This month the new, computerized version of the Uniform CPA Exam replaces its paper-and-pencil predecessor. The computer-based test is a joint effort by the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric, a developer of technology-based testing services.
Today's students are getting auditing training that doesn't resemble the instruction you experienced. Changes in the profession, in technology, in the audit world and in accounting education are bringing about academic retooling to better prepare future staff members to meet the demands of becoming a CPA and to perform audit tasks. The geographic restrictions of the paper-and-pencil exam area thing of the past. Candidates can sit for the exam up to four times each year and can take each part separately anywhere in the United States (see "Tips on Preparing Employees for the New CPA Exam," JofA, Mar. 04, page 11). Besides that flexibility, the new exam makes improvements in the areas of security and candidate skills assessment. My colleagues and I want to heartily encourage practitioners to spend some time in the classroom with us to participate in training the young men and women who will become your staff, proteges and partners--as well as the profession's standard bearers.
EDUCATION IS THE KEY
Recent accounting lapses have highlighted how important an efficient and impeccable audit is to business health, but even in 2000--before Enron and subsequent misdeeds came to light--the AICPA along with the American Accounting Association, the Institute of Management Accountants and the Big 5 accounting firms had sponsored a study of accounting education. The published results, Accounting Education: Charting the Course through a Perilous Future by W. Steve Albrecht and Robert J. Sack (www.aicpa.org/edu /accteduc.htm), urged many changes in the way the profession prepares accounting students.
The study found
* Too much emphasis on memorization, with tests that were based primarily on recall.
* Too much reliance on lectures, on textbooks as lesson plans and on "faculty knows best" attitudes.
* Widespread academic reluctance to develop creative types of learning, such as assignments with real companies, teamwork, case analyses, oral presentations, role playing, team teaching, technology assignments, videos, writing assignments, involvement of business professionals in the classroom and the study of current events.
* Academic resistance to using out-of-classroom experiences such as internships, field studies, foreign business trips, service-learning assignments, observation of professionals in the work environment and e-mail correspondence with practitioners.
OPPORTUNITY TO UPGRADE
Many practitioners remember auditing instruction based on memorization. Some of us were required to recall the 10 auditing standards and identify departures from them in a given example. After memorizing the standard report, we had to write an audit report based on a set of facts. That was solid conceptual training, but it didn't show the potential variables of an actual business situation.
This month the new, computerized CPA exam will begin operating and will make a radical change in the proficiencies it tests. An AICPA paper, "Skills for the Uniform CPA Examination," defines what the exam will cover (www.cpa-exam.org). The competencies are
* Analysis: the ability to organize, process and interpret data to develop options for decision making.
* Judgment: the ability to evaluate options for decision making and provide an appropriate conclusion for the situation.
* Communication: the ability to effectively elicit and express information through written or oral means.
* Research: the ability to locate and extract relevant information from available resource materials.
* Understanding: the ability to recognize and comprehend the meaning, influence and application of a particular matter. …