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Tax & AccountingJanuary 25, 2023

AICPA unveils blueprints for redesigned CPA exam

By: CCH AnswerConnect Editorial

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has unveiled its "Blueprints for a Redesigned CPA Exam".  It plans to launch the redesigned exam in January 2024. 

Stakeholder comments reflected

In 2022, the AICPA, published an exposure draft of proposed changes to the CPA exam and requested stakeholder comments. The AICPA collected input from "a wide range of stakeholders who share an interest in preserving the strength and mission of the profession—ranging from individual CPAs to boards of accountancy, public accounting firms, individuals working in business and industry, government, and academia."

The AICPA received 43 comment letters that included over 300 comments for consideration. The blueprints incorporate changes reflected in the comments. 

Purpose of the new CPA exam design

The AICPA says its CPA exam blueprints are based on the knowledge and skills required of a newly licensed CPA to meet the demands of firms, employers, and clients. 

The CPA exam blueprints are part of a joint project of the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), the CPA Evolution Initiative.  According to the AICPA, "Today’s CPAs need deeper skill sets, more competencies, and greater knowledge of emerging technologies and their impact on tax, accounting, and audit."

Current CPA exam vs. redesigned exam

The existing CPA exam consists of four sections:

  1. Auditing & Attestation (AUD); 
  2. Business Environment & Concepts (BEC); 
  3. Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR); and 
  4. Regulation (REG).

For the redesigned exam, the AICPA will require candidates to take three core sections and offer a choice for the fourth section. The three required exam sections will be: 

  1. Financial Accounting and Reporting;
  2. Auditing and Attestation; and 
  3. Taxation and Regulation. 

In addition to the three required sections, each candidate will choose one of the following disciplines in which to demonstrate further knowledge in a specific area:

  1. Business Analysis and Reporting;
  2. Information Systems and Controls; or 
  3. Tax Compliance and Planning. 

There is an increased focus on data and technology concepts in all exam sections.

Transition issues

Candidates who pass all four parts of the existing CPA exam before December 31, 2023 and retain credit for each part do not have to take the 2024 CPA Exam. They have met the testing requirement and must only meet the other requirements (education and experience requirements and, in many states, an ethics examination) to obtain a CPA license. 

The rules for candidates who passed some, but not all, of the CPA exam by December 31, 2023 are as follows:

  • Candidates who have credit for AUD, FAR, or REG on the current CPA Exam will not need to take the corresponding new core section on the 2024 CPA Exam.
  • Candidates who have credit for BEC on the current CPA Exam will not need to take any of the three discipline sections. 
  • If a candidate loses credit for AUD, FAR, or REG after December 31, 2023, the candidate then must take the corresponding new core section. A candidate who loses credit for BEC after December 31, 2023, must take one of the three discipline sections.

The NASBA web site contains the full transition policy. A set of CPA Exam Transition FAQs is also available there.

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