CPA Exam Tips for Test Day

cpa exam tips

When you take the CPA Exam in the United States of America, you do so at a Prometric testing center. The AICPA and NASBA work with Prometric to offer the CPA Exam, so you will need to comply with Prometric’s procedures in order to pass an exam section and receive credit for it. You should learn about the testing process in advance not only to ensure a successful experience but also to build your confidence for exam day. These CPA Exam tips for test day will help you know what to expect at the testing center.


CPA Exam Tips for Test Day

Reviewing these testing appointment tips a few days before you sit for the exam allows you to maximize your preparation and minimize any surprises.

  • Take a test drive of the testing center.

Before you go to Prometric, you can see what it’s like by signing up for a Prometric Test Drive at A Test Drive costs $30 and is a 30-minute, real-world practice run at your chosen testing site. You will not receive actual CPA Exam questions, but you will walk through the processes of locating your test site, checking in, and completing a generic sample test. This service not only accustoms you to the logistics of the testing site; it eliminates unnecessary stress on exam day because you know the process. You can try the Prometric Test Drive before your first exam section, but you shouldn’t use the Test Drive to replace the AICPA’s Sample Test or the Exam Rehearsal found in Gleim CPA Review.

  • Take a test drive to the testing center.

After virtually driving through the Prometric testing process, you should physically drive to the Prometric testing center. Take this practice drive a few days before your appointment at the same time as you would on the day of your testing appointment. Mapping out the route and recording the travel time will give you one less thing to worry about on exam day, and when you add this step to your pre-exam day preparations, you’ll know even more about where to go and what to do before, during, and after the exam. This knowledge will equip you to stay cool, calm, and collected for as long as possible on your CPA Exam journey.

  • Arrive early.

The point of previewing your path to Prometric before exam day is not to get you to the center on time but to get you there early. You must arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to avoid forfeiting all of the CPA Exam fees you paid for that section. You’ll use this 30 minutes to complete the following activities:

  1. Signing in
  2. Stowing your belongings
  3. Having your ID scanned
  4. Being scanned by a hand-held metal detector wand
  5. Having your picture and fingerprint taken
  6. Reviewing the security and test center policies
  7. Being seated at your workstation

Arriving early is critical for accomplishing each of these steps and for making sure that you are actually allowed to test. If you pull in to the testing center for your appointment anytime after your scheduled start time, you could be denied permission to test and won’t be refunded. Prometric is not obligated to allow you to test if you show up late, so give yourself time to get to the testing center at least half an hour ahead of schedule.

  • Bring your Notice to Schedule.

Your Notice to Schedule (NTS) is one thing you definitely can’t live without on exam day. You receive your NTS after you’ve applied to your state board and paid your fees, and you receive one NTS for each CPA Exam section you would like to schedule. An NTS is required to schedule a testing appointment through Prometric and is also required to be admitted into the Prometric testing center. Your NTS contains personal information that should match that of your identification, and it also has the Launch Code that you will enter into the computer as part of the login process. If you fail to bring your NTS to your testing appointment, if you bring an NTS for a different exam section, or if the personal information on your NTS doesn’t align with your ID, you will not be admitted into the testing center and will forfeit all of the examination fees you have paid for that section.

  • Have your Personal Identification ready.

Personal Identification is another exam-day essential, so have it ready when you arrive at the testing center. To take the CPA Exam, you must present two forms of identification, and one must feature a recent photograph of you. Each form of ID must also bear your signature and must not be expired. At least one ID must fall in the Primary Identification category, which includes valid drivers licenses, passports, or state identification cards. Your second ID may be an accountancy board-issued ID or a valid credit, debit, or ATM card. Again, the same form of your name must appear on your exam application, your NTS, and the ID you bring to the testing center. Therefore, you should keep your name consistent throughout the process of taking the exam; don’t change the spelling or order on applications or when making appointments. Any discrepancy among exam documents will terminate your right to test. You will also surrender your chance to test if your photo ID seems to have been damaged or altered in any way.

  • Store your stuff.

After you get to the testing center, you must place your personal belongings in the storage lockers located at the center. The Prometric staff will give you the key to your locker, and you must return the key to the test center staff prior to leaving. You can put basics like a purse, wallet, or cell phone in the lockers, but the lockers are very small, so don’t expect them to hold large items. The only personal item you can take with you to your seat is a pair of soft foam earplugs with no strings attached, and test center attendants will inspect these.

You really shouldn’t even bring anything to the test center unless it is absolutely necessary because test center personnel won’t be responsible for lost or stolen items. You can visit your locker during an exam break, but you can’t use your cellphone at any time while you’re in the testing center, even during a break. If you operate your cellphone during the exam, Prometric is required to report the incident to your board of accountancy for further investigation. As you certainly want to avoid this sort of hassle, you should just leave your cellphone turned off within your locker.

  • Comply with ID scans, metal detector scans, digital fingerprint scans, and having your picture taken.

