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December 8, 2022

2011 CPA exam changes

The AICPA Talks to Going Concern About the New CPA Exam

Because I genuinely care about the well-being of you little CPA exam candidates out there, I recently put aside the inflammatory nonsense for a moment and took some time out of my busy schedule to chat with the AICPA about the new CPA exam that they were proud to say launched early this month without a hitch. We’re pretty excited about that too, mostly because it means we can finally stop talking about 2011 changes and get back to talking CPA exam strategy, which is largely unchanged as a result of CBT-e.

We here at Going Concern value reader input (even if we do value chastising said reader just as equally) and therefore reached out t//goingconcern.com/2011/01/what-would-you-ask-the-aicpa-about-the-new-cpa-exam/”>your input on the sorts of questions we should ask. You spoke and we listened so let’s cut right to the chase and give you some answers.


John Mattar, Ed.D., Director of Psychometrics and Research and Mike Decker, Director of Operations and Development, both of the AICPA Examinations Team, were kind and brave enough to speak with me and give me plenty of insight on the brain behind the new CPA exam.

First of all, we need to talk scoring as that’s the one thing you guys have complained about consistently since the exam went computerized in 2004 (except for written communication but that is an entirely different issue). We’re proud to tell you that we can finally say with certainty that the AICPA will not be changing the passing score from 75 moving forward. That’s right, put down your flaming pitchforks, all you 74s who were ready to flip should the score have been lowered to 70. “In terms of the score reported to candidates, right now the passing score on that reported scale is a 75 and it’s going to remain there because we want to have consistency over time,” John told us.

That means a 75 last year might not necessarily be the same as a 75 this year but a 75 is still passing and that’s what matters. As we all know, the AICPA uses a complicated and mysterious psychometric formula to determine weights for each question and bases a candidate’s score on this formula. It isn’t for you, little candidate, to worry about how they come up with their numbers nor should you feel as though the AICPA gets some sick thrill out of seeing you get a 74. Believe it or not, they’re neutral. They don’t care if you pass or fail, they only care about overseeing a professional examination that successfully tests the knowledge base of entry-level CPAs in the United States. That’s it.

Second, while the AICPA will be using a single score release formula for at least the first three testing windows of the year, candidates can anticipate a new and improved score release system that will hopefully be introduced by the end of the year. This means all candidates who test early in their window will be eligible to receive their scores in the first release and all other candidates can expect to receive their scores in more frequent batches through the end of that window’s blackout month. So forget the Wave 1/Wave 2 nonsense. “Due to a lot of the work we’re doing on the backend, we’re going to be able to release scores faster. We’re not actually going to be able to release the scores earlier until the 4th quarter because we need to do a greater analysis in the first three quarters,” Mike said. So while you guys see the new simulations and international content on the frontend, it’s important to remember that a lot of time and effort went into improving the backend of the CPA exam and faster scoring is one such improvement that we can expect to see by the end of the year. But these changes come at a price so be patient while the AICPA works through the first three windows of this year to finalize their new scoring process.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you check out How the CPA Exam is Scored for more details on this process. Expect an update to that document when new scoring takes effect later in the year.

As for CBT-e content, I initially congratulated the AICPA for finally streamlining some questionable areas of the exam (especially BEC) in the updated CSOs/SSOs but forgot that they don’t actually come up with content on their own. You can thank an extensive practice analysis and subsequent input from practicing CPAs for the CPA exam you know and love today, a process that takes into account input from the profession on what entry-level CPAs should know. That means the introduction of international financial reporting and auditing standards is entirely independent of the SEC’s do-we-or-do-we-not IFRS roadmap. This should be a comfort to some of you who are wondering just how much IFRS will appear on the exam in coming windows as it means the exam will most likely continue to test remedial international content and will mostly focus on major differences between IFRS and GAAP. Entry-level CPAs in the U.S. are not expected to be experts in IFRS, just as they are not expected to be experts in cost accounting, government accounting, non-profit accounting or any number of areas that have been consistently tested on the CPA exam for years now.

The best news is that though the e in CBT-e stands for evolution, those expecting to take the exam in 2012 or beyond shouldn’t expect such a large overhaul as we just saw any time soon. “We don’t plan to change the exam,” John said. “What we plan to do is keep the exam current with the profession to protect the public interest. If we do have significant changes in test content we would have to let candidates know in advance.”

That being said, the largest takeaway I got from my conversation with the AICPA was that they are simply interested in providing a consistent examination that continues to evolve to meet the needs of the profession. I swear to you that they really don’t get a sick thrill out of torturing you guys with changes, scoring delays and new content though it may appear that way sometimes, especially if you’re in the 74 x 3 club. It’s their job to make sure that the CPA exam represents the best interests of the profession, which means revising their strategy to keep up with the evolution of the industry.

