2017 CPA Exam Changes

Updated June 23, 2017

Tree changing JPGA new version of the CPA exam was launched April 1, 2017. Changes reflect a shift from memorization to an emphasis on critical thinking and analysis. The intent is to offer an exam that better reflects the demands faced by today’s new CPAs.

Whether you supervise an exam candidate or are one yourself, it’s important to understand the recent changes.  

Changes include:

  • Strategy: A greater focus is on testing cognitive skills over memorization. Testing emphasizes higher order skills including analysis and evaluation.
  • Structure: Focus is on task-based simulations (TBS), with fewer multiple-choice questions. New TBS test analysis and evaluation skills over application skills only. As a result, TBS take longer to complete.
  • Time: The exam increased from 14 to 16 hours. 
  • Costs: The price of the REG and BEC exams increased due to the increase in exam section length from 3 to 4 hours.
  • Testing windows: In 2016, testing windows were extended by 10 days. This extension was suspended temporarily when the new exam launched, but NASBA intends to reinstate it upon formal approval in later 2017.
  • Exam breaks: A standardized 15-minute break has been added at the halfway point of each section. This break will stop the 4-hour testing clock.
  • Exam tools: Beginning in 2018, exam candidates will be allowed to use Microsoft Excel during the exam, replacing the basic spreadsheet tool currently available. Candidates will not be tested on using Excel, however.

2017 CPA exam changes overview 

Section Section time Multiple-choice questions Task-based simulations Written communication
Auditing & Attestation (AUD) 4 hours

72
(formerly 90)

8-9
(formerly 7)

n/a
Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)

4 hours
(formerly 3)

62
(formerly 72)

4-5
(formerly 0)

3
(formerly 3) 

Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR) 4 hours

66
(formerly 90)

8-9
(formerly 7)

n/a
Regulation (REG)

4 hours
(formerly 3)

76
(formerly 72)

8-9
(formerly 6)

n/a

Things to consider when taking the CPA exam

  • An exam candidate can pass any combination of sections in the old and new formats. 
  • Exam sections can still be taken in any order.  
  • Many review course providers began teaching for the new exam in January 2017. 

Additional information

Contact the MNCPA membership department at 952-831-2707, ext. 2, or membership@mncpa.org with specific questions on the 2017 CPA exam changes.

Additional resources include: