CPA Exam Changes

What are the CPA Exam Blueprints?

Every year, and sometimes twice per year, the AICPA updates and publishes the CPA Exam Blueprints, a document explaining what is tested on the CPA Exam, as well as the skills (e.g. analysis) and tasks (e.g. develop a detailed engagement plan) for each content topic (e.g. Planning an Engagement). The Blueprints also include scoring weights assigned to each content area. These Blueprints can be used as the base to your studies, and you can build off it with an exam review course.

Each CPA Exam section has its own section on the Blueprints detailing the minimum level of knowledge and skills you’ll need to pass the CPA exam.

Recently, the AICPA released a new set of Blueprints, which will take effect on July 1, 2021, and include changes to all four sections.

These changes specifically add, remove and alter content and scope of content available for testing. Take a look at:

What are the 2021 CPA Exam Changes?

AUD CPA Exam Changes Effective July 1, 2021:

New Content Added to AUD
Consideration of technology’s impact on an entity and its environment
Obtaining an understanding of the IT systems that are used for financial reporting
Effect of key controls (ie, manual controls, IT general controls, application controls) on the completeness and reliability of data
Internal control walkthroughs and documenting the flow of transactions (i.e., flowcharts, process diagrams, etc.) to include significant business processes and how they relate to the financial statements
Use of audit data analytic (ADA) techniques to identify transactions that may have a higher risk of material misstatement
Determining the sources of sufficient appropriate evidence and identifying procedures to validate the completeness and accuracy of data
Using automated tools and ADAs in audit sampling
Using automated tools and techniques related to recalculation
Analyzing the results of an ADA procedure and understanding the significance of notable or unusual items (no Excel skills necessary)
Content removed from AUD
Communications with management and those charged with governance regarding all matters other than the timing of an engagement and internal control related matters Communication with component auditors (in a group audit) and parties other than management and those charged with governance (eg, communications required by law) Auditing opening balances Auditing investments in derivative instruments Reporting on the audit of a single financial statement Letters for underwriters (ie, comfort letters) and filings with the SEC Alerts that restrict the use of written communication (ie, due to the possibility of being misunderstood by other parties)
Necessary skill level has reduced New level of skill required
Preconditions for accepting or continuing an engagement Remembering & Understanding
Developing a detailed engagement plan Application
Litigation, claims, and assessment Application
Defining and identifying related parties Application
An entity’s ability to continue as a going concern Remembering & Understanding
Written representations that should be obtained from management or those charged with governance Remembering & Understanding
Subsequently discovered facts Remembering & Understanding
Reporting on compliance with regulatory or contractual agreements Remembering & Understanding


FAR CPA Exam Changes Effective July 1, 2021:

Content removed from FAR
Going concern requirements Compensated absences other than vacation accruals Retirement benefits (eg, calculation of pension cost and funded status)** Differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP
Necessary skill level has reduced New level of skill required
Derivatives and hedge accounting (e.g., swaps, options, forwards) Remembering & Understanding


BEC CPA Exam Changes Effective July 1, 2021:

New Content Added to BEC
Business processes and flows of transactions including enabling technology, identifying opportunities to improve efficiency, identifying and designing transaction-level controls, use of SOC 1 reports from service providers, identifying risks and control gaps, and using data and business intelligence in the context of an entity’s significant business processes
Understanding the need for SOC 1 reports for outsourced IT functions
Extracting and loading data
Transforming and working with data and data relationships (no Excel skills required)
Data governance and data management
Content removed from BEC
Regulatory frameworks for corporate governance other than SOX
Necessary skill level has reduced New level of skill required
Capital structure (eg, comparing strategies for financing new business initiatives) Application
Systems development and maintenance (now called Change Management) Remembering & Understanding
Continuity and recovery plans (now called Business Resiliency) Remembering & Understanding


REG CPA Exam Changes Effective July 1, 2021:

Content removed from REG
Federal securities regulation Alternative minimum tax (AMT) Obtaining and maintaining tax-exempt status (tax-exempt organizations)
Necessary skill level has reduced New level of skill required
Bankruptcy and insolvency (debtor-creditor relationships) Remembering & Understanding
Secured transactions (debtor-creditor relationships) Remembering & Understanding
Net operating losses and capital loss limitations (C Corporations) Application
Unrelated business income (tax-exempt organizations) Remembering & Understanding

What are the 2020 CPA Exam Changes?

CPA Exam Changes Effective October 1, 2020:

The fourth quarter of 2020 will see the addition of the CARES Act within the CPA Exam’s tested material, primarily adding content to REG – though you can expect to also see a small amount of content surrounding the CARES Act in FAR. This is included in Surgent’s CPA Exam Review’s automatic updates.

CPA Exam Changes Effective July 1, 2020:

The third quarter will see a continuous testing model added to the CPA Exam for the first time.

Continuous Testing

  • Under the Continuous Testing model, candidates will have the ability to take the Exam year-round, without restriction – with the only exception being while they wait to receive scores from prior attempts of the same section or when there is a major change to the Exam. This also means there will be no black out windows, because this model will replace the existing CPA Exam Testing Window model, which currently only permits candidates to test during designated time frames each calendar quarter.