CPA Exam Changes 2018 FAQs

cpa exam changes 2018

In case you missed it, the CPA Exam changed on April 1, 2018. The AICPA launched a new version of the exam that includes major modifications to the design and functionality. The exam will also experience content changes in 2018. If you feel out of the loop and have questions about the exam changes, don’t worry; we address everything you need to know about the CPA Exam changes 2018 with these FAQs.


Why Is the CPA Exam Changing Again?

As you may recall, the 2017 CPA Exam changes challenged candidates to reach higher levels of accounting knowledge and unveiled the new CPA Exam Blueprints that contain 600+ tasks representing real-world CPA responsibilities. The AICPA used an increased number of Task-Based Simulations (TBSs) and harder multiple-choice questions (MCQs) to produce an exam that is harder to pass.

This year’s update aims to create an easier testing experience for candidates by focusing more on the exam design and functionality rather than on the content and questions. The modernized look and feel of the exam is good news for all.

How Is the CPA Exam Testing Experience Changing in 2018?

The 2018 CPA Exam changes include three exciting adjustments to the testing experience:

  • Excel Integration
    Microsoft Excel will replace the CPA Exam’s proprietary spreadsheet tool so that the process of using a spreadsheet on the exam aligns more with what candidates use on a day-to-day basis. You’ll find the new Excel icon in the top navigation menu of all MCQs and TBSs. When you click this icon, you’ll get access to the desktop version of Excel, which will allow you to employ the most useful functions, like Cut, Copy, and Paste. Nonessential functions, like keyboard shortcuts, and anything that might threaten the security of the exam or allow you to access your personal online Excel account will be inactive. The exam will not be testing your Excel skills, just making your life easier by letting you use Excel to perform more complicated calculations.
  • New User Experience (UX)
    The look and layout of virtually all user interfaces will be more modern and attractive. Pop-ups, action screens, and all question types will feature a clean, uncluttered design with a refreshing blue and orange color scheme. A bar at the top left of the screen will show the testlets that are currently opened, locked, or completed. The timer, which will contain larger digits providing a more specific time count, will sit right below this testlet bar, and the question navigation will be centered beneath the timer toolbar. Additionally, the exam screens will be much wider, as they will be optimized for the 23″ HD monitors already in the Prometric testing centers.
  • Exam Question Functionality
    There are several improvements to many different areas of the exam. We’ve distilled them and itemized them in the following table.

    Old CPA Exam Version

    New CPA Exam Version

    Exam Tools

    Authoritative Literature, Spreadsheet, Calculator

    Calculator, Excel, Authoritative Literature, Overview, Help

    Calculator Tape

    Clears between questions within the same testlet

    Saved and accessible through the entire testlet

    Help Tool

    One page of static text at the beginning of each testlet

    A fixed icon in the toolbar that opens to provide important, searchable information about every part of the exam

    Overview Tool

    Not present

    A pop-up box showing the number and first sentence of each testlet question that can be used to navigate to questions and set/unset reminders

    Authoritative Literature

    Table of Contents is divided into 3 different content collections, each accessible via a tab

    Table of Contents does not populate until source is selected; multiple sources may be selected at once

    Copy and Paste

    More limited

    Numbers can be copied and pasted between the Calculator, the exhibits, the question content, and Excel. Text cannot.

    Task-Based Simulations

    Includes horizontal and vertical split screen options

    Includes open work space


    Only one exhibit visible at a time

    Up to 8 exhibits can be open and visible at once

    Journal Entries

    Answers are typed within a formula bar or the response cells

    Response cells feature clickable icons that produce pop-ups with option lists or auto-formatted number entries

    Global Response Grid

    Not present

    A new kind of simulation featuring multiple spreadsheets/tables in which to respond

    Written Communications

    Undo and redo are possible using keyboard shortcuts Control Z and Control Y

    Undo and redo are only possible using toolbar buttons, not the keyboard shortcuts

    You can find images of all these updates in our more detailed explanation of the coming CPA Exam changes. You can also see the exam changes in action in Gleim CPA Review, the most exam-emulating course on the market and the only course to feature both exam versions before the transition.

How Is the CPA Exam Content Changing?

