The AICPA recently released a report announcing some potentially major changes to the uniform CPA examination.
After a closer look, the title of the report reeks of desperation. They chose to call it Maintaining the Relevant of the Uniform CPA Examination. Anyone can see that the changes are about more than the relevance of the test.
The AICPA is thinking about the future of the public accounting profession. Why? Because despite a growing number of accountants in the workforce, the number of people sitting for the CPA exam remains stagnant.
Fewer people pursuing the CPA designation dilutes the value of current CPAs which takes money out of the AICPA’s pocket. They obviously don’t want that.
What are the 2017 Changes to the CPA exam?
After two years of research, the AICPA concluded that “higher order” thinking needs to be more of a focal point of testing on the CPA exam. In other words, having a good memory doesn’t make one a great public accountant.
To better assess the quality of would-be CPAs, the exam will now include “analysis” components in all sections and “evaluation” components in the audit section.
In other words, the CPA exam is shifting toward identifying problem solvers. These candidates will be suited to become trusted advisors to clients instead of the traditional beancounter roles accountants typically have.
Will Changes to the CPA exam have the intended effect?
Ultimately, the AICPA wants to boost the number of candidates sitting for the exam. A secondary result presumably would be more folks going into audit. Otherwise, the big 4 may have to continue hiring non-accountants to perform audits.
I suspect we’ll see a drop in CPA exam candidates when the changes roll out because of the increase in cost to take the exam.
If this testing of higher order thinking works as advertised, I also think we’ll see an increase in CPA exam candidates to offset the decrease because of higher cost. That increase in exam interest, however, is likely tied to public accounting firms’ ability to further grow their advisory footprints.
So do I think the exam change will achieve the AICPA’s desired outcome? Probably not. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the CPA being relied on more heavily as a pre-screen for consulting positions in accounting firms.
Do you think the change to the CPA exam will have any impact? Let me know in the comments.