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How to choose your CPA Exam discipline

CPA Evolution | Which discipline should I choose? | Gleim CPA Review
In January 2024, CPA Evolution will dramatically change the CPA exam. This change will alter the entire structure of the exam, along with the individual skills that candidates will be tested on. The good news is, you don’t need to panic during this period of uncertainty because we are here to help!
We’ll walk you through CPA Evolution, the CPA Exam changes, and explain how to correctly choose from among the new disciplines. First, let’s give you a quick overview of what CPA Evolution is and what it means for you.

CPA Evolution

CPA Evolution is an effort by NASBA and the AICPA to update the CPA licensure model to reflect the skills and competencies required to practice accounting today and in the future. According to NASBA, this model:
  • Will enhance public protection by producing candidates who have the deep knowledge necessary to perform high-quality work, meeting the needs of organizations, firms, and the public.
  • Is responsive to feedback, as it builds accounting, auditing, tax, and technology knowledge requirements into a robust common core.
  • Reflects the realities of practice, requiring deeper proven knowledge in one of three disciplines that are pillars of the profession.
  • Is adaptive and flexible, helping to future-proof the CPA as the profession continues to evolve.
  • Results in one CPA license.
All that is to say, the exam is changing and it will become more difficult in 2024.
Effective CPA Exam prep will be more important than ever moving forward. Gleim offers an award-winning CPA Exam Review designed to help you pass on the first try! However, no matter your choice, it’s important to find the review system that works best for you. 

CPA Exam changes

The largest and most important change for candidates will be the replacement of the existing four exam sections with three core exam sections and three discipline sections.
The current CPA exam has four sections, and the candidate must pass all of them to earn a CPA credential. 
  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)
After Evolution, candidates must pass all three core sections below:
  • Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)
Along with one of the three following specialized disciplines:
  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)
The new CPA Exam model showing the core and three disciplines all lead to the same CPA designation. This model is apart of the CPA Evolution Initiative.
The current BEC section is being removed and candidates will choose one of three new discipline sections in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge.
However, the administration of the new CPA Exam is expected to remain largely the same: it should still total the 16 hours it does currently and will remain split into 4 total sections. 

How to choose your discipline

Don’t overthink it! While the CPA Evolution changes may appear complex, it isn’t restrictive in how you pass. So, you’re free to pick whichever discipline interests you the most.
The largest concern most candidates have with the new CPA Exam revolves around choosing one of the new discipline sections.
There are a couple of things you should know before you make a decision:
  1. You will be able to practice professionally in any area regardless of which discipline you choose, so you should see this as an opportunity to test out a career path without being forced to commit to that specific area for your entire career.
  2. There is no discipline that is inherently better than the others. All of the accounting specializations will be in demand in the future, and each one offers rewarding careers with growth opportunities.

CPA Evolution Disciplines

Below, each discipline is broken down into specializations within the accounting field. Explore each discipline and identify the one that interests you the most and that you could envision yourself working in. 

  • Business Analysis and Reporting (BAR)Choose BAR if you find yourself more interested in assurance or advisory services, financial statement analysis and reporting, technical accounting, and financial and operations management. The exam content of BAR may have a data analytics focus and assess topics such as financial risk management and financial planning techniques, including projections. Potential careers include auditor at a public firm, accountant at a corporation, controller, chief accountant, and CEO/CFO.
  • Information Systems and Controls (ISC)Choose ISC if you are drawn to computers, information tech, or data management. ISC is focused on technology and business controls and targets for candidates interested in assurance or advisory services related to business processes, information systems, information security and governance, and IT audits. This discipline may have content focused on IT and data governance, internal control testing and information system security, including network security, software access, and endpoint security. Potential careers include data manager, data engineer/data scientist, and IT auditor.
  • Tax Compliance and Planning (TCP)Choose TCP if you want a career in tax and compliance. TCP may cover taxation topics involving more advanced individual and entity tax compliance, plus additional content focused on personal financial planning and entity planning. Topics could cover areas such as individual tax planning, consolidated tax returns, multijurisdictional tax issues, transactions between an entity and its owners, tax treatments of the formation and liquidation of business entities, and property transactions, including like-kind and involuntary exchanges and related party transactions. Potential careers include tax analyst, tax compliance officer, work in the tax dept. within a company, and tax practice entrepreneur.
Congratulations, you’re now one step closer to becoming a CPA! Remember, this decision is not absolute. Once you have your CPA license, you will be able to practice in any area, no matter which discipline you chose.
If you still have concerns or are not comfortable making a decision yet, please contact one of our advisers and they will help you find the right path forward. 
Regardless of which path you decide to take, the most important step is the preparation. CPA Evolution will make the CPA Exam harder.
Don’t worry though! Our team is standing by to help. We have led the accounting industry for over 48 years and have helped over 1 million people pass their CPA exams! 
We’re here to help you every step of the way, from deciding on a discipline to acing your exam. To see why Gleim is still the #1 choice, feel free to download our free demo and see for yourself!