We applaud the AICPA on a job well done and congratulate them for a successful CBT-e launch. So far, candidate feedback I have gotten on the new exam format has been mostly positive, which means that their hard work was totally worth it.

I Am Mad Not Disappointed: A Parting Shot on Changes to the 2011 CPA Exam

On this, the final CPA exam testing day of 2010, I feel compelled to skip the advice column and launch straight into the rant. It’s finally over and here’s hoping you people will stop asking the same five questions about the 2011 exam over and over.


I don’t mean to offend anyone in particular so if you catch a feeling on this, it’s probably because I’m talking directly to you. You know who you are and I respectfully request you knock it the fuck off.

First, the misinformation surrounding the 2011 exam changes absolutely blows my mind. The AICPA announced these changes well in advance of the planned launch of CBT-e and I can’t speak for everyone but know that we here at Going Concern have covered just about every tiny detail of what’s ahead. Regardless, I still get my inbox blown up with the same simple questions, the answers to which may be found with a simple Google search or by checking out our previous posts on the subject. Information is everywhere, you’ve just got to get off your lazy ass and look for it.

I think you guys are forgetting that this is a professional examination and that you are allegedly professionals. Is it reasonable for professionals to work with financial statements being misinformed and confused by simple instructions? No. Is it reasonable for CPA exam candidates to have absolutely no idea what is happening in 2011? HELL NO.

The “OG” CPAs of the paper and pencil days laugh at candidates who have to take the computerized exam and for good reason, you guys can’t even figure out a simple change like CBT-e. People still seem to believe BEC will contain simulations in 2011 and for Christ’s sake, let’s all keep in mind that about 90 – 95% of what is being tested in 2010 will still be tested in 2011. Do you really think the AICPA Board of Examiners is going to trash all those wonderful questions they worked so hard to get? Please.

So while you guys are freaking out over changes that aren’t even going to happen, you could be studying current material and educating yourself on what’s new for next year. I’m shocked that so few of you know that the exam actually changes twice a year, every year anyway and that 2011 is really no different except for the fact that it is a bit larger a change than usual. It sickens me, actually, because I had so much more faith in you guys to go into the exam prepared and informed. Instead I continue to get the same 4 or 5 questions over and over and over and always walk away with the sense that you guys aren’t listening and unless it is handed to you, won’t go looking for the answers you need.

Seriously, knock it off. Now that 2011 is very nearly upon us, I expect ALL OF YOU to get off your asses, get to the Google and do some reading. It’s really not hard, the info is plastered all over the AICPA’s website as well as places like the CPAnet forums and various blogs strewn throughout the blogosphere.

You’re making the profession look bad, you know. How can accountants protect the public interest if they can’t even figure out a simple change to the CPA exam?

Side note: While I’m ranting about the 2011 exam, I should also throw in a few expletives meant specifically for the AICPA Board of Examiners for choosing to do this in the first place. WTF were you thinking?! We don’t even use IFRS and don’t know when we will, why the hell should we be so eager to test it now?!

/end rant

Will You Need New CPA Exam Materials In 2011?

As many of you know, some parts of the CPA exam are changing significantly in 2011 though don’t listen to the rumors that say everything is changing profoundly. If you sit for the exam before 2010 and sit again in early 2011, chances are you will recognize much of the content and format of the exam beyond the few changes. We’ve covered those here before, feel free to check out our previous CPA exam posts for more detail.

Anyway, a lot of you are wondering if you should purchase CPA exam review materials now and if you do how you will handle the new material in 2011.


If you’ve done your homework, you’ve found a CPA review course that offers updated material at no additional charge. This could be in the form of split shipments, updates to books or new books altogether depending on whose program you have sunk your hard-earned money into. If you are unsure whether your course offers these or if you are still shopping around for a review, be sure to ask before committing as some providers could end up charging you for new materials.

Keep in mind, however, that much of what is being tested currently will still be tested in 2011, even in areas like FAR and AUD that are getting a significant amount of new international material added to them. If you read too many misinformed forum posts, you might be under the impression that 2010 material is completely and totally irrelevant in 2011 and that studying from these materials will mean guaranteed failure on the exam. That is simply not true. Of course it is a good idea to also study from whatever updates you might receive to 2010 materials if you are sitting in 2011 but it is not worth panicking over nor delaying your studying because you are holding out for brand new 2011 information.

