Portland, Ore. (June 16, 2003) -- A potential monkey wrench in the upcoming new electronic version of the CPA Examination surfaced at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy western regional meeting, here.

Two NASBA delegates said that many prospective CPAs would be unable to prepare for one of the new exam's major innovations - a requirement to perform Internet-based research. Many colleges, particularly small ones, cannot afford to buy access to the Internet research programs used in the test, which inhibits their students' ability to prepare, said Harold Wilde and Bobbi Barnhill, NASBA delegates from North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively.

The test, scheduled to be launched next April, will require students to research online programs from the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the American Institute of CPAs and at least one tax research Web site, they said.

"Students should be able to see the research tools before testing, but most schools simply cannot afford them," said Wilde, who is an associate professor of accounting at the University of North Dakota. He estimated the cost of FASB's system to be about $4,000, the AICPA's at $1,000, and at least $1,000 per year for a tax research site.

Barnhill, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Accounting, urged the American Institute of CPAs, which has spearheaded the electronic exam effort, to ensure that schools can access any Internet research systems used. "Otherwise, this is going to put some students at a disadvantage when the test starts," she said.

Craig Mills, the AICPA's executive director of examinations, said the institute is aware of the issue and is working on a resolution with providers of the research tools to be used. Wilde and Barnhill said there is still adequate time to properly prepare students before the new test is launched.

Mills also said that the test is on schedule to be launched in April 2004. The AICPA began tutorials for the test this past April.

-- John M. Covaleski

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