How to help students navigate timing the new CPA Exam
As part of the initiative known as CPA Evolution, NASBA and the AICPA are overhauling the CPA Exam to make it more reflective of the skills and competencies currently in demand at CPA firms and in the accounting profession. The new CPA Exam will have three core sections that all candidates must take: Financial Auditing and Reporting (FAR), Auditing and Attestation (AUD), and Taxation and Regulation (REG). Candidates will also need to choose one of three disciplines: Business Analytics and Reporting (BAR), Information Systems and Controls (ISC), or Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP). As an educator, it’s important that you understand how to bring the new CPA Evolution Model Curriculum into your classroom to start preparing your students for what’s to come.
This article will focus on what these changes mean for two other groups: 1) accounting educators whose students are grappling with these new developments, and 2) Human Resources or training and development professionals at accounting firms and in organizations who guide staff members through the process of becoming CPAs. Educators and accounting firms are both feeling pressure because they want to help their CPA candidates be as successful as possible on the exam while also serving as a vital source of guidance on both academic and professional development. To that end, educators and HR professionals can use this article as a guide to helping candidates prepare for the CPA Exam, especially regarding timing and the upcoming changes to the exam.
How to navigate timing the new CPA Exam
The CPA Exam is changing on January 1, 2024. Educators and HR professionals should offer CPA candidates three ways of approaching this transition:
- Take and pass the current CPA Exam in its entirety before the new exam launches.
- Take and pass one or more current CPA Exam sections before the CPA Exam changes, and then take the remaining sections in the new format after January 1, 2024.
- If you can only sit for one part before January 1, 2024, we recommend taking the BEC exam first. If you pass BEC, you do not have to take any of the more advanced discipline exams. If you can sit for a second exam before January 1, 2024, we recommend sitting for the AUD exam next. The AUD exam will add more topics than what is currently being tested.
- Wait and take the new CPA Exam in its entirety after January 1, 2024.
Candidates should choose their transition option based on several factors, including the amount of time they can dedicate to studying each week, their confidence in passing sections, and when they are able to sit for the CPA Exam based on current requirements. Candidates who plan to take one or more sections of the exam now and the rest after the exam changes will likely have the most difficulty navigating the timing and be the most anxious about the changes to the CPA Exam. You should work closely with candidates to help them navigate this transition, leveraging your own knowledge as their educator or employer to help them make their choice. As your students map out their CPA Exam preparation, we’ve recommended some approaches for how students should plan their CPA Exam timing amid the CPA Evolution.
Studying for the CPA Exam is a part-time job. Most candidates spend between 350 to 450 hours total (or about 20 to 25 hours per week) studying for the entire exam. As your candidates prepare for their CPA Exam, it’s crucial that they determine whether they currently have the time to devote to preparing for the exam or whether they should wait until January 1, 2024.
Passing on first attempt
The CPA Exam is incredibly difficult. In fact, many students don’t pass the CPA Exam on their first attempt. Since your CPA candidates will most likely need to plan for more than one attempt on each section of the exam, you should help them figure out if they will have enough time to pass and earn credit before the exam completely changes in 2024. Candidates who are determined to pass one or more sections of the exam before the changes should focus on passing BEC first. And they should use Becker as a resource — we’re proven to get students CPA Exam Day ready!
Eligibility to take the exam
Based on current CPA Exam requirements, your candidates may not be eligible to start taking the exam before the CPA Evolution takes place. For example, candidates with heavy school course loads or who are completing their internships may need to wait until the new CPA Exam is released before starting their preparation.
Throughout the transition to the new CPA Exam, candidates will be looking for both insight and support as they make decisions for their CPA Exam path. Make sure you have a good grasp of their interests and career paths as you help them along their journey!