Changes to the CPA Exam

Are You Ready?

Julianne Averill

Along with a new year, Jan. 1, 2011, will usher in distinct differences in format, content and scoring weight to the Uniform CPA Examination with the launch of the Computer Based Testing Evolution (CBT-e).

The current CBT that all CPA candidates have come to know and love (or dread) since April 2004 has consisted of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environments and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). As shown in the Table 1, the four sections utilize several testing methods, including multiple choice, written communication tasks and case-study simulations, to assess a candidate’s knowledge of accounting. The total testing time is 14 hours and is allocated among the sections in the following manner:

1. Auditing and Attestation: 4.5 hours
2. Financial Accounting and Reporting: 4 hours
3. Regulation: 3 hours
4. Business Environments and Concepts: 2.5 hours

As of Jan. 1, 2011, the CBT-e will still consist of the above four sections, however, the testing methods will change slightly with the adoption of the new Content and Skill Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs).

For example, the CBT-e will replace the two case-based simulations on REG, AUD and FAR, with one testlet containing six to seven short task-based simulations. The simulations also contain a new research question format based on the FASB Codification. Moreover, the written communication tasks previously seen on AUD, REG and FAR will now appear on BEC. The three written tasks will be based on BEC topics.

To allow candidates enough time to complete the new communication tasks, the time allocated for BEC will increase to three hours and the time for AUD will be reduced to four hours. The overall time to complete the examination will still be 14 hours.

With the implementation of the format changes mentioned above, the CBT-e will change the scoring weights for the various testing methods. For instance, the CBT currently apportions its scoring weights for AUD, REG and FAR in the following manner: 10 percent written communication tasks, 20 percent simulations and 70 percent multiple choice questions. The CBT-e will change the scoring weights for these portions of the exam to 40 percent simulations and 60 percent multiple choice questions. Since BEC currently only utilizes multiple choice questions, the scoring weights on the CBT-e will consist of 85 percent multiple choice questions and 15 percent written communication tasks.

In addition to format changes, the CBT-e will include new content, most notably the testing of International Financial Reporting Standards in the FAR section. Candidates will have to understand and identify the differences between generally accepted accounting principles and IFRS. As mentioned previously, a new release of authoritative literature, including the codified FASB Accounting Standards, will be tested on the CBT-e. Finally, the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and other ethical considerations previously tested in REG will now appear in AUD.

With the exam changes coming up so quickly, accountants currently testing should attempt to complete all four portions by the end of the last testing window of 2010. For candidates planning to take the exam in 2011 or beyond, the AICPA Board of Examiners plans to release a new exam tutorial and sample tests in the fall of 2010. For further help regarding preparing for the new exam content, candidates should practice utilizing the FASB Codification to research accounting issues at work. Additionally, the CalCPA Education Foundation has several upcoming CPE courses that cover the topic of IFRS. Also, if you still need additional college units to qualify for California’s Pathway II CPA license experience requirement, consider taking an international accounting course at your local university. Finally, remember to study, study, study!

The changes to the Uniform CPA Examination reflect the current issues in accounting and test the skills necessary to become a successful CPA.

If you would like more information on the CBT-e and the upcoming changes to the exam, visit www.cpa-exam.org. Good luck to all candidates with your endeavors to become a CPA!

Julianne Averill is an associate at Hemming Morse, Inc. in San Francisco. You can reach her at averillj@hemming.com.

Table 1: Comparison of CBT and CBT e-Formats

    CBT   CBT-e
AUD   

3 multiple choice question testlets (90 questions)

2 case-based simulations

2 written communication tasks

4.5 hours

3 multiple choice question testlets-90 questions

1 testlet of 7 task-based simulations

New research question format

4 hours
REG     

3 multiple choice question testlets (72 questions)

2 case-based simulations

2 written communication tasks

3 hours

3 multiple choice question testlets (72 questions)

1 testlet of 6 task-based simulations

New research question format

3 hours
FAR     

3 multiple choice question testlets (90 questions)

2 case-based simulations

2 written communication tasks

4 hours

3 multiple choice question testlets (90 questions)

1 testlet of 7 task-based simulations

New research question format

4 hours
BEC     

3 multiple choice question testlets (90 questions)

 

2.5 hours

3 multiple choice question testlets (72 questions)

3 written communication tasks

3 hours