Uniform CPA Exam Changes Represent Real Life

by Kathleen Hoffelder, content editor, NJCPA – April 13, 2017
Uniform CPA Exam Changes Represent Real Life

The new uniform CPA exam that became effective April 1, 2017, includes more exhibits that candidates must evaluate, said Richard C. Gallagher, director of content, Exams Team – Public Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) at a New Jersey Society of CPAs’ (NJCPA) Accounting Educators Workshop on April 7.

“That’s where the thinking comes in. People have to look at those exhibits and say ‘is this important or is this not important to the solution,’” he said.  “We’re not looking to trick people, but that’s what happens in real life. When you go out to a client and you have a big folder of stuff, you have to go through that folder and figure out what’s important all the time.”

“The new changes are all about critical thinking and problem solving. It’s not intended to be an easy exam,” adds Gallagher, noting that the best estimates for preparing for the test range between around 100 to 150 hours per section of study time. Sections include Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG).

Preparations for the exam should occur in the classroom and at home. “You should be doing case studies in your classrooms,” said Gallagher. “Everybody learns differently,” he adds, “but you have to do homework in accounting. You have to solve problems.”  

Accounting educators are working to match their classroom studies and syllabi to the new exam, with some performing gap analysis assessments to see where they can improve student learning.

Other parts of the exam that changed include a shortened time allotment to answer two start-screen questions in the beginning of the exam. These “time out” after about five minutes currently compared to 10 minutes previously.

“We were concerned we were going to have too many people timing out before they finished the exam. If those start-screens time out, students are not going to be able to take the exam,” said Gallagher. Often students spend too much time jotting down notes on their scratch pads in the beginning of the exam, he said, instead of reviewing the questions that pop up on their screens, which can prohibit them from taking the exam altogether if the screens time out.  

Some parts from the old exam also continue to evolve. Professional skepticism, for example, will remain on the exam from the previous version but it’s an area they continue to “do research on,” notes Gallagher. A panel consisting of both firms and academic representatives regularly evaluates this specific content area.  Written communication, similarly, is an area that’s important on the new exam as well as the older one, he said.

To learn more about the CPA exam, visit njcpa.org/cpaexam.