CPA Examination Content 

    Examination content refers to CPA Examination questions – multiple-choice, written communication and task-based simulations* – reflecting the subject matter eligible to be tested. According to the Board of Examiners (BOE) policy, Content and Skill Specification Outlines (CSOs/SSOs) document the content that is covered in all four sections of the Examination.

     *Task-based simulations are case studies that allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by generating responses to questions rather than simply selecting an answer. They typically require candidates to use spreadsheets and/or research authoritative literature provided in the Exam.

    CSO Update Effective January 1, 2016
    On October 10, 2014, the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) approved changes to the CPA Exam Content Specification Outline (CSO) that will be effective on January 1, 2016.

    Download: CSOs/SSOs Effective January 1, 2016

    View a summary of changes to the 2016 CSOs/SSOs.

    CSO Update Effective January 1, 2017
    On May 28, 2015, the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) approved changes to the CPA Exam Content Specification Outline (CSO) that will be effective on January 1, 2017.

    Download:CSOs/SSOs Effective January 1, 2017

    View a summary of changes to the 2017 CSOs/SSOs.

    Examination content development is a major effort at the AICPA, involving hundreds of CPA volunteers who spend thousands of hours every year on the development of new examination questions. A constant flow of new questions is necessary to maintain the vitality and credibility of the CPA Examination.


    New Simulation to Debut on CPA Exam in July 2016
    The Document Review Simulation (DRS), a form of task-based simulation, will debut on the Uniform CPA Examination in July 2016. The DRS was highlighted in the Exposure Draft, Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination, and is included in the AUD, FAR and REG sections of the recently updated CPA Exam sample tests.

    The DRS presents a realistic task that simulates what a newly licensed CPA might do on the job. The item features a primary document as well as related source materials for candidate review. Highlighted words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs in the DRS document may or may not be correct, requiring the candidate to select appropriate edits based on the relevant source materials.

    AICPA BOE Revises Policy on New Pronouncements
    The AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE) approved revisions to the CPA Exam Policy on New Pronouncements at its October meeting.  The revisions move the eligibility date for testing new accounting and auditing pronouncements to the later of: (1) the first testing window beginning after the pronouncement’s earliest mandatory effective date or (2) the first testing window beginning six (6) months after the pronouncement’s issuance date.  The revisions also remove the ability to test new and existing pronouncements simultaneously. The revised policy becomes effective with the testing window beginning on April 1, 2016 and will be applied to all accounting and auditing pronouncements issued after July 1, 2015. Standards issued prior to July 1, 2015 remain subject to the former CPA Exam Policy on New Pronouncements.

    The BOE concluded that the existing Policy on New Pronouncements was no longer aligned with the needs of the CPA Exam. Specifically, the BOE concluded that newly licensed CPAs are likely to have limited exposure to and involvement with a new pronouncement during any early adoption period and that the simultaneous testing of new and existing standards during any early adoption period could result in unnecessary candidate confusion. For more details, please refer to the complete CPA Exam Policy on New Pronouncements.

    FAR Section: Converged revenue recognition standards not to be tested until January 1, 2018
    The AICPA Board of Examiners has decided that IFRS 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, will not be tested in the FAR section of the CPA Exam until January 1, 2018.  Read more about the decision and further action.

    Development of the Exam 

    The Development of Examination Content - in Brief
    The content of the Uniform CPA Examination is developed in an extensive and integrated process. At each step in the process, expertise in various disciplines is applied to ensure that test materials are accurate and appropriate for use on the CPA Exam.

    Practice Analysis 2014
    The practice analysis provides a way to evaluate the knowledge, tasks and skills required of CPAs entering the profession, determine the feasibility and resources required for assessment and develop a blueprint documenting the content, skills, length and time of the examination.


    International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) became eligible for testing on the CPA Examination when the 2011 CSOs/SSOs went into effect. Among other IFRS information, these FAQs address the question of why the decision to add IFRS content to the CPA Examination was made.

    New Pronouncements 

    New Pronouncements Policy
    This policy provides answers to this important question: “How soon after a new pronouncement is issued is its content eligible to be tested on the Uniform CPA Examination?"
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