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Scheduling the CPA Exam

How do I schedule my CPA Exam?

Schedule the CPA Exam by selecting a testing center, choosing a testing date, and providing your testing documentation to Prometric. You must schedule your exam at least five days in advance, but the AICPA recommends scheduling the CPA Exam at least 45 days in advance.

Scheduling the CPA Exam

How do I schedule my CPA Exam?

Schedule the CPA Exam by selecting a testing center, choosing a testing date, and providing your testing documentation to Prometric. You must schedule your exam at least five days in advance, but the AICPA recommends scheduling the CPA Exam at least 45 days in advance.

Everything you need to know to schedule the CPA Exam

You’ve selected your state board, applied for the CPA Exam, and paid all of your fees. Now you’re ready to schedule your exam. This can feel like a very daunting step. After all, you are setting a deadline for your studies. But scheduling the CPA Exam doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

We’ll walk you through how to schedule your CPA exams and give you some tips on selecting your testing center and exam date.

How to select a CPA testing center

For most candidates, selecting a testing center is easy. Prometric has thousands of testing centers, and they are located in every U.S. state. You do not need to sit for the CPA Exam in the state you’re applying to.

You do not need to select a testing center before you choose your testing dates. If you need to pass by a particular date, start by selecting your testing date and find a center that matches your needs.

Finding a nearby testing center is simple with Prometric’s search function.

Steps to select a testing center:

  1. Go to Prometric.com.
  2. Click “locate a test center.”
  3. Select “CPA” from the list of exam types.
  4. Click “locate a test center” (again).
  5. Select the country and state (if applicable) where you want to take the exam.
  6. Select the exam section you are planning to take.
  7. Use the city/zip bar to search for testing centers.
  8. Select a test center from the list provided to see its availability.

International Candidates

Most states participate in the international administration of the CPA Exam. This means you can use one of the Prometric testing centers in the following nations to take the CPA Exam:

England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, The United Arab Emirates

Always confirm with your state board prior to scheduling your exam at an international testing center. Learn more about choosing a state board for international candidates.

Selecting a testing center after you’ve selected your testing date

If you already have a testing date in mind, you should make use of Prometric’s seat availability tool when selecting a testing center. From the Prometric CPA landing page, click “Seat Availability Tool” and select a country and state. Clicking on the “Search for Availability” icon will allow you to select an exam part and testing center. Finally, clicking on “Availability” will take you to a calendar which displays the available dates and testing times.

How to choose a testing date

The CPA Exam is offered for the majority of the year, which means you’re free to select a date that works best for you. There are two tactics most candidates employ when scheduling their exams.

1. Schedule early and work toward your goal

After receiving an approved NTS, some candidates schedule their exams immediately. This option has it’s own pros and cons.

Pros

  • You may be motivated by having a “due date” for your study process.
  • You are more likely to get your preferred exam day, time, and testing location.

Cons

  • If you underestimate your study time or something comes up, you will need to reschedule your exam and potentially pay fines to do so.
  • If you overestimate your study time, you may waste time or even need to spend time refreshing on topics you’ve forgotten during your studies.

2. Study first and schedule once you feel prepared

Waiting to schedule your exam until you are prepared for the exam also offers unique pros and cons.

Pros

  • You know you’ll be prepared on exam day.
  • You will saves money by avoiding rescheduling.
  • You won’t be distracted by a stressful deadline while you’re studying.

Cons

  • You may procrastinate because you don’t have a deadline.
  • You’re less likely to get your preferred exam day, time, and testing location.
  • If your studies end during a blackout period, you may need to wait up to 20 days before the CPA Exam is available.

You have a rolling 18-month period to pass all four parts of the CPA Exam.
You can choose a moderate or aggressive study plan to pass all four parts 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.

What is the best way to pick your exam day?

We suggest you study first and schedule once you feel prepared. Specifically, wait until you’ve completed about 80% of your study plan and then schedule your CPA Exam. This is a good mix of the two that ensures you will waste as little time as possible. Creating a study plan will be key to helping you plan your studies.

Once you have established your study plan, use it to pick a few potential testing dates for each section. Having multiple dates in mind before you begin to schedule the exam allows you to easily adjust if your preferred testing date is unavailable.

CPA Exam testing windows

The CPA Exam is offered for a period each quarter of the year. These periods are called testing windows. You may not take the same part of the CPA Exam twice during a testing window.

The testing windows during which you can schedule your CPA Exam are:

Schedule the CPA Exam during testing windows

Do you take all parts of the CPA Exam at once?

You are not required to take all four parts of the CPA Exam at the same time. However, you can schedule multiple sections of the exam during any testing window and even take multiple parts of the exam on the same day.

If you do schedule multiple parts of the CPA Exam on the same day, be sure the testing times do not overlap. The Prometric online scheduler will not warn you if they do.

CPA Exam blackout dates

The times when the exam is not available are often called blackout dates. The last few weeks of each quarter are reserved for improving the testing process and making updates to the computer system. Therefore, you will not be able to schedule the CPA Exam during these times.

2019 blackout dates:

March 11 – 31

June 11 – 30

September 11 – 30

December 11 – 31

Be sure to keep your Notice to Schedule’s (NTS) expiration date in mind in relation to blackout dates. While 6 months is considered standard, NTS expiration is set by each state board. Review your NTS to check the expiration date; it will need to be valid on your testing date—not just when you schedule the exam.
As the blackout months approach, it may also be harder to schedule your desired date and time because many candidates rush to schedule their exams before the blackout period.

Is there a best time of year to take the CPA Exam?

Yes, there is a best time to take the CPA Exam! CPA Exam pass rates are up to 10% higher in the second and third quarters of each year. Learn more about the CPA Exam Golden Window.

Scheduling your CPA Exam with Prometric

Once you’ve selected your testing center and have a list of preferred testing dates, it’s time to schedule your exam(s) with Prometric.

You will need your NTS in front of you to schedule the CPA Exam.

Schedule as soon as you can

The sooner you schedule your exam appointment the better the odds are that you’ll get your first choice of date, time, and location. We suggest you schedule your exam once you have completed 80% of your study plan.

Scheduling your exam online

The best way to schedule your exam is through the Prometric website. While you can also call Prometric to schedule your exam, the website provides 24-hour access and instant confirmation of your appointment.

Follow these steps to schedule your exam online:

  1. Go to Prometric’s website.
  2. Click the “Schedule My Test” link at the top of the page.
  3. Select “CPA” from the list of exam types.
  4. Click the “Schedule My Test” button.
  5. Select the country and state (if applicable) where you will take the exam.
  6. Read the information provided and click “Next.”
  7. Read the policy information, confirm the statement provided, choose to consent to the policy, and click “Next.”
  8. Enter your exam ID number and the first four letters of your last name and click “Next.” (Double check the exam ID number – this corresponds to the section you are scheduling.)
  9. Follow the provided instructions to select your testing location and click “Schedule an Appointment.”
  10. Read the provided information on biometric collection and disclosure, indicate your option, and click “Next.”
  11. Click “Complete Registration.”

What is the best day to take the CPA Exam?

No testing day performs statistically better than any others, but weekends are always going to fill up faster than weekdays. We recommend you either schedule the CPA Exam on a non-workday or take the day off from work. This keeps you from carrying work-related stress with you into the testing center.

Scheduling your exam with the Candidate Services Call Center

You can also call the Prometric Candidate Services Call Center to schedule your exam: 1-800-580-9648. The Prometric call center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. eastern time.

You will need to make a separate appointment for each section of the exam you are scheduling. You are not required to make all appointments in one call.

What time should I take the CPA Exam?

The best time to take the CPA Exam is when you’re going to be most alert. If you’re a morning person, schedule for the morning. If the afternoon is your prime study time, taking the CPA Exam then will ensure you’re not distracted by fatigue.

If you schedule the CPA Exam for the afternoon, stay in a controlled environment leading up to the exam. Don’t risk a bad work interaction, an argument, or even frustrating traffic when you’re preparing mentally to sit for the CPA Exam.

Rescheduling your CPA Exam appointment

If you need to change or cancel a testing appointment after you’ve scheduled it, you must notify Prometric.

You may reschedule or cancel an appointment by using Prometric’s website or calling the Candidate Services Call Center. You will need the confirmation number from your original appointment in order to reschedule or cancel your appointment. Make sure you follow all instructions. If you don’t, your reschedule or cancel request may not go through.

You may be required to pay a rescheduling fee or even forfeit your examination fee depending on when you notify Prometric. There is no fee if you contact Prometric to reschedule 30 or more days in advance. With 6-29 days’ notice, the fee to reschedule is $35. It is $82.28 with 5 or fewer days’ notice. As long as your rescheduled date is still within the valid period given on your Notice to Schedule (NTS), you will not need to repay the application and examination fees.

Find out more about rescheduling fees here: costs to reschedule your CPA Exam

Schedule a Prometric Test Drive

Prometric believes that “familiarizing yourself with the look and feel of the computer-based testing environment in advance of your exam will minimize pre-test mistakes,” and Gleim agrees! It’s a great idea to take the Prometric Test Drive before you sit for the actual CPA Exam.

The Prometric Test Drive is a $30 service that involves a 30-minute, real-world practice run of the test center experience at your chosen testing site.

The Gleim CPA Review System includes an exam rehearsal that will completely prepare you for the look, feel, and interface of the CPA Exam. However, it does not replace the Prometric Test Drive.

Physically visiting your testing center will provide a ton of peace of mind on exam day. During your test drive, you’ll save exam-day stress by:

  • Finding the testing center
    • Especially vital since sometimes construction could conceal the normal entrance or signs
  • Seeing your parking options
    • Small parking lots, limited street parking, or paid parking garages can through a huge wrench into your exam day
  • Checking the temperature of the center
    • Being even a bit cold or hot can become a real problem during a long exam.
  • Storing your possessions in the provided space
    • If your bag is to big for the locker, you’ll have to return it to your car.
  • Checking in and having your documentation confirmed
    • An expired license could be an insurmountable obstacle if you find out on exam day.

To schedule a Prometric Test Drive, you’ll follow the same steps as scheduling an exam.

How to schedule a Prometric Test Drive:

  1. Select a testing center.
  2. Select a testing date and time.
  3. Fill out the required applicant information.
  4. Pay the $30.00 fee for the test drive.
  5. Confirm the appointment.

During your test drive, you’ll go through all of the testing procedures that you will have to undergo on exam day. These procedures include the following:

  • Checking in
  • Stowing your stuff
  • Having your ID and documentation checked
  • Being scanned by a hand-held metal detector wand
  • Getting your picture and fingerprints taken
  • Being led to a workstation
  • Completing a tutorial
  • Taking a generic sample test
  • Answering a survey of the experience
  • Filling out an end-of-test report
  • Checking out
Schedule your CPA Exam test drive with Prometric

While you won’t receive real CPA Exam questions on the sample test you take during this time, the service gets you used to the logistics of your testing appointment.

The test drive also gives you the chance to discover the parking situation, the location of the test center, and the amount of time required to drive there. Taking these steps ahead of time eliminates unnecessary stress on exam day and better prepares you for CPA Exam success.

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 back injuries to text-to-speech software for the hearing impaired. A listing of the types of accommodations all Prometric centers can provide can be found on Prometric’s testing accommodations PDF.

Candidates who need special testing accommodations have a few additional considerations when scheduling for 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. They must call the Candidate Services Call Center (1-800-580-9648).
  • Candidates with special testing accommodations must schedule at least 10 days in advance of their testing date.

What section of the CPA Exam should I schedule first?

Many candidates agonize over which CPA Exam section to take first. It’s a personal choice, but there are four common ways people choose:

  • Take the section you’re most interested in first.
  • Take the easiest section first.
  • Take the hardest section first.
  • If the exam is going to change soon, take the section that will change the least first.

We cover the pros and cons and offer our guidance for each below.

Taking the section that you are most familiar with first

When it comes to picking which section of the CPA Exam to take first, our advice is to take the section that appeals to you most or that is the most familiar to you. Look over what each section tests and ask yourself what topics you’re most comfortable with based on recent classes or work experience.

Choosing a section to schedule first

Want to learn more about what topics are on each exam? Learn all about it in our guides to the four CPA Exam sections.

Pros

  • Develop study and testing habits with material you enjoy
  • More likely to pass on the first try
  • Less likely to delay your studies
  • Build confidence in your abilities and knowledge

Cons

  • Delays taking potentially more difficult exams
  • Doesn’t always make the most sense if exam changes are pending
  • Can get preoccupied with material that won’t be on the exam

Taking the easiest section first

Whether because you’ve recently taken a course on financial planning or currently work as a tax preparer, some sections of the CPA Exam will be easier for you than other sections. Beginning your studies with the material you know best is a common way to schedule your CPA Exam.

Pros
More likely to pass on the first try
Less time spent studying for your first section
Build confidence in your abilities and knowledge
If your score expires, you’ll likely only need to retake an easy section

Cons
Delays taking more difficult exams
After passing an easy exam, you may not study enough for harder exams
Starts your 18-month timer before you’ve passed your hardest section

What is the easiest section of the CPA Exam?

This really depends on your history with the topics, but AUD and BEC are consistently ranked as the easiest sections of the CPA Exam by most candidates. Your answer might be different, so we suggest you look over the content covered by each part and decide for yourself.

Find out more about how hard the CPA Exam is on our resource page.

Taking the hardest section first

Candidates who take the hardest CPA section first can enjoy a more downhill exam journey. The hardest section will always depend on your personal experiences, but the CPA Exam pass rates can provide some guidance.

Pros
Allows ample study time to be invested without any risk of previously passed sections expiring
Other sections will be easier to prepare for once you’ve overcome the hardest section
Build confidence in your abilities and knowledge

Cons
If you fail to pass on your first try, it can be very discouraging
If you do not pass all four parts within 18 months of passing the first, you’ll have a difficult section to retake
Difficult to build good study habits while studying demanding materials

What is the hardest section of the CPA Exam?

The FAR section of the CPA Exam is usually considered the most difficult. But every candidate is going to bring his or her own background and skills to the exam, so each candidate’s experience will be different.

Find out more about how hard the CPA Exam is on our resource page.

Taking the CPA Exam that will change the least

When the CPA Exam is about to change, it can be tempting to rush and take the sections that are about to change the most, but this is rarely a good idea (unless you are already well-prepared for that section). Taking the section that will change the least is often a good idea though.

Be sure to consider the other methods along with this one.

Pros
If anything delays your exam and you don’t pass the exam before it changes, you won’t need to restudy much material.
If you do not pass all four parts within 18 months, more of your studied material will still be relevant to the exam.

Should I hurry to take the CPA Exam before it changes?

Many CPA Exam review providers recommend you hurry to pass the exam when they know it’s going to change significantly. The thinking behind this is that CPA Exam changes bring about uncertainty, which may affect your score.

But the AICPA tests new questions for the CPA Exam on the real exam (as ungraded questions), so you can be confident that scores won’t change wildly after the CPA Exam changes. Focus on passing the first time you sit for the exam, and do not get caught up in the panic before the exam changes.

Additionally, the exam changes for a reason: to better reflect the current experience of CPAs in the field. Why rush to learn concepts that you may not use in your career?

CPA Exam Application: CPA Partners

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 resource when 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.

Apply for CPA Exam: Partner Organizations

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 the advisory score reports summary data to NASBA.

Prometric

Prometric is the company that administers the CPA Exam.