Once you’ve stowed your belongings, the test center staff will lead you through security measures that start with taking scans of your ID. Your ID will be scanned/swiped in a combined magnetic strip and 2D barcode reader, then will be placed on a flatbed scanner that will take an electronic image of your photo ID and will use optical character recognition to compare your printed and encoded data. Test center staff then will take a digital photo of your face, which is also required for the test.

Before you enter the test room, the test center staff will ask you to turn out your pockets and scan you with a hand-held metal detector. You’ll have to do this every time you return to the test center after a break. You will also have to provide your fingerprint before and after breaks and every time you visit a test center. To supply your fingerprints, you will use a biometric fingerprint-capturing system before you test. Prometric stores your digital fingerprints electronically together with your identification information. On any subsequent visit to Prometric, your fingerprint records will be available for exam security.

  • Get your noteboards and take your seat.

Though you’ve left almost everything behind, you won’t go in to the testing room empty-handed. Instead, you’ll have a fine-point marker and two double-sided, laminated, colored sheets called “noteboards” with you. You can use these items to make notations during the exam, and you’ll also write your Launch Code from your NTS on your noteboards. If you need more writing space at some point during the test, you can turn your full noteboards over to the test center staff to receive a new stock. You can’t bring any paper or pencils to your workstation, and you must return the noteboards to the test center staff when you finish your exam. Once you’ve got your noteboards, test center staff will escort you to your workstation, and you must then remain in your seat during the exam except when authorized to get up and leave the testing room.

  • Enter your Launch Code and complete the introduction screens.

To log in to the computer at your workstation, you’ll submit your Launch Code. You’ll then have 5 minutes to read the introductory examination screens that follow. If you exceed the 5-minute time limit for proceeding through these screens, your test session will automatically terminate and cannot be restarted. If this happens, you will have to leave the test center, forfeit the fees, reapply to test during another testing window, and receive a score of 0 for that exam section. As you can see, ignoring the time limit for the introductory screens leads to significant consequences, so don’t do anything else with that time except move through the screens.

  • Start your exam.

Your exam should begin within 30 minutes of your scheduled start time. If anything other than your own error as a candidate delays the start of your exam session, you can continue to wait or you may ask to reschedule your appointment. These options also apply to the occurrence of a technical error during the exam that is not resolved within 30 minutes. Once you are able to officially begin taking the CPA Exam, you should use a CPA Exam time management system so that you spend a designated amount of time on each question and thereby assure that you can submit an answer for every exam question.

  • Use the exam screens properly.

The CPA Exam has several different question types, each of which look and function differently. To submit an answer for each type of question, you must know how to operate the specific exam screens. However, if you wait until you’re taking the real CPA Exam to learn how to use the screens, you’ll waste precious testing time. You also run the risk of committing a user error that costs you a passing CPA Exam score. For example, you may mean to move on to the next question but accidentally click to submit the testlet. This scenario is not something you want to be stressing over as you’re testing, so take advantage of the resources that introduce you to the CPA Exam before you sit for it. The AICPA Sample Test is one such resource. Another option is the most exam-emulating CPA course available: Gleim CPA Review. Gleim CPA has programmed our course to mirror the format and functionality of the CPA Exam better than any other course on the market, so you can rely on our practice questions and Exam Rehearsal to get you completely comfortable with the CPA Exam.

  • Report computer problems and testing issues.

In truth, there is only about a 1% chance that you will experience a computer problem during the CPA Exam. If you do, it typically requires a reboot from a Prometric staff member and just takes a minute, at most, of test time. In the rare instance that you do encounter a computer problem, do not erase any messages on the screen or attempt to fix the system. Instead, notify the Prometric staff; it is a Prometric problem, and they are best equipped to handle it quickly. You should just note the time it occurred and when it is rectified. NASBA requests that you report all computer problems that are not adequately handled by Prometric by emailing Please also copy Gleim at Do not wait until you receive your exam score to inform NASBA; you must report any computer problems within five days of taking the exam. If you have any other issues while testing, report them to the Prometric staff immediately, as they should be able to help.

  • Complete the necessary exit procedures.

Once you finish the CPA Exam and the accompanying survey, you should leave the test room quietly, turn in both of your noteboards, and sign the test center log book. After you’ve completed all of the necessary procedures, the test center staff will dismiss you. You will receive a Confirmation of Attendance form at this time, and you should keep that form for your records. It includes important contact information, and if you need to report any exam incidents or concerns, you should use the instructions and addresses on the form to do so.

CPA Exam Tips for Review

The CPA Exam is hard enough to pass without any additional problems to plague you. When you use these CPA Exam tips for test day to know what to expect, you can greatly reduce the number of setbacks that may jeopardize your exam success. Furthermore, when you use Gleim CPA Review to prepare for the exam, you can increase your confidence with the exam and feel right at home during your testing appointment. Our course replicates the Prometric testing environment and the exam functionality better than any other course. Discover our exceptional exam emulation by accessing our free CPA demo today!