How to Apply for the CPA Exam?

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Steps to Apply for the CPA Exam

Your either fresh out of college or you realized that you need to pass the CPA exam to move forward in your professional accounting career.

If you’re thinking about taking the CPA exam you will need to know the steps needed to apply. While it might seem like it’s a straightforward process, there are a few nuances that you should be aware of to avoid any confusion. The Universal CPA Review team has outlined the necessary steps that you should take when applying for the CPA exam: 

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Step 1) Ensure you are eligible

Before you dive right into it and invest thousands of dollars in a CPA review course, you should first check the CPA exam eligibility requirements. Each state has slightly different requirements, so make sure that you first check with your state. Be mindful of the fact that each time you apply for the CPA exam you are going to incur an application fee. So, in order to ensure that your application doesn’t get rejected, and you need to reapply and reincur unnecessary fees, make sure to avoid this by double checking. 

Step 2) Check the educational requirements

Most states will require that you have at least 120 accounting credit hours to sit for the exam, but you’ll need a total of 150 credit hours to obtain the actual license. So, as long as you have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you should be all set to register and sit for the exams. Do you need a master’s degree to obtain 150 credit hours? While this is a route many CPA candidates decide to take, its not entirely necessary. Getting a master’s degree in accountancy does demonstrate additional proficiency in accountancy, however, employers and clients will generally only care about your CPA license.

Once you have determined that you have enough applicable credits to sit for the exam, and before you actually submit your application, you will need to submit your official college transcripts to your state board. Sending your college transcripts can be a longer process than submitting your actual CPA exam application, and because this is a prerequisite to even getting your application approved, it is recommended that you first submit your transcripts. Keep in mind, once your state board has received your transcript, they will always have them so no it is just one less thing to worry about.

Step 3) Submit CPA Exam application and exam fees

Now that you have submitted your official college transcripts, you can submit your CPA exam application to your state board. While submitting your application you will be asked to pay the required exam application fees which will generally run you between $100 and $200 depending on the state that you are applying for.

Step 4) Obtain an Authorization to Test (ATT)

Now that your application has been approved by the state board, you should receive an Authorization to Test (ATT). This is a formal document that you will receive which will allow you to officially sign up for the Uniform CPA Examination. Keep in mind that the authorization to test will generally only be valid for 90 days, meaning this is the amount of time that you will have to schedule your first exam. The fee to schedule an exam varies by state but is generally ~$225 per section (4 sections in total).

Step 5) Receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) and Schedule Your CPA Exam Section

Now that you have officially applied to take your CPA exam, you should be on the lookout for your Notice to Schedule (NTS). This is your document that can be used to register for the specific exam and date that you want to register for on the Prometric website. Prometric is the testing center where all Uniform CPA Examinations will be held. You will have roughly six months to use your Notice to Schedule (NTS) before it expires, however, some states will have a shorter period of time, so make sure to double-check. When you show up at the Prometric test center, you will need a printed-out version of your NTS to enter your exam site. If you fail to schedule within this period, you will have to reregister and repay your exam fees. Think of your Notice To Schedule as your ticket to the concert. If you miss the last date to use it, it’s no longer valid.

Step 6) Study for the CPA Exam

There is no prerequisite to scheduling your exam before you start studying. In fact, the Universal CPA Review team recommends studying for your CPA exam section and only scheduling your CPA exam when you feel like you are sufficiently prepared to achieve a passing CPA score. Selecting the right review course and knowing how to study is paramount to your success. Check out the Universal CPA Review CPA Exam Study Guide to thoroughly understand how to best prepare for the CPA exams. Learn more about the free trial offered by Universal CPA below:

Frequently Asked Questions about CPA Score Release

After the AICPA releases scores to NASBA, they are forwarded to Boards of Accountancy for approval and released to candidates. Boards of Accountancy determine the actual score release schedule. Candidates should note, however, that all scores may not be released at the same time. Additionally, candidates who test on the same day may receive scores at different times due to differences in necessary quality control procedures.

Your target release date is based on the date you sat for the specific section. Reference the tables above to learn more. 

Yes, however, the chances of reversing your score are low since the exams are computer graded. The process is expensive and unless you are appealing your BEC score, it is unlikely you will succeed. 

There is no specific time provided by NASBA. However, typically on a score release day, NASBA will confirm the estimated time that scores will be posted. Lately, NASBA has been posting scores the day before the target release date at 8pm EST.

NASBA recommends that you contact your the state accountancy board for your registered state. 

If you receiving a passing score, you will not receive a diagnostic report. If you fail, you will receive a diagnostic report, which will provides a high-level breakdown on what blueprint topics you were weaker, comparable, or stronger versus other candidates that sat for the CPA exam in the same testing window. 

The eyeball trick is no longer available after NASBA performed a system upgrade. 

Learn more by visiting the AICPA website