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This is AICPA Board of Examiners Director Michael Decker from the Fall/Winter 2013 Uniform CPA […]
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.
If you recall, the PCAOB got really busy not too long ago and doubled its audit standards virtually overnight, leading one CPA exam candidate to reach out and ask if this is at all relevant to his exam experience. If you don’t want to read the following and just want the short answer, it’s probably no.
Was wondering if you could do a brief post regarding the new pronouncements issued by the PCAOB earlier this month and when they will become eligible for testing on the exam. I am debating between taking this section and BEC in the next testing window. I’d prefer to take BEC since I don’t really feel like having to do the written portion when that goes into effect next year; however, if it comes down to memorizing a bunch of stuff that wasn’t included in my B—– package and that, I would rather get AUD out of the way. Thanks for your input!!
This is a great question so I’m happy to indulge you, let’s consult the AICPA, shall we? Lucky for all of us, they are very clear when it comes to most testing areas except for those in REG, which can cover both the current and former years’ tax numbers depending on when you take the exam. At least for this area we know for a fact that they will not be testing the new PCAOB audit standards until at least February 5, 2011. So says the AICPA:
Accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the testing window beginning six months after a pronouncement’s effective date, unless early application is permitted. When early application is permitted, the new pronouncement is eligible to be tested in the window beginning six months after the issuance date. In this case, both the old and new pronouncements may be tested until the old pronouncement is superseded.
For the federal taxation area, the Internal Revenue Code and federal tax regulations in effect six months before the beginning of the current window may be tested.
For all other subjects covered in the Regulation (REG) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections, materials eligible to be tested include federal laws in the window beginning six months after their effective date, and uniform acts in the window beginning one year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.
So what the hell are they saying? Basically unless they specifically say so – like with FAS 141(r) being tested beginning July 1st, 2009 – new pronouncements, rules and regs will not be tested until 6 – 12 months after date of issuance. Keep in mind CPA exam questions cost a lot in time and effort alone and we just don’t see the BoE leaping head over heel to make new questions from the PCAOB’s latest busywork.
This means you’ve got another 5 months to put off Audit without having to memorize 8 new audit standards but maybe by that time the PCAOB will have another 8 to tack on. They are very busy over there these days, you know.
Now that we are nearing the end of the second CPA exam testing window in 2010, it’s about time to remind you (once again) that the CPA exam is scheduled for a pretty significant facelift in just two testing windows. Though we have covered it before, we thought it would be helpful to go over some of the planned changes.
Let’s meet your new CPA exam for 2011, shall we?
Changes to Content Specification Outlines – First and most significantly, the CSOs will undergo a huge overhaul. IFRS will be added – initially – to FAR and eventually international accounting standards and demonstration of an understanding of how they work will play a larger role in examination questions. Keep in mind that IFRS testing will be gradual and likely focus on the differences between IFRS and US GAAP initially until the AICPA BoE feels comfortable with candidate performance and the SEC’s procrastination on IFRS adoption. IFRS will also be tested in AUD and BEC (XBRL for one, which they have already been pre-testing for several windows) but expect a skiddish stance from the BoE in the beginning.
Audit loses 30 minutes to BEC – The reasoning behind this to allow candidates more time in BEC for written communications, which will be removed from FAR, AUD, and REG (where they currently are). Don’t bother trying to avoid written communication altogether by taking BEC this year and the other three next year, it’s an easy 10 points as long as you can write a standard business letter. You do not even have to be correct when you answer the question, you need only stay on topic and use good grammar.
International CPA exam testing is coming – Thirdly, the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric are working together to make international CPA exam testing a reality. Chances are if and when Prometric begins administering the CPA exam offshore, testing will be limited to a handful of countries (likely Japan, Dubai, and possibly India, where large numbers of Chartered Accountants tend to also seek the US CPA designation). We’ll see how this unfolds come 2011, as the AICPA would like to begin international testing with new CBT-e changes.
All in all, accounting is still accounting and the CPA exam will be exactly as it always has been: a test of your basic understanding of many broad topics that you may or may not ever encounter in your professional life. CBT-e will most likely be rolled out in pieces and subject to tweaks along the way.
The AICPA recently announced that it would be re-evaluating the CPA exam scoring process and we’ve been wildly speculating awhile as to what that might actually mean. Staying true to the doom and gloom, yours truly immediately thought the AICPA Board of Examiners was convinced you kids would bomb FAR horribly in Q1 and 2 of 2011 with the addition of IFRS and they were just preparing for that.
Upon further reflection, maybe the exam is too easy. Maybe requirements to sit are not strict enough (even though we’re down to 4 states that allow you to sit with 120 units last I checked). Maybe the job market is worse than anyone wants to admit — now wait a minute, what does that have to do with it?
There isn’t raw data that tells us how many would-be CPAs we have on our hands who have passed all four parts of the CPA exam but still can’t get a job, at least none I’ve seen. I’ve spoken to these people and it doesn’t seem to be getting better in the aggregate.
I believe the BLS numbers somewhat concur with this conclusion, if you can believe them. (CPA Trendlines has them)
I hear you guys bitching about it all the time. If you’re still employed and trying to take the CPA exam, you get the extra special designation of ultra-masochist but it’s not you guys the AICPA BoE is worried about, it’s the bottleneck of people who’ve passed the CPA exam trying to squeeze in 2 years in public to get a license.
Case in point, a friend of mine here in the great (broke) state of California decided to take on the CPA exam a tad later in life than some of you. We won’t hate on her for that. She worked her ass off and eventually got through it. She’s a leader of a prestigious accounting society in her community and has the credentials a lot of the kids coming out of school don’t. She can’t find a job. She’s tried every firm in town large and small as well as the surrounding area. I’ve scouted the Bay Area and can’t find anything for her either.
She’d stay more than 2 years and be more than a body filling the chair but they don’t even have a chair for her.
She’s not the only one. So maybe the AICPA BoE caught on and is going to try to change that. They can’t create the jobs so what do you think they’ll do?
Oh, and if anyone has a lead on a public accounting gig in the top half of California for my qualified little friend here, do get in touch.