The Timeline for CPA Exam Prep

Ever wonder what a good timeline might be for preparing for the CPA Exam? CPAexcel is here to help!

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Develop a Plan and Conquer the CPA Exam!

Passing the CPA Exam is a multi-step process. It’s important to  follow a fixed set of exam eligibility requirements and enrollment dates established by the Board of Accountancy in the jurisdiction where you intend to practice. To take each examination section on the date when you are optimally prepared requires forethought and advanced scheduling.

That is why it is important to know what documents and fees you must submit within a specified time frame in order to schedule exam dates that correspond with the completion of your exam review.

The sequence of steps should be determined individually by each candidate, based upon the timelines of your jurisdiction’s Board of Accountancy , transcript processing time and necessary personal preparation time before the exam. From the time you request your application to the date when you take the exam can take from two to six months.

STEPS ON TIMELINE

  1. Review the specific exam eligibility requirements outlined by the Board of Accountancy in your jurisdiction to ensure that you qualify to take the examination. For the most up-to-date information on exam requirements check the Board of Accountancy information on the NASBA website and select your jurisdiction.
  2. Determine when you would like to take the exam section(s) and select the appropriate quarterly testing window(s).
  3. Request an application to take the examination. Contact your Board of Accountancy to find out the procedure for applying, submitting your application, sending in your transcripts and paying the necessary application and examination fees. Many Boards of Accountancy offer downloadable applications that enable you to apply online. There are a growing number of Boards that require you to apply through CPA Exam Services (CPAES) . To determine if you are applying to a jurisdiction that processes applications through CPAES, visit NASBA .  There you will see a map identifying which jurisdictions use CPAES and which process applications directly through their Board of Accountancy. From this site, you can also access any of the 54 Boards of Accountancy. You must complete an application each time you want to take one or more sections of the examination. It is recommended that you apply only for those sections you intend to take during a six-month period or whatever the Notice to Schedule (NTS) expiration date is for your jurisdiction. Certain jurisdictions give you less than six months and a few give you more.
  4. Request all necessary transcripts from your academic institution(s). Schools vary in the amount of time it takes for them to process your request and send out transcripts. (It is generally two weeks.) If you have attended a foreign institution, allow extra time for requesting transcripts and having them evaluated by a credited evaluation service. Each Board of Accountancy has a recommended list of recognized foreign credential evaluation services that they use.
  5. Submit your application to the appropriate organization based upon your Board of Accountancy requirements. Be sure that the name on your application appears exactly the same as it appears on the photo identification you plan to take to the testing center . Upon submitting your application, you may be required to submit some or all of the application and examination fees. Because the rules vary by jurisdiction, follow the information provided by your Board of Accountancy. Keep in mind the application process may take 4-8 weeks, depending on the jurisdiction to which you are applying.
  6. Decide whether you prefer to take an exam review course or study on your own. Note that statistics from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, The Uniform CPA Exam Report states that candidates who took a CPA Exam review course performed 50% better than those who did not . If you prefer to take an exam review course, the next step is to choose a course.
  7. Begin studying for the CPA Examination using an exam review course or on your own. This can be done concurrently with the application process so that you are prepared (or close to being prepared) when you receive documentation from your Board of Accountancy approving you to schedule your exam date.
  8. Once your application has been processed, approved and all fees paid, you will receive a Notice To Schedule (NTS) by either U.S. Postal Service, fax or e-mail for each exam section you have been authorized to take. (You will select your NTS delivery method when you apply.) Verify that all of the information is correct and that your name matches exactly the name on the identifications you will be presenting at the testing center. If any information does not match, contact your Board of Accountancy or its designated agent immediately to request a correction. The NTS is generally valid for six months from the date of issue, which means you must schedule and take all of the authorized sections within six months of the NTS issue date. (Please check with your Board of Accountancy on specific date requirements. Certain states differ.) If a candidate fails to take the applicable exam section(s) during the accepted time period, it will be necessary to re-apply for the exam and pay an additional set of examination fees.
  9. Go to Prometric to identify the most convenient center for you to take the exam. Out of the thousands of Prometric centers, about 300 offer the CPA Exam. Since the CPA Exam is uniform, you can sit for the exam at any Prometric center which offers the CPA Exam, whether it is in your jurisdiction or not. This is especially convenient if you live in a city closer to a testing center outside your jurisdiction.
  10. Schedule the date, time and location of your exam sections by visiting Prometric or by calling 1-800-580-9648 (Candidate Services Call Center). You can also schedule your test(s) by contacting the Prometric location of your choice. For important details on the process of scheduling or rescheduling your exam(s) read the  Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin .
  11. Upon scheduling, be sure to write down the date, time, location, and confirmation number for each of your examinations. We strongly encourage you to visit Prometric to print a confirmation of your appointment. Examinations must be scheduled a minimum of five days in advance of the test date. To increase the likelihood of receiving your first choice of date, time and location, you should schedule your appointments at least 45 days before the desired test dates(s). While every effort is made to accommodate CPA Exam candidates, appointment times depend on seat availability at the test center. You must take each examination section before the NTS expires. (It is generally six months. Review your jurisdiction’s board specifications for details.) Your Board of Accountancy, NASBA, and Prometric are not responsible if you cannot schedule an appointment before deadlines in your jurisdiction. It is also your responsibility to appropriately schedule all remaining unpassed exam sections so that you do not lose credit for those that you have already passed. (In general, you will have 18 months to pass all exam sections. Review your jurisdiction’s board specifications for details).
  12. On exam day, arrive 30 minutes early and be sure to bring your correct NTS for the section you are about to take. Each NTS contains an “examination password” that you must enter on the computer as a part of the log-in process. Without this number, you will not be able to log-in. You will also need to bring two pieces of identification, one with a recent photograph of yourself. The name on your identification must exactly match the name on the NTS. You will not be allowed to enter the test if any identification information does not match. For important information on personal identification requirements and exam day regulations read the Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin.
  13. After the examination, candidate responses are forwarded to the AICPA for scoring. The responses are identified by Examination Section ID only. When advisory scores and performance information becomes available, the AICPA forwards them to NASBA for processing, which involves matching the scores and performance information to individual candidates. NASBA then forwards the scores to Boards of Accountancy for approval and subsequent release to candidates. Boards of Accountancy determine the actual schedule for reporting scores to candidates.

Preparing for the CPA Exam can be stressful. By following these steps  and creating a timeline for yourself, stress levels can be kept at a minimum.

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