2017 CPA Exam Changes

2017 CPA Exam – What Changed and How You Should Prepare

If you’re a CPA candidate, you probably already know that the CPA Exam changed significantly on April 1, 2017.  But there’s no need to panic! Surgent CPA Review is here to help you understand and prepare for the current exam format. Let’s start with a little background.

Why did the CPA Exam change? Every few years, the AICPA updates the exam material and increases its difficulty.

How did the CPA Exam change? This year–to better align the exam with real-world CPA skills–the AICPA increased the focus on analytical skills and critical thinking, and decreased the focus on strict memorization.

If you plan to sit for the exam any time soon, here’s what you need to know about the updated format as of April 1, 2017 and how to strategize for success:

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

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

What this means: The percentage of each type of content that is covered on each exam changed.

• FAR, AUD, and REG — these exam sections now have a higher percentage of task-based simulations. Each section now includes 50% multiple choice questions (MCQs) and 50% task-based simulations (TBS). Previously, these sections included 60% MCQs/40% TBS.

• BEC — Task-based simulations have been added to BEC for the first time. The ratio of content on this section is now 50% MCQs, 15% WC, and 35% TBS.

Here are visual depictions of the content coverage for each section of the current 2017 CPA Exam:

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 of 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 in scoring. 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 to locate specific reports or use for guidance responding to the TBS.

• TBS questions assess analysis and evaluation: In an effort to elevate candidates’ critical thinking and problem solving skills, the exam now tests the cognitive skills of analysis and evaluation. These additional skills are 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 are 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 includes a task list for real-world use: These lists, called CPA Exam Blueprints, are 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).

One final note of advice: Choose your exam review course carefully. Only Surgent CPA Review reduces a candidate’s study time by as much as 100 hours per section compared to courses like Becker, Roger, Wiley, and Gleim, making it far more feasible to pass all 4 sections within 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!


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