Navigating the 2021 CPA Exam Changes: An In-Depth Guide for Accounting Students

Navigating the 2021 CPA Exam Changes: An In-Depth Guide for Accounting Students

As an accounting educator, staying abreast of changes to the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Exam is vital to ensuring your students are well-prepared for the evolving landscape of the accounting profession. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) regularly updates the CPA Exam to align with the dynamic nature of the industry. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key changes set to take effect in the summer of 2021, providing you with the necessary insights to inform and guide your students through these adjustments.

  • Chapter 1: Understanding the Timing of Changes

  • Dynamic Testable Content:

    Impress upon your students the dynamic nature of testable content on the CPA Exam. Emphasize that these changes aim to keep future CPAs knowledgeable about the latest concepts and skills essential for the modern accountant. The AICPA's CPA Exam Blueprints serve as a roadmap, outlining the concepts that will be tested starting July 1, 2021.

  • Chapter 2: The Rationale Behind Changes

  • Preparation for the Working World:

    While changes may be met with some frustration, remind students that the primary goal is to ensure newly licensed CPAs are well-prepared for the working world. The adjustments are designed to test their proficiency in areas most relevant to the current accounting profession, fostering adaptability and readiness for the challenges of being a CPA.

    Digital and Data-Driven Mindset:

    Highlight that the overarching theme of the changes is the need for newly licensed CPAs to possess a "digital and data-driven mindset." This emphasis is particularly pronounced in the Auditing (AUD) and Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) sections.

  • Chapter 3: Major Changes to the CPA Exam

  • 1. Emphasis on Business Processes:


    Communicate to students that the AUD section undergoes significant changes with an increased focus on testing business processes that inform the development of audit procedures. This includes a deep dive into "business processes and transactions" with an emphasis on IT systems, controls, and manual controls.


    In the BEC section, clarify that new content related to "business processes and transaction-level risks and controls" will be introduced. This addition centers on technology's role in facilitating business processes.

    2. In-Depth Content on Data Analytics and Digital Skillsets:


    Highlight the expansion of testing digital skillsets in the AUD section, encompassing audit data analytics. This involves analyzing the results of audit data analytic procedures and identifying anomalies. Revised content will cover the utilization of automated tools and audit data analytics in audit sampling.


    In BEC, emphasize a heightened focus on working directly with data. This includes questions on data governance, data relationships, and the extraction and transformation of data. Task-based simulations (TBSs) will assess candidates' data analytics capabilities.

    3. Increased Emphasis on SOC 1® Reports:


    Inform students about the increased emphasis on Service Organization Control (SOC) 1® reports in the AUD section. The exam will delve into differences between SOC 1® and SOC 2® reports, examining their effects on controls and testing.


    In BEC, cover the expanded coverage of SOC 1® reports from the user entity's perspective. This involves understanding complementary user entity controls and the need for SOC 1® reports in outsourced IT functions.

  • Chapter 4: Content Removals

  • Strategic Focus:

    Acknowledge the removal of certain content deemed less crucial for newly licensed CPAs. Highlight the removal of differences between International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Stress the importance of focusing on the retained content to avoid unnecessary study time.

  • Chapter 5: What Remains Unchanged

  • Structural Consistency:

    Reassure students that while changes are imminent, the fundamental structure of the CPA Exam remains unchanged. The exam will retain its four sections, each totaling 16 hours (4 hours per section). The number of questions and score weighting will also remain constant.

    Skill Assessment:

    Emphasize that the exam will continue to test complex skills such as decision-making, critical thinking, and analytical skills. The written communication assessment in BEC will also remain unaltered.

  • Chapter 6: Vishal's Guidance

  • Strategic Exam Planning:

    Advise candidates, especially those using Vishal, to focus on passing the AUD and BEC sections before July 1, 2021. With less content in the FAR and REG sections post-implementation, candidates can strategically plan their exam schedule for optimal success.

    Vishal Course Updates:

    Inform students that Vishal will release an updated course content version on June 1, 2021, reflecting the Blueprint changes. This ensures students have access to the latest and most relevant material aligned with the updated testable content.

    Preparing students for the 2021 CPA Exam changes requires a thorough understanding of the modifications and strategic guidance for navigating them. Armed with this comprehensive guide, you can empower your students to adapt to the evolving demands of the accounting profession and embark on their CPA journey with confidence. Encourage them to explore the full list of changes in the CPA Exam Blueprints and the AICPA's Practice Analysis Final Report for detailed insights. For specific inquiries, students can reach out to Additionally, Vishal's Prometric CPA Exam Guide provides valuable exam day tips for a well-prepared test experience.

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