CPA Exam Changes in 2011

Update: here is the page for latest CPA exam changes.

Please find below a summary of the new CPA exam format, which has been implemented since Jan 1, 2011.

CPAexcel has a good summary in video format which you may find helpful. For details, you can refer to my writeup below.

I’ve summarized the key points and added a few background information for your convenience.

1. CPA Exam Changes On Content

(i) International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS)

First of all, let’s talk about the changes in content. The biggest impact on CPA exam in terms of subject matter will be the introduction of International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS), which is the standard, interpretation and framework adopted by the International Accounting Standard Board (IASB).

Why Is This Necessary?

This is probably the first question that comes to your mind. Well, since the Worldcom / Enron crisis and the resulting demise of Arthur Anderson, the accounting world has been re-evaluating the pros and cons of US GAAP and since then many countries have begun to support an “alternative” and more “international” form of accounting standard.

Nowadays, IFRS are used in many parts of the world, including major  economic blocs such as the European Union, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore as well as the emerging countries such as Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, Turkey… the list is expanding as we speak.

Therefore, as the accounting professional becomes more globalized, it is critical for CPA in the US to have a basic understanding of IFRS such as the similarity and difference between US GAAP and IFRS.

Where is IRFS covered in the CPA Exam?

A more practical question is: where is IFRS tested? Well, given the importance of the topic, it is going to appear in FAR, AUD and BEC. That right — everywhere except REG.

In other words, you can’t escape from IFRS unless you complete the 4 exam sections within 2010.

(ii) International Standard Of Auditing Standard

Along the same line, there will be an introduction of ISAS in the AUD CPA Exam. Candidates are expected to know the basic similarities and differences with the US Auditing Standard.

(iii) Other Changes

“Globalization” Of CPA Exam Questions

In general candidates should expect the CPA exam questions to become more international; e.g. in the Spring 2010 CPA exam alert, the editor suggested that BEC candidates should expect new questions such as the “impact of globalization on the business environment.”

More Emphasis On Ethics

During the interview with CPA exam alert editor, Douglas Warren (the BOE chair) has indicated an expansion of ethics in the testing. Note that he is a forensic accountant by profession.

No IFRS Addition To REG… For Now?

Since IFRS is new to the entire industry in the US, the tax implications of US companies adopting these international standards is still not certain. Therefore, IFRS related questions will not appear on REG but will most likely be included in the future.

This is more for the CPA exam review course providers, but if you are interested in a detailed look at the new CPA exam topics, please click the link.

2. CPA Exam Changes On Format

(i) FAR, AUD and REG CPA Exams

As you may have heard, there is going to be a substantial change in simulations. Let’s talk a lot at the format for FAR, AUD and REG:

As you may know, the current format for these 3 sections is (i) multiple choice questions in the form of 3 testlets, and (ii) two big simulations each with a written communication tab, research tab and some miscellanous simulation questions.

In 2011, the format for FAR, AUD and REG is going to be:

  • 3 testlets of multiple choice questions — 90 for AUD and FAR; 72 for REG. In other words, exactly the same as the current version.
  • The simulations will be changed into one big simulation section with 6-8 6-7 smaller tabs, each with an independent simulation that you can answer in 8-10 minutes. More details will be given out in early fall.
  • The research tab is going to be in different format (no details yet).
  • There will be NO written communications tab.

All in all, the multiple choice is going to represent 50-60% of the score, while simulations will represent 40-50%. It sounds like the examiners are going to increase the proportion of simultions in the new CPA exam format.

(ii) BEC CPA Exam

Currently, there is only multiple choice question for BEC. Effective 2011, the format is going to be:

  • 3 testlets of multiple choice questions, but each testlet will have 24 questions instead of the current 30.
  • No simulations (yeah!)
  • But there will be 3 written communications problems on separate subjects where points are given based on the writing skill, content and key terms.

Overall you can expect multiple choice to represent 80-90% 85% of the score and the written communications a 10-20% 15% of the exam.

(iii) Research Tab

  • A new “research task” format will be introduced and you can go to for details.

3. CPA Exam Changes On Duration

While the total length of the 4 CPA exam sections will stay the same (14 hours), there is going to be some reshuffling:

  • AUD is getting shorter: from 4.5 hours to 4.0 hours
  • BEC is getting longer: from 2.5 hours to 3.0 hours
  • FAR and REG stay the same: 4.0 hours and 3.0 hours respectively.

Please note that the CPA exam fees will be adjusted accordingly.

4. Other Changes

The passing score is subject to change but the examiners will need to look at the data for the first few months to make a decision.

