In 2021, the National Association of State Boards Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) announced a joint effort to remodel the Uniform CPA examination. 

The effort is fueled by changing technology and the drive for CPAs to adapt to the dynamic needs of businesses. Changes to the Uniform CPA examination will take effect in January 2024.

The CPA Evolution Initiative instigated by NASBA and the AICPA found a number of gaps between standard accounting curriculums and the needs of businesses. 

For example, companies have found that knowledge of traditional IT concepts such as cybersecurity, data analytics, and IT governance are increasingly relevant in today’s accounting workforce. Therefore, both NASBA and the AICPA are pushing universities to include these topics in their accounting courses.

The Current Uniform CPA Exam

Under the current Uniform CPA Exam, four topics are covered in separate 4-hour testing windows. These topics include:

  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

The examination is available in approved testing locations throughout the United States and around the world. Testing windows occur during the first two months of each quarter. If a candidate fails an exam in one quarter, they must wait until the following quarter to retake the test. 

Once all four tests are passed, the candidate must meet additional requirements set forth by their state accounting board to become a fully licensed CPA. Those requirements typically include a set number of educational hours, usually between 120 and 150 hours of university-level courses. There may also be a set number of accounting-related courses that must be passed. 

In addition to the academic requirements, there are usually a number of years of experience in an accounting position that must be attained before a license will be granted. Experience must be obtained under the supervision of a licensed CPA.

Future Uniform CPA Exams

While the AICPA and NASBA have not yet released the full scope of changes to the Uniform CPA exam, it is expected that there will be changes to the content of the tests. In particular, you can expect a Core + Discipline model. This will result in three key core tests and a choice of a discipline. The three core tests will include the following:

  • Auditing
  • Accounting 
  • Taxes

In addition to the three core tests, CPA candidates will need to select a discipline for their final test. Disciplines can include any one of the options below:

  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)

Currently, the AICPA and NASBA are working to understand the types of skills and knowledge that CPAs will need. Once they have decided upon those skills, the test will be adapted to cover the requisite topics. 

Universities will need to change their current curriculums to remain competitive and meet the needs of aspiring CPA candidates. 

Business Analysis and Reporting

The Business Analysis and Reporting discipline will be encouraged for accountants who are interested in financial reporting, operations management, and assurance or advisory services. 

Content will likely focus on financial planning and risk management, assessment of revenue recognition, and hedges or business combinations.

Information Systems and Controls

Information Systems and Controls will focus on IT-related concepts, such as business processes, information security and governance, and IT audits. 

Anticipated content includes a focus on network security, software access, and information system security from an accounting and business perspective.

Tax Compliance and Planning

The Tax Compliance and Planning discipline will be a continuation of the tax core exam, but will cover additional advanced topics such as individual and entity tax compliance. Other potential subject matters include entity planning, multijurisdictional taxation, and liquidation of business entities. 

With more companies expanding overseas, this discipline may cover certain international taxation concepts, as well.

Transition Period for the Uniform CPA Exam

If you are currently studying for the Uniform CPA exam and plan to pass all four sections prior to January 2024, your path to the CPA license will not change. 

If you are unable to pass all four sections prior to January 2024, you may proceed under the old examination structure if you have passed at least one of the prior exams. However, this transition period will likely be limited.

Final Thoughts on the New Uniform CPA Exam

While the exact nature and content of the new exams won’t be known for at least a few months, you can expect to see some significant changes. Both NASBA and the AICPA will work hand in hand with universities to ensure that they incorporate new content into their accounting curriculums. 

You can also expect course providers who assist CPA candidates in studying for the CPA exam to update their content to fit the new topics. The most common CPA course providers include Becker CPA Review, UWorld Roger CPA Review, and Gleim CPA Review. All three have indicated that their exam preparation materials will be updated to meet the changes to the new Uniform CPA examination.

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