Exam Development

The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation ensures the validity, reliability, and legal defensibility of the Accredited Business Advisor/Accountant (ABA), Accredited Tax Advisor (ATA), Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) and Accredited Retirement Advisor (ARA) certification programs. The ACAT examinations are assessment instruments which measure the competency of potential candidates against a body of knowledge, skills, and abilities designed to demonstrate the depth and breadth of knowledge appropriate for effective practice in the financial, accounting and taxation services professions.

The content of the ACAT examinations are based on the outcomes of job analyses studies. A job analysis is a comprehensive definition of the tasks performed by professionals currently holding the ACAT credential. The purpose of the job analysis is to describe, in specific terms, the precise nature of the tasks performed by incumbent professionals who work in the field of accountancy and taxation for which the examination is being developed. Job analyses are conducted every 5-7 years, or more often as circumstances may warrant, to verify the content of the examination. The results of the job analysis influence to what extent the competencies are revised for the ACAT certification examinations.

The ACAT examinations are based on an explicit set of competencies. These competencies have been determined through a job analysis study conducted on practitioners. The competencies are grouped into domains, subdomains, and tasks. As the ACAT examinations may only assess knowledge pertaining to these competency statements, they serve as the outline, or blueprint for the examination. These blueprints are published on the ACAT website.

The examination specifications are established or revised at the same time as the development of the examination blueprint. The specifications include the total number of test items, test item type(s), total test duration, and scoring methodology. The examination blueprint and specifications are based on the outcome of the job analysis study and are reviewed and approved by a panel of subject matter experts. 

All examination items (or questions) are directly linked to the approved examination specifications and are written and reviewed by panels of trained subject matter experts. The ACAT’s Item Writing and Subject Matter Examination Committees, working with the psychometric consultant, regularly review items and approve the examinations.