Apply for the CPA Exam: The Guide

How do you apply for the CPA Exam?

To apply for the CPA Exam, you need to determine your eligibility, choose the appropriate jurisdiction/state board, and then submit your application documents and fees to that board. After that, you will receive your official schedule document. Learn how to navigate the CPA Exam application process here.

Steps to apply for the CPA Exam

The process for applying to the CPA Exam is fairly straightforward, but it can seem complicated when you’re first trying to figure it out. It boils down to three simple steps:

Select and apply to a state board.

Receive your Notice to Schedule.

Schedule your CPA Exam.

We’ll discuss how to apply for the CPA Exam here. If you’re ready to schedule it, check out our guide on how to schedule the CPA Exam.

STEP 1: SELECT AND APPLY TO A STATE BOARD

Select your state board of accountancy

Choosing a state board is straightforward for many accountants. It usually makes sense to become licensed in the state where you live and work. If you wish to consider other jurisdictions, learn more about choosing a state board and individual state board requirements.

The CPA requirements of each state vary somewhat. Before you can apply for the CPA Exam, you’ll need to find out which states have requirements that you’ll be able to meet.

The two most time-consuming state requirements are:

Education

Semester credit hours, degree, and course requirements. Most states require 150 credit hours to get a license, but many have reduced requirements to sit for the CPA Exam.

Experience

A year or more of accounting work experience that meets certain conditions. Most states will require your experience to be directly supervised by an active CPA, but some will allow academic experience or experience that is verified by a CPA (not necessarily your supervisor). This is not a requirement to sit for the exam, but it will matter once you’re ready to get your license.

Other requirements can be a bit trickier and vary significantly by state:

U.S. citizenship or legal resident/alien status

Residency

Proof of identity (such as a Social Security number)

Because these requirements can vary greatly and are subject to change, it is always a good idea to narrow your search based on education and experience and then contact the state board directly to determine that you specifically meet its requirements.

Check out our chart that summarizes the general state requirements to narrow your search.

Applying for the CPA Exam as an international candidate?

Selecting a state as an international candidate requires special considerations. See our list of international candidate recommended states. After you’ve selected your state board, you will follow the same procedures as domestic candidates.

Apply to your state board of accountancy

Once you’ve selected a board of accountancy, you’ll need to submit an application to that board. This process is very different for every state, but the process should be accessible on each state board’s website. Select your state board here.

 

Most boards will require at least the following during the application process:

Application fee

Application fees vary by jurisdiction, and you will need to pay this fee each time you apply to take a CPA Exam section.

An official copy of your college transcripts

(from every college you’ve attended)

If any of your education is from an international university, you will need to have your transcripts validated by an approved party. Many states utilize NASBA’s International Evaluation Services (NIES) for this service, but some states have special guidance. Be sure to confirm with your state board prior to submitting your transcripts to an evaluation service.

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Submit your transcripts early in your application process because your application will not be reviewed until your transcripts have been received.

Personal information

(e.g., your name, address, proof of identification, etc.)

The name on your application must exactly match the name displayed on your proof of identification. This applies both to the proof of identification submitted with your application and the ID you’ll use on the day of the test. Every state has its own ID requirements. Common forms accepted include a Social Security number, driver’s license, or passport number.

Examination fee(s)

Each section you are applying for will require its own fee. All fees must be paid before your application can be processed. Be sure to only apply for sections you are prepared to take.

If your state does not collect examination fees, you will be sent a payment coupon from NASBA. You will then go to NASBA’s website to pay your fees. After your payment has been processed, NASBA will send your Notice to Schedule (NTS).

You must submit an application each time you want to schedule one or more sections of the CPA Exam. This includes payment of the application fee each time. (See our guide to CPA Exam fees.)

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If your application uses a PDF form, create a “master” version of the document. This way each time you apply for a CPA Exam section, you can revise the form as needed and you will not need to start from scratch. Along with the form, save all of your documentation in one convenient folder to stay organized.

What is CPA Examination Services?

CPA Examination Services (CPAES) is NASBA’s system for assisting state boards with the CPA application process. Many states use CPAES, but some states still process the applications individually. The states below all use CPAES.

