CPA Exam topics undergoing change for digital age: A technology- and data-focused practice analysis will determine the topics that are most relevant to today's newly licensed CPAs.

Author:Tysiac, Ken

Changes in the work performed by newly licensed CPAs have the AICPA embarking on a focused practice analysis to determine what material should be tested on the CPA Exam--and what material no longer needs to be assessed.

Advances in technology, data analytics, and process automation have led to changes in the skills required of newly licensed CPAs, according to research performed by the AICPA Examinations team.

The AICPA practice analysis responding to these changes began in March and will continue with the publication in December of:

* An exposure draft recommending planned CPA Exam updates and content to be added, changed, or deleted; and

* An invitation to comment that will seek feedback on potential future changes to the CPA Exam that require more research or more extensive structure changes.

Comments will be collected through April 30, 2020.

The practice analysis is separate from the CPA Evolution project (see the sidebar, "CPA Evolution Project Reevaluates Licensure Model") that's being undertaken by the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to explore possible changes to CPA licensure requirements that also would incorporate skills and competencies in technology and data analytics.

The timing of the practice analysis represents an acceleration in the time frame that has been used in the past to make comprehensive updates to the exam. Traditionally, the Examinations team has undertaken a practice analysis every seven years. The most recent practice analysis was completed in 2016 and led to significant changes implemented in 2017 that resulted in a greater emphasis on analysis, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills on the exam.

The rapid pace of change in the business environment has led to a need for a quicker reconsideration of the exam.

"What a newly licensed CPA does is just changing so much," said Mike Decker, the AICPA's vice president-Examinations. "There's so much disruption in the profession, and we're seeing that in a lot of businesses that to say you're going to update a licensing exam through a practice analysis every seven years just really isn't appropriate anymore."

The exam has changed even since the 2017 rollout, which decreased the number of multiple-choice questions, added more task-based simulations, and raised the total exam hours from 14 to 16. Mechanisms are in place to make changes quarterly to accommodate updates in standards, regulations, and other areas.

Since 2017, there has been more focus on how the exam assesses professional skepticism and judgment, and questions have already been added to test audit data analytics. But employers of newly licensed CPAs have told the Examinations team that a more comprehensive look needs to be taken...

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