The following miscellaneous items will be changed and a tutorial/sample/details will be available on the official CPA exam website.

  • The online calculator used in the exam
  • A new “spreadsheet”
  • Performance report (the diagnostic report candidates receive if they fail the CPA exam)

How Can I Prepare For The New CPA Exam Changes?

  • If you are a brand new CPA exam candidates, there is nothing to worry about because the new materials have been incorporated in all major CPA review courses. You can get a feel of the pros and cons of each course from the link.
  • For retakers, if you need help in the new sections (notably IFRS), Yaeger CPA Review has a module for IFRS and this is specifically made for non-Yaeger students.

Even thought the new exam format is in place, there are still a lot of uncertainties on this subject. Please stay tuned for my update! Again, the best way for me to get in touch with you to become a member of my CPA exam e-Course (which by the way is completely free).

Cheers, Stephanie

For now…

2011 CPA Exam Update By Roger Philipp

I have to say Roger has done a great job in updating everyone on the latest 2011 exam changes. Please click here to check out my book review on Wiley CPA Review 2011 Update.

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • vikas sachdeva says:

    Thanks Stephanie for your guidance. your help is much appreciated.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Vikas, it’s very nice of you to drop a note and let me know. Glad you find it helpful! Stephanie

  • Vidyanand says:

    Thanks for your time & the Article. I would be writing CPA Exams in 2011. So, your words have given me the sparks to explore more things & real booster to achieve the goals. Thanks Again!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Vidyanand,
      That’s wonderful to know! Yes no worries there were bigger changes back in 2004 and people continue to pass. You can do it!

  • ahmed radwan says:

    Hi,I am from egypt,I would like to study cpa in usa,at ohio state or a near state to it,cz my uncle lives in ohio,I graduated in may 2009 from alexandria universty,faculty of commerce,accounting major,so I want 2 know any information that can help me and is their any addional fees,thanks

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Admed,
      I wonder if you have checked this page on how to become a CPA in the US? It’s essentially a beginner’s guide. If there is any question, please post a comment there and I’d be glad to help.

      By the way, you don’t need to go through Ohio even if you plan to take the exam in Ohio… Registration state doesn’t necessarily need to be the state you physically take the exam.

      Cheers, Stephanie

  • Kinjal says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I have a question for one of my friend. She has already cleared two parts of the CPA exam and after that, she had to move to India. But she wants to take other 2 parts as well to get the CPA degree. Can she take the exams from India? Your reply can really be helpful to my friend. Thanks

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Kinjal,
      I am afraid that at this stage, the Uniform CPA exam is available only in US jurisdictions. There are supposedly plans to have the first international site in Japan, but only US/Japan citizens are allowed to sit for the exams there. As far as I know there is no news on any sites in India in the foreseeable future.

      But your friend can travel to the US and take the exam if she doesn’t mind getting the visa and incurring traveling and accommodation costs.


  • ahmed says:

    thanks stephanie for your help, i will read it carefully

  • uytre says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    I have a unique problem. Please help me. I graduated from an accredited US University in 1990 with 120 hours and a BA in Accounting. I spent the next six years doing general accounting and then the next three years doing internal audit for a governmental entity (the exp qualifies in most jusrisdictions). For the past 12 years I am no longer involved in the accounting field. I do not need a CPA license but I am interested in it. the problem is the 150 hrs requirement as well as the experience requirement. I could attain the 150 hr requirement by taking additional courses which i am willing to. However i cannot work a second job in the accounting field to gain new experience. Some states like PA require the experience to have been in the past six years.
    Question: are there any states that does not put a time limit on how old the experience can be. I have the experience but some states consider it to be stale.

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi uytre,
    Sorry I have missed your question here but I remembered answering a similar question — maybe you posted somewhere else? Anyway, if I can still be helpful please let me know. Stephanie

  • aakruti says:

    Hi Stephanie
    I need your help.I got my evaluation done from Josef silny and associates and they gave me 122 credits for my overseas education.
    However they have also stated that my credentials are not equivalent to 4 year US degree.
    Will i be eligible for any state ?
    Thank you.

  • Conrad says:

    Try Deleware state, who accepts associates degree, 120 hours, international education…Best of luck, dont waste any more time…

  • Stephanie says:

    Thanks Conrad for your help to fellow readers.

    Dear readers,
    If you have questions other than those related to the 2011 CPA exam changes, please drop a note to the relevant pages. Thanks, Stephanie

  • Stephanie says:

    Dear all,
    I have just set up a new commenting system powered by Facebook so I can get back to all of you more efficiently. The comment box is located at the end of each article. Thanks, Stephanie

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