Everything evolves, and that includes the CPA Exam. As AICPA discovered in recent years, the exam hadn’t kept pace with the needs of accounting firms. They were hiring fewer accountants and more people skilled in data analytics, IT and cybersecurity.  

The discovery prompted AICPA and NASBA to develop the CPA Evolution licensure model, a revision of the CPA Exam to reflect the needs of employers and clients. The AICPA’s new blueprint prepares exam candidates for a restructured exam that recognizes the array of skills in demand in today’s accounting landscape. 

Will you be ready? Consider how the blueprint updates the CPA Exam sections and content presented here and plot your path to CPA Exam success. 

A look at 2024 CPA Exam changes 

There’s a lot to ingest in the blueprint, but keep in mind that the changes are more structural than content related. A small amount of content is eliminated, while the remainder is shuffled around to constitute three core sections, down from the familiar four, and three discipline-specific exams – and no, you don’t have to take all three of the new discipline tests. Only one is required, because the whole purpose behind this exercise is building a corps of future-ready accountants adept at in-demand specialties. 

Let’s take a look at the graphic summing up what’s called the “Core plus Discipline” model: 

A chart of the CPA Evolution changes including the current CPA Exam, 3 core Exams and 3 Discipline Exams

Before the January 2024 transition, note these important items:  

  • The last day to sit for the current AUD, FAR, BEC and REG before CPA Evolution takes effect is Dec. 15, 2023.  
  • The last day the NASBA Gateway System will process Authorizations to Test and Notices to Schedule for BEC is Nov. 15, 2023. Watch NASBA for application deadlines. 
  • If you pass the AUD, FAR and REG sections of the current CPA Exam, you will not need to pass their new versions in 2024. 
  • If you pass the current version of BEC, you will not need to take a discipline section. 
  • It’s recommended that CPA candidates take the BEC in 2023, before CPA Evolution takes effect, because it has the highest pass rate of the four current cores. If you don’t pass, sign up immediately to take it again.  
  • Revised tests will not be administered until at least Jan. 10, 2024, to give testing centers time to prepare for the transition. 
  • If you fail a discipline section, you can switch to a different discipline if you think it’s a better option.  

What are the new discipline sections? 

Since the discipline sections are driving the whole initiative and can influence the direction of your career, it’s important to understand what each one covers.  

The core FAR, AUD and REG sections will continue to test your knowledge of the universal principles of accounting. The former Business Environment and Concepts core exam will now disappear, replaced by the discipline sections that probe more deeply into: 

  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) 
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC) 
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)  

Read below for the content incorporated into each discipline section. 

What is BAR? 

Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR) will cover assurance or advisory services, financial statement analysis and reporting, technical accounting, financial and operations management. It’s expected that more than 50% of students will take the BAR discipline exam. 

Major content:  

  • Non-financial performance  
  • Capital structure and operations  
  • COSO enterprise risk management and its application to ESG  
  • Managerial accounting and cost accounting  
  • Variance analysis  
  • Leases  
  • State and local government and NFP accounting  
  • Derivatives and hedge accounting returns  
  • Consolidation and business combinations  
  • Revenue recognition application and analysis   

What is ISC? 

Information Systems Control (ISC) measures your technological expertise, covering business processes, information security and governance, information systems and IT audit. 

Major content: 

  • Information systems and data management 
  • Security, confidentiality, and privacy 
  • Considerations for System and Organization Controls (SOC) engagements 
  • Deeper level of understanding of IT than was covered in BEC 
  • Regulations, standards, and frameworks 
  • COSO frameworks applied to cloud computing, blockchain and cybersecurity 
  • Change management 
  • Security risks and controls 

What is TCP? 

Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP) will cover individual tax compliance and planning, personal finance planning, entity tax compliance and planning. 

