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CPA Exam changes become clearer; Illinois CPA Society scholarships are available.

cpa sign smallWhether you are a recent accountancy graduate or have been working in the field as you attempt to pass the daunting CPA Exam, focused preparation is critical to one’s success. Countless practicing certified public accountants (CPAs) will tell you that they once said ‘this is the last time I am taking the CPA Exam if I don’t pass this section.’ Well it’s a good thing for them that they didn’t give up.

“The CPA Exam is an arduous test of one’s knowledge and understanding of the principles of accountancy, but it is absolutely within reach, even for those who have previously failed, with the right balance of practice time and focus,”said Stephanie Blanco, CPA, Chair of the Illinois CPA Society Government Report Review Committee and Senior Manager atJohn Kasperek Co., Inc. in Calumet City, Illinois. “Having a thorough understanding of what is most important along with knowing one’s own areas of weakness can be the difference that drives up a score.”

Unfortunately, years of shared knowledge and experience about the current exam rigors and pitfalls won’t be so useful to those sitting for the exam next year as American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has announced changes are comingApril 1, 2017 when they launch the next version of the “Uniform CPA Examination.”

Not everything will change, however, and the 2017 Exam will continue to be organized in four portions:  Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation.  The next version will focus less on memory and more on analysis and evaluation skills. Other key changes, according to the Journal of Accountancy include:

  • Total testing time will increase from 14 to 16 hours; candidates are allowed four hours to work on each section of the exam, minus any time they take for breaks that are not standardized.
  • The tests will feature fewer multiple-choice questions and more task-based simulations. Weighting for multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations has also changed; each will now count for 50% of a candidate's score on the AUD, FAR, and REG sections. On the BEC section, multiple-choice questions will count for 50% of the score, with task-based simulations counting for 35%, and three written communication questions making up the remaining 15%.
  • Candidates will now be offered a standardized 15-minute break approximately halfway through each section; this break stops the exam clock. The break is optional, but if candidates decline it, they will not be offered an additional opportunity to stop the clock for a 15-minute break. Additional breaks between testlets will still be permitted, but they won't pause the clock.

The Examinations Team has released new blueprints to replace current content outlines that are publicly available on the AICPA website.

“Another roadblock we hear from testers is that the exam cost is not only a deterrent but also an added stress while testing,” added Blanco. “The good news is there are plenty of scholarship opportunities out there. The Illinois CPA society, for example, accepts CPA Exam Award Scholarship applications four times per year for those who have not yet completed all four sections.”

Each quarter, the Illinois CPA Society (ILCPAS) offers a scholarship opportunity that reimburses approximately $750 for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy fee, part of the total exam cost. The ILCPAS CPA Exam Award Scholarship is funded by the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois. Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent U.S. Resident and be an Illinois Resident.
  • Not be reimbursed for CPA exam fees by an employer.
  • Maintain a current or final cumulative GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or equivalent.
  • Have pre-approved status by Illinois Board of Examiners and agree to take at least one section within nine months of the date on the application approval letter from the Board of Examiners.
  • Must not have completed all four sections of the exam, but may apply with a portion of the exam completed.
  • Complete all four sections of the exam within 18 months of being approved to test by the Board of Examiners. (If all four sections are not completed within 18 months, candidates may be asked to refund all, or a portion of the award based on the number of sections completed.)
  • Not already received this award.

The next two scholarship deadlines are on September 15 and November 15, 2016.

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