Apr 06, 2016

New Uniform CPA Examination Changes

Liz KolarBy Elizabeth Kolar

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has stated that the next version of the Uniform CPA Examination (CPA Exam) will launch April 1, 2017 (the 2017 Q2 testing window). The CPA Exam will continue to include four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). However, each section will now be four hours in length, for a total testing time of 16 hours.

Candidates will be offered a 15-minute break midway through each section, which may be accepted or declined. This break will not count against testing time. In addition to this standardized break, optional breaks between testlets (which do count against candidates’ testing time) will continue in the next CPA Exam, consistent with current practice.

Additional task-based simulations (TBSs) will be included to assess higher-order skills. These include, but are not limited to, critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical ability. The TBSs will contain background material (i.e., real-world documents and exhibits) and data that will require candidates to determine what information is or is not relevant to the question.

A new type of TBS, called the Document Review Simulation (DRS), will be introduced in the AUD, FAR, and REG sections beginning with the 2016 Q3 testing window (July 1, 2016). The DRS will continue to be used after the launch of the next CPA Exam, where it will be added to the BEC section as well. Candidates are encouraged to visit the AICPA website to review the DRS format under the “Sample Exam” option.

In connection with testing higher-order skills, the CPA Exam will use a skills-based framework consistent with the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is further supported by the exam blueprints. The blueprints contain about 600 representative tasks across all four exam sections and replace the Content Specification Outline and Skill Specification Outline. They will identify content knowledge linked directly to representative tasks performed by newly licensed CPAs.

Scoring weights for AUD, FAR, and REG will be about 50 percent multiple choice questions (MCQ) and 50 percent TBS, while scoring weights for BEC will be about 50 percent MCQ, 35 percent TBS, and 15 percent written response simulations.


Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
Task-Based Simulations (TBSs)
Written Response Simulations


Candidates will still get credit for passing sections of the current CPA Exam after the next exam launches. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, state boards of accountancy, and the AICPA have agreed that any combination of passed current exam sections and passed next exam sections will count toward licensure. All candidates will take new CPA Exam sections beginning in the second quarter of 2017. Thus, any sections passed prior to the launch of the next exam in the second quarter of 2017 will count toward licensure requirements (subject to the 18-month rule) going forward.

To increase candidate convenience, there will be a 10-day extension of the testing window each quarter in the months of March, June, September, and December. The 10-day extension will not be available during June 2017, as additional time will be required to analyze exam results and set new passing scores.

Elizabeth Kolar is vice president of Surgent CPA Review.

1 comment

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  • Mike E | Apr 06, 2016
    Very helpful!

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