How to Schedule the CPA Exam

how to schedule the cpa exam

Whether you’re a procrastinator or a planner, all CPA candidates must schedule testing dates for all four CPA Exam sections. To complete this important step, you need to know how to schedule the CPA Exam.

By scheduling the CPA Exam you get to pick your own test dates; however, you may not know where to start in making this important decision. Developing a CPA Exam study plan will help you find the dates that are perfect for you. Once you have your plan mapped out, you can start scheduling your first section.


Steps to Scheduling the CPA Exam

Follow these steps to schedule testing appointments for each CPA Exam section:

  • Learn about the CPA partners.

Throughout your CPA Exam journey, you will interact with the Big 4 of the CPA Exam: the organizations involved with CPA licensure. Your academic path will be easier if you familiarize yourself with these organizations as soon as possible and always follow their recommendations to the letter.

    • The State Boards of Accountancy: Individual states issue CPA licenses, so you must get your application for licensure approved by one of the state boards. You may also have to pay them an application fee and get your Notice to Schedule (NTS), ADA testing accommodations, and score reports from them.

    • The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA): NASBA receives score reports data from the AICPA and supplies Prometric with candidate authorizations. NASBA also works with state boards to pass along score reports and grant candidate authorizations. For state boards that utilize NASBA’s CPA Examination Services, NASBA also assists with the application process and issues your NTS.

    • 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 score reports data to NASBA.

    • Prometric: Prometric is the company that administers the CPA Exam in its testing centers. You must schedule your examination appointments through Prometric and visit its testing centers to take each section of the CPA Exam.

  • Apply for the CPA Exam.

The first key item you must complete is your CPA Exam application. To register for the CPA Exam, you must choose the CPA state board of accountancy with whom you want to apply and check their eligibility requirements. CPA requirements vary by state, but the basic requirements include citizenship, residency, Social Security, and various levels of education. Once you know that you are eligible to apply with your preferred state board, complete their application process, which varies by state, and pay the associated CPA Exam fees. Submission of a unique and complete application, with all related fees is required for each exam section.

Pro Tip: Some state boards offer fee reductions for applying for more than one section at a time. However, don’t apply for too many at once because you will likely only have a 6-month window to sit for both sections once the application process is complete. You will have to work with your state board, and potentially NASBA as well, quite often during this period. After you submit your application and receive the necessary documents, you will have more scheduling independence.

  • Receive your NTS.

If your state board approves your application, you will receive the most important document of your exam scheduling process: your Notice to Schedule (NTS). Your NTS is critical because it’s the document you need to schedule your testing appointment through Prometric.Having your NTS is also critical for exam day. It contains the exam section identification number that will act as the “Launch Code” (password) for logging in to your computer at the testing center for each exam section.

Pro Tip: You will need to use your examination identification number throughout the CPA Exam, so be sure to take it to the testing center. You’ll write it on each noteboard you receive, and you’ll type it into the computer when you start the exam and take breaks.

Your NTS is only valid for one exam section or until the expiration date. The validity period includes non-testing months and may vary among different boards of accountancy. If your NTS expires before you sit for the relevant section, all your exam fees will be forfeited, and you will have to go through the process of applying and scheduling all over again. For 47 of the 55 state boards and jurisdictions, the validity period of the NTS is 6 months from the NTS issue date. The other 8 have a variety of validity periods.

NTS Validity Periods for Select Jurisdictions

3 Months

9 Months

12 Months



North Dakota


South Dakota




    1. You won’t be able to extend your NTS window or receive a refund for the fees you paid, so you should make every effort to take the section(s) you’re approved for before the NTS expires. Even if you cancel an exam appointment, you cannot change the expiration date of your NTS. Nor can you have more than one open NTS for the same section. You must get the score for a section or allow the NTS to expire before you can apply for that section again and get a new NTS for it.

Pro Tip: If your NTS is about to expire, but you don’t feel ready to sit for the CPA Exam yet, do it anyway. The experience will allow you to see the exam questions, increase your comfort level with the exam, and get your money’s worth for that NTS.

After you sit for an exam section, you should keep the associated NTS until the CPA Exam score release. You may need to use the examination section identification number to view your score online. You cannot reprint an NTS after you sit for the corresponding exam section; however, a reprint request may be submitted on NASBA’s website before the exam.

  • Check the accuracy of your NTS.

You will receive one NTS listing the exam section or sections that you are approved to take. You should immediately verify all of the information. Don’t just confirm that it has your name on it. Carefully cross-reference your name on your NTS with your name on the identification documents used to check in at the testing center to ascertain that they match exactly. If the name on your NTS does not match the name on your identification, you will not be allowed to enter the testing center, and your testing fees will not be refunded.If your ID and NTS do not match or any information on your NTS is incorrect, immediately contact either your state board or your state board’s designated agent (most likely NASBA) so you can request a corrected NTS. Be certain to bring the correct NTS with you to the testing center.Note that not every difference is a problem. Per NASBA, your middle initial may be substituted for your middle name, and vice versa. So, it would be fine if your NTS read, “Agnes B. Collier” and your license said, “Agnes Bell Collier.”

