Are you prepared for the new CPA Exam Disciplines? After all, the CPA Exam changes in January 2024 and will follow a new Core + Discipline model. The exam will still have four parts, including 3 required Core sections (AUD, FAR, and REG), plus candidates will have to pass one of three Discipline sections. So in this post, we’ll go over the new CPA Discipline exam sections, the CPA Evolution, and give you tips for picking the best Discipline for your career path.
The AICPA and NASBA are working together to modernize the CPA license model. This overhaul is called the CPA Evolution, and the goal is for the CPA Exam to better represent the knowledge and abilities needed to practice accounting in today’s world. You can read more about the 2024 CPA Exam changes, but the approach is intended to strengthen the field while allowing CPA candidates to demonstrate specialization in specific accounting disciplines.
The new CPA format is called the “Core + Discipline” model. Here’s how it works, in a nutshell.
To obtain a CPA credential prior to 2024, a candidate needed to pass four sections of the CPA exam:
However, starting in 2024, CPA candidates must pass three “Core” sections. You’ll notice that the BEC section has been removed for 2024, too. In fact, a lot of the content that was previously tested in BEC has been moved to AUD, FAR, and REG. (That is, the new CPA Exam still tests on the business environment and related concepts, but many of those questions appear in the other exam sections.)
Plus, candidates will need to pass one Discipline section related to three accounting disciplines. You have three CPA Discipline sections to choose from:
But still, the 2024 CPA Exam will be administered the same as the old exam. In addition, each section you take (3 Core sections and 1 Discipline section) will have a 4-hour exam, so the CPA Exam overall is still a 16-hour test.
Since the Core + Discipline CPA Exam format is new, it might feel a little overwhelming to pick a CPA Discipline section. But don’t stress about it! After all, you can choose the Discipline exam that most meets your abilities and interests.
So, to help you pick a CPA Discipline section, I’ve put together a few pointers:
I explain the CPA Exam Disciplines in the section below. To pick a Discipline, think about what areas of accounting interest you. You can also think about the type of accounting job you want in the future.
BAR is the right choice for CPA candidates interested in assurance or consulting services, technical accounting, financial and operations management, and analyzing and reporting on financial statements. The BAR exam focuses on data analytics and tests concepts like financial risk management and methods for making projections. If you’re thinking about working as an auditor as a public firm, an accountant at a large corporation, a controller, or a CEO or CFO, consider taking the BAR exam.
If you are interested in computers, IT, or data management, ISC could be right for you. ISC is all about technology and business controls, so it’s for people who want to work in assurance or business advisory roles, IT systems, information security and governance, and IT audits. ISC test material includes IT and data governance, testing internal controls, and information system security, such as network security, software access, and endpoint security. So if you’re thinking about becoming a data manager, data engineer or scientist, or an IT inspector, take a look at the ISC Discipline.
If you want to work in tax and compliance, choose TCP. TCP’s exam focuses on tax topics like more complex individual and business tax compliance, as well as extra questions about personal and business financial planning. For instance, if you take the TCP Discpline test, expect questions about tax issues that affect more than one jurisdiction, transactions between a business and its owners, and consolidated tax returns, just to name a few topics. Future tax analysts, tax compliance officers, and other future tax specialists should consider taking the TCP section.
But remember, after you pass the CPA Exam and you have your license, you can practice in any area.
The new 2024 CPA Exam’s scoring weight will be divided between MCQs (multiple-choice questions) and TBSs (task-based simulations), just as the pre-2024 exam was scored. However, the new CPA Exam does not include Written Communications, so that’s a big change from 2023.
Basically, the amount of time you have to take each CPA Exam section is not changing. The Core and Discipline section tests will each be 4 hours long.
