With the introduction of the CPA Evolution model in January 2024, the CPA Exam will be undergoing 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.  

However, there are a few myths circulating online about the new CPA Exam, so we wanted to set the record straight about the updated version. If you’re preparing to sit the exam next year, read on to learn facts and myths about the upcoming CPA Evolution exam, along with some helpful answers to exam FAQs.  

7 facts about CPA Evolution 

The following seven points about the new CPA Exam have been verified by the AICPA and NASBA.  

  1. 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 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.  

  1. 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.  

  1. 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. 

  1. The BEC section is being eliminated. 

The Business Environment and Concept (BEC) section will no longer be part of the CPA Exam once CPA Evolution goes into effect. However, BEC content isn’t going away. BEC content will be split between the AUD, FAR, BAR and ISC sections under the CPA Evolution model in 2024. We recommend sitting for the BEC exam this year since it’s the easiest section to pass and will count as a replacement for your discipline exam in 2024.  

  1. Written Communications (essays) are being eliminated. 

The current BEC section includes 15% “written communications.” However, this will not be part of the new CPA Exam in any capacity.  

  1. Research simulations and comprehensive authoritative literature are being eliminated in all simulations. 

However, these may still appear as exhibits to selection simulations.  

  1. Excel is being removed from the CPA Exam. 

Instead, questions will focus on SpreadJS. 

Five myths about the CPA Evolution 

In contrast, the following five statements about the new CPA Exam are myths. 

  1. 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). 

  1. 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.  

  1. 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 overall goal. 

  1. If I pass an exam section now, I will have to retake it after Jan. 1, 2024. 

Any exam section you have passed before Jan. 1, 2024, will still count toward licensure. Plus, you will get an extended 18-month window for all previously passed parts on that date. 

  1. BEC content is being 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’s changing from the current CPA Exam?  

The existing CPA Exam includes four mandatory exams that all candidates must take: AUD, BEC, FAR and REG. In 2024, the CPA Evolution Exam will include 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 is changing.  

In addition to the exam realignment, essays and most of the authoritative guidance resources in the simulations will disappear in the new exam format. You can expect some of the content in the old exam to be realigned, and some (like BEC) to be 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 work 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 pass 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 pass BEC before 2024, BEC will replace the discipline section requirement. This is why we encourage you to pass BEC if you do nothing else in 2023. If you pass AUD, FAR or REG, they will carry over and serve as core credits.  

Best of all, if you pass any section in 2023, your 18-month clock will reset 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.   

Are there any other important CPA Evolution dates we need to know this year?  

Yes! There are two massively important dates to put on your calendar:  

  1. On Nov. 15, 2023, NASBA will stop processing Authorizations to Test and Notices to Schedule (NTS) for the BEC exam. You must have your application and NTS approved before then to be able to sit. Do not delay!  
  1. Dec. 15, 2023, is the last testing day of the current four-part exam model. No exams will be offered Dec. 16 -31. That gives you 15 less days this year to sit for the CPA Exam.  

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:  

How will Surgent CPA Review help me with the transition?  

In 2023, Surgent will begin rolling out an updated exam prep course. Your course material will dynamically change based on your testing date. For instance, if you are taking 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. If you’re planning to sit the CPA Eexam in the near future, read our strategies for taking the test in 2023, 2024 or a combination of the two. Also, visit our resource hub often to stay informed about exam updates.