A panel of accounting professionals recently offered advice to employers on how to prepare themselves and their CPA candidates for the new, computerized CPA exam in a November 12 webcast, archived and still available by registering at www.cpa-exam.org/cpa/webcast_Archived.htm .
In the webcast, moderator John F. Hudson, CPA, of the Hudson Consulting Group, begins by summing up the purpose: The format and the content of the CPA exam are about to change; consequently the process for preparing CPAs to pass the exam needs to change as well. “The changes are more than just turning in your pencil and paper for a keyboard, so the webcast informs candidates of the differences between the two formats, discusses best practices from other professions and motivates both employers and employees to adequately prepare for the new exam,” says Hudson.
A NEW EXAM FOR A NEW PROFESSION
“In this day and age, no one can memorize the volume of accounting literature that’s out there,” says Thomas. “The practice analysis told us to move away from testing that kind of memorization and move toward evaluating a higher order of skills.”
COMPUTERIZED EXAM IS A WIN-WIN FOR EVERYONE
“For employers this flexibility is one of the most exciting things about the new exam,” says Rubin. “You no longer would have a huge portion of your professional staff gone all at once.” Thomas adds that with the paper-and-pencil exam employers had to manage their businesses knowing that twice a year many of their people would be taking significant time off to study and take the exam. “The world kind of stopped because of the CPA exam,” Thomas noted. But with flexibility comes a certain amount of responsibility for businesses. “We have to make sure employers give their people the time to study and sit for the exam,” says Rubin.
A SPRINGTIME LAUNCH
Thomas emphasizes there is motivation for candidates to complete all four parts of the exam within the allowed time frame; otherwise they may lose credit for sections they’ve already passed. “Once you’ve passed one part of the exam, you have 18 months to pass all four,” she explains. “You can take each exam section only once within a single window. (Two months out of every three constitute a window.) We want candidates to demonstrate over a reasonable period of time their grasp of the entire breadth of knowledge. All 54 jurisdictions have adopted this policy, so for the first time there is uniformity.”
ADVICE FOR FIRMS
Thomas believes that employers could be particularly helpful with the new Business Environment and Concepts section. “Senior people can walk through these questions and really be of tremendous assistance,” she says. “If you look at what’s happening in the accounting world, it’s more important than ever that accountants involved in auditing or recording any kind of transactions understand how those transactions fit into the larger picture. That’s what the new section focuses on. It’s also probably what’s creating the most angst amongst candidates because it is so new.”
TUTORIAL AND SAMPLE TEST
Thomas, who notes the AICPA and NASBA have been working closely with review course providers, agrees. “You won’t have time at the testing center to become familiar with the functionality of the exam,” she says. She points out that a sample test, which allows candidates to interactively answer multiple choice questions and simulations from each section of the exam content, is available at www.cpa-exam.org .
Adam Snyder is a business writer based in New York. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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