Even though the CPA exam application process varies slightly from state to state, the majority of the steps are the same. You can be approved and scheduled for your first CPA examination within 4-6 weeks if you do the steps properly. However, if you forget one tedious bit of information, the application can turn into a real pain in the ass.
As a veteran of the CPA exam who failed the first time and passed with ease the second time, my goal is to simplify the application process for you. You can spend less time worrying about your application getting approved this way and dedicate more time to what’s actually important – studying and passing your own CPA exam and becoming a Certified Public Accountant!
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Are You Eligible For the CPA Exam?
You must qualify for the uniform CPA examination before you can apply. Therefore, your first step is to make sure you’ve met all of your state requirements to sit for the exam.
Once you’ve met all of your CPA exam qualifications, as outlined by your local state boards and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), you are officially eligible to start the application process. If you accidentally skip a step or do them out of order, this process can become a bit of an ordeal. My goal is to simplify this process for you, so you can avoid any complications and start preparing for your test. I’ve listed the steps in chronological order below. I’ve also included the links to all necessary resources and valuable tips that I found helpful during my own experience. Unlike me, you’ll hopefully only have to take the exam once!
How To Apply For The CPA Exam
Before taking the steps to apply for the CPA exam, make sure you choose a solid CPA review prep course. Selecting the right course early on in your preparation will set you up for success. Check out the top CPA exam courses to find the course perfect for you!
1) Order and send in ALL official school transcripts
- This step includes all colleges, universities, community colleges and private institutions that you’ve attended
- I recommend submitting your transcripts as soon as you meet the education requirements for your state’s CPA exam. This will help to fast track the application process
2) Fill out and submit your CPA exam application along with the CPA exam application fee
- Typically $100-$200 depending on the state
3) Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) from your State Board
- In most states, this step gives you 90 days to decide which sections you want to sit for. Your application fee, however, will be forfeited if you don’t remit payment within this 90-day period.
- Choose what sections you want to take and pay for them on NASBA’s website. (Please read step #4 before you pay!)
- Fees range from $700-$1,000 for all 4 sections depending on the state or around $175-$250 per section.
4) Receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA
- The Notice to Schedule is the official document that authorizes you to sit for the CPA exam in the United States
- Typically it takes between 3-6 weeks to receive this document. However, some states allow you to apply online and get it the same day (Keep in mind that my California NTS took 5 weeks to arrive.)
- Each state has an NTS “validation period.” This means you essentially have a time limit to take all the exams that you have paid for in STEP #3. This rule is totally unfair, and it’s obvious why they would do it ($$$$), but, rather than complain about it to you, I’d like to help you avoid their trap. Don’t pay for all four sections if you can’t study and sit for all four within that six month period. Otherwise, you will have to forfeit your money for any untaken tests. If you have a busy schedule, it’s much cheaper to schedule and pay for 2 sections and then apply for the next two sections six months later. (The reapplication fees are generally around $50, which is much cheaper than a few hundred dollars.)
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“Boards of accountancy will set a time period for which an NTS is valid (generally six months) during which you must schedule and take the examination section(s), after which it will expire and all fees will be forfeited.” -NASBA
- All jurisdictions have established a six-month NTS validation period except for the following:
- Texas 90 days from application date
- California 9 months from NTS issue date
- Hawaii 9 months from NTS issue date
- Louisiana 9 months from NTS issue date
- Utah 9 months from NTS issue date
- North Dakota 12 months from NTS issue date
- South Dakota 12 months from NTS issue date
- Virginia 12 months from NTS issue date
5) Go to the Prometric website and schedule your exam(s)
- Click the “Schedule My Test” button and choose the state in which you want to test
- Enter the exam section ID and first 4 letters of your last name
- Choose the date, location, and section of the exam(s) you wish to take from here
To learn about Testing Windows and find out what months you are not allowed to sit for the CPA exam click here.
CPA Exam Rescheduling Fees:
- 30 days or more in advance: no penalty
- 5-30 days in advance: $35
- 1-5 days in advance: you will be charged the FULL price of the exam
- Less than 24 hours before exam: rescheduling not allowed, you must reapply
*I would suggest that you schedule your exams at least 3-4 weeks in advance
6) Take your exam!
You MUST bring your Notice to Schedule with you to the Prometric testing center or you will not be able to take your exam.
You are also required to present two forms of identification at the test center. One must contain a recent photograph, and each form must bear your signature. Furthermore, none of your forms of ID can be expired.
CPA Application Tips and Information
- You are not restricted to taking the exam in your state and are allowed to take it at any Prometric location
- Once you pass your first CPA exam section, you have 18 months to pass the remaining three sections
- You may apply to any state or jurisdiction, but can only register to take the exam in one jurisdiction at a time
- Applications can be submitted at any time during the year
- Make sure the name on your application exactly matches the name on the two forms of ID you will use at the testing center
Don’t Wait For Your NTS, Start Studying Today!
You can either waste weeks of valuable study time waiting for your Notice to Schedule or use that time to get a head start on the section you want to tackle first. Jump on it today and forget about excuses and procrastinating. Just do it!
Start Studying for the CPA Exam Today
Applying for the CPA Exam FAQ
Who is eligible for CPA exam?
You must qualify for the uniform CPA examination before you can apply. Therefore, your first step is to make sure you’ve met all of your state requirements to sit for the exam. Once you’ve met all of your CPA exam qualifications, as outlined by your local state boards and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), you are officially eligible to start the application process.
How do I register for CPA exam?
Order and send in ALL official school transcripts, Fill out and submit your CPA exam application along with the CPA exam application fee, Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) from your State Board, Receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA, Go to the Prometric website and schedule your exam(s), and take your exam!
How difficult is the CPA exam?
As far as certification and licensure exams go, the CPA is quite demanding, requiring hundreds of hours of study, and a passing rate of just slightly over 50%. Although study materials, review courses, and hard work can significantly increase your odds of successfully passing the exam, it remains one of the more difficult exams in the professional workplace.
Can I apply for CPA exam before graduation?
Most states require that you have a bachelor's degree before you can even sit for a single section. If you are a senior in college who wants to apply for the CPA exam, the best thing that you can do is contact your state board and see if they allow exam dates before graduation.