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Volume 68, Issue 151, Wednesday, June 25, 2003


CPA exam changes to computer format in April

By Karen Klucznik
The Daily Cougar

UH accounting students can put down their pencils and begin sharpening their computer skills. Beginning April 2004, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants will toss out the age-old pencil and paper CPA exam format and plug in to a modern, computer-based format.

The change, designed to broaden the scope of information covered, will enable students to demonstrate their skills by emphasizing information technology, general business knowledge and auditing.

"The most significant content change of the exam is the requirement to use authoritative literature to research a topic and prepare a report," said Tom Noland, chairman of the UH Department of Accountancy and Taxation. "A majority of this information is currently provided to students and we will emphasize those skills more in graduate level courses."

According to the AICPA Web site, the new exam will consist of four sections: auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation and business environment and concepts. 

Eighty percent of the exam will consist of multiple-choice questions and the remaining 20 percent will focus on "real-life" simulations that require the use of spreadsheets and financial calculators. 

Although the exam has been known for its extreme level of difficulty since beginning in 1917, the new computer-based program offers several advantages for students preparing to take the exam in April.

Rather than sitting for the entire test at one time, which can take 15 hours to complete, students will be able to take one section at a time, enabling them to take each section when they feel confident. Each candidate receives a rolling 18-month period to successfully complete all four sections and results will be immediate versus waiting three months as with the old format.

Additionally, the time window of when the exam is being offered will increase to six days per week, two out of every three months per quarter instead of being administered only twice per year in May and November.

A drawback to the computer-based format is that once a testlet, which consists of 10-25 questions, is exited, answers are considered final and no changes can be made. 

In years past, Kaplan has provided students with review sessions and is busy readying for the change in test format. 

"We plan to provide extensive online practice questions and simulation modules," said Kaplan Public Relations Representative Karen Blass. "We will also provide moderated chats with Kaplan CPA professors to enable those opting for the self-study program to have interaction with professors and fellow students."

As with anything new, there is a slight uncertainty regarding the new format, but UH usually ranks first or second in the state for institutions with at least 30 students sitting for the exam.

Noland said he is confident students taking the test in April will be more than ready to tackle the new exam.

Additional information can be found on the AICPA Web site at

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