By January 2024, the AICPA and NASBA plan to launch a new CPA Exam. The two organizations recently announced their plans for the “CPA Evolution” initiative that will affect the CPA Exam content and format starting in 2024. This article will detail the 2024 CPA exam changes and updates.
The AICPA and NASBA keep up with trends in the accounting profession. They monitor the types of skills that accountants need as the global business landscape evolves. As business practices and financial regulations change, the CPA Exam needs to be revised to ensure that it tests the skills that future CPAs will need to meet tomorrow’s accounting challenges.
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Future of the Accounting Profession
The accounting profession has seen drastic changes in the last few decades, especially in the number of codes and standards that CPAs must follow. For example, did you know that compared to 1980:
- The Internal Revenue Code has 3 times the number of pages.
- Accountants have 4 times as many accounting standards to follow.
- Auditors must adhere to 5 times as many auditing standards.
So as you can see, the sheer volume of content knowledge that CPAs must have is growing.
Plus, more and more, the type of work that used to be performed by entry-level accountants is now outsourced or performed by paraprofessionals. And many of these tasks can now be hastened with the help of specialized accounting software. Today’s CPAs are being asked to do less number crunching and busywork and more intense financial analyses.
2024 CPA Exam Changes: a Test for Tomorrow’s CPAs
Therefore, even if you’re at the beginning of your career, you’ll be expected to have a high level of problem-solving skills. According to the AICPA and NASBA, future CPAs will need the following proficiencies to meet current demands:
- High-level critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- The ability to apply professional judgment and skepticism
- Understanding of business practices, including controls and risks
- Data management and data analysis
- The ability to perform SOC (System and Organization Controls) engagements
The CPA Evolution is a significant initiative with many players and objectives. The AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and NASBA (the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) are leading the effort. For more than 3 years, the two organizations sought feedback about the future of the accounting profession from over 3,000 stakeholders from groups like the following:
- State Boards of Accountancy
- Small, medium, and large CPA firms
- Active CPAs
- Technology experts
- Federal regulators
After gathering and analyzing input about the future of the profession, the AICPA and NASBA are working to quantify the types of skills and knowledge that future CPAs need. Then, they will revise the Uniform CPA Examination Blueprints to reflect the content that will be tested on the revised CPA Exam. The AICPA and NASBA will finalize the final content and the length of each exam section will be after an analysis of practice exams is to volunteers. The organizations expect that the new CPA Exam will be ready by January 2024.
Finally, the AICPA and NASBA will perform a gap analysis to determine if the content on the new exam is being covered in university accounting programs. The organizations will work with educators to develop resources and curriculum to prepare future CPAs adequately for the profession.
2024 CPA Exam Changes: Core-Plus-Discipline Model
Under the proposed 2024 CPA exam changes, the CPA Exam will follow a new “Core-Plus-Discipline Model.” Just as before, candidates will demonstrate their core proficiencies in accounting, auditing, tax, and technology. Also, CPA candidates will need to show deeper skills in one of these three areas:
- Business reporting and analysis
- Information systems and controls
- Tax compliance and planning
The new CPA Exam will probably still be a 4-part exam with the first 3 sections testing your core knowledge. You’ll be able to select one of the disciplines listed above for the 4th section
Changes to the Format
We probably won’t know the exact format of the new CPA Exam for a while. We also don’t know the number of multiple-choice questions, simulations, or written communications on the 2024 CPA Exam. However, the organizations likely expect it to last no more than 16 hours for all 4 sections.
However, based on preliminary information and press releases, it seems it will still follow the 4-section format. The first 3 sections will likely test material along the same lines as the existing AUD, BEC, FAR, and REG sections. The 4th part will probably be totally devoted to testing your more in-depth knowledge in one of the three disciplines. So, for example, even though the first 3 sections might test broad tax concepts, the discipline test for taxation compliance and planning will address more nitty-gritty taxation details.
One CPA License
Even though the Core-Plus-Discipline Model will require you to choose a discipline for the 4th section of the CPA Exam, there will still just be one CPA license. That is, just because the exam is changing, we suddenly aren’t going to have three different kinds of CPA licenses based on the discipline you chose for the 4th section of the exam. So once you pass the exam, your CPA certificate won’t reflect which discipline you chose to specialize in for the exam.
For example, let’s say you choose “tax compliance and planning” for your discipline. If you pass the CPA Exam, you’ll still apply for a “CPA License” and not a “CPA-Tax License.” Plus, your future practice won’t be limited to just tax issues.
What Does This Mean for You?
Basically, the CPA Evolution initiative means that the content on the CPA Exam will change by January 2024. And since you will need to demonstrate your skills in the core content areas plus a sub-discipline, the CPA Exam could become much more challenging.
Therefore, if you are considering the CPA credential, I highly recommend that you pursue it in the next few years before the exam changes. After all, I can’t imagine that these changes will lead to an easier exam. Instead, probably the opposite is true.
The AICPA and NASBA are working out the details of a transition period that will last from now until the release of the new CPA Exam in January 2024. Here’s what we know right now:
- If you’re already studying for the CPA Exam and plan to take and pass all four sections before January 2024, your path to the CPA won’t change.
- If you pass some, but not all, of the CPA Exam sections before January 2024, don’t worry—your efforts won’t be wasted. The AICPA and NASBA will allow candidates to continue with the “old” exam for a certain period during this transition period.
2024 CPA Exam Changes: Final Thoughts
Even though transitions like the CPA Evolution initiative can be frustrating at first, they can improve our profession. Stayed tuned for updates on the CPA Exam and other changes that will affect your career.
For more CPA exam related articles, check out or dedicated CPA Prep page.
Stephanie Ng is the Executive Committee member responsible for Finance at New Sight Eye Care, a charity registered in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. She oversees the financial aspect of New Sight in Hong Kong, including accounting, taxation, financial management, and compliance.
She began her career as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers in New York and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. She later joined her client to work in the Group Finance Department, where she spent five years specializing in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and debt refinancing. She also extended her role to management accounting and financial accounting and obtained her U.S. CPA qualification.
Stephanie also is a published author of the book How to Pass the CPA Exam. Additionally, she publishes Big 4 Bound, one of the first sites dedicated to helping accountants land big 4 jobs. And her guidance and mentorship have helped hundreds of thousands of candidates pass their exams.
Stephanie graduated with Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago, majoring in economics with a second concentration in public policy studies.
You can find Stephanie on LinkedIn and on Twitter where she writes under the @ipassthecpaexam handle.