2017 CPA Exam Changes – What You Need to Know and How to Prepare

If you’re a CPA candidate, you’ve probably heard that the CPA Exam will change significantly on April 1, 2017.  Why is the CPA Exam changing?  The AICPA changes the exam every few years to update the material and to increase its difficulty.  For the 2017 exam, the organization included more questions that require analytical skills and critical thinking, and less that require strict memorization, which is more closely aligned to the skills needed on the job.


If you plan to sit for the exam after graduation, you should start planning for these changes now. Use our guide below to understand what is changing and how you can strategize for success.

1. REG and BEC length extended to 4 hours: The overall length of the exam will increase from 14 hours to 16 hours, as 2 sections – Regulation (REG) and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC) – will increase from 3 hours per section to 4 hours per section.

2. Additional testlets and new content: The exam will continue to be composed of the 4 existing sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).  However, each of the 4 existing sections will have 5 testlets, instead of the previous 4.  Additionally, BEC will now include task-based simulations (TBS). BEC will still include Written Communication (WC).

What this means: The percentage of each type of content for each exam will change.

• FAR, AUD, and REG — 50% of the exam will be multiple choice questions (MCQs) and 50% of the exam will be TBS, compared to the previous 60% MCQ/40% TBS. There will be more task-based simulations in these sections.

• BEC — 50% of the exam will be MCQs, 15% will be WC, and 35% will be TBS.  This is the first time task-based simulations will be included in the BEC section.

Tips for success:

• For a MCQ, read the question and all possible answer choices carefully.  Questions can be convoluted or contain unnecessary information.  The best approach is to read the last sentence first before reading the question in its entirety, so you know what to look for.

• Spend no more than 1 ½ minutes on a MCQ, but never leave a MCQ blank. If you’re stuck on a question, keep in mind that you have a 25% chance at choosing the correct answer if you guess.  If you are completely unsure of the correct answer, be careful before choosing the first answer (A), as exam developers may anticipate candidates choosing this answer without reviewing the remaining possibilities, and thus may not designate A as the correct answer. Keep in mind that 15%-20% of the questions across the entire exam do not count. These questions are experimental questions, peppered throughout the exam by the AICPA to determine if they will be used in the future. This is why it’s important not to spend too much time on any question.

• Use the Authoritative Literature tab wisely. This tab must be used to respond to the research TBS and remains available for use in every TBS.  If you need help with TBS questions, it doesn’t hurt to use the Authoritative Literature tab for locating specific reports or for guidance responding to the TBS.

• TBS questions will cover analysis and evaluation: In an effort to elevate candidates’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, the exam will now test the cognitive skills of analysis and evaluation. These additional skills will be tested through two forms of TBS: the Document Review Simulation (DRS) and the inaugural Enhanced Task-Based Simulation (ETBS).  The ETBS may include content from another section of the exam.  Both ES and DRS will be included in each section of the exam.

• There is now a 15-minute break available between testlets 3 and 4 that will not count against the clock. Any additional break between testlets will count against your time.

• Each exam section will include a task list for real-world use: These lists, called CPA Exam Blueprints, will be available for each exam section and contain links to tasks candidates can expect to complete as newly licensed CPAs. CPA Exam Blueprints replace the Content Specification Outline (CSO) and Skill Specification Outline (SSO).

Candidates should choose their exam review course carefully. Only Surgent CPA Review reduces a candidate’s study time by as much as 100 hours per section, making it far more feasible to pass all 4 sections before in 6 months or less.

There’s no reason not to start today, especially with our interest-free payment plan that lets you start using our full CPA course for just $49!

Need help or have questions? Call us at 844-500-3810.