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Writing skills: what they're looking for.

For the first time, the CPA exam in 1994 will evaluate candidates' writing skills. Both practicing CPAs and accounting educators have gone on record that they believe the complexity of today's accounting, auditing and tax issues makes good writing skills essential to the profession. The CPA's ability to write, therefore, is well worth verifying on the CPA exam.

The new exam will not have a specific section dedicated to writing skills. Rather, a candidate's writing abilities will be evaluated on essay responses that also will be graded for technical content. At least two essay responses in each of three sections will be assessed for writing skills, but candidates will not know which questions will be evaluated. The scores for writing ability will not be broken out in the final grades.

The writing skills assessment will constitute 5% of the total points available on each of the three sections with essay or problem-type questions: Business Law & Professional Responsibilities, Auditing, and Financial Accounting & Reporting--Business Enterprises.

Candidates' writing skills grades will be based on the following six criteria:

* Coherent organization. Candidates should arrange ideas in an order that is logical and easy to follow. Short paragraphs composed of short sentences usually accomplish this best. Each paragraph should express a single main idea. For example, if each paragraph's opening sentence summarizes that idea while establishing some link to the previous paragraph's idea, the information flow should be easy to follow.

* Conciseness. Candidates should express themselves in as few words as possible. Short sentences and simple words do this.

* Clarity. Good writing should leave no doubts in the reader's mind. Correct terminology and words with specific and precise meanings are important. Carefully constructed sentences reduce ambiguity. Again, short sentences are least likely to confuse the reader.

* Use of standard English. Spelling, diction, punctuation, precise vocabulary and word usage should follow the norms used in most books, newspapers and magazines.

* Responsiveness to the question's requirements. Broad expositions of general knowledge demonstrate an inability to focus and organize writing to fulfill a specific purpose. On the CPA exam, each essay answer should address the requirements of the question directly and avoid extraneous information.

* Appropriateness for the reader. Some essay questions may ask the candidate to prepare a document for a certain reader--that is, a client or a colleague. The written answer should take into account the reader's background, knowledge of the subject, interests and concerns. When the question does not specify a reader, the candidate should write for a knowledgeable CPA.
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Title Annotation:Accounting Education; CPA exam
Author:Menelaides, Susan
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Improved CPA exam in 1994.
Next Article:Accountants in academia.

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