented through AICPA Blueprints. As Yaeger CPA Review teaches to the test, you can be confident that the content you are learning focuses on the concepts in the current AICPA Blueprints.

New CPA Exam Software

Candidates also experienced a change beginning April 1, 2018 in the development of a new test driver software. This is the exam application running in the Prometric centers that presents the questions to the candidate. According to Mike Decker, this implementation has been a resounding success with a positive response from candidates. The software is web-based, which may allow for testing in remote locations in the future.

The candidate’s experience looks like this:

  • The question or prompt item is always presented on the left side, with the right side holding documents, graphics, authoritative literature, a calculator or Microsoft Excel for calculations.
  • This software mimics two monitors – something which most CPA’s find essential in the workplace. The inclusion of Microsoft Excel sets the stage for the assessment of audit data analytics and the data interpretation assessment that could be present in the future.

While there is no public timeline for some of these changes, candidates will no doubt be eager for continuous testing and the ability to have earlier feedback on their results. Until there is any confirmation of these changes, candidates should continue studying based on the current test windows with the Yaeger CPA Exam Review course that was redeveloped to correspond with current AICPA Blueprints. Read more about it here.


Tags: Insider, CPA Test Software, CPA Exam Changes

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