How to Register for the CPA Exam: The CPA Exam Application Process

Deciding to take the CPA Exam is a great career move for accountants, as the benefits of becoming a CPA prove. However, when you’re ready to take the CPA Exam, how do you get started? First, you need to become knowledgeable about the CPA Exam. Then, you need to use this information to complete your CPA Exam application and register for the CPA Exam.

CPA Exam Application: CPA Partners

To sit for the CPA Exam, you will need to communicate with the multiple partners involved with CPA licensure. These partners include

  • The State Boards of Accountancy: As CPA licenses are issued at the state level, the state boards approve your application for licensure. They also can receive application fees and supply candidates with their Notice to Schedule (NTS), testing accommodations, and score reports.
  • The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA): Some state boards work with NASBA to grant candidate authorizations and share advisory score reports. NASBA issues your Notice to Schedule (NTS) and assists the state boards in the application process. NASBA also shares candidate authorizations with Prometric and receives advisory score reports summary data from the AICPA.
  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA): The AICPA creates the exam. It provides the test content and rules to Prometric and gives the advisory score reports summary data to NASBA.
  • Prometric: Prometric is the company that administers the CPA Exam in its testing centers. CPA candidates schedule their examination appointments through Prometric and visit its testing centers to take each section of the CPA Exam.

CPA Exam Registration: Necessary Steps

Before you begin to study for the CPA Exam, complete the following steps to ensure that you can sit for it:

  1. Determine your eligibility

    While the CPA requirements of each state board vary, you can complete a quick assessment of your CPA eligibility by confirming whether or not you meet the basic requirements that most state boards enforce. These requirements include

      • Citizenship: Are you a citizen of the United States?
      • Residency: Are you a resident of the state to whose board of accountancy you would like to apply?
      • Social Security: Do you have a Social Security card?
      • Education: Have you completed 120 credit hours of education at a U.S. accredited college or university?
    About half of the state boards have an age requirement, so depending on the state board you prefer to work with, you may also need to be at least 18 or 19 years old in order to take the CPA Exam.
  1. Apply to your state board of accountancy

    Once you know you are eligible for the CPA Exam at a basic level, discover the more specific requirements you’ll need to meet by choosing a CPA state board of accountancy. You can apply to any state or jurisdiction, but you can only register for the CPA Exam in one jurisdiction at a time. You must submit an application for the CPA Exam each time you want to take one or more sections, and with each application, you’ll need to submit the required documents, such as your official school transcripts, and pay the fees, such as these CPA Exam application fees. These items can vary per jurisdiction, so be sure to follow the instructions provided to you by your state board. You will communicate with your state board directly if you choose to apply to one of the following jurisdictions:

Alabama Illinois Oregon
Arizona Kentucky South Dakota
Arkansas Maryland Texas
California Mississippi Virgin Ilsands
District of Columbia North Carolina Virginia
Guam North Dakota West Virginia
Idaho Oklahoma Wyoming
    If the state board you’ve decided to apply to is one of the 32 jurisdictions listed below that utilize NASBA’s CPA Examination Services (CPAES), you will submit your application via the CPAES online application system. You’ll then deal directly with CPAES throughout your application process. You’ll submit all required documentation and pay all fees to CPAES and won’t need to contact your state board during this time.
Alaska Iowa Montana Puerto Rico
Colorado Kansas Nebraska Rhode Island
Connecticut Louisiana New Hampshire South Carolina
Delaware Maine New Jersey Tennessee
Florida Massachusetts New Mexico Utah
Georgia Michigan New York Vermont
Hawaii Minnesota Ohio Washington
Indiana Missouri Pennsylvania Wisconsin
    As you complete your application, be precise and input all necessary information. If information is incorrect or missing, the application will be returned and you might not have time to resubmit it and schedule your exam before your desired test date.
  1. Receive your documents for scheduling

    If you are registering for the CPA Exam through CPAES, CPAES will send your application information to the National Candidate Database (NCD). The NCD helps NASBA, the state boards, the AICPA, and the testing centers protect the personal information you and other CPA candidates provide throughout the application and testing processes. The packet of information that CPAES sends to the NCD is known as the Authorization to Test (ATT). After the NCD successfully processes and accepts your ATT, you will receive your NTS. The NTS is the document you need to schedule your testing appointment through Prometric. You must receive an NTS for each CPA Exam section you would like to schedule.

