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Latest Exam Format

Sections: The CPA examination is divided into four sections. Each section has its own time limit and syllabus. The details of the same are given below:

Auditing 4 hours Auditing and Attestation

  • Internal Controls Testing
  • Audit Reports & Opinions
Professional Responsibility 20%
Accounting and Review Services

  • Internal standards on auditing vs US Auditing Standards
Financial 4 hours Financial Accounting

  • Bonds, Leases, Pensions
  • Prepare consolidated financial statements
  • Identify and understand the difference between financial statements prepared on the basis of GAAP vs IFRS
Government and Non-profit 20%
Regulation 3 hours Tax

  • Individual Taxes
  • Partnerships
  • Corporate Taxation
Business law

  • Contracts
  • Uniform commercial code
Ethics, Professional and Legal Responsibilities AICPA Code of Professional Conduct 20%
Business environment and concepts 3 hours Financial and Operations Management 35%
Information Systems 15%
Corporate Governance 30%
Economic Concepts and Strategic Planning 20%

Types of Questions: The CPA examination contains various types of questions:

  • Multiple Choice Questions: MCQ’s make up the majority of each exam. One question has four choices and one of them is the potential answer.
  • Task-based simulations: There are questions where a candidate has to apply the practical knowledge found in various sections. In this question type, there are tasks of filling out a form or completing a research question.

The Auditing, Financial and Regulation exam formats are more or less the same. Each section has 60% multiple-choice questions and 40% task with simulations. The multiple-choice question portion is broken into three different testlets where Auditing and Financial contains 30 questions each and regulation contains 24 questions. Auditing and Financial has seven task-based simulations while regulation has six.

The business environment and concepts examination pattern varies from the other three. 85% of this section consists of multiple choice questions. The MCQs is broken into three individual test lets with 24 questions each. There is a written communication portion post the MCQ section where one contains a written response in a memo format.

Updates As Compared To Previous Year

A new version of the CPA examination is being launched from 1 April, 2017 by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This new version is intended to protect public interest and hence will test the candidates on their professional content knowledge. Through this new version, CPAs will now be competent in recognising issues, identifying errors, challenging assumptions and applying professional judgement and scepticism.

The CPA examination, therefore, we’ll be testing higher order skills. There will be more number of task based simulations and the total length of the examination will increase from 40 to 16 hours, each section having four hours each. The cost of taking the examination will also go up marginally.

The AICPA carried out a research in 2014 to find out the knowledge and skills required to be a CPA professional. They found that a CPA should possess the necessary skills and knowledge to perform various advanced tasks, have the ability to contribute to complex accounting projects even at the starting of the career and have high levels of cognitive skills and professional scepticism. To encourage the same, they have launched this new examination format.