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They’re Getting Ready to Change the CPA Exam Again (But You Shouldn’t Worry)

This is AICPA Board of Examiners Director Michael Decker from the Fall/Winter 2013 Uniform CPA Exam Alert, take note people:

We are now embarking on a new Practice Analysis, a research study that will form the basis for the design and development of the next CPA Exam. The Practice Analysis helps to ensure the exam is aligned with the needs of the profession. It is a multi-year project used to determine the knowledge and skills CPAs require at entry-level. As in the past, the results of the Practice Analysis will inform the content and skills tested on the CPA Exam. This process is part of our commitment to all the boards of accountancy, NASBA and the profession, to apply best measurement practices and ensure a valid and legally defensible exam.

What does this mean for you, dear CPA exam candidate? Likely nothing, assuming you pass in the next year or two (we can only hope).

The result will be "CBT-3," but don't expect that process to happen overnight. There are six phases to this process, and just like a trip to the DMV, it's going to take time and patience to get to the desired outcome:

The Practice Analysis consists of six phases: Exploration; Confirmation; Design New CPA Examination; Exposure of Proposed Changes; Finalize Design of Revised CPA Exam and Announce New Exam (CBT-3).

The Exploration phase, will begin in 2014. It will utilize qualitative research methods such as interviews and focus groups to understand the activities performed by entry-level CPAs; identify the knowledge and skills required to perform those activities; learn which knowledge and skills are increasing and which are decreasing in importance; and provide data that can be used to define the subset of skills to be tested.

The next stage, the Confirmation phase, confirms the findings of the first phase through a survey that tests whether the information is broadly applicable to entry-level practice. The survey will be administered to a large sample of CPAs with relevant experience by 2015.

The phase of Designing the New CPA Examination answers the question: “What assertions will be made?” Test specifications such as content and skill areas are outlined, and other factors such as the test length and structure are set. An Exposure Draft is developed describing the proposed changes and stakeholders are invited to comment on the proposal.

The final outcome, the Content and Skills Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs), documents the findings of the Practice Analysis, or the skills and knowledge that will be tested on the Exam. We refer to the CSO/SSOs as the blueprint of the Exam. The revised CPA Exam’s design is finalized and announced.

In fewer (and smaller) words, basically they're just making sure that the exam tests the skills and knowledge entry-level CPAs should have. Because the profession is constantly evolving, the exam has to keep up. That's all, nothing to be afraid of.

Of course, you guys are welcome as always to freak the hell out anyway.