    If you are working with a non-CPAES state or territory to apply for the CPA Exam, your state board will also send your application information (ATT) to the NCD for processing. However, if your state board uses NASBA’s Payment Coupon Service, you will need to take a few additional steps before you receive your NTS.

    The jurisdictions that do not require a Payment Coupon and that will send your NTS after the NCD has processed and accepted your ATT include

Alabama North Carolina
Arkansas South Dakota
Maryland Virgin Islands
Mississippi
    The jurisdictions that do require a Payment Coupon are
Arizona Illinois Oregon
California Kentucky Texas
District of Columbia Nevada Virginia
Guam North Dakota West Virginia
Idaho Oklahoma Wyoming
    After the NCD has processed and accepted the application information (ATT) of candidates applying through these jurisdictions, the NCD will send you a Payment Coupon so that you can pay the remaining exam fees these jurisdictions require. In most states, the Payment Coupon is only valid for 90 days. To use the coupon, you must visit the Payment Coupon service page on NASBA’s website, provide the requested information, select the exam sections you want to sit for, and pay the fees. You can also reprint a Payment Coupon if it has not been paid or if it has expired. Once NASBA has received your Payment Coupon information, then the NCD will issue your NTS so that you can schedule your exam.

    Once you receive your NTS, you must verify that all of the information is correct. Any discrepancies between your identification information and your NTS could prevent you from taking the CPA Exam on the day of your testing appointment. Therefore, if you discover incorrect information, you should call NASBA at 1-800-CPA-Exam to amend the error.

    Your NTS is valid only for a specific period of time that varies per state. Most state boards afford candidates 6 months to redeem their NTS, but for the following states, the NTS expires according to the following timelines:

    • California: 9 months from NTS issue date
    • Hawaii: 9 months from NTS issue date
    • Louisiana: 9 months from NTS issue date
    • North Dakota: 12 months from NTS issue date
    • South Dakota: 12 months from NTS issue date
    • Texas: 3 months from application date
    • Utah: 9 months from NTS issue date
    • Virginia: 12 months from NTS issue date
    You cannot use your NTS after it expires. If you do not schedule and take the exam section within the specified time period, your NTS will expire and all fees will be forfeited. When you request an NTS, you have to pay a registration fee, and if your NTS expires or you do not request an NTS for all four sections of the exam at once, you will have to submit a new application with its included application and testing fees in order to obtain another NTS. You can’t have more than one open NTS for the same section, so you must either get your score for that section or let the NTS expire before you can apply for the same section again and receive a new NTS for it. Therefore, you should schedule your test appointment as soon as you receive your NTS.
  1. Schedule your test appointment

    You will schedule all of your testing appointments with Prometric, and you can do so by visiting their website or by calling 1.800.580.9648. To schedule your appointment, you will need to select the state you want to test in, enter the exam section ID and the first four letters of your last name, choose your preferred date and location, and specify the exam section(s) you would like to take. You do not have to take the exam in your state; you can elect to take it at any Prometric location.Test dates are set on a first come, first served basis, so the earlier you schedule your appointment, the better chance you have of receiving your desired location, date, and time to test. The AICPA does not allow you to schedule a test appointment less than six days in advance, nor does it allow walk-in testing.

    As you are required to bring your NTS with you to the testing center on your exam day, do NOT discard your NTS after you have scheduled your exam.

CPA Exam Application: Timing

Before you apply for each section of the CPA Exam, check your upcoming schedule to ensure you will have plenty of time to study. The application process for a first-time candidate can take 4-6 weeks. Therefore, you should begin the application process for the section(s) you are planning to take first at least 4-6 weeks prior to when you want to take the exam. You want to ensure that you receive your NTS in time to schedule a date that is convenient for you.

CPA Exam Application: CPA Review

After you have scheduled your CPA Exam with Prometric, the only thing you’ll have left to do before exam day is study. You don’t have to start studying before you’ve scheduled your exam because the date of your testing appointment can serve as the anchor for your CPA Exam study schedule. However, you should choose your CPA exam prep before you create your study schedule because the right CPA review provider will assist you with this process. Gleim CPA Review includes access to our team of exam mentors called Personal Counselors who will work with you to create your personalized study plan and help you achieve CPA success. Learn more about Gleim CPA Review today and access our free CPA Exam guide for even more helpful information about the CPA Exam.