The 2017 CPA Exam: Everything You Need To Know

Beginning April 1, 2017, the AICPA will introduce some of the most wide-ranging and important updates to the CPA Exam in more than a decade.

Why Are Changes Made to the CPA Exam?

AICPA
Because public accounting is always evolving with new techniques, standards, and regulations, the AICPA updates the CPA Exam regularly to reflect the changing requirements of Certified Public Accountants. To ensure that the CPA Exam remains relevant and suppots the profession’s commitment to protect the public interest, extensive updates to the exam are made periodically based on an in-depth practice analysis. A practice analysis is a comprehensive study of the profession to describe the roles and responsibilities of those in practice. For the CPA Exam, this study, carried out by the AICPA Board of Examiners in collaboration with CPA practitioners and educators, focuses on the accounting practice.

How Were the 2017 CPA Exam Changes Decided On?

The practice analysis for the 2017 CPA Exam began in 2014. Based on extensive feedback from firms and practitioners, the Practice Analysis revealed a critical need for new CPAs to demonstrate higher-order skills—such as the ability to analyze, evaluate and apply knowledge—on the job (see Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning).
Bloom taxonomy
Image credit: Patricia Armstrong, Assistant Director, Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University. View source.

The 2017 CPA Exam will increase the assessment of higher-order cognitive skills testing, replace the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and SKills Specification Outline (SSO) with more detailed blueprints, include analysis and evaluation-level tasks, and increase simulations appearing on the exam that better represent on-the-job tasks required of an entry level CPA.

This is to ensure newly licensed CPAs can demonstrate:

  • Strong, discerning research skills
  • Critical thinking and analytical problem solving
  • An ability to communicate clearly and effectively
  • A thorough understanding of essential business processes
  • Adherence to ethical and professional standards

To test higher-order skills and not just the ability to recall information, the AICPA has carefully adjusted much of the CPA Exam’s structure, weighting of topics, question types, and allotted time.


STRATEGY: View our 2017 CPA Exam changes webinar, Formulate Your Plan to Pass the “Next” 2017 CPA Exam, to understand the full extent of the changes and how to prepare for them.


How Will 2017 CPA Exam Changes Effect Pass Rates?

Currently, overall CPA Exam pass rates hover around 50% if you take into account all four exam sections. Prior content changes have actually resulted in improvements in pass rates, most notably after the introduction of computer-based testing in 2004.

However, given the magnitude of the April 2017 changes, there will likely be an adjustment period for CPA candidates, especially those not using study tools (like Wiley CPAexcel) that review for the new exam.


STRATEGY: Current advice is for CPA candidates to attempt to pass the BEC and REG sections prior to April 2017 since they are changing the most significantly. Start studying now with a free 14-day Wiley CPAexcel course trial.


Overview of CPA Exam Changes

Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)

Previous 2017 CPA Exam
Multiple-Choice Questions 90 Questions
60% of Section Score
66 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 7 Simulations
40% of Section Score
8 Simulations
50% of Section Score
Time 4 hours 4 hours

Increased Exam Fee: None

 

Auditing & Attestation (AUD)

Previous 2017 CPA Exam
Multiple-Choice Questions 90 Questions
60% of Section Score
72 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 7 Simulations
40% of Section Score
8 Simulations
50% of Section Score
Time 4 hours 4 hours

Increased Exam Fee: None

 

Regulation (REG)

Previous 2017 CPA Exam
Multiple-Choice Questions 72 Questions
60% of Section Score
76 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 6 Simulations
40% of Section Score
8 Simulations
50% of Section Score
Time 3 Hours 4 Hours

Increased Exam Fee: $20 (total cost varies by state)

 

Business Environment Concepts (BEC)

Previous 2017 CPA Exam
Multiple-Choice Questions 72 Questions
85% of Section Score
62 Questions
50% of Section Score
Task-Based Simulations 0 4 Simulations
35% of Section Score
Written Communication 3 Written Responses
15% of Section Score
3 Written Responses
15% of Section Score
Time 3 Hours 4 Hours

Increased Exam Fee: $20 (total cost varies by state)

The exam will have five testlets with the first two being the multiple-choice testlets, and the remaining three testlets being task-based simulations and written communication tasks. A standardized 15-minute break is also being offered after the third testlet that will not count against your time. OPtional breaks are also offered, as usual, between every testlet – however the clock does not stop.

