An Update on the 2017 CPA Exam Changes

 – April 27, 2016
An Update on the 2017 CPA Exam Changes

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has announced that a new version of the CPA exam will launch April 1, 2017.

How the New Test Changes Came About

The AICPA's Board of Examiners worked with three committees: The State Board Committee, Content Committee and Psychometric Oversight Committee. They came together to set a strategic direction for the new CPA exam. They conducted interviews, coordinated focus groups, collected feedback and drafted blueprints for the new exam. State boards of accountancy, state CPA societies, NASBA and others provided input on the new exam blueprint and structure. The committees designed the exam to better reflect the skills successful CPAs need to have.

An Overview of the Changes

The four sections of the exam will remain the same:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

The test structure will rely less on memorization and include more questions related to analysis, evaluation and application.

The new exam will have an increased emphasis on testing higher-order skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, analytical ability and professional skepticism.

Below is a percentage breakdown of the new test structure for each section.


Roger CPA Review created this graphic that breaks down the ways in which test takers should approach the higher order skills addressed in each exam section:

Understanding Skill Level_2017 CPA Exam Changes

So let's say you're taking the AUD section of the exam. If you come across a question that requires analysis, you may need to approach the problem by reconciling, integrating or validating the problem.

The weighting and number of multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations (TBS) in each section will also change:

  • The BEC section will now include task-based simulations and continue to include a writing component.
  • TBSs will feature more background information material and data CPA candidates can use to determine what's relevant to the question.

       Current Structure              New Structure


To accommodate all of these changes, the testing time for both BEC and REG will increase by one hour, bringing each of the sections to four hours and the total testing time to 16 hours.

Document Review Simulation (DRS)

Starting July 1, 2016, the current exam will use a new simulation item type known as the Document Review Simulation (DRS). The DRS presents realistic problems CPAs may need to solve on the job. Those scenarios include reviewing memos, bank statements and other documents. DRSs will appear in the AUD, FAR and REG sections. In 2017, DRS will be included in the BEC section as well.

Below are examples of what a DRS would look like in the exam:



There are other changes to the exam:

  • The exam costs will increase to reflect the extra time added to the BEC and REG sections. We don't know the new costs of the exam yet. But NASBA and the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy will provide updates in the future.
  • Testing windows have been extended by 10 days, giving candidates more options for scheduling exams. This change took effect in March 2016. The AICPA and Board of Examiners will take 10 days to review your performance and set passing scores. But during the April 1 to May 31 2017 time window, it will take them 10 weeks to set passing scores. Test_taking_window_new_cpa_2017
  • Test takers will have a 15-minute break they can use midway through each testing section. The break won't count against the allotted time for each part of the exam.

Bridging the Current Exam and the New Exam

If you are in the process of taking the CPA exam, you can combine passing sections with the new ones in the 2017 CPA exam. But remember, the 18-month window still applies: You must pass all four parts of the exam within 18 months of passing your first section.

We advise that if you've studied and prepared for the current CPA exam, take it as soon as possible. The new exam structure will be different from the study materials you're currently working with.

Another Round of Changes in 2018

The CPA exam will undergo technological updates in 2018. The AICPA will make the new exam sleeker and more user friendly. CPA candidates will take the exam sections on 23 inch HD monitors. Also, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets will replace the current generic spreadsheet. Don't worry though. You won't be tested on your Excel skills. It will be a tool you can use during the exam.

To learn more about the exam changes, check out this page.

Additional resources: