CPA Exam Blueprint

CPA Exam Blueprint is a document that presents a detailed content listing of each CPA Exam section and is published by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) once or twice annually. The purpose of the document is to outline the essential knowledge and skills required for CPA licensure.

Kindly note that the AICPA’s Examinations Team develops the CPA ExamCPA ExamThe CPA Exam assesses accounting professionals not just on their financial knowledge, but also on their ability to review and seek out key abilities.read more in conformity with the updated blueprints. Therefore, blueprints set the boundaries for testing and scoring of the exam.

AICPA first introduced the CPA exam blueprints in April 2017. It replaced Content Specification Outlines (CSOs) and Skill Specification Outlines (SSOs) that provided details of the exam content earlier. 

The blueprints were considered more robust as compared to CSOs and SSOs. Besides, it helped recognize content directly associated with the representative tasks. Let’s discuss the blueprints in detail.

Relevance of AICPA Blueprints

CPA Exam aspirants can learn a lot about the testing, scoring, and evaluation criteria through these blueprints. They must review this document with other study materials to ramp up their preparation pace. 

The primary purpose of blueprints is to

  • Aid your exam preparation by demonstrating the testable skills and knowledge
  • Specify the minimum level of expertise required for initial licensure
  • Act as a guide to offer information about the development of CPA Exam questions
  • Notify the educators about the necessary skills and know-how needed by future CPAs

Overview of AICPA Blueprints

CPA Exam Blueprints must be the primary preparation resource for CPA aspirants. This helps them know what, how(much), and why to learn specific topics. 

The blueprints offer an in-depth analysis of the following four CPA Exam sections:

Moreover, each exam section is explained in two significant parts, namely, introduction and blueprint.

Besides content, skills and tasks, each section blueprint also contains a list of reference materials, number of question types, and their score weighting. Let’s discuss them in detail.

  • Exam content

The content in each section is divided into areas, groups, and topics. In addition, the blueprints mention the extent of the content tested in each area of a section.

  • Representative or sample tasks

Each topic includes representative tasks expected of a newly licensed CPA. These tasks indicate what you may be asked to do on the exam. Please note that the included tasks are not an all-inclusive list of testable tasks. Also, the tasks do not indicate the evaluation extent of the content topic, group, or skill level. 

  • Skills evaluated

Each representative task in the blueprint is evaluated at four levels of skills, namely, remembering and understanding (R&U), application (Ap), analysis (An), and evaluation (E). The blueprints also mention the extent and type of skill level tested in each section.

  • Reference materials

The blueprints present a list of reference materials relevant to each exam section.

  • Type and number of questions

All sections consist of multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations (TBS). Besides, BEC has an additional written communication task (WCT) segment. The number of questions varies with sections.

  • Score weighting

Each question type is allotted scoring weights. The weights assigned varies as per sections.

CPA Exam Blueprints 2021

The recently updated blueprints got the approval of AICPA’s Board of Examiners on October 23, 2020. It came into effect on July 1, 2021. 

The latest blueprints divide the four exam sections into 18 Content Areas (with 103 Content Groups and 153 Content Topics), four Skills, and 570 Representative Tasks. 

Significant changes are made to the AUD and BEC sections. However, there are minor modifications to the FAR and REG sections.

Some topics have been removed, added, and de-emphasized with a reduction in the skill level. Most of the revisions are with regard to content and skills allocation. However, the number of questions and score weighting remains unaltered.

Furthermore, the recent revisions mainly focus on the following four aspects:

  • Understanding of business processes
  • Creating a digital mindset and using data analytics
  • Enhancing reliance on System and Organization Controls for Service Organizations (SOC reports)
  • Stressing critical knowledge and skills

The two significant eliminations are International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) from the FAR and Estate Taxation from the REG section.

The blueprints aim to inform aspirants of the required skill levels, testable content, and representative tasks they must perform as a CPA. 

Let’s understand this section-by-section. 

AUD

AUD Blueprint tests the know-how and skills of a newly licensed CPA while performing

  • Audits of the issuer, non-issuer or governmental entities
  • Attestation engagements
  • Preparation, collection, and review of engagements
Content Area Content Allocation Group Topics Tasks Skills Evaluated
R & U Ap An E
Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, & General Principles 15%-25% 6 11 32 Yes Yes
Assessing Risk & Developing a Planned Response 25%-35% 8 16 41 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Performing Further Procedures & Obtaining Evidence 30%-40% 7 8 40 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Forming Conclusions & Reporting 10%-20% 5 15 28 Yes Yes

BEC

BEC blueprint evaluates the expertise of the future CPAs while

  • Performing auditing, attestation, accounting, and reviewing services
  • Reporting financial statements
  • Preparing tax returns and offering other professional services 
Content Area Content Allocation Group Topics Tasks Skills Evaluated
R & U Ap An E
Enterprise Risk Management, Internal Controls, & Business Processes 20%-30% 3 5 20 Yes Yes Yes
Economics 15%-25% 3 2 11 Yes Yes Yes
Financial Management 10%-20% 3 2 16 Yes Yes Yes
Information Technology 15%-25% 4 9 24 Yes Yes
Operations Management 15%-25% 4 6 14 Yes Yes Yes

FAR

FAR blueprint assesses your competence in understanding and utilizing several financial accounting and reporting regulations and standards. The following entities issue these rules and standards:

  • Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)
  • US Securities and Exchange Commission (US SEC)
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB)
Content Area Content Allocation Group Topics Tasks Skills Evaluated
R & U Ap An E
Conceptual Framework, Standard-Setting & Financial Reporting 25%-35% 6 13 54 Yes Yes Yes
Select Financial Statement Accounts 30%-40% 12 6 58 Yes Yes Yes
Select Transactions 20%-30% 11 0 38 Yes Yes Yes
State & Local Governments 5%-15% 4 22 41 Yes Yes

REG

REG blueprint examines your competence in understanding and applying the concepts of federal taxation, ethics, and business law. It tests your capabilities and ethics while executing taxation and advisory services. 

Content Area Content Allocation Group Topics Tasks Skills Evaluated
R & U Ap An E
Ethics, Professional Responsibilities, & Federal Tax Procedures 10%-20% 4 8 20 Yes Yes
Business Law 10%-20% 5 7 25 Yes Yes
Federal Taxation of Property Transactions 12%-22% 3 4 22 Yes Yes Yes
Federal Taxation of Individuals 15%-25% 7 0 20 Yes Yes Yes
Federal Taxation of Entities 28%-38% 8 19 66 Yes Yes Yes

Use Blueprints to Pass the CPA Exam

Blueprints do a lot more than just specifying the amount of content to be covered. It helps you plan smartly, save time, and prep better for outstanding results. 

Let’s see how it can make you pass one of the toughest accounting tests with ease. 

  • Plan your schedule accordingly 

Go through blueprints before preparing for CPA Exam. This will help you dedicate the right amount of time to each topic. Keep content weightage and representative tasks in mind while designing the schedule. 

Take it one section at a time, and don’t plan for the entire exam all at once. This way, you will be able to focus on the present section at hand without any hassle. 

  • Use them with other study aids

Irrespective of the chosen study style (auditory, visual, or hands-on), assume blueprints as the universal rulebook. Cover all the mentioned topics effectively as early as you can. This will give you plenty of room for revision and practice. 

After revising your portions, recheck the exam blueprints to ensure you have covered all the topics. Also, check whether you are able to perform each topic’s associated task. This way, you rest assured that you have understood the topic thoroughly.

Before choosing a review course, ensure it covers all the topics specified in the blueprint. Being well-planned and aware of what, how, and why to study will bear fruitful results in the long run. 

  • Keep revising the blueprints

Keep going through the AICPA website to check for even a minor update to the exam blueprints. You can also subscribe to the AICPA newsletter and get the latest updates instantly. 

If possible, print the document and paste them in your study room for constant motivation. And then, try to understand the topic through the associated representative tasks and content overview. 

  • Take notes

The exam blueprint is a lengthy 99-page document with around 20 pages dedicated to each section. Hence, go through the required section and jot down the content area, weightage, topics, group, and tasks. 

Penning down the essential points will help simplify the complicated topics. Also, it will boost your comprehension skills. 

Needlessly, CPA Exam Blueprint is the most relevant prep material for a candidate. It ensures that the hours of study and months of dedication are invested in the right direction. 

Use it as much as possible to know everything about the licensure exam. However, make sure to review only the latest updated version and plan your studies accordingly.

A Guide to CPA Exam Blueprint. Here we discuss how to use blueprints to pass the CPA exam and its most important updates in 2021. You may also have a look at the below articles to compare CPA with other examinations –

 

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