The CPA Evolution Initiative, first announced in 2020, is approaching its official launch in January 2024. The CPA Evolution Initiative is a partnership between the AICPA and the National Association of Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to revise, reorganize, and update CPA exam content. The new CPA exam format retains the four-section approach, with three Core parts: financial accounting and reporting (FAR), auditing and attestation (AUD), and taxation and regulation (REG). For the fourth section, candidates will have a choice of one specialist Discipline: business analysis and reporting (BAR), tax compliance and planning (TCP), and information systems and control (ISC), but will not be restricted to work in that particular area of practice.

The AICPA has previously expressed the notion (or expectation) that undergraduate accounting programs will focus on preparing students for the three core sections, and master’s-level courses would be the appropriate place to address the specialized discipline exams. Given the discussions around reconsidering the 150-hour requirement, including elsewhere in this issue, it remains to be seen which educational approach institutions will ultimately take. It is incumbent upon practicing CPAs to help attract more entrants into the accounting profession—including being able to speak to the basic requirements to become a CPA.

This month’s column reviews some AICPA and NASBA resources to assist students, candidates, and their mentors in becoming familiar with the CPA Evolution.

CPA Evolution

The AICPA and NASBA have created a stand-alone website (http://www.evolutionofcpa.org) that centralizes much of the currently available information. The site is organized into five areas: News, The New CPA Licensure Model, For Accounting Educators, For Students and Candidates, and CPA Exam Practice Analysis. Highlighted news items include the NASBA test administration schedule and score release timeline, upcoming application dates, and access to download the latest CPA Exam Blueprints.

The “New CPA Licensure” page briefly explains what led to the Core + Discipline model. More than 3,000 stakeholders studied licensure models in other professions and considered multiple options for the CPA Evolution Initiative. Information about the enterprise is provided in an FAQ format with more than a dozen topics.

The “For Accounting Educators” page is the largest area of the site and is a must-see for faculty. It includes access to an Academic Resource Hub and the Faculty Hour free monthly webinar series (hosted on the This Way to CPA website, discussed below), accounting program curriculum gap analysis, and the CPA Exam Transition Policy for candidates who have passed exam sections prior to January 2024.

The “For Students and Candidates” page again addresses the transition policy, provides topical discussions in the form of FAQs, and presents a link to more student resources on the This Way to CPA website. There is also an embedded one-hour archived student webinar, “CPA Evolution: What Aspiring CPAs Need to Know.” The “CPA Exam Practice Analysis” page explains the AICPA’s activities to keep the CPA Exam aligned with professional practice.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

NASBA’s website (https://nasba.org/) has several helpful resources available, although not on a dedicated CPA Evolution webpage. One of the first questions on the minds of many candidates is addressed in “Transition Policy Announced for the 2024 CPA Exam Under the CPA Evolution Initiative” (https://tinyurl.com/2jza5phf). This article provides background information on the upcoming changes, a chart detailing the correlations between the old sections and the new sections, and access to a 20-minute Faculty Hour webcast that summarizes the transition policy. “CPA Evolution: Changes to BEC” (https://tinyurl.com/mrthtfz6) addresses the final opportunities to schedule taking the BEC content as a stand-alone section, before it is merged into the new FAR and AUD content.

AICPA

Although CPA Evolution resources have been moved to that specific website (discussed above), and This Way to CPA (below), there are still several general exam resources specifically available on the AICPA website. The CPA Exam Toolkit (https://www.aicpa.org/resources/toolkit/cpa-exam) presents score release dates, including tentative dates for the new format exam beginning in 2024; access to sample tests and tutorial videos, both old and new (2024) format, as well as information on the changing spreadsheet application to be used in 2024; and access to the CPA Exam Blueprints, both old and new versions. The CPA Exam Blueprints (https://tinyurl.com/mrymxj4m) is a detailed listing of the topics included in each exam section. For the new CPA Evolution content, this includes the three Core sections and the three Discipline sections, for a total of 115 pages of topical content and skills assessment.

This Way to CPA

This Way to CPA (http://www.thiswaytocpa.com/) was created by the AICPA to provide resources for accounting students and faculty, as well as to help promote accounting as a career for students.

“What is CPA Evolution?” (https://tinyurl.com/2fzy43ud) provides an overview of the changes and includes a one-hour video about the CPA Evolution and some of the resources available to CPA candidates. Accounting faculty can sign up for free access to the Academic Resource Hub (http://www.thiswaytocpa.com/faculty/), which offers many educator tools such as the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum (https://tinyurl.com/4827sarp) and a CPA Evolution Model Curriculum Checklist Tool (https://tinyurl.com/2p2wp4by) to conduct a gap analysis on their accounting program.

Show Me the Money

One proposed deterrent for students to pursue accounting as a major, and hence pursue becoming CPAs, has been the cost of 150 hours of education versus 120 hours. But in this author’s opinion, actual CPA exam data, as well as the detailed content on the CPA Exam Blueprints, should not cause one to rush toward reducing the education requirements. “CPA Exam Performance: The Effect of Graduate Education and Accounting Faculty Credentials” (Stephen E. Rau, et al, The CPA Journal, September 2019, https://www.nysscpa.org/191002-ser) reported on NASBA data, which revealed that the pass rates for candidates with graduate degrees were noticeably higher than for candidates with bachelor’s degrees. A quick Internet search finds that applications to MBA programs are up, and hiring managers are trying to add more MBA graduates. Accountants who pursue a minimum education approach will at some point find themselves “outclassed,” in this author’s opinion. In addition, as artificial intelligence (AI) evolves to perform the more rote entry level accounting functions, new accounting graduates must to be ready to take on higher functions from the very beginning of their careers.

Practicing CPAs, accounting faculty, and candidate mentors can help potential accounting majors and CPA candidates with information on resources available to assist with both paying for college degrees, as well as taking the CPA exam. Many academic scholarships are available through the AICPA, State CPA Societies, and other professional organizations. Scholarships and discounts are also available for CPA review courses, and several are linked in the two Sidebars. Finally, in contrast to suggestions that place the cost and time burdens solely on the student, perhaps it is time to expand the historical apprenticeship beginnings of the accounting profession with partnerships between employers and promising CPA candidates to help cover some of the financial commitments of becoming a member of the CPA profession.

CPA Exam Scholarships

 

AICPA State Society Links – many offer scholarships

https://us.aicpa.org/research/externallinks/associationsstatecpalinks

AICPA Foundation CPA Exam Scholarship

https://www.thiswaytocpa.com/education/scholarship-search/CPAexamscholarship/

Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance Certification Review Scholarships

https://www.afwa.org/scholarships/

Becker CPA Exam Review Scholarship

https://www.becker.com/cpa-review/newt-d-becker-scholarship-program

Crush the CPA Exam Scholarship

https://accessscholarships.com/scholarship/crush-the-cpa-exam-scholarship/

NABA CPA Exam Scholarship

https://naba.membershipsoftware.org/scholarship

Surgent CPA Exam Review Scholarship

https://www.surgent.com/resources/scholarships/

UWorld Roger CPA Review Scholarship

https://accounting.uworld.com/cpa-review/our-difference/cpa-review-scholarship/

Other CPA Exam Review Providers (may offer discounts)

Gleim Exam Prep

https://www.gleim.com/cpa-review/

Lambers CPA Review

https://www.lambers.com/lambers-products/lambers-cpa-review/

Ninja CPA Review

https://www.ninjacpareview.com/lpc/ninja-cpa-review/?utm_source=ipass

Wiley Efficient Learning

https://www.efficientlearning.com/cpa/

Yaeger CPA Review

https://www.yaegercpareview.com/

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisor