Getting Ready to Take the CPA Exam

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the driving force behind the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Along with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), the AICPA encourages common practices and uniformity among all jurisdictions as a way to better facilitate interstate practice mobility. The CPA exam is one of several ways NASBA and AICPA support uniformity.

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All jurisdiction Boards (representing state and U.S. territories) responsible for licensing CPAs, use the Uniform CPA Examination to assess whether candidates meet the knowledge requirements necessary to qualify for the CPA credential.

Reviewing Sample Tests and Content Outlines

Once qualified as an eligible candidate for the Uniform CPA Examination the best way to prepare is to:

  • Thoroughly review the examination content, which includes studying the tutorial and sample tests provided by the AICPA. Doing so will allow candidates to familiarize themselves with the format, functionality, and instructions found in the examination. The tutorial will allow candidates to understand the general design and operation of the computer-based examination, while the sample tests offer an opportunity to become familiar with the format of the task-based simulation questions, multiple-choice questions, and written communication tasks within the examinations.
  • Review the Content and Skill Specification Outlines to verify understanding of the content areas covered in each of the four examination sections. These include:
    • Auditing and Attestation
      • Understanding the entity and its environment
      • Evaluating auditing finding, reporting, and communication
      • Understanding the assignment
      • Professional responsibilities
      • Review services and accounting engagements
      • Performing audit procedures and evaluating evidence
    • Business Environment and Concepts
      • Economic analysis and concepts
      • Strategic planning
      • Financial management
      • Operations management
      • Corporate governance
      • Information systems and communications
    • Financial Accounting and Reporting
      • Financial statement accounts
      • Conceptual framework and standards
      • Presentation of financial statements
      • Government reporting and accounting
      • Not-for-profit accounting and reporting
      • Specific disclosures, transactions, and events
    • Regulation
      • Business law
      • Federal taxation (entities, property transactions, and individuals)
      • Ethics
      • Professional and legal responsibilities

Tips and Strategies for Preparing to Take the CPA Exam

The AICPA has outlined a number of strategies for assisting candidates as they prepare to take the Uniform CPA Examination:

Consider taking a CPA exam review course – One of the most common recommendations from current CPAs is to take advantage of the many review courses available. Review courses are designed to assist candidates by allowing them to focus on the areas that have a higher likelihood of appearing on the examination.

Review study materials on a frequent basis – Applicants should not cram their studying. Instead, frequently reviewing accounting concepts that appear on the examination ensures a better understanding of the material. Many applicants download exam review materials on their mobile devices allowing them to study whenever they get a few spare moments.

Understand that the process is a long one – Taking and passing all sections of the Uniform CPA Examination is a long process, with the majority of applicants failing at least one of the sections at one time or another. It is in a candidate’s best interest to view the process as a marathon and not a sprint. Studying often, getting enough sleep, and focusing on the task ahead are all important to ensuring success.

Review every piece of available preparatory material – Exam candidates should carefully read the Notice to Schedule (NTS) they receive, as well as the Candidate Bulletin, and the Prometric Test Center Regulations.
Just a few of the test center regulations include:

  • Examinees must sign out and sign back in each time they leave the test room.
  • Examinees may not talk to other individuals or refer to their screens or testing materials in the test room.
  • Examinees will be scanned with a metal detector wand each time they enter the test room.
  • Examinees must raise their pant legs to above their angles and pull long sleeves up prior to entry into the test room.
  • No personal items may be brought into the testing room. Items include (but are not limited to): hats, food, drinks, purses, notebooks, watches, cell phones, and photographic equipment.
  • Examinees must conduct themselves in a civil manner at all times when on the premises of the testing center.

The Candidate Bulletin will detail the acceptable forms of identification examinees must bring on the day of the exam, and will help them understand what to expect at the Prometric testing center, including the introductory examination screening process and the examination break policy, among others.

The NTS contains important instructions for testing, as well as a Launch Code that examinees will use to log in at the testing center.

Plan ahead to ensure a timely arrival – All applicants must arrive at the Prometric testing center at least 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment time in order to allow enough time to sign in, have their picture and fingerprints taken, review the security and test center policies, and get seated in their workstation. Once seated, applicants are required to read the introductory screens before beginning the examination process.