On Sunday, the first day of events at the AICPA’s 2014 Fall Meeting of Council in Boston, Mass., the state of the Uniform CPA Examination proved to be a key topic, with plans to ultimately release a new version of the Exam by 2017.

Members of the AICPA and their exam team stressed that the CPA Exam will remain focused on the technical aspects of the accounting profession, but should also establish a more realistic approach in content.

Senior vice president of management accounting & global markets at the AICPA Arleen Thomas told members of the Council that the Exam will continue to act as a filter for quality professionals, but must now do so on two counts.

“That filter has to deliver people who have demonstrated that body knowledge, but also [people] that employers want to hire,” she said. “The CPA exam is very critical to our definition of the profession. We want people who understand the technical [aspect] of accounting, but we should have more simulations. Is the interface and whole experience [of the Exam] reflective of current practice today?”

Thomas went on to point out that ever since computerization, Exam test-takers have experienced double-digit growth, but in 2011, it slowed. “We said, ‘Something’s happening here and we’re going to figure it out.”

To address the problem, the AICPA launched a Practice Analysis—a multi-year research project that looked to determine the job duties and responsibilities of newly-licensed CPA’s. Those findings in skills and knowledge will be factored into future testing in order to test more closely to what a newly-licensed CPA will realistically do in the profession.

In 2013, the Practice Analysis set a four-year plan to restructure the exam, with 2014 seeing the “exploration,” or research phase, which will lead to the announcement of the next version of the exam in the first quarter of 2016. The new exam will tentatively launch in 2017.

“The Analysis allows up to step back and make sure we’re going in the right direction going forward,” chairman of the board of examiners Rick Niswander told members of Council. “We need to make it more authentic, keep it current, valid, and reliable. And some things we simply cannot change.”

The AICPA reminded the Council members that their input is invaluable, pointing to the recent Invitation to Comment on the Exam running Sept. 2 through Dec. 2. “We need your help,” said vice president of examinations Michael Decker. “[We need] your colleagues’ help, state boards, your firm, and universities to structure the next CPA exam. I cannot emphasize enough that your voice is important; now is the time to make that commitment.”

The centerpiece of the presentation was an interactive audience participation session, wherein members of Council were prompted to answer various questions concerning the AICPA Exam via a mobile survey on each member’s phones and tablets. Real-time results showed members’ answers on stage. In a humbling moment, only 31% of the audience correctly answered a sample Exam question.

For more information, head to the Exam’s page here.