Successfully completing the Uniform CPA Examination is a standard requirement for licensure in all 55 states and territories (jurisdictions). To take the CPA exam, applicants must be declared eligible by their jurisdiction’s board of accountancy. Candidates become eligible when specific education and experience requirements are met as determined by their respective state board of accountancy.
The Uniform CPA Examination is a computer-based assessment of an applicant’s ability to practice accounting in the United States at the level of a certified public accountant (CPA).
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Although the examination process is generally the same from state to state, it is important for applicants to familiarize themselves with their state board’s eligibility requirements, which can be substantially different from state to state.
Preparing for and taking the CPA examination involves the following steps:
- Apply to take the Uniform CPA Examination(s)
- Receive the Notice to Schedule and Schedule to Take the Uniform CPA Examination(s)
- Take the Sample Tests and Exam Tutorial
- Take the Examination(s) and Receive the Score Report
Step 1. Apply to Take the Uniform CPA Examination(s)
Once a state board of accountancy has determined eligibility, the first step in the CPA exam process is to apply for one or more sections, which include:
- Auditing and Attestation
- Business Environment and Concepts
- Financial Accounting and Reporting
Applicants in the following jurisdictions submit their applications directly through the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy:
In the following jurisdictions, applicants must contact their state board of accountancy to apply to take the examination:
The application process involves paying an application fee. Registration fees and exam fees are additional. Depending on the jurisdiction, applicants may be required to pay fees to the state board of accountancy and/or the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.
Step 2. Receive a Notice to Schedule, then Schedule a Time and Date to sit for the Exam
Once an application has been processed, candidates can expect to receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA, which lists the section or sections of the examination they are eligible to take.
Once the NTS is received, applicants may contact Prometric to schedule the exam.
It is important not to schedule until prepared for the exam, as all jurisdictions have specific validation periods that require candidates to take the exam within a specific time frame, usually 3 to 12 months after receiving the NTS.
Candidates should retain their NTS, as it must be shown at the time of examination.
The Uniform CPA Examination is offered in the first two months of each calendar quarter:
- January 1 – February 28 (29)
- April 1 – May 31
- July 1 – August 31
- October 1 – November 30
Applicants are encouraged to schedule their exams as soon as possible in order to receive their first choice of date, time, and location. All scheduling is done through Prometric. Candidates may also contact Prometric Candidate Services at 1-800-580-9648 to schedule.
Step 3. Take the Sample Tests and Exam Tutorial
All candidates are strongly encouraged to review the Uniform CPA Examination sample tests and tutorial, both of which are designed to familiarize candidates with the exam’s format and functionality, as well as provide them with instructions needed before reporting to the Prometric testing center.
Step 4. Take the Examination and Receive the Score Report
On the date of the examination, candidates are required to arrive at the Prometric testing center at least 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment time for the pre-testing process, which includes signing in, having a photograph taken, having fingerprints taken, reviewing the security and test center policies, and being seated at the assigned workstation.
Examinees must present two current, acceptable forms of identification when they arrive, one of which must contain a recent photograph, and both of which must bear a signature.
Examinees will be allotted a specific time frame in which to complete the exam:
- Auditing and Attestation: 4 hours
- Business Environment and Concepts: 3 hours
- Financial Accounting and Reporting: 4 hours
- Regulation: 3 hours
The completed exam will be sent to the AICPA for scoring. Upon scoring the exam, AICPA then forwards them to NASBA, who matches the scores to the individual examinee and forwards them to the appropriate state board of accountancy.
Each state board of accountancy is responsible for releasing test scores on or before the published target date.