CPA Testing Dates: Setting Your Schedule
How Does the CPA Exam Process Work?
But the application process can appear just as complex as the exam itself as it involves multiple steps, various authorization documents and time restrictions.
While you can only submit your application once you meet the minimum requirements – essentially after graduation – there is nothing wrong with preparing everything ahead of time.
As of 2020, NASBA made the application process much easier by allowing continuous testing.
South Carolina missed the initial deadline, so plans to offer continuous testing in 2021, but the dates have yet to be confirmed.
This new change makes planning much more manageable.
However, when you plan to sit the CPA exam, you may also be in a full-time accounting job, working through a postgraduate degree, or moving to a different part of the country.
There is also a considerable cost for the CPA exam, so you need to be financially prepared as well as mentally.
As such, you must create a plan for your CPA application process.
How to Begin Your CPA Exam Process
The most important thing you need to remember is that you only have 90 days to schedule your exam sections once your Authorization to Test (ATT) has been issued and six months to sit the sections you’ve registered for.
To help keep you on track, consider the following:
1. Create a 24-Month Schedule
This may seem like a long time, but two years can go by very quickly, especially post-graduation.
It is not uncommon for participants to take their exams while working full time jobs or completing other degrees.
Knowing the important dates for the next 24 months gives you an idea of when you have the time to focus on your CPA exams.
Once you have an outline of important dates and events, you can build a study schedule that will also allow you a good work/life balance.
Working, studying and neglecting your basic needs is not a healthy way to achieve your goals and can often lead to burnout.
2. Gather the Relevant Transcripts
Before submitting your application, you need to send in all the transcripts of every educational institute you’ve attended from high school onwards – even if it was just for a semester.
The more information you provide, the better for the state board to review your application.
This might not be as simple as it seems, so ensure you allow enough time to gather all this information.
3. Create Your Budget
Application fees are $100 to $200.
The cost of each section is between $170 and $250.
Know how much you will need ahead of time so you don’t get caught out later. For example, you don’t want to pay your fees at the same time your rent is due.
As a newly qualified accountant, you know the importance of understanding your finances and not getting caught out with unexpected costs.
4. Submit Your Application and Receive ATT
Once you have submitted your application form and fee, you will receive your ATT.
This document allows you to sign up for your exam sections.
As soon as you receive your ATT, register for your first two exam sections.
Don’t focus too much on the date at this stage; complete the registration and pay for two sections.
If you have the time, money and are confident that you can sit all four sections and pass within six months, then register and pay for them in one sitting.
Otherwise, split the sections.
It is far cheaper to pay the section fees once rather than letting the test period lapse and having to pay for them again.
5. Receive Notice to Schedule (NTS)
It will take around three to six weeks to receive your NTS document.
Upon receiving this document, you will have six months to complete the sections you have paid for.
The exceptions to this rule are:
- Texas, which only has a 90-day limit
- California, Hawaii, Louisiana and Utah that have a nine-month time frame
- North Dakota, South Dakota and Virginia that offer 12 months
6. Schedule Your First Sections
With the authorization of continuous testing, there is much more flexibility with your CPA test dates.
Log in to the Prometric website and use the exam section ID located on your NTS to schedule your exams.
You can sit the sections in any order, so it is for you to decide if you want to set your strongest subject first or last.
You are also not limited to a location.
Regardless of which state you applied to, you can sit the exams in any test center.
This adds another level of flexibility, especially if you think you will be traveling.
Again, as soon as you receive your NTS, lock in your exam dates.
Not only does this give you a goal to work towards, but it also ensures that you get the location of your choosing.
The smaller test centers tend to fill up quickly.
7. Schedule the Final Sections
If you decided to register for your sections separately, you will need to pay a reapplication fee of $50 in addition to the exam section fees.
To reapply, you will have to submit your application again and wait for a new ATT and NTS document, which can take around two or three months.
Your planning is just as important here as you have 18 months from your first pass to complete the remaining sections.
That is why your exam preparation is essential. You do not want to lose time sitting resit exams.
Things to Remember When Scheduling Your CPA Test Dates
Make a schedule and stick to it – Self-management and discipline play such a vital role in your success. Create a schedule that gives you the time to study, sit your exam sections, and allows for socializing and fitness.
Aim to sit all your sections within 12 months – This gives you a six-month buffer for resits and unexpected situations.
Consider sitting the toughest section first – Everyone has their preference, but getting the hardest one done first does have its advantages.
You are more motivated and energized in your first test. Plus, getting it over and done with first will remove a lot of stress. Alternatively, completing the subject you are most comfortable with first gives you a boost of confidence for the remaining three.
Check state rules and fees – Each state has its own fees and entry requirements. Before committing, double-check your preferred state rules on the NASBA website.
Pay attention to ethics requirements – Passing the AICPA’s ethics exam is part of your CPA exam eligibility, but some states have their own regulations. Virginia requires all CPAs to sit an annual ethics course. Ohio offers a board-approved professional standards and responsibilities course focused on Ohio’s accountancy laws. Texas and Wisconsin also have state-specific codes of conduct.
CPA exams are tough, and scheduling them is no exception.
However, as an accountant, you are expected to demonstrate the analytical and detail-focused skills required to get you through this exam.
Ideally, you want to plan this process while you are still in college.
This way, you have access to your school’s career services should you need any additional support.
It also allows you to create your career plan early, so you don’t miss a step or get delayed at a later date.