What Are the Steps to Apply for the CPA Exam?

Here is the step-by-step process on how to sign up for the CPA exam (read on for more details regarding each step).

How to Apply for the CPA Exam:

  1. Check Your Eligibility for Taking the CPA Exam
  2. Submit CPA Exam Application and Fees
  3. Receive Authorization to Test (ATT)
  4. Verify the Information on Your Notice To Schedule (NTS)
  5. Schedule Your CPA Exam Section

After successfully applying for and scheduling your CPA exam, your next critical step is studying.
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Check Your Eligibility for Taking the CPA Exam

First things first, you need to ensure you are eligible to take the CPA exam. Your eligibility depends on whether you meet certain conditions as related to state requirements, education, citizenship, and age. Let’s review what those conditions are.

Fulfill State Requirements

Each state has slightly different requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination, so you’ll want to check the specific CPA exam requirements for your state.

Credit Hours

Most states require you to have a bachelor’s degree and have completed a certain number of accounting credit hours (and possibly business credit hours) to sit for the exam. Some states have exceptions to this, and some states require you to complete all 150 credit hours (as opposed to just 120 hours for a bachelor’s degree) to sit for the exam.

Check with your state to verify that you have completed the required number of accounting and/or business semester hours (this is important because you don’t want to have your application rejected).

Submit School Transcripts

As soon as you meet the education and credit hour requirement, submit your official transcripts to your state board. You can (and should) do this before submitting your CPA exam application, even if you aren’t sure when you will sit for the exam.

If you wait to request your college transcripts until you submit your application, your state board will have to wait until it receives your transcripts to review your application. It’s better to have your state board receive them early and hold onto them until you apply to take the CPA exam.

Plus, some schools don’t process transcripts quickly and you don’t want this step holding up the CPA registration process (luckily though, some schools have your transcripts available online).

Note: You will need to submit all of your college transcripts to your state board. This means every junior college, community college, and university you attended.


Most states do not require residency to sit for the CPA exam. This is particularly important to understand for exam candidates who may be moving from one state to another during or shortly after taking the exam. The best practice is to apply in the state where you intend to practice.

The CPA exam is uniform across all jurisdictions, so you do not need to travel to that state to take the exam.

Are you an international candidate wanting to take the U.S. CPA exam either in the U.S. or at an international testing center? Our consultants are available to assist you in learning more about CPA exam eligibility requirements and the process to become a CPA. Schedule your free U.S. CPA Exam Eligibility Assessment today.

Age Requirements

Most states do not have a minimum age requirement to sit for the CPA exam, but some do. If your state does have a minimum age, it is between 18 and 21.

Submit CPA Exam Application and Fees

Alright, once you have verified you meet your state’s CPA exam requirements, it’s time to complete your application and pay the application fee. You can do this through your State Board of Accountancy or through NASBA’s (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s) CPA Central portal (for those states that use CPA Central to process applications).

The CPA exam application fee is typically between $100-200 depending on the state.

Receive Authorization to Test (ATT)

After your state approves your application (usually 4 – 6 weeks after submission), you’ll receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) document that allows you to sign up for the CPA exam.

Signing up for CPA exam: To sign up, log into your NASBA website account and pay the exam section fee(s). Each exam section costs roughly $225. This is about $1,000 in total exam fees.

Generally, your ATT is only good for 90 days, so you need to decide what order to take the different sections of the CPA exam.

How to Decide What Order to Take the CPA Exam

There are two main schools of thought on deciding what order to take the CPA exam: easiest to hardest or hardest to easiest.

Hardest first is a popular strategy because if you fail the first time around, your 18-month window to pass the remaining 3 exam sections hasn’t started yet. And once you get the hardest section done with, the rest should get progressively “easier.” Easiest first gets you an early win and possibly helps you build momentum.

Read our free resource to learn more about the CPA exam sections.

The problem with both of these strategies is that you don’t really know which section is the hardest or easiest for you until you start studying. So, it could be a good idea to just start with the section you feel the most familiar with. Or you could go with the majority of CPA candidates and take the FAR CPA exam first (FAR does take the longest to prepare for).

