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The AICPA just published a press release this morning announcing the official 2017 changes that will be made on the next version of the CPA Exam. Many CPA Exam candidates will remember that the AICPA released an Exposure Draft in September of last year detailing the potential changes that would be taking place. However, those changes continued to undergo review and revision until the AICPA finalized them today.

Making its debut next year in April 1, 2017, here’s what candidates can officially expect to see and be tested on in the new CPA Exam.

  • The exam will continue to be composed of the 4 existing sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
  • The exam will test higher order skills such as analysis and evaluation to heighten candidates’ performance on critical thinking and problem solving. As a result, more Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) will be added to each section since TBSs are an effective way to assess these skills. Therefore, the total CPA Exam testing time will increase from 14 to 16 hours. Each section will be 4 hours long.
  • The amount of questions by question type has changed per section. The chart below indicates that TBSs for each section will increase by 4-5 questions and that BEC will now have TBSs for the first time. The number of multiple choice questions (MCQs) in AUD, FAR, and BEC will be decreasing while the number of MCQs in REG will be increasing. Written Communication will remain the same.

  • Consequently, the score weighting for MCQs, TBSs, and WCs will also change. In the chart below, MCQs and TBSs will each account for 50% of the total score for AUD, FAR, and REG. For BEC, MCQs will account for 50%, TBSs will account for 35%, and WCs will account for 15% of the total score.

  • The Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SSO) which are currently used to inform CPA Exam candidates about the content and skill level the exam covers is going to be replaced by Exam Blueprints. These blueprints contain about 600 representative tasks across all 4 sections that help candidates identify how the content knowledge on the exam can be applied to real world experience. In other words, these new Exam Blueprints link the representative tasks directly to what candidates can expect to do as newly licensed CPAs.
  • Candidates will be especially pleased to know that administration of the new exam will now include a 15-minute standardized break for each section. This allotted time will not count against the candidate’s testing time.

According to Mike Decker, AICPA vice president of examinations:

"The next version of the CPA Exam will “Continue to help protect the public interest by ensuring that newly licensed CPAs have the skills and knowledge they need to meet the needs of a business environment that is increasingly complex.”

In other related information, a couple weeks ago, the AICPA also announced that the first 10 days of each blackout month will now serve as additional days to take the CPA Exam. This 10-day extension will commence in the next testing window quarter, which is June 2016. Consequently, the score release timetables for Q1 and Q2 have been revised and updated to reflect these changes. However, the 10-day extension not be available during June 2017 to accommodate the time needed to transition and analyze scores of the new exam.

Additionally, candidates can combine passing scores from the current CPA Exam along with the new one as long as all sections are passed within the 18-month window. These scores will count toward licensure.

For more information, visit the AICPA’s FAQ page regarding the finalized 2017 CPA Exam.

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