With the introduction of the CPA Evolution model in early 2024, the CPA Exam recently underwent major changes. The aim is to cover topics that are becoming increasingly important in the accounting and finance world and better prepare new CPAs for this evolving career landscape.
There are a few myths and updated facts circulating online about the newest CPA exam, so let’s set the record straight.
6 facts about CPA Evolution
The following six points about the new CPA Exam have been verified by the AICPA and NASBA.
- Students can change disciplines at any point.
The updated CPA Exam requires candidates to pass three core sections and one discipline section. Exam candidates can select from the following three discipline exam options: Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR), Information Systems and Controls (ISC) or Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP). If you’re scheduled to take a particular discipline exam and then decide to change to a different subject, you absolutely can.
- Technology, digital acumen and data analytics are now core components across all sections.
All six exam sections will include questions (multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations) on these increasingly relevant topics.
- Discipline exams can be taken before core exams.
You can take your discipline exam first, but we don’t recommend this approach. Instead, we suggest taking your discipline exam right after the core section associated with it. That means taking BAR right after FAR, ISC after AUD and TCP after REG.
- The BEC section was eliminated.
The Business Environment and Concept (BEC) section is no longer be part of the CPA Exam. However, BEC content didn’t going away. BEC content was split between the AUD, FAR, BAR and ISC sections under the CPA Evolution model in 2024.
5. Research simulations and comprehensive authoritative literature are being eliminated in all simulations.
However, these may still appear as exhibits to select simulations.
6. Excel is being removed from the CPA Exam.
Instead, questions will focus on SpreadJS.
Four myths about the CPA Evolution
In contrast, the following five statements about the new CPA Exam are myths.
- I must pass the three core sections first.
You can take the core and discipline sections in any order. However, we recommend taking your discipline exam right after the core section associated with it (BAR after FAR, ISC after AUD and TCP after REG).
- I can only take a discipline exam one time.
If you fail a particular discipline exam, you can retake it as many times as you’d like. You can also switch to another discipline at any time.
- I must take a discipline section that matches my career.
Actually, we recommend taking the discipline exam you’re most confident that you’ll pass, regardless of whether it’s related to your field of study. After all, passing is the ultimate goal.
4. BEC content was eliminated.
BEC content will be split among four of the six exam sections. The BEC section might be gone, but the content remains.
CPA Evolution FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about CPA Evolution and how it will impact the CPA Exam once it goes into effect in 2024.
What changed from the legacy CPA Exam?
The previous CPA Exam included four mandatory exams that all candidates were required to take: AUD, BEC, FAR and REG. The CPA Evolution Exam includes three core exams (AUD, FAR and REG) and one discipline exam of your choosing (either BAR, ISC or TCP). While the names of the core exams remain the same, the content of each has changed.
In addition to the exam realignment, written communication questions and most of the authoritative guidance resources in the simulations are no longer accessible in the new exam format. Some of the content in the old exam was realigned, and some (like BEC) was sprinkled throughout CPA Evolution exam parts. Technology, digital acumen and data analytics are also now a core component across all six sections. For more information, read our blog about changes to exam content and experience.
What is the format of CPA Evolution?
Here is a breakdown of the six sections that comprise the new CPA Exam under the new format:
- AUD (core): 4 hours, 78 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations
- FAR (core): 4 hours, 50 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations
- REG (core): 4 hours, 72 MCQs and 8 task-based simulations
- BAR (discipline): 4 hours, 50 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations
- ISC (discipline): 4 hours, 82 MCQs and 6 task-based simulations
- TCP (discipline): 4 hours, 68 MCQs and 7 task-based simulations
What topics are included in the new discipline exams?
- Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR): Assurance or advisory services, financial statement analysis and reporting, technical accounting, and financial and operations management.
- Information Systems Control (ISC): Business processes, information systems, information security and governance, and IT audit.
- Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP): Individual tax compliance and planning, personal finance planning and entity tax compliance and planning.
Which discipline exam should I take?
Do not take a discipline exam simply because it matches your field of interests. Instead, you should choose the exam you feel you are the most likely to pass. That’s the goal! If you aren’t sure which will be easiest, Surgent recommends taking BAR. The content on this exam is most similar to your college curriculum. If you already work in tax and have a solid foundation, take TCP.
Remember, if you fail, you can try a new discipline with no penalty. No matter what discipline you take (and pass), you can still practice in any area.
Does it matter which order I take core and discipline exams?
No. You can take the exam parts in any order you choose. You do not have to pass core sections before your discipline exams.
Will the sections I passed in 2023 disappear in 2024?
No! You get to keep them. All exam parts passed before Jan. 1, 2024, will still count toward your CPA licensure. Since your passed sections are grandfathered in, no retesting is needed.
If you passed BEC before 2024, BEC will replace the discipline section requirement. If you pass AUD, FAR or REG, they carry over and serve as core credits.
Best of all, if you passed any section in 2023, your 18-month clock resets in 2024. This means any exam sections passed in 2023 will have credit until June 30, 2025. Scheduling exams as soon as possible will work in your favor. For more information, read our blog about how to strategize with the transition policy.
What are the best sources for exam changes and scheduling information?
Surgent’s team will keep this page up-to-date with CPA Evolution changes and important dates.
Other helpful resources include:
- NASBA FAQs
- NASBA transition policy breakdown
- NASBA key tentative dates
- AICPA full breakdown of exam sections and blueprints
How will Surgent CPA Review help me with the transition?
Surgent has rolled out an updated exam prep course. Your course material will dynamically change based on your testing date. For instance, if you took FAR in 2023, you will see different course content than people taking FAR in 2024. Surgent will make it as easy as possible for you to study the correct material.
Making exam preparations
While all the changes surrounding CPA Evolution can be a bit confusing, we’re here to help. Also, visit our resource hub often to stay informed about exam updates.