 

States that use CPA Examination Services

Alaska

Iowa

Montana

Puerto Rico

Colorado

Kansas

Nebraska

Rhode Island

Connecticut

Louisiana

New Hampshire

Tennessee

Florida

Massachusetts

New Mexico

Utah

Georgia

Michigan

New York

Vermont

Hawaii

Minnesota

Ohio

Washington

Indiana

Missouri

Pennsylvania

Wisconsin

If your state is not listed above, you will need to follow the application instructions provided by your state. This will be discussed below.

To apply to a jurisdiction that uses CPAES, you must begin by registering with CPA Central.

To do this, set up an account with your personal information and create a user ID and password. You will receive an email to complete your registration. Once your account is created, you will use CPAES to complete your application and pay your fees.

STEP 2: RECEIVE YOUR NOTICE TO SCHEDULE

After your application has been accepted, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA. You will only receive one NTS, even if you applied to multiple sections.

Along with your personal information, your NTS includes a section identification number that acts as the Launch Code for each exam section.

You must bring your NTS with you to the examination. If you require a reprint of your NTS, you may request a reprint on NASBA’s website.

Verify the information on your Notice to Schedule

Your NTS will include your name, address, and state board of accountancy. It also lists the section(s) of the CPA Exam you are approved to take.

When you receive your NTS, it is vital to confirm the information is accurate. The name must exactly match the name on identification documents you will use during check-in for the exam. Your middle initial can be substituted for your middle name. If any of the information is incorrect, immediately contact your state board or the designated agent.

When you apply for the CPA Exam, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS)

Notice to Schedule expiration

Each board of accountancy determines how long its NTS is good for. You must schedule and take your examination(s) in this period, or your NTS will expire. For most states, your NTS will be valid for six months, but some states have longer or shorter periods. Always confirm how long your NTS is valid with your state board. If you don’t schedule and take the exam section before your NTS expires, all fees will be forfeited and you will need to reapply.

STEP 3: SCHEDULE YOUR CPA EXAM

Once you have received and verified your NTS, you’re ready to schedule your CPA Exam. Follow our detailed scheduling instructions to make your CPA Exam experience as stress free as possible.


Now that you’ve applied for the CPA Exam, it’s time to get down to studying. One of your first steps should be to read the
Gleim CPA Exam Guide. It walks you through everything you need to know to get set up for success.

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. 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.

What if I need testing accommodations for the CPA Exam?

Prometric offers a wide variety of testing accommodations for qualified people. These include everything from adjustable desks for those with back injuries to text-to-speech software for the hearing impaired.

A listing of the types of accommodations that all Prometric centers can provide can be found in its testing accommodations PDF.

Candidates who need special testing accommodations have a few additional considerations when scheduling their CPA Exam.

All testing accommodations must be approved by your board of accountancy.

Your board of accountancy will provide NASBA with your testing accommodations, and these accommodations will appear on your Notice to Schedule.

Candidates with special testing accommodations cannot schedule or reschedule their exam on Prometric’s website. If you need special accommodations, call the Candidate Services Call Center (1.800.580.9648).

Candidates with special testing accommodations must schedule 10 days in advance of their testing date.

CPA Exam application: partner organizations

During your application process, you’ll interact with several CPA Exam partners. You’ll be sending information, fees, and transcripts as needed to these organizations.

The graphic below can give you a sense of the relationships and interactions you’ll likely have when you apply and sit for the CPA Exam.

These organizations collaborate to put together the Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin, an excellent overview of applying for the CPA Exam.

The State Boards of Accountancy

As CPA licenses are issued at the state level, the state boards approve your application for licensure. They may also process applications, collect fees, and provide score releases. In addition, all testing accommodations must be approved by your state board of accountancy.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

NASBA is the national group that acts as a consolidator for various state boards and assists those organizations. 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 CPA Exam application process. NASBA also shares candidate authorizations with Prometric and receives advisory score reports summary data from the AICPA.

CPA Partner Organizations Chart

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

In addition to other responsibilities, the AICPA creates the CPA Exam. It provides the test content and rules to Prometric and gives advisory score reports summary data to NASBA.

Prometric

Prometric is the company that administers the CPA Exam.

When you’re ready to schedule your CPA Exam

After you apply to take the CPA Exam, you will want to start looking at scheduling your exam. This will be a major step in your journey to the CPA, so be sure to read up on how to schedule your CPA Exam.

Gleim is here to support you throughout your journey to the CPA. Check out our comprehensive CPA Exam Guide if you have any additional questions about the CPA Exam and be sure to make use of our free CPA questions while you prepare for the CPA Exam.