  • Get the details on testing times and locations.

Each year, the CPA Exam is offered in four quarterly testing windows. These testing windows are

      • Quarter 1: January 1 – March 10
      • Quarter 2: April 1 – June 10
      • Quarter 3: July 1 – September 10
      • Quarter 4: October 1 – December 10

The periods in-between the testing windows are known as “blackout periods” or “closed months”, and the exam is not given during these times to allow for systems and database maintenance. You have a lot of scheduling freedom within these testing windows; you can take any or all of the exam sections within any testing window and in any order. The only thing you cannot do is sit for the same section more than once during any one testing window. You need to know the testing window timelines so you can plan to sit for the exam when it’s available and do not lose credit for previously passed sections.

You can take the CPA Exam at any authorized Prometric testing center within the U.S. or at a designated international location. You do not have to use a testing center within the jurisdiction where you are seeking CPA licensure. You’ll find the list of testing centers at the Prometric website, and your state board will inform you of any places where you are restricted from taking the exam.

  • Determine your ideal testing date using a CPA Exam study plan.

Unless you want to go through the hassle of getting another NTS and paying all of the exam fees again, you shouldn’t apply for a CPA Exam section until you are ready to take that section. How can you be sure that you’re ready? Create a study plan, and use it to find your preferred testing date.The first step is deciding how quickly you want to pass all four sections of the CPA Exam. You can choose a moderate or aggressive study plan to pass within a year or even 6 months, but you need to ensure that you’ll pass all sections in 18 months. If you do not pass within 18 months, you’ll start to lose credit for passed sections.

Pro Tip: The clock on your 18-month window starts as soon as you pass your first exam section. If you pass your exam in June of 2018, you have until December 2019 before you lose credit for passing that section. You will lose credit for the first section you passed if you do not pass the next three sections within those 18 months.

Next, evaluate your current schedule to see where you can carve out some study time. The goal is to study for 1-2 hours each day, so you’ll probably need to temporarily cut out most non-essential activities. You can use an interactive study planner to create your CPA Exam study schedule and estimate when you’ll be done preparing for one exam section. Then immediately schedule your appointment with Prometric so you’re sure to land a desirable date. You should have your first, second, and third choices of dates and times planned for each exam section before you start the scheduling process.

  • Follow best scheduling practices.

The earlier you schedule your exam date, the better. You have to schedule your exam date at least 5 days in advance (or 10 days in advance for candidates who require testing accommodations). You should try to schedule at least 65 days ahead of time so that you have a better chance of securing a time within your NTS window that also fits your schedule and location preferences. Don’t count on your board of accountancy, NASBA, or Prometric to pull any strings if you can’t schedule your testing appointment before your NTS expires.You must schedule a separate appointment for each exam section applied for. You could schedule all of your testing appointments at one time, but it’s not necessary. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious and plan to sit for more than one section in the same day, you should know that Prometric’s online appointment system does not warn you about overlapping appointment times. For each CPA Exam section, you will have 4 hours of total testing time. Your appointment time will include an additional 30 minutes for logging in, completing the survey, and taking the 15-minute standardized break. You’re responsible to make sure you haven’t scheduled overlapping appointment times and have enough time between sections to take a break before checking in again

  • Schedule your CPA Exam date with Prometric.

You can schedule your CPA Exam section either online or over the phone. Using the Internet is the most convenient, fastest, and easiest way. When you schedule online, you’ll have direct access to preferred dates and test center locations, and you’ll instantly receive a detailed confirmation of your appointment both on-screen and via email. To schedule online, follow these steps:

    1. Have your NTS in front of you
    2. Go to Prometric’s website and select “Schedule My Test”
    3. Select Country/State
    4. Read the Information Review screen and click “Next”
    5. Agree to the policy information by clicking “I agree” and then click “Next”
    6. On the Program Identifier Screen
      • Locate on your NTS the correct examination section identification number for the exam section you are scheduling
      • Enter the number and the first four letters of your last name
      • Click “Next”
    7. Confirm the proper selection and click “Next”
    8. Follow the on-screen instructions to select the location, date, and time you would like to schedule your appointment
    9. Select “Complete Registration” to complete your schedule
    10. Print your confirmation number for your appointment and keep it for your records

If you prefer to schedule your appointment via phone, you will have to call Prometric’s Candidate Services Call Center at 800.580.9648. The call center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST. Again, you don’t have to schedule more than one appointment during the call, but if you do call to make appointments for two or more exam sections, you should be ready to specify the dates, times, and locations you want for each section. You will also need your NTS for scheduling over the phone.

No matter how you schedule, you will receive an email confirmation of your appointment. If you don’t receive one, you can print it from the Prometric site.

Steps to Learning More About the CPA Exam

You’re practically a CPA Exam-scheduling pro now (you just have to schedule an exam section to achieve expert status). To have the confidence of a total CPA Exam master, you need to learn everything else about the exam process. You can get all of that information in this free CPA Exam Guide. Access it today, and prepare to dominate the CPA Exam!