And here’s the mix of MCQs and TBSs:
Here’s a summary of the content that will be tested on each Discpline section of the 2024 CPA Exam.
|BAR Content Area
|Area I: Business analysis
|Area II: Technical accounting and reporting
|Area III: State and local governments
|ISC Content Area
|Area I: Information systems and data management
|Area II: Security, confidentiality, and privacy
|Area III: Considerations for system and organization controls (SOC) engagements
|TCP Content Area
|Area I: Tax compliance and planning for individuals and personal financial planning
|Area II: Entity tax compliance
|Area III: Entity tax planning
|Area IV: Property transactions (disposition of assets)
Since the CPA Exam Disciplines are new for 2024, it’s important to know what you need to study in advance. Of course, if you study with the best CPA Exam materials, you’ll have the most up-to-date content to study to pass the Discipline sections. But still, here’s a breakdown of the content that will be tested on each Discipline CPA Exam section in 2024.
Starting on January 1, 2024, the CPA Exam is moving to a “Core + Discipline” model. CPA candidates will have to pass 3 Core sections (AUD, FAR, and REG) as well as 1 Discipline section of their choice (either BAR, ISC, or TCP). This new model will give candidates more chances to prove their expertise in accounting specializations.
BAR (the Business Analysis and Reporting exam) will test CPA candidates about advanced financial statements, technical accounting and reporting rules set by FASB and SEC that apply to for-profit businesses, higher-level skills like recognizing revenue and accounting for leases, and a lot more.
In contrast, ISC (or the Information Systems and Controls test) will cover technology and business controls. More specifically, it will test candidates skills regarding IT, auditing and advisory services (including SOC engagements), and data management (including gathering data, storing it, and using it throughout its life cycle).
And finally, TCP (Tax Compliance and Planning) tests on non-standard and more complicated tax issues, as well as the knowledge and skills a CPA needs to show when it comes to U.S. federal tax compliance for individuals and businesses, with a focus on non-standard and more complicated transactions, U.S. federal tax planning for individuals and businesses, and financial planning for individuals.
No. You need to pass one Discipline section starting in 2024, but your license won’t indicate which section you decided to take.
Unless you have a valid (that is, not expired) credit for passing the BEC section prior to January 1, 2024, you must pass a Discipline section.
However, we have a post explaining the transition policy for the new CPA Exam. Plus, some jurisdictions are giving candidates an extension of the BEC credits for several months during the transition. So if you’ve already passed BEC and plan to take AUD, FAR, and REG in 2024, you might want to contact your jurisdiction’s state board of accounting to see what your timeline will be if you’ve already passed BEC.
This question is difficult to answer for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Discipline tests are new, and we don’t have any pass rates for them yet. Plus, since each Discipline sections covers vastly different content, the “easiest” section is the one that you are best prepared for. The Discipline is meant to make you an even more focused and sought-after job candidate in the end.
Thankfully, the transition to the new CPA Exam was announced a couple of years ago. So companies that create educational material and study guides have had plenty of time to prepare. That’s all to say that the best CPA Exam review courses are ready for the transition and have study material for the Discipline sections waiting for you! For example, the Becker CPA updates for 2024 include study material for the Disciplines.
Technically speaking, you don’t have to pick a Discipline section until it’s time to register for it. However, keep in mind that you’ll need plenty of time to study, so don’t put your decision off for too long.
If the content of one Discipline speaks to you more than the others (either because of your previous experience or because of your intended career plans), then pick that Discipline. However, if you’re not sure, you could sign up for a trial plan for one of the best CPA Exam courses – many of them offer a free trial of a Discipline section. This way, you can work through the study material for a few days to determine if you want to tackle that section or not.
The schedule for the Discipline exams is a little different from the CPA Exam schedule as a whole. In fact, you can only sit for a Discipline section for about 1 month per testing quarter. Here are the dates for the 2024 CPA Discipline exams:
Since the Discipline sections are new, the AICPA needs more time to score them. Although the dates could change, here are the planned CPA score dates for the Discipline sections:
Susan L. is one of the biggest cheerleaders on the I Pass the CPA Exam team. She loves seeing our readers succeed. You'll often find her writing about all things accounting.