After years in the making, the computerized CPA exam is slated to launch April 2004. Lorraine P. Sachs, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) in USA, addresses what computer-based exam candidates need to know now.
What are the states doing in preparation for the computer-based test?
The state boards of accountancy are in the process of changing their rules and statutes to accommodate the computer-based test. This means, for example, making the alterations necessary to permit candidates to take one section of the examination at a time, or to remove requirements for a “written” examination, or to remove fee caps.
In addition, board members and executive directors are visiting Prometric's testing sites to ensure their candidates will have an adequate testing environment, and that necessary security procedures are in place.
Most importantly, board representatives are working to communicate to the students, professors and licensees in their jurisdictions that the computer-based examination is coming and the candidates need to prepare for several essential changes.
At this early stage in the computer-based examination's development, what messages do the candidates need now?
Simply, they need to know that the sections of the examination will be changing and what the equivalency between the old and new sections will be. They need to know the policies set by the state boards of accountancy in their jurisdictions. For example, candidates will no longer be required to take all sections at one time. They need to understand how credits from the paper-and-pencil examination will be transitioned over into the computer-based examination environment. It is expected that all candidates in the examination pipeline will receive the information from their boards. Candidates will find contact information for individual boards of accountancy on NASBA's Web site, www.nasba.org, and the new CPA Exam Web site, www.cpa-exam.org.
Certainly candidates should be encouraged to work with reference sources online, to become familiar with finding information on a screen, rather than on a page. Also, they should become well acquainted with www.cpa-exam.org to prepare for the computer-based exam's simulations and keep abreast of other candidate information.
What is the status of the National Candidate Database?
NASBA is developing and will maintain a National Candidate Database to serve as the gateway for all candidates applying to take the computerized Uniform CPA Examination. We will work with the boards and their designees to retrieve, store and manage eligibility information. This Gateway System will accept authorized candidates' information from the states and will process authorizations to test, create notices to schedule for the candidates, collect fees, handle attendance information, receive score information from the AICPA, and create score notices from the candidates. Pilot testing for the system will begin in October 2003, with boards transmitting information to NASBA about acceptability of candidates in March 2004. We will be ready to schedule candidates for testing beginning in April 2004.
Do you anticipate any problems?
NASBA, AICPA, and Prometric all have teams working to make the conversion to a computer-based exam seamless. Does that mean that the new exam will just roll into place effortlessly? We certainly hope to make it appear that way to the candidates. However, we all know that communication and flexibility will be key as the new examination is inaugurated. However, we believe making the switch will be worth it, as the state boards look forward to utilizing a new examination that will continue to assure the public of competent entry-level CPA professionals for a dynamic business environment.