The blueprints, which replace the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skills Specification Outline (SSO) for the new Exam, present the content, skills and related representative tasks that may be tested on the Exam. The blueprints are in much greater detail than the CSOs and will help candidates outline what knowledge and skills may be tested.

How TBS Testlets Are Changing

As you can see, Task-Based Simulations (TBS) will account for more of your score on the new exam. TBSs will appear for the first time on the BEC section while FAR, AUD and REG will see an increase in the number of TBSs. There will also be more complex and enhanced TBSs to test at a higher cognitive level that will require more time to complete than some of the other TBSs. The research-type simulation that appears in FAR, AUD and REG will not appear in BEC, for now.


STRATEGY: Time management on the exam will be critical to ensure proper allocation of time for both multiple-choice questions and the task-based simulations. All April (or after) test takers should incorporate practicing Task-Based Simulations because they will appear in all four sections. Start studying now with a free 14-day Wiley CPAexcel course trial.


The Document Review Simulation (DRS)

Among the expanded TBS testlets on the FAR, AUD and REG sections is the Document Review Simulation (DRS), which first appeared in July of 2016. The DRS type TBS may also appear in BEC starting in April.

Designed to test CPA candidates’ application skills, the DRS asks test-takes to review a document draft with highlighted sections. The highlighted sections will reveal a number of options. Using the information available—including exhibits and authoritative literature that’s accessible via other tabs—test-taker must determine if the original text is correct, if it should be deleted, or if there is a better option. This requires critical thinking and the ability to research information quickly and with intention.

far testlet
Image credit: AICPA.org


STRATEGY: CPA candidates need to ensure they are fully prepared for the DRS simulation, so should at minimum review closely the sample on the AICPA website and preferably prepare using a fully updated TBS simulator like the one in Wiley CPAexcel. Get started now with a free 14-day Wiley CPAexcel Course Trial.


What the 2017 Exam Changes Mean for CPA Candidates

The 2017 CPA Exam changes are quite dramatic and will require candidates to be able to demonstrate their skills at a higher cognitive level.

For CPA candidates who have already passed one or more sections…
Candidates that have passed CPA Exam sections prior to April 2017 will NOT need to retakes those sections (granted they are within the normal 18-month time window for completing the full exam).

Starting in April, however, any remaining exam sections will be administered in the new format.

For CPA candidate who have failed a section recently…
If they can sit for the section again in January or February of 2017, they will not be subject to the new exam format and waiting. However, from April 2017 on, the exam will be in force. For many, it is likely in their best interest to try to retake the failed section before the April change.

For international and ESL CPA candidates…
Unfortunately, the 2017 CPA Exam changes are likely to have the biggest effect on international CPA candidates and those for whom English is a second language. The more sections these students can pass prior to April, the better. The new CPA Exam will likely require a more thorough understanding of the English language to understand what is beings asked with each task.

How Wiley Accommodates These Changes

As an industry leader, Wiley works very closely with the AICPA in carrying out the periodic Practice Analysis and provides regular feedback on proposed CPA Exam changes. As such, Wiley’s curriculum and study materials evolve in lockstep with the CPA Exam to ensure users are fully prepared on exam day.

Top Instructors
Respected university professors from some of the top accounting programs design our curriculum. For years—long before this new CPA Exam was even being considered—they’ve helped us to create study materials that center on the application of knowledge, not just memorization of concepts.

Cutting-Edge Learning Platform
To familiarize students with the kinds of questions they’ll encounter on the CPA exam, as well as the exam’s computer-based format and interface, Wiley CPAexcel has built a cutting edge learning platform. Our practice questions and simulations closely mirror what’s on the actual exam. And with so much content to cover, our Bite-Sized Lessons make it easy for busy people to study, as each lesson can be completed in as little as 30 minutes.

Partner Until You Pass
The CPA Exam is extremely challenging. No matter what, Wiley has your back with our “Partner Until You Pass” guarantee. Wiley CPAexcel users enjoy 100% free course updates and repeats until they pass the CPA Exam. No exceptions. No fine print.

Get started now with a free 14-day Wiley CPAexcel Course Trial.

Additional Resources

  1. Check out the AICPA’s most recent exam tutorial and sample questions
  2. Free On-Demand Webinar: Formulate Your Plan to Pass the “Next” 2017 CPA Exam
  3. Free On-Demand Webinar: How to Tackle the New Document Review Simulation (DRS)
  4. CPA Exam Requirements By State

2017 CPA Exam Survival Kit: