CPA Exam Changes

The 2017 CPA Exam: A Little Different, But Not More Difficult

The new 2017 CPA Exam has made its debut for more than a month now, and we know CPA Exam candidates are curious to know just how much the new exam differs from the old one. While we have gone in depth regarding how the exam has changed, now that it’s actually launched, we thought it would be helpful to hear from real CPA Exam candidates who have taken both the old and new exam to compare the two versions. 

Hear from Suzanne Magalhaes, a Tax Accountant for a CPA firm in Long Island, New York, who is pursuing her CPA license to extend her current knowledge and experience as well as future career opportunities. Suzanne has taken AUD, BEC, and REG in the old exam format and just took FAR in the new one.

What she has to say about her experience with the 2017 CPA Exam may surprise you! 

Did you find the new version of the exam to be easier, similar, or more difficult than the old version?

I found the new version of the CPA Exam to be quite similar to the old version. Other than the fact that the interface (welcome screen, sign in, etc) looked slightly more modern, I felt like it was pretty much the same test.

What were the most challenging question types on the new exam?

I would have to say Task-Based Simulations (TBS).  The TBS always has a ton of information for you to read, several times. So I would have to say that the most difficult part is staying patient with reading the large amount of information that they give you,  and keeping your cool while trying to answer all of the questions on a particular TBS within your budgeted amount of time.

What were the least challenging question types on the new exam?

The Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) were the least challenging for me on this new exam, but mostly because I studied MCQs over and over (200-300 questions a day during the week leading to the exam).  I focused on TBS as well but I felt like the repetition in the MCQs helped me have a better understanding of the TBS.

Did you feel like the new exam asked you questions to prepare you for real life scenarios?

Absolutely. I have worked in tax for the last 7 years, and even though I just took FAR, there were things I saw on the exam that I see every day in my real-life work experience. 

Overall, what do you feel was the biggest difference between the old and new exam?

The biggest difference to me was the format change, especially being confident in time management.  My first two TBS were, to me, more time consuming than the other six. I had to give myself 12-20 minutes per TBS and I had no idea what was in store for the rest of the exam, so I had to make a decision on when to move on, even if I wasn’t 100% confident in my answers.  

I was able to finish the remaining TBS with 25 minutes to spare and was upset that I couldn’t go back to the first two TBS, like I normally would have been able to do in the old exam. However, I did like the presentation of less information by splitting up the TBS because sometimes scanning through all of the TBS at once can be overwhelming.

Also, the standardized break was amazing. I never took the breaks during the old exam because they went against your time, and I found myself finishing with seconds to spare on my first two exams, without taking breaks. Even though they give you a 15 minute break, I only used 4-5 minutes to stretch and get my blood circulating. Those rooms can get cold and sitting still for 4 hours can be strenuous. I paced around for 2-3 minutes, but I was ready to get back at it sooner than later.

How did Roger CPA Review help prepare you for the new exam?

I think Roger CPA Review did a great job helping me prepare for the new exam. I knew that there were things I had to specifically search out regarding the 2017 changes, but only when I was ready. I always look at structural things and tips for actual test day strategies as the exam gets closer as part of mentally preparing for test day. When I search for these resources, Roger CPA Review has the information there for me to access within seconds.

What tools of our course were the most helpful in preparing you for the new exam?

Everything. The lecture videos are always clutch. Roger makes a statement of cash flows fun. I continued to follow the electronic version of the text and use my book for TBS and questions. Lectures were watched 2-3 times for specific trouble areas, and of course the practice questions are a huge help.  

I think Roger does a particularly great job with the TBS & DRS preparation. There are always questions that make you think outside the box, or when you think you have the right answer, you realize that you missed a few steps. Roger’s review of TBS questions go through each possible element of the concept being tested.  

On test day, I would look at a TBS or even a MCQ and remember the missing step that I learned while watching Roger go over the TBS and I think it made a positive difference. 

Lastly, what is your best piece of advice for students to successfully prepare for the new CPA Exam?

Try not to think about the exam changes as if they are trying to make the test more difficult. They are still testing your knowledge and application of the information. The AICPA blueprint was helpful in understanding what would be more heavily tested but really, you have to have an understanding of every concept being presented. Don’t get discouraged. The “aha!” moment will come even if it takes a while, and when it does, you will realize what all the studying has been for!

Other articles in this series 

New 2017 Exam vs. the Old Exam: The Biggest Differences