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AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam

The people who matter in the profession are all in the same room this week of the fall meeting of Council, which is going down in Boston, MA this year. You'll be catching lots of little buzzwordy bits flashing by on Twitter and surely an article or two from the JofA about diversity and the changing profession, but you'll also notice that they are talking about the new CPA exam. As in, the one they haven't come up with yet.

This comes from Accounting Today:

Senior vice president of management accounting & global markets at the AICPA Arleen Thomas told members of the Council that the Exam will continue to act as a filter for quality professionals, but must now do so on two counts.

“That filter has to deliver people who have demonstrated that body knowledge, but also [people] that employers want to hire,” she said. “The CPA exam is very critical to our definition of the profession. We want people who understand the technical [aspect] of accounting, but we should have more simulations. Is the interface and whole experience [of the Exam] reflective of current practice today?”

Thomas went on to point out that ever since computerization, Exam test-takers have experienced double-digit growth, but in 2011, it slowed. “We said, ‘Something’s happening here and we’re going to figure it out.”

The invitation to comment on the evolution of the CPA exam is still open through December 2nd, and we assume qualified individuals are still invited to write their yearly check out to the AICPA with an extra $0.02 attached.

This is the first we're hearing about the CPA exam further used as a recruiting tool. Employers already give favor to new hires who are exam ready and those who have passed a section or two before their start date, what more could the CPA exam do to help firms put the right warm bodies in their chairs? The 150 rule further disqualifies the riff-raff. So really, between higher educational requirements and a difficult exam, ideally what you're left with is only the sorts of people you want to fill those chairs.

This will be interesting to see play out, since, as we know, there is already more work to go around than warm bodies to do it. Surely the firms support the exam as a barrier to the profession, but if the bar is set too high, there won't be enough licensed CPAs around to do the work. So, by the nature of the thing, the bar has to hover low enough to let in individuals who otherwise might not be welcome in a much more competitive environment.

Will they raise the passing score? Doubtful. Will they rearrange the current sections? Doubtful. Will they throw in more simulations and maybe some nice pretty videos? I'm going to go with that.