2017 CPA Exam Changes

The CPA exam is headed for some significant changes in 2017. The AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) issued a statement saying that starting on April 1, 2017, CPA exam test takers will be taking a new version of the exam focused more heavily on simulations than multiple choice questions. This may sound scary, but don’t go complaining to any of your accounting professors or “older” CPAs unless you want to hear that same story2017 CPA Exam for the hundredth time about them having to take all four sections of the a hardcopy exam in a couple of days with just a pencil. Actually, to be fair to our “elder CPAs”, they were required to get at least a 50% on all four sections of the exam during the same session or else none of them counted. Can you imagine getting: 80% FAR, 85% AUD, 78% BEC, 49% REG and having to take all four of them over again?!? Brutal! So although they might exaggerate how tough the test was “back in the day”, I would rather be taking the 2017 version with four separate exam windows than go through what they did.

So why did the AICPA decide to change the exam and what are the new changes? In 2014, they started a research project to help identify what types of skills and knowledge are most critical to new CPAs in order to protect the public interest. They found out that CPAs must be better at:
-Possessing the skills necessary to perform more advanced tasks.
-Contributing to complex accounting projects earlier in their career.
-Higher order cognitive skills and exercising professional skepticism.   

In order to achieve these objectives for new CPAs, the AICPA decided to place a stronger emphasis on testing higher order skills. The 2017 exam will now place less emphasis on multiple choice questions in favor of application and analysis as part of the simulations. The exam will increase from 14 to 16 hours in duration broken out by four sections at four hours each. It will also be a little bit more expensive to take. Here are the 2017 structural changes by section:

Now: 50% multiple choice, 50% application
2017: 30-40% multiple choice, 30-40% application, 15-25% analysis, 5-15% evaluation

Now: 50% multiple choice, 50% application
2017: 10-20% multiple choice, 50-60% application, 25-35% analysis

Now: 50% multiple choice, 50% application
2017: 25-35% multiple choice, 35-45% application, 25-35% analysis

Now: 50% multiple choice, 50% application
2017: 15-25% multiple choice, 50-60% application, 20-30% analysis

As shown above, the most significant changes will be to the FAR and BEC sections as they will cut down heavily on the multiple choice questions.

If you are able to squeak in before the 2017 changes take place, I would highly recommend doing so for the cost savings and the shorter exam (14 hours versus 16 hours). However, if you will be subject to the new exam, don’t sweat it – the top CPA review programs are staying abreast of the new changes and will have you well prepared to pass. If you have any questions about the CPA exam, I would love to hear from you below!