CPA Exam Practice Analysis
As a part of the AICPA’s ongoing efforts to maintain the validity, reliability, and relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination® (CPA Exam), we conduct periodic research to learn more about the current state of the profession and the work of newly licensed CPAs (nlCPAs). The findings of our research inform potential changes and updates to the CPA Exam and help us maintain its alignment with professional practice.
Building on the foundation of the last Practice Analysis completed in 2016, our team began a targeted Practice Analysis in early 2019 to assess the impact of audit analytics and technology on the work performed by nlCPAs. We also reexamined the assessment of core accounting competencies that all CPAs must possess to protect the public interest. In 2019, we published an Exposure Draft and Invitation to Comment that received more than 180 responses.
Using information compiled during our research, and after reviewing the responses, we developed an updated CPA Exam Blueprint, which details CPA Exam content eligible for testing as of July 1, 2021. To learn more about how the CPA Exam content updates and the overall Practice Analysis, please review our Practice Analysis Final Report.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A Practice Analysis is a comprehensive, in-depth research effort that documents the state of the profession and investigates the current role of a nlCPA; specifically the knowledge and skills most relevant to their work and their part in protecting the public interest. It is one of several ways our Examinations team keeps the CPA Exam aligned with professional practice. We last conducted a Practice Analysis beginning in late 2013 through April 1, 2016, which led to the current CPA Exam structure. The creation and implementation of the CPA Exam Blueprints provided a strong platform for future changes.
Technology is fast-evolving, especially as it relates to the work of nlCPAs. New technologies and software, automation, and outsourcing are all changing the way these professionals do their jobs. The CPA of the future needs to have a data and digital mindset in order to understand complex business processes and controls and to work with digital tools and technologies. The Practice Analysis aids our Examinations team in identifying the related knowledge and skills that the CPA Exam must assess to ensure minimum technical competency of those entering the profession.
The current Practice Analysis is a focused research effort that targeted the impact of the technology revolution on the work of nlCPAs, which will result in changes to the CPA Exam. As a part of the research, we also re-examined current CPA Exam content to identify areas that may no longer be critical for nlCPAs in their role of protecting the public.
We began our Practice Analysis in early 2019 and published a research document on December 23, 2019. The research document comprises an Exposure Draft that outlines planned CPA Exam updates, including content to be added, changed or deleted. The research document also includes an Invitation to Comment that offers potential, future CPA Exam changes based on feedback from the Practice Analysis. These topics require more research and/or more extensive structural changes so further stakeholder input is necessary. Given the nature of the Invitation to Comment topics and the need for additional research, there are no definitive plans or anticipated implementation timelines. Stakeholder responses to both the Exposure Draft and Invitation to Comment will be accepted until April 30, 2020.
Yes. The Practice Analysis began with meetings between our Examinations team and leaders from approximately 15 public accounting firms of varying sizes. The participants discussed a variety of topics, including the impact of technology on the work of nlCPAs, essential knowledge, and skills for those entering the profession, and firm recruiting trends of college students and CPA candidates.
Then, with the support of a third-party research firm, we began a three-phase research project with eight virtual focus groups comprising CPAs who directly supervise the work of nlCPAs. Focus group participants, of varying ages and from different parts of the country, represented firms of all sizes and business and industry. Topics discussed during the focus groups included the evolving work of newly licensed CPAs, the impact of technology on their roles, the role of data analytics in engagements, and other related topics.
Next, we held eight virtual content ranking panels with CPAs who directly supervise the work of nlCPAs. The panelists reviewed the existing CPA Exam Blueprints and ranked the importance of all testing content as it pertains to the role of a nlCPA.
Lastly, we held four virtual content confirmation panels aligned with each of the CPA Exam sections. Participants included CPAs who directly supervise the work of nlCPAs. The panelists rated their level of agreement with changes proposed to their respective CPA Exam Blueprint section.
As is practice with all potential changes to the CPA Exam, the results of the research were reviewed and approved by the AICPA Board of Examiners, its committees and subcommittees, which are made up of more than 75 volunteer subject matter experts from the profession, academia, and regulatory bodies.
Yes, as mentioned above, we published a Practice Analysis research document for public comment. The comment period will remain open until April 30, 2020.
Proposed changes outlined in the Practice Analysis Exposure Draft will be implemented no later than mid-2021. Updated CPA Exam Blueprints reflecting the changes will be approved by December 31, 2020. Topics presented in the Invitation to Comment have no planned implementation timeline.
The last Practice Analysis (completed in April 2016 and operational in April 2017) provided a strong platform for future changes with the creation and implementation of the CPA Exam Blueprints. We don’t anticipate major structural changes to the current, four section-CPA Exam as all updates will focus on content. At the present time, we do not anticipate a need for score holds.
We’ve moved away from multi-year research initiatives that result in “big-bang type” CPA Exam releases and dramatic change that creates angst among constituents and disrupts the candidate pipeline. The goal is to conduct more targeted research efforts, such as the current Practice Analysis, along with continuous improvement work, which will allow the CPA Exam to evolve and remain aligned with professional practice without the need for comprehensive changes. However, as the needs of the profession evolve, more significant CPA Exam changes may be required to maintain the Exam’s currency with the profession.
The Practice Analysis is how our Examinations team maintains the relevance and professional currency of the CPA Exam, responds to changes happening in the profession today, and reviews essential knowledge/skill testing for the protection of the public interest. CPA Evolution is a joint AICPA/NASBA effort focused on the future of the licensure model and the transformation of the profession as it relates to technology. Although these are separate projects, the teams remain informed of each other’s work. If you’d like more information about CPA Evolution, you can visit the Evolution of CPA site.