The long wait for the much-anticipated new CPA exam blueprints has ended. This month, the AICPA released the finalized blueprints for the revised CPA exam, launching in 2024. Check out the quick highlights below of what changes you can expect and how to prepare for the revised exam.
Over time, the CPA exam has evolved to meet the needs of the profession. A notable revision was in 2004 when the CPA exam transitioned from a paper and pencil exam to a computerized exam. In 2024, the CPA exam will undergo another major revision. This time, instead of a simple format change, there will be a major change to the content of the CPA exam.
The governing bodies responsible for the CPA Exam (NASBA & AICPA) received feedback from over 3,000 stakeholders regarding the future direction of the CPA exam. Results determined that modern CPAs need deeper skill sets in critical thinking, problem-solving, understanding of business systems, controls, and risk, data management and analysis, and SOC engagements.
Coupling these new skills with the fact that standards have changed immensely, a reimagining of the CPA exam was overdue. As the body of knowledge continues to grow, the need for specialization has become apparent.
The highlights of the changes to the 2024 exam are described below:
3 Core + Discipline Model
Currently, the exam includes four stand-alone sections. However, the new exam will have three core sections that each candidate must take. Each candidate will then select their fourth exam from a choice of three discipline-specific exams. The goal of the 3 Core + Discipline model is to move some of the more specialized content out of the core sections, and into a discipline-specific exam. Therefore, candidates may select another exam based on their area of interest in developing expertise.
For instance, those not specializing in tax don’t need to study the more complex details if they don’t take the Tax Compliance and Planning exam. Note that the discipline selected will not be identified on the CPA license.
Elimination of BEC
The stand-alone Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section goes away in 2024. Although this exam had the highest pass rates, it was also one of the more troublesome exams for students, as the content often seemed random. The elimination of the BEC exam does not mean that content is eliminated, however. Content currently covered in BEC will be shifted to other exams.
Exam Content Changes by Section
The Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section of the exam will cover four main areas:
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, and General Principles
- Assessing Risk and Developing a Planned Response
- Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence
- Forming Conclusions and Reporting
The Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) section of the exam will cover three main areas:
- Financial Reporting
- Select Balance Sheet Accounts
- Select Transactions
The Taxation and Regulation (REG) section of the exam will cover six main areas:
- Ethics, Professional Responsibilities
- Federal Tax Procedures
- Business Law
- Federal Taxation of Property Transactions
- Federal Taxation of Individuals
- Federal Taxation of Entities
New Discipline Exams
The new Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) discipline exam is intended for those who wish to demonstrate specialized knowledge in financial accounting, analytics, and reporting. This exam will cover three main areas:
- Business Analysis
- Technical Accounting and Reporting
- State and Local Governments
The new Information Systems and Controls (ISC) discipline exam is designed for those who wish to demonstrate specialized knowledge in information systems and security. This exam will cover three main areas:
- Information Systems and Data Management
- Security, Confidentiality, and Privacy
- Considerations for System and Organization Controls (SOC) Engagements
The new Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) discipline exam is intended for those who wish to demonstrate specialized knowledge in taxation. This exam will cover four main areas:
- Tax Compliance and Planning for Individuals and Personal Financial Planning
- Entity Tax Compliance
- Entity Tax Planning
- Property Transactions
Preparing for this new exam
Preparing for the exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Success starts with a solid educational foundation. Although requirements vary by state, generally, candidates should start with a bachelor’s degree that provides a solid foundation in business courses. Most states require a set number of credits in business courses plus specific accounting courses in order to qualify to sit for the exam.
It’s important to note that educational requirements to sit for the exam can differ from the requirements to be licensed as a CPA. For example, in Michigan, an undergraduate degree is required to sit for the exam, but 150 credits are required to be licensed. Most students choose to earn a master’s degree in accounting to meet this 150-hour requirement.
Additionally, candidates will find that extra practice with CPA exam review services is a necessary ingredient to their success in passing the exam. Concordia’s new Master of Science in Accountancy combines the best of both worlds by providing students with relevant, up-to-date courses that were developed around the needs of the CPA exam revisions and incorporating Gleim CPA review right into the courses.
The new CPA exam will have more focus on critical thinking skills and analytics, as well as the opportunity to learn more specialized skills. If you’re planning on taking your Exam before these changes take effect in 2024, consider if these changes are in your favor. Concordia’s new Master of Science in Accountancy program is ready to help you learn and grow in your skills, and prepare for this exam. Find out more information about our program below.