AICPA proposes updates to material tested on CPA Exam

By Ken Tysiac

The AICPA is proposing changes to the CPA Exam Blueprints to update the subject matter tested on the CPA Exam to ensure it continues to focus on the core knowledge and skills required of newly licensed CPAs.

In an Exposure Draft and Invitation to Comment issued Monday, the AICPA describes major themes derived from a months-long consultation and proposes content additions, changes, and deletions.

The AICPA is planning for the updates to appear in the CPA Exam Blueprints, which contain the material to be tested on the exam, by Dec. 31, 2020. The AICPA does not plan changes to the 16-hour, four-section structure of the exam.

Feedback from 80 AICPA subject-matter experts and 130 CPAs who directly supervise newly licensed CPAs was incorporated into the ED and Invitation to Comment. The project focuses on the impact data analytics and technology have on the role of newly licensed CPAs and reexamines the core knowledge and skills essential to those entering the profession.

This practice analysis comes on the heels of an analysis completed in 2016 that resulted in substantial changes that debuted on the exam in 2017. Those changes included more emphasis on analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

“The last practice analysis laid a solid foundation with the creation of the CPA Exam Blueprints and the existing exam structure,” Mike Decker, the AICPA’s vice president–Examinations, said in a news release. “During this year’s multi-phased research, we used a targeted approach that included working with firms of all sizes, and their insights into technology, data analytics, and core competencies will help us ensure the exam remains current and relevant.”

Stakeholders can provide additional input through the ED and Invitation to Comment through April 30, 2020. Comments and questions can be emailed to

The practice analysis is separate from the CPA Evolution project that is being undertaken by the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The CPA Evolution initiative focuses on the future of the licensure model and the transformation of the profession during a period of significant change.

Themes that have emerged during the current practice analysis include:

  • The current exam structure and blueprints are well positioned to accommodate changes that reflect a greater assessment of technology and data analytics.
  • Newly licensed CPAs must understand business processes, information systems, data flows, and internal controls.
  • Newly licensed CPAs must have a digital and data-driven mindset.
  • The profession is placing greater reliance on System and Organization Controls (SOC) reports as clients are outsourcing more accounting processes, impacting the work of newly licensed CPAs.

The 46 proposed changes in the ED and Invitation to Comment address content to be added, removed, or assessed at a different skill level to ensure that newly licensed CPAs have the core knowledge they need to protect the public interest.

More information is available in this JofA article and this JofA podcast with Rich Gallagher, CPA, senior director of content for the AICPA Examinations team.

Ken Tysiac ( is the JofA’s editorial director.

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