In April 2017, the next version of the CPA Exam will be launching. When the AICPA announced in September of 2015 that the CPA Exam would be changing, many CPA Exam candidates focused on the increased testing time, number of Task-Based Simulations, and most importantly, the testing of higher order skills.
While the new exam will arguably be more difficult than it currently is, future CPA Exam candidates should focus on what is perhaps the most important end result of these changes: the 2017 CPA Exam will test for better prepared CPAs, who in turn will be more employable and will be better suited to handle the demands of the first two years of public accounting work.
In order to gain a better understanding of this, we spoke with Rob Dewey, our Director of Product Development. His experience in the publishing industry has helped him understand why higher order thinking skills are so important when it comes to building a foundation in the accounting profession.
I’ve worked in college textbook publishing for many years—and I’ve learned that effective learning is all about motivation.
From beginning as a salesperson to becoming the editor-in-chief responsible for publishing accounting, tax, and business law, I’d like to say that I’ve had my fair share of exposure to how content is curated and distributed—specifically in the academic space and specifically for topics that are on the CPA Exam.
That’s especially important when we talk about what it means for effective content to be produced and distributed—that is, producing high-quality content that motivates students to understand a concept as well as apply it to their everyday lives and, eventually, future careers.
This is where higher order skills come in.
The whole academic world is trying to figure out how to get students to think better. Professors, publishers, and curriculum developers conduct research that tests which teaching and learning methodologies go hand in hand in order to effectively and efficiently give students the knowledge they need to not just pass a test, but actually live what they learn.
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives has been one answer to this call for a long time. Raising the critical thinking element in textbooks and test questions with Bloom’s Taxonomy is something that’s been done across the educational spectrum for years; the fact that it’s now taking precedence on the CPA Exam is indicative of the accounting profession acknowledging that its new hires must function at higher levels not just technically, but also analytically in their first two years on the job.
The accounting profession demands high level thinkers and doers, which is why they changed the exam to reflect this.
As it currently stands, the two Bloom’s Taxonomy skills that the CPA Exam tests are remembering/understanding and application. While these can get candidates through the exam, they are not enough to push them to be high-level performing CPAs.
It’s similar to how some educators are frustrated with the level of thinking that their students have. If learning is based on rote memorization, students don’t have any motivation to work toward applying the knowledge they obtain. They’d prefer to memorize it, use it to pass a test, and move on with their lives, leaving the information behind. There’s a great number of students who don’t know how to push themselves to a higher level or to use analysis/evaluative skills because they were never challenged to do so.
Altering this aspect on the CPA Exam will change that. It will filter CPA candidates from the beginning so that those who are good at memorizing information and doing well on a test can’t get into the profession by accident or simply coast through. The CPA profession is an intense and demanding one. With the type of responsibility that CPAs have to protect the financial integrity of businesses, corporations, the government, and other various private or public organizations, it’s crucial that the CPA Exam stays relevant to the times and continues to be a good measurement of that competency.
Because the CPA Exam is testing candidates’ skills and abilities to thoroughly understand concepts on a much higher level, the end result will be the production of better CPAs.
And the production of better CPAs means continued positive and beneficial growth for the accounting industry and profession overall. This won’t only go to help improve client services at firms, but also to produce better business professionals who can help boost the economy and continue to demonstrate why the CPA designation carries the amount of respect, responsibility, and prestige that it does.