Either way, the order you decide to take the CPA exam is up to you. We just advise not signing up for all 4 exams at once. Doing this only gives you 6 months to take and pass all 4 exams and doesn’t give you ample time to study and rest. We recommend applying for a maximum of 2 tests on your initial application.

Verify the Information on Your Notice To Schedule (NTS)

Once again, keep an eye out for your Notice To Schedule (NTS) document, and when it is available, verify the information listed is correct. You will use this to register for your exam on the Prometric testing center website.Most states will issue you a Notice To Schedule (NTS) that is good for six months—some states are 90 days, and a few are nine months and 12 months. That means if you don’t schedule and take all 4 in those 6 months, you will forfeit your exam fees. The circumstances of work and/or school can change so it is best to be strategic with the timing of your Notice to Schedule.

Also, you don’t have to wait for your first NTS to end before applying to obtain another one—they can overlap. If you apply for each of the four tests individually, you will have to pay a re-application or registration fee each time.

Also, make sure to print and hold onto your NTS because it is your ticket into the exam.

Schedule Your CPA Exam Section

It’s finally time to schedule your first exam section! Use the exam section ID from your NTS and locate the testing center of your choice. If you want a specific date, schedule it well in advance as openings may fill quickly.

  1. Schedule your exam on the Prometric website.
  2. Enter the exam section ID from your NTS and the first four letters of your last name.
  3. Select the date, exam location, and exam section(s) that you want to schedule.

Be sure to check out our CPA exam schedule updates resource to learn everything you need to know about scheduling your exam.

What if You Need to Reschedule a Section of the CPA Exam?

You can reschedule your CPA exam up to 1 day before the exam is scheduled. If it’s within 24 hours, you can’t reschedule the CPA exam, and you will just have to reapply for the exam (and pay the exam fee again).

Whether you will be charged a rescheduling fee or have to pay the full price of the exam to reschedule depends on the timeframe you initiate the change.

  • 30 days or more: no fee to reschedule
  • 6 – 29 days: $35 rescheduling fee
  • 1 – 5 days: $84.84 rescheduling fee
  • Less than 24 hours: rescheduling not permitted, full cost of exam when reapplying

When to Schedule Your Next CPA Exam

If you sign up for 2 sections of the CPA exam, you will schedule your third exam once you get the results from your first exam. That way, if you pass your first exam, you can move forward with your third section. Or if you failed your first exam, you can plan to retake that first exam section after you have taken your second exam.

You’ve Applied and Scheduled for the CPA Exam. Time to Study!

Now is the time to put in the work and study for your first section of the CPA exam! Seeing as only about 50% of candidates pass the CPA exam, you want to do anything you can to increase your odds of passing. That’s where Wiley CPA Review Course can help—90% of Wiley candidates pass the exam section they are studying for!

Learn more about how hard is the CPA exam.

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  • 24/7 Customer Support
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So, reduce your stress and anxiety surrounding the CPA exam and become a Certified Public Accountant with the help of Wiley!

Applying for the CPA Exam – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about how to apply to sit for the CPA exam.

  • You will receive your Notice To Schedule (NTS) after you complete the CPA exam application process, receive your Authorization to Test (ATT), and sign up and pay for the CPA exam section(s) you wish to take.
  • CPA certification costs around $1,500. This includes the CPA exam application fee, CPA exam fees, registration fees, and ethics exam fees. Actual cost varies by state, and you can encounter additional costs by having to retake or reschedule one or more sections of the exam.
  • No. The CPA exam is a computer-based test, but it must be taken in-person at a Prometric testing center.
  • Yes, you can use a calculator on the CPA exam.
  • Yes, you may bring snacks and water to the CPA exam, but you must leave them in your locker.
  • It shouldn’t take long to complete the application if you have your transcripts and ID ready. And it usually takes 4 – 6 weeks for first-time applications to be approved.

Preparation is key to doing your best on the CPA exam.

Test how prepared you are for the actual exam using Wiley’s Free CPA Practice Exam.