Changes in CPA Exam

Every year, AICPA approves various changes and updates to the CPA Exam, altering and adding new topics and sometimes removing older ones.


  • The aim of the practice analysis research is to understand how the exam should evolve.
  • The aim is to have the exam be topical and relevant while also ensuring CPA candidates are tested on skills necessary to ensure businesses and individual clients are well-served by their CPAs.


Read below details to learn about CPA Exam changes –


  • The CPA Exam will undergo several changes in 2018 from the content tested, to the exam software user interface design.
  • Even an upgrade to the computer monitors in which the exam is delivered.
  • These changes in most cases will actually improve the testing experience.


In year 2018, all content changes have been broken into two types:


  • Updates to the representative tasks mapped out in the AICPA Blueprints.
  • Content changes based on alterations to authoritative guidance.


  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)


  • The 2018, AUD Blueprints do not include any additional or eliminated content areas.
  • There has been a revision to one of the content groups.
  • The AUD Exam includes some key changes for 2018 that CPA candidates should take notice.
  • Note that some of these updates will not go:


  • SAS 132, The Auditor’s Consideration of an Entity’s Ability to Continue as a Going Concern (AU-C 570)—Eligible for testing Q1.
  • SAS 133, Auditor Involvement with Exempt Offering Documents (Amends AU-C 560 and 925) —Eligible for testing Q3.



  • Business Environment and Concept (BEC)


  • There will be no changes to the representative tasks laid out in the blueprints.
  • There will be some shifts in focus to the BEC content.


  • Information Technology (IT)


  • Previous years, the BEC Exam has generally tested on what computers do, but in 2018 there will be a shift to emphasizing how CPAs use computers.
  • IT has a list of updated vocabulary terms that could appear in 2018. They are new to the CPA Exam. The “new” terms include:


  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • Big data, data analytics, and data visualizations.
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies (e.g., bitcoin).
  • Cloud operations and data storage.
  • Digital business models.

The changes made for Corporate Governance in the year 2017, will not be eligible for testing until Q2 of 2018 (April 1, 2018).


  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)


  • In alignment with the authoritative literature updates for non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations (NGNPO), Area I, C, 4 and similar tasks have been removed from the FAR Blueprints for 2018.
  • Note – The terms “unrestricted,” “temporarily restricted,” and “permanently restricted” have been removed from any representative NGNPO related tasks.
  • FAR undergoes the most significant changes in 2018, with the most prominent changes to Revenue Recognition.








The full list of updates, all which will be eligible for testing Q1 of 2018:


  • Revenue Recognition (ASU 2014-09, 2015-14, 2016-08, 2016-10, 2016-12, 2017-05, 2017-10).
  • Financial Instruments—Overall (Subtopic 825-10): Recognition and Measurement of Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities (ASU 2016-01).
  • Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities (ASU 2016-14).
  • Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230): Classification of Certain Cash Receipts and Cash Payments (ASU 2016-15).
  • Business Combinations (Topic 805): Clarifying the Definition of a Business (ASU 2017-01)
  • Income Taxes (Topic 740): Intra-Entity Transfer of Assets Other Than Inventory (ASU 2016-16).
  • Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230): Restricted Cash (ASU 2016-18).
  • Compensation—Retirement Benefits (Topic 715): Improving the Presentation of Net Periodic Pension Cost and Net Periodic Postretirement Benefit Cost (ASU 2017-07).
  • Compensation—Stock Compensation (Topic 718): Scope of Modification Accounting (ASU 2017-09).
  • Note – Candidatesmust be aware of recent changes to the lease guidance (Topic 842, ASU 2016-02). These are not eligible for testing in 2018.


  • Revenue Recognition


  • The change in Revenue Recognition on the CPA Exam, response to the shift in our economy in the way businesses account for revenue.
  • FASB has issued new standard streamlined processes, changing the guidelines by which a company recognizes revenue.
  • Aligns US GAAP more closely with the international accounting standards.


  • Regulation (REG)


  • Very minor updates to the blueprint wording have been made for the REG Exam.
  • Includes the addition of “Treasury Regulations” to the list of references, and the removal of the words “and Regulations”.
  • All Regulation course materials will be aligned with the new tax bill.




  • Redesign of the user experience


  • The software in which the exam is delivered will undergo a complete interface update.
  • The CPA Exam will have new layouts, colors, fonts, buttons, and functionality that candidates should become familiar with before the intended April 1st rollout.
  • AICPA is expected to make available a sample example prior to the launch so that candidates can familiarize themselves accordingly.


  • Incorporation of Microsoft Excel



  • The generic spreadsheet tool will replace with Microsoft Excel.
  • Candidates will not be tested on their Excel abilities.
  • Microsoft Excel is an included tool to aid in answering exam questions.


  • Upgraded Computer Monitors at testing sites


  • CPA candidates will be appearing the CPA Exam on computers upgraded to include 23-inch HD monitors.
  • This gives candidates the opportunity to view multiple exam elementssimultaneously.
  • CPA candidates will be beneficial while answering multifaceted problems, such as Document Review Simulations.


Why the CPA Exam is changing?

The practice analysis revealed an increased demand for higher order cognitive skills and evaluation of work increasingly outsourced or conducted through technological advances. Other findings concluded the necessity for testing for these higher-order skills, as they are more and more necessary for analyzing financial and tax information and utilizing critical thinking in using professional judgment. The CPA Exam is changing to reflect this new need for analytical and evaluative skillsets.


What is changing on the CPA Exam?
The overall design of the CPA Exam is not changing everything totally . The content is still the same and broken down into the 4 sections. Like –

  • AUD
  • BEC
  • FAR
  • REG


However, a shift in emphasis has changed how weighted the multiple choice questions (MCQs) and task-based simulations (TBSs) when compared to previous years.