On April 1, which is (Facebook) officially known as the International CPA Exam Changes Day, the CPA Exam will undergo another round of major updates. I know you’re all thinking, PLEASE no more changes. And, in the wake of the Great Content Overhaul of 2017 when the AICPA increased the number of Simulations in each section and upgraded their questions to test your higher-level thinking skills, I don’t blame you for feeling a little afraid.
BUT I’m happy to share that these new changes will target the design and functionality of the exam to give these elements the much needed makeover that they (and all current and future CPA candidates) deserve. In other words, these updates are going to make the exam experience easier, not harder.
You are so beautiful to me
The redesigned exam will actually be really….well, pretty is honestly the best word. All the elements of the current version that y’all have been complaining about will be updated. Trust me when I say you will like it. I’m going to go into the user interface changes more in a later article. Spoiler alert – the question navigation will be at the top of the screen and the timer will be on the left side now, because, you know, that’s where you look first.
Hard to believe, but there is a 2018 CPA Exam change even more exciting than the intellectual oranges and soothing blues of the new design. The CPA Exam is replacing its proprietary spreadsheet with MS Excel, which *fun fact* has been known and loved by accountants since 1985.
After April 1, exam candidates will be able to access the desktop version of Excel by clicking the spreadsheet icon found in the nice redesigned toolbar of the Multiple-Choice Questions and Task-Based Simulations.
On the exam, Excel will perform all of the same essential functions as the regular desktop Excel spreadsheet. The only things the CPA version of Excel won’t do are completely non-essential, like a lot of keyboard shortcuts. Think most Ctrl+, Atl+, Shift+, and function keys as well as anything that might threaten the security of the exam or allow you to access your personal online Excel account, which of course you wouldn’t do anyway because you’re not a cheater.
The only really useful shortcuts available will be Cut, Copy, and Paste. How will I know, you might wonder, which shortcuts work and which don’t? If you’re a Gleim customer, we will lay it all out for you in our online course in a list of the functional shortcuts. If you’re not a Gleim customer, idk. Good luck with that?
While there will be a limited number of shortcuts available, the good news is that the ones you will be able to use are super useful. You will be able to copy figures from Excel and paste them into the answer fields of a simulation or into the calculator, and vice versa! And you’ll be relieved to know that if you commit every accountant’s worst nightmare of closing Excel without saving your work, it will retain all of the information entered while in a testlet, even if you close the window or switch between questions.
Excel-ebrate these functions
Excel on the CPA Exam will also let you:
- Filter and sort: This is the biggest difference by far, as it includes complex sorting with multiple variables.
- Use standard spreadsheet formulas: All of the formulas will be available to search through and select, so you won’t have to know them by heart if you get to anything super complicated.
- See all the numbers: The exam’s current proprietary spreadsheet tool hides numbers if you enter too many of them, but Excel will actually round decimals for you and turn large numbers into scientific notation.
- Drag content: As you probably know, you can click the side of a box to drag the contents to another box in Excel. You can’t do that in the current spreadsheet.
- Move down with Enter: Excel will allow you to hit Enter to move down a row, which is very useful when entering many rows of data by hand. The current spreadsheet only allows this movement by clicking in the cell you want, which drives everyone CRAZY.
- Apply a formula to an entire column: You’ll save a lot of time by utilizing Excel’s ability to copy a formula and paste it down an entire column. The current spreadsheet tool only grabs the value of a cell, not the formula itself.
- Color cells: With Excel on the CPA Exam, you’ll be able to shade your cells every color of the rainbow if you want to. (ps Don’t do that. Make good decisions.)
At this point, the AICPA has indicated that all the work you do in Excel with the features above won’t be graded. No one will ever see it but you, which is kind of a shame but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This has been fun, but what about the rest of the CPA exam changes in 2018?
If you’re like us and are really excited by the fact that Excel is officially coming to the CPA Exam, two things about you are also probably true: 1) You were born to be an accountant, and 2) you’ll be pretty stoked about the rest of the exam changes coming in April. Check out our free 2018 CPA Exam Changes guide and future blogs to learn more about the integration of Excel and all the other updates.