There are plenty of theories out there as to which CPA Exam section you should take first, and many candidates have their own personal reasons for choosing a particular order in which to take the sections.
Some candidates choose to tackle the hardest section first thinking that the rest of the journey will be much easier once they overcome their seemingly greatest obstacle. Other candidates try to breeze through the section that they believe will be the easiest in hopes of securing a boost of confidence to propel them to CPA Exam success.
While these approaches may have worked for candidates in the past, the significant changes that will transform the CPA Exam in 2016 and 2017 will require a more specific strategy. To travel the path of least resistance to passing the CPA Exam as soon as possible, candidates must consider the effects of the coming changes to know the best order for CPA Exam sections in 2016.
The 2016 CPA Exam Changes
In the beginning of 2016, the CSOs of the CPA Exam received varying degrees of modifications. The FAR CSOs changed the most overall, while the BEC CSOs had no changes. For the AUD CSOs, the treatment of going concern issues was edited to account for changes in the Code of Professional Conduct and US GAAP. For the REG CSOs, thresholds indexed for inflation were revised, and emphasis on general concepts of state and local tax and U.S. taxation of multinational transactions increased. Because FAR had the most changes, candidates may appreciate more time to familiarize themselves with the modified CSOs and therefore should not sit for FAR first. Though candidates may be tempted to take down the changeless BEC first, this section is better left for later in 2016 due to the advent of the DRS in other sections.
The DRS, or Document Review Simulation, is an appendage of the Task-Based Simulation that will appear on AUD, FAR, and REG as early as Q3 of this year. The DRS will test the application and analysis skills of candidates, and potentially their evaluation skills, by presenting a realistic document and source documents for the candidate to review. Candidates will need to determine if certain words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs are correct and select the appropriate edits. Consequently, the DRS will multiply the challenges of the sections in which it appears. As BEC will be the only section left unscathed in the second half of 2016, candidates should put BEC on hold and take the other sections in the first half of 2016 while they remain DRS-free.
So far, the best order in which to take the sections of the 2016 CPA Exam places BEC last, preceded by FAR. Now you just have to choose between AUD and REG.
The Best Order for CPA Exam Sections in 2016
While you could flip a coin, we don’t recommend it. Instead, candidates should arrange AUD and REG based on their accounting knowledge in order to select the section for which they are currently the most prepared.
If you are a student preparing to pass the CPA Exam in 2016, you could decide which section to take first based on what you have learned most recently. If you are currently taking or just finished an audit class, choose AUD. If you did really well in your federal tax accounting course last semester, start with REG.
Full-time accounting professionals should schedule the section that is more relevant to their work history first. If you have been filing tax returns every working hour of this grueling busy season, you might want to move forward with REG, especially because REG is one of the shorter sections. However, if you have been working in the audit practice of your firm, AUD may be the best place to begin with your wealth of auditing experience.
The Best Advice for Passing the CPA Exam in 2016
With the 2016 updates in mind, CPA Exam candidates with the freedom to do so should take the CPA Exam sections in the following order:
- REG or AUD
- AUD or REG
This order best accommodates the coming changes, but not all candidates will be able to completely rearrange their lives to fit the 2016 version of the CPA Exam. Those candidates whose study schedules will be dictated by other personally significant events in 2016 can still hope to pass before 2017 with the help of Gleim CPA Review. Our dedicated Personal Counselors can work with you to create your customized plan to pass, and our exceptional coverage of testable content will empower you to master the modified CSOs. Discover how prepared you can be for every section of the CPA Exam by trying a free CPA review demo of our Premium CPA Review course today!