Questions that didn’t make the cut

Rejected early drafts demonstrate some important considerations in test development.
By Ken Tysiac

Insight into the CPA Exam development process can be gained by reviewing potential questions that were rejected. Here are some excerpts from draft questions offered by writers that illustrate why the questions did not make the cut.

Anna, a U.S. citizen, married Eduardo, a citizen of Mexico, in October of the current year. Eduardo is an undocumented alien in the U.S. Eduardo has no U.S. income for the year and was fully supported by Anna.

Objection: There is no content-related need to refer to undocumented aliens, and the casting of Eduardo as from Mexico reinforces a stereotype that could be troubling to candidates.

In year 1, Jack, Inc. acquired Jill, Inc.

Objection: The mention of nursery rhyme characters in a test question could distract candidates who might be cued to recite the rhyme (“Jack and Jill went up the hill …”) instead of focusing on solving the question.

After a devastating fire this year, a city approved the sale of the site of its former firehouse at $500,000 below book value. Net cash proceeds from the sale amounted to $40,000. The city council announced that it would build a new firehouse at an alternate location. How should the city report the transaction in its statement of revenues, expenditures, and changes in fund balances for the year?

Objection: The mention of a “devastating fire” is unnecessarily distressing. Furthermore, although it’s certainly possible for a firehouse to catch fire, the thought of a devastating fire at a firehouse could be puzzling and distracting for candidates. The Examinations team doesn’t want the candidates to spend time wondering why the firefighters couldn’t quickly extinguish the flames in their own firehouse.

In emerging countries, as personal income grows, consumers may buy a pack of gum or a soft drink. This is an example of which of the following types of spending?

A. Mandatory.

B. Entitlement.

C. Discretionary. (correct answer)

D. Staple.

Objection: It could be considered insulting to imply that consumers in emerging economies were unable to buy a pack of gum before their personal income grew. And the term “emerging countries” is not needed to establish the concept of discretionary spending.

Source: AICPA Test Development Fairness Guidelines, Version 4.0 (Timothy Habick and Linda Cook, 2018).

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