The AICPA Board of Examiners is not about to throw away their precious bank of tried and true CPA exam questions, even though they are anxious to add new international content to that mix. Much of what CPAs have been tested on for the last 6 years will still be relevant next year and there is no need to hold a giant 2010 CPA review book bonfire to eliminate old, outdated content.

You will definitely want to get access to any material updates if you are allowed them by your review course but please, don’t burn books or run out and get all new materials just because you are afraid of being left behind in 2011. Debits still go on the left, even under IFRS.

AICPA Announces International CPA Exam Locations

Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:

The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.

The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.

Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?

Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.

I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.

How Much Harder Is AUD Going to Be in 2011?

Continuing with our previous posts on the 2011 CPA exam for FAR and BEC, we proudly present one heck of an Audit wrap up for those of you planning to take it next year.

Audit, unfortunately, is the one section that I think will be just a tad harder than it is this year but only in one small area. We’ll get to that in a minute.


Simulations – As with FAR and REG, Audit will contain 7 smaller simulation problems next year (called “simlets” or “task-based simulations”) instead of two large simulations. Written communication is gone and placed into BEC. Since AUD was the largest exam time-wise up until now, a half hour will be moved out of Audit and put into BEC. Now 4 1/2 hours, it will be cut down to 4. Since AUD is often one in which candidates run out of time even in 2010, it is all that much more important to learn important time management strategies to assure you do not run out of time.

MCQ – Multiple choice questions will make up 60 – 70% of your score while TBS (task-based simulation) problems will make up the remainder.

Research This is where Audit gets tricky and why I feel it is the only section that will be slightly harder in 2011 than it is now. Currently, research is just a tab buried in simulations and frankly not worth your time unless you have tons left and really love looking through the Code of Professional Conduct (or need something to copy for your written communication, though we would never recommend such a thing).

In 2011, research will be its own TBS with the same weight as other simulation problems (if graded). For FAR and REG this isn’t much of an issue as you only have the ASCs to dig through in FAR and just two sets of code for REG. But for Audit, you have a grand total of TEN different sets of code to search; the Code of Professional Conduct, PCAOB ASs, SASs, SSARS… you get the point. It wouldn’t hurt to try out the new research problems on the AICPA’s website here so you can get an idea of what you are up against. It is very similar to 2010’s research except that it is on its own and actually worth a couple points.

Ethics and Independence – Content-wise, professional ethics and independence are moved out of REG and into AUD (except those that pertain to tax practice, which will continue to be tested in REG) and international audit standards will be peppered in throughout. Planning the engagement will now make up 12 – 16% of problems whereas before it accounted for up to 28% of this section. Internal control is upped to 16 – 20% (from 12 – 18%). Audit procedures will get far less testing than in 2010, going from 32 – 38% of questions to 16 – 20%.

Hope that helps and see you on Tuesday for our last 2011 wrap up, Regulation!

The Quickest 2011 CPA Exam Breakdown You’ll Ever Read

Because we know all of you are very busy tearing up your last exams before CBT-e hits in January of 2011, we won’t waste your time and get right to the point. 2011 is coming, the exam is changing and though we’ve been over it plenty in the last several months, let’s go over it one more time.


Simulations – This year’s simulations are next year’s simlets. Simulation problems will be shorter, task-based problems that should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to complete as opposed to the 45 minutes they take now. AUD and FAR will have 7 smaller simulation problems while REG will have 6. As usual, not all of these are graded.

Multiple choice – BEC and REG will contain 24 MCQ per testlet while FAR and AUD will still contain 30. MCQ will make up 60% of the FAR, AUD and REG exams and 85% of BEC.

Research – if you’re taking the exam this year, research is buried in simulations and doesn’t carry much weight point wise. Next year, however, research will be its own tab worth as many points as any of the other simlet problems. FAR research will be easy as it is limited to the ASCs (Accounting Standard Codification) and REG will mostly draw from the Internal Revenue Code but AUD will come with a dropdown menu that includes PCAOB ASs, the Code of Professional Conduct and SSARS just to name a few. You’ve been warned.

Written communication – WC is out of FAR, REG and AUD and slapped into BEC. You’ll have to write three written communications, of which two will be graded.

International standardsIFRS and international auditing standards will be added to current FAR and AUD content (respectively) while REG is mostly unchanged by this as you can’t really test international standards of federal taxation. Keep in mind that this additional content will most likely be gently mixed in with what is already being tested and does not make GAAP completely irrelevant so don’t use 2011 as an excuse to procrastinate all the way through the holidays.

Now stop wasting your time with inflammatory nonsense blogs and GET BACK TO STUDYING!

(btw: if you have a CPA exam question for us – anything from applying to qualifying to passing – do get in touch)