Earlier this year, the AICPA released a new set of CPA Exam blueprints that will be effective in Q3 2018. Therefore, there are two sets of Blueprints for 2018, but there’s no need to panic because these changes are minor, as you can see in the summary below.

The current Blueprints went into effect on January 1, 2018, and will remain effective until July 1, 2018. These Blueprints include a few minor changes to AUD and REG, no changes to BEC, and some updates in FAR to indicate not-for-profit accounting changes. The 2018 exam also integrated the new revenue recognition standard, which provides a single, principles-based revenue recognition model that can be applied to all contracts with customers regardless of whether the accounting issues are industry-specific or transaction specific.

Most of the changes to the Blueprints effective July 1, 2018, affect fairly specific tasks that we don’t recommend focusing on too much. They don’t materially impact the content you’re studying. Instead, you just need to get a general overview of the impacts on each exam section. You can trust Gleim to incorporate any necessary changes into our study materials in time to ensure that you’re fully prepared.

  • AUD
    The meaningful change made to the AUD CPA Exam section was the addition of a new task regarding an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. The current Blueprints only require candidates to identify factors that could call into question an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. The revised Blueprints will expect candidates to assess the evaluations done by management in regard to an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.
  • BEC
    Because of the recent COSO ERM framework revision, BEC has the biggest content changes of any exam section. The Blueprint has evolved to reflect the new framework’s expanded emphasis on the integration of risk management. Note that exam functions could reflect the new ERM as early as April 1, before the changes to the Blueprints are effective. Several tasks were also added to the Economic Concepts and Analysis area of BEC, but per the AICPA, these tasks don’t change the nature or scope of the testable content because the three new tasks are basically a breakdown of the one previous task with more details added.
  • FAR
    The FAR CPA Exam section received two important changes. The first reflected the simplification of revenue recognition. To accomplish this simplification, the AICPA removed the tasks that accounted for industry- or transaction-specific data and consolidated those tasks into the simpler task of “the amount and timing of revenue to be recognized under a contract.” The second FAR change was an adjustment to terminology in the Leases section due to the effects of ASU 2016-02, which will be testable beginning Q1 2019.

When Will the CPA Exam Test the New PCAOB Auditing Standard?

Though the PCAOB adopted the new auditing standard in June 2017, the CPA Exam will not start testing on it until 2018 Q3. After July 1, 2018, the exam will test all the new provisions to the standard except the critical audit matters, which will be added July 2019. You can learn more about the new PCAOB auditing standard in our helpful summary.

When Will the CPA Exam Test the New 2018 Tax Law Changes?

The CPA Exam will not test on the 2018 tax law changes until January 1, 2019. If you’re sitting for the REG CPA Exam section in 2018, you’ll only need to know about the tax laws and regulations effective July 1, 2017. The Authoritative Literature will include the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) as published before the enactment of the new tax law, and the AICPA will update all questions and the IRC for Q2 of 2019.

How Should I Schedule My CPA Exam Sections Based on These Changes?

If you would like to avoid the new tax law changes that the CPA Exam will start testing on in 2019, you should take REG in 2018. Otherwise, you can start your CPA Exam schedule with the section that appeals to you most. You can use your comfort level with the content of each section to help gauge your appeal. Once you’ve surveyed the areas of accounting that each section covers, you can rank the sections by difficulty and decide if you want to begin with the easiest or the hardest section. Opening with the easiest section can help you get an early CPA Exam win and boost your confidence for the remaining sections. Leading off with the hardest section not only gets it out of the way, but also lets you leave your longest study period out of your 18-month window of section credit, making you more likely to pass all four sections in time.

When Will My CPA Review Course Update for All of the CPA Exam Changes 2018?

If you’re studying with Gleim CPA Review, your course will update with plenty of time to prepare for the coming changes. Our course constantly adjusts to the latest CPA Exam news and updates so that you always have what you need to pass. With our Access Until You Pass® guarantee, you’ll be able to study on your own time with the reassurance that your materials will stay current for the duration of your review.

Where Can I Get More Information About the CPA Exam?

You can learn everything you need to know about the CPA Exam in our free CPA Exam Guide. This handy guide covers exam basics like the AICPA Blueprints, pass rates, exam fees, and more. It even includes study advice, time-management tips, information about testing locations, and details on the exam grading process. Access this guide for free today!