Major content:  

  • Tax compliance  
  • Personal finance planning 
  • Entity tax compliance 
  • Entity tax planning 
  • Property transactions 
  • Formation and liquidation of entities 
  • Use of losses by taxpayers to minimize tax liability 
  • Tax implications of foreign income 
  • Computation of income and deductions for a trust 

5 key takeaways about CPA Evolution 

Chances are, you still have questions about CPA Evolution. These top five takeaways put the changes in perspective: 

1. Parts passed before Jan. 1, 2024, still count toward licensure. 

  • Passed sections are grandfathered in, with no retesting needed. 
  • The 18-month window is extended another 18 months on Jan. 1, 2024. 
  • If you passed BEC before 2024, it would replace the discipline section requirement. 
  • AUD, FAR and REG will carry over and serve as core credit. 

2. The 18-month passing window remains in effect. 

  • Candidates who passed any section after July 1, 2022, will get an extension until June 30, 2025.  
  • Pass any section in 2023, and your 18-month clock will reset on Jan. 1, 2024. 

3. The discipline does not need to be your field of study. 

  • Take the discipline you think you can pass on first attempt. 
  • Existing college curriculum suggests this will be BAR. 

4. Take your discipline immediately after the core section associated with it, which means: 

  • FAR > BAR 
  • AUD > ISC 
  • REG > TCP 

5. Account for blackout dates.  

Discipline exams can only be taken in certain months, so make sure you plan ahead. Here are the tentative testing windows for core and discipline sections under the new CPA Exam model: 

  • Q1 testing window for discipline sections: Jan. 10-Feb. 6 
  • Q2 testing window for discipline sections: April 20-May 19 
  • Q3 testing window for discipline sections: July 1-July 31 
  • Q4 testing window for discipline sections: Oct. 1-Oct. 31 
  • Q1 testing window for core sections: Jan. 10-March 26 
  • Q2 testing window for core sections: April 1-June 25 
  • Q3 testing window for core sections: July 1-Sept. 25 
  • Q4 testing window for core sections: Oct. 1-Dec. 26 

The Surgent difference gives you an edge 

A lot of CPA Exam study courses are scrambling to adapt to the changes of CPA Evolution, but Surgent CPA Review already has the fundamentals in place and the agility to keep pace. Surgent combines technology and personal service to customize and streamline the study process.  

You improve your chances of passing, with less study time needed. That means you can still sit for the traditional CPA Exam before 2023 ends, or you can enter the CPA Evolution era with confidence and the assurance of passing. 

Consider the many advantages that Surgent offers: 

  • A.S.A.P.® Technology: Surgent’s state-of-the-art adaptive learning technology assesses what you already know and what you need to know. It’s a timesaver that gets you to exam day faster.  
  • ReadySCORE™: Make the wrong guess on when to take the exam, and you risk falling short. ReadySCORE tells you when it’s time by predicting – with remarkable accuracy – the score you would probably get if you sat for the test that day.  
  • Daily Surge: Surgent’s Daily Surge makes the most of your carefully rationed study time and keeps you on track by suggesting the topics you need to cover every time you sit down to study.   
  • MyMCQ™: Surgent customizes multiple-choice practice questions to test your knowledge and prompt you to learn more challenging concepts with each round.    
  • Full access until you pass: Surgent CPA Review materials, including free content and software updates, are available until the day you get that happy notice.  
  • Unlimited practice exams: Test anxiety can keep candidates from doing their best. Unlimited practice exams, included in every Surgent package, help calm the butterflies. 
  • 100% pass guarantee: Surgent’s systematic, technology-driven supports greatly improve your chances of passing the CPA Exam. However, if something goes wrong, Surgent’s pass guarantee means you don’t lose your prep course investment. 

Seize the opportunity 

The CPA Evolution is also a revolution, bringing the accounting profession squarely into the 21st century. Surgent is prepared to make the journey personal and engaging. In 2023, Surgent is rolling out targeted updates to its exam prep course, with material that changes dynamically based on your testing date. For example, if you’re taking FAR in 2023, your course content will differ from the courses seen by your peers taking FAR in 2024. As always, Surgent CPA Review tailors CPA Exam prep to your needs, strengths, experience and goals.  

Surgent makes it as easy as possible to study the correct material, so you won’t be backtracking or wading through material irrelevant to your plans. You want to stay on top of the latest updates and changes to the CPA Exam, and Surgent will support and guide you through it all. Surgent will keep you up-to-date with all CPA Evolution news and changes as you prepare to pass the CPA Exam.