Of the several content changes that will be taking place on the 2017 CPA Exam, an important one to note is the fact that multiple choice questions (MCQs) will be decreasing in the AUD, BEC, and FAR sections.
The reason for this being that in order to increase the testing of higher order skills on the new exam, more Task-Based Simulation (TBS) questions had to be added to each section. As it stands, MCQs only test the skill level of remembering and understanding whereas TBSs have the ability to test higher order skills such as analysis and evaluation.
Many candidates consider MCQs on the CPA Exam to be difficult; however, in comparison to a TBS, MCQs can sometimes be more preferable since this is a common practice across any and all types of exams. This is because…
- The correct answer is guaranteed to be among the possible answer choices and candidates can still choose the right answer with a lucky guess
- Many MCQs ask candidates to make comparisons and emphasize definitions rather than asking candidates to apply theory to new situations
- Candidates don’t have to produce a correct answer entirely from scratch
MCQs are a popular and tried and true way to test candidates’ familiarity with a much broader range of material and knowledge than TBSs do. Similarly, they can also test candidates’ familiarity with specific dates, names, or vocabulary, all of which are part of the remembering and understanding skill level as candidates are asked to recall the information they have learned and select the best answer choice based on the context of the question and their understanding.
Task-Based Simulations, however, are a different story. Normally considered condensed case studies that test candidates’ knowledge regarding specific topics, the AICPA describes TBSs as a useful way to test analysis and evaluation of material as candidates draw their own conclusions based on the information given:
“TBSs include greater background information and context for a more authentic experience for candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Candidates receive a set of questions related to a scenario they would encounter as a newly licensed CPA. They may be required to solve problems using spreadsheets, research authoritative literature, and write memos. Simulations provide a flexible format for presenting a realistic setting, thus making the examination better suited for assessing higher-level skills by requiring individuals to apply what they know in a real-world context.”
Therefore, decreasing MCQs isn’t important to only accommodate the addition of TBSs to fit the 4 hour testing time for each section. More than this, it indicates how advancing technology and changing business practices are requiring candidates to have a better, more thorough understanding of concepts they can readily apply to real life tasks as CPAs.
As a result, this will also affect the way the CPA Exam is scored in 2017. Currently for AUD, FAR, and REG, MCQs comprise 60% of a candidate's total score while TBSs only comprise 40%. With the new exam, this will change to balance the scale and give TBSs an equal amount of significance as MCQs will comprise 50% of a candidate's total score and TBSs will comprise the other half.