The AICPA and the NASBA have approved a new format for the CPA exam in the U.S. Currently, the CPA exam has 4 parts:

  1. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  2. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  3. Regulation (REG)
  4. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

Starting in 2024, the CPA exam will shift to a “core + discipline” structure.  Under this format, all CPA exam candidates will be required to pass exams in the following core disciplines:

  1. Accounting
  2. Auditing
  3. Tax
  4. Technology

But in addition to the core, each candidate must pass an additional exam from among the following three disciplines:

  1. Business reporting and analysis
  2. Tax compliance and planning
  3. Information systems and controls

The AICPA hasn’t yet released details about the core areas or disciplines, so it’s not clear specifically which topics will be covered.  The good news is that the exam length will remain 16 hours, so the CPA exam isn’t getting any longer.

Here are the key changes:

  • There will be a greater emphasis on technology and analytics
  • Each candidate will have to pick a discipline, which is basically an advanced topic they must master (e.g., tax is a core area that every candidate must pass, but if you pick “tax compliance and planning” as your discipline then you must possess a much stronger grasp of tax than candidates who choose a different discipline)

Regardless of which discipline you choose, you’ll still be a CPA.  Thus, you could choose the “tax compliance and planning” discipline and end up working as an auditor.  There will only be one CPA designation, and the rules about what a CPA can and can’t do are not changing.

The goal of this “CPA evolution” is to better prepare CPAs for the work environment of the future.  But I’m sure students who plan to take the CPA in 2024 won’t be thrilled about the idea of mastering a “discipline” or adjusting to a new format.

If you’re in school right now and plan to take the exam in 2024 or thereafter, you should probably think about which discipline you’re going to pick and take an advanced course in that area.  For example, if you plan to pick “tax compliance and planning” you should not only take a course in income tax fundamentals but take a second, more advanced tax course.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions about the new exam: