Two Years in—How the CPA Professional Education Program Has Evolved

By CPABC; published in CPABC in Focus
Published: January/February 2016

Since the launch of the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) in September 2013, staff at the CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB) have been gathering feedback from CPA PEP candidates, CPA facilitators, and session leaders. Based on their input, we’ve made changes to the CPA PEP along the way.

This article highlights some of the most recent changes to the CPA PEP.

Practical experience document updated

On September 1, 2015, CPA Canada published the updated CPA practical experience requirements (CPA PER). In addition to outlining the requirements for CPA certification, this updated CPA PER document covers the specific requirements for those seeking the right to practise public accounting.

Also published by CPA Canada on September 1 were the CPA harmonized practical experience policies. This document helps ensure that all provinces and regions are consistent in their implementation of practical experience. Among the topics covered are the recognition of prior experience, mentorship, transition rules, and reporting and assessment.

More information on these documents can be found in the Students & Candidates section of the CPABC website at bccpa.ca/students.

Changes made to all CPA PEP modules

The CPA PEP modules have undergone a significant rewrite. The new version of Core 1 was introduced in September 2015, the new version of Core 2 is being introduced in January 2016, and the revised versions of the electives will be introduced in May 2016.

Some of the major updates to the modules are shown on the facing page:

Previous module structure

New module structure

Candidates had access to a compilation of reading material (Oracle) as part of their online environment in Desire2Learn.

The Oracle is still available, but is being supplemented with some recommended reading each week to help candidates better match resources with weekly assignments.

Candidates were expected to rely on prerequisite technical knowledge with little formalized review of such knowledge in module activities.

Candidates have access to 10-15 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) that enable them to assess their familiarity with the technical material each week and gauge the amount of additional research required to complete the week’s assignments.

Candidates are given a set of 75 MCQs every second week, which provide significant coverage of prerequisite knowledge.

Candidates were required to complete mandatory revisions on their Week 1 immersive case assignments, and optional revision opportunities were provided on the remaining immersive case assignments.

The mandatory revision requirement has been removed; however, revisions are still highly encouraged.

Practice cases and immersive case Excel submissions were self-assessed by candidates, not marked.

Practice cases and immersive case Excel submissions are now marked.

Excel solutions were provided for immersive case assignments. Written solutions and marking rubrics (feedback guides) were not provided.

Complete solutions and marking rubrics (feedback guides) for all assignments are provided to candidates on submission of the assignments.

Exam eligibility was based on submissions.

A points-based system has been implemented. Points are allocated to each assignment, and candidates achieve a number of points based on their performance on each assignment. Exam eligibility is based on total points earned.

Changes made to CPA PEP Core 1 and 2 exams

The changes below were applied to the November 13, 2015 Core 1 exam and the December 18, 2015 Core 2 exam, and apply to all future Core 1 and Core 2 exams.

Please note: The table below has been amended since publication. The term “MCQs” has been replaced with “questions,” as the core exams’ objective format section includes MCQs, short answer-questions, matching questions, true or false questions, and task-based simulations.

Previous exam structure

New exam structure

The core exams were three hours.

Core exams are now four hours in total, and all module exams, including the core and elective exams, will now run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time.

The core exams’ objective format section had a range of 55-70 questions.

The core exams’ objective format section now has a total of 75 questions, worth 75% of the exam’s grade.

The finance competency area had an exam weighting of 0-5% for Core 1 and 10-15% for Core 2.

The weighting of the finance competency area has been increased by 5%. The weightings are now 5-10% for Core 1 and 15-20% for Core 2.

The core exam blueprints suggested that the exams may have one or two cases, worth 25-40% of the exam grade.

The case portion of the core exams now consists of one case, with a time allocation of one hour. This case is worth 25% of the exam grade.

New CPAWSB PPR Employer Portal to be introduced

Another development in the world of CPA education is the Pre-approved Program Route (PPR) Employer Portal, a secure web portal that will enable authorized users at PPR employers to access specific records of any employees who are candidates in the CPA PEP. The PPR Employer Portal will become available in 2016, and will be available in Western Canada only.

Authorized users will be able to log into the portal and access the information they need, when they need it. The portal will enable employers to see how candidates have performed on exams and give them access to some basic reports (employers had access to similar information in the past, but had to contact CPAWSB to obtain it). There will be two reports available—the first pertaining to registration in CPAWSB, and the second pertaining to registration in the modules. More reports may be developed over time if additional needs are determined.

Organizations will have to apply to CPAWSB to set up access to the PPR Employer Portal. Because an organization can have one office location or many office locations depending on whether it’s a small, medium, or large PPR employer, CPAWSB will need to set up the account structure prior to granting the organization access. Once approved, organizations will have the opportunity to set up a maximum of three administrator accounts. Through these accounts, administrators will be able to add, delete, and edit the access of other users from that organization.

The portal will not be set up to allow employers to update records—it will serve as a reporting tool only, providing authorized employers with a window into their employees’ records. The portal will display the information CPAWSB has stored in its database (called SLMS) for a given candidate at any point in time.

It is important to ensure that candidates update their records in a timely manner—especially when they join or leave a PPR employer. This will help employers view the applicable employee records.

PPR employers that would like to register for the new CPAWSB PPR Employer Portal should contact cpaapplication@cpawsb.ca.

Stakeholder input remains vital

Changes to the CPA PEP, such as the ones outlined in this article, are driven by the information we receive from our stakeholders. We will continue to solicit feedback from candidates, facilitators, and session leaders to ensure that the CPA PEP is a leading-edge training path for future CPAs.

Harp Bagri is the director, outreach for CPAWSB.