Learn what to study for the CPA Exam
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Learn what to study for the CPA Exam

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If you're preparing to sit for the CPA Exam, you’ll want to learn more about what’s tested and how you’re tested. For Exam content, look no further than the CPA Exam Blueprints. We encourage you to review this highly-important resource that contains valuable information to aid your studies. The Blueprints are typically published one to two times per year and detail the minimum level of knowledge and skills you must have to qualify for initial licensure. Download the appropriate Blueprints below and use in conjunction with other Exam preparation materials available to you.

Within the Blueprints, you will find the following information for each Exam section:

  • Content organized by Area, Group and Topic along with score weighting

  • Sample task statements that represent what you may be asked to do when testing

  • Skill levels at which tasks are tested

  • Reference materials that support the sample task statements

  • Number of item types you must complete (multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations and written communication tasks)

  • Score weighting of each item type

Policy on New Pronouncements

As laws, regulations and accounting standards change, the AICPA must keep the CPA Exam up to date. The Board of Examiners’ Policy on New Pronouncements details when new content becomes eligible for testing on the Exam.

Changes in accounting and auditing pronouncements are eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination in the later of: (1) the first calendar quarter beginning after the pronouncement’s earliest mandatory effective date, regardless of entity type* or (2) the first calendar quarter beginning six (6) months after the pronouncement’s issuance date.

Changes in the Internal Revenue Code, and federal taxation regulations are eligible to be tested in the calendar quarter beginning six (6) months after the change’s effective date or enactment date, whichever is later.

Changes in federal laws outside the area of federal taxation are eligible to be tested in the calendar quarter beginning six (6) months after their effective date.

Changes in uniform acts are eligible to be tested in the calendar quarter beginning one (1) year after their adoption by a simple majority of the jurisdictions.

For all other subjects covered in the Uniform CPA Examination, changes are eligible to be tested in the later of: (1) the first calendar quarter beginning after the earliest mandatory effective date, regardless of entity type* or (2) six (6) months after the issuance date.

Once a change becomes eligible for testing in the Uniform CPA Examination, previous content impacted by the change is removed.

Please note this example: A pronouncement issued on February 1, 2019, is effective for public business entities for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 and is effective for all other entities for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020. For purposes of the Uniform CPA Examination: (1) the pronouncement is eligible for testing on January 1, 2020 for all entity types and (2) the prior pronouncement is deemed superseded and no longer eligible for testing as of January 1, 2020.

Exam structure

The CPA Exam consists of four, four-hour sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section is delivered in five smaller sections called testlets featuring different item types: multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations and written communication tasks. These items are used to test your knowledge and skills.

During each Exam section, you will be offered a 15-minute break at the end of the third testlet (about midway through the section). At that time, you can pause the Exam timer or continue testing. If you take the break, the timer will automatically restart when the break ends. In addition to the 15-minute break, you may also take optional breaks after all other testlets but you cannot pause the Exam timer. The timer will continue to run.

During all breaks, you must leave the testing room and follow Prometric security rules.

Exam item types

Multiple-choice questions (MCQ)
The multiple-choice portions are presented in the first two testlets of each Exam section.

Task-based simulations(TBS)
Task-based simulations are condensed case studies that test accounting knowledge and skills using real life, work-related situations. All task-based simulations are intended to assess knowledge and skills that are appropriate for an entry-level accountant. There are three TBS testlets in the AUD, FAR and REG sections, and two TBS testlets in the BEC section.

Written communication tasks
Written communication tasks appear only in the BEC section of the CPA Exam. For each of three written communication tasks, you must read a scenario and then write a suitable document relating to the scenario. The instructions state what form the document should take (such as a memo or letter) and its focus. Your response should provide the correct information in writing that is clear, complete, and professional.

Download the CPA Exam Blueprints, detailing content eligible for testing as of July 1, 2021.

File name: cpa-exam-blueprints-effective-july-2021.pdf

Download the Practice Analysis Final Report, which details the changes reflected in the Blueprint, effective July 1, 2021.

File name: practice-analysis-final-report-2020.pdf

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