CPA Exam Application Process

CPA Exam Application Process

Updated:June 22, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA
The CPA exam application process varies slightly from state to state, but the majority of the steps are the same. If done properly, you can be approved and scheduled for your first exam within 4-6 weeks. However, if you forget one tedious piece of information, this can turn into a real pain in the ass. My goal is to simplify this process for you so you can spend less time worrying about your application getting approved, and more time focusing on what’s actually important, studying and passing the CPA exam!

Are You Eligible?

Before you can apply for the CPA exam, you must first qualify. Make sure that you have met all of your state requirements to sit for the exam. You can check your individual state requirements here. Once you have met all your CPA exam qualifications, you are officially eligible to start the application process. This can be a complicated ordeal if you accidentally skip a step or do them out of order so my goal is to simplify this process for you. The steps below are listed in chronological order and include links to necessary resources as well as valuable tips I learned from my own experience.

How To Apply For The CPA Exam

1) Order and send in ALL official school transcripts

  • This includes any colleges, universities, community-colleges, and private institutions that you attended.
  • I recommend submitting your transcripts as soon as you meet your state’s CPA exam education requirements to fast track the application process.

2) Submit your CPA exam application and pay application fee

  • Typically $100-$200 depending on the state

3) Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) from your State Board

  • In most states, this gives you 90 days to decide which sections you want to sit for. Your application fee will be forfeited if you don’t remit payment with this 90-day period.
  • Choose which sections you want to take and pay for them on NASBA’s website. (Please read step #4 before paying!)
  • Fees range from $700-$1,000 for all 4 sections depending on the state or around $175-$250 per section.

4) Receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) from NASBA

A Notice to Schedule (NTS) is your official document that authorizes you to sit for the CPA exam in the United States. Couple notes about your NTS:
  • Typically this takes between 3-6 weeks to receive, however, certain states allow you to apply online and get it the same day (my California NTS took 5 weeks)
  • Each state has a NTS “validation period” which essentially means you have a time limit to take all the exams that you have paid for in STEP #3!  This is totally unfair, and it’s obvious why they would do this, $$$$, but rather than complain I’d rather help you avoid their trap. Don’t pay for for all four sections if you don’t think you can study and sit for all four within that six month period or you will forfeit your money for any untaken tests. If you have a busy schedule, it is much cheaper to schedule and pay for 2 sections, then reapply for the next two sections six months later (reapplication fees are generally around $50, which is much better than a few hundred dollars).
“Boards of accountancy will set a time period for which an NTS is valid (generally six months) during which you must schedule and take the examination section(s), after which it will expire and all fees will be forfeited.” -NASBA
  • All jurisdictions have established a six-month NTS validation period, except for the  following jurisdictions:

Texas 90 days from application date California 9 months from NTS issue date Hawaii 9 months from NTS issue date Louisiana 9 months from NTS issue date Utah 9 months from NTS issue date North Dakota 12 months from NTS issue date South Dakota 12 months from NTS issue date Virginia 12 months from NTS issue date

5) Go to the Prometric website and schedule your exam(s)

  1. Click the “Schedule My Test” button and choose the state you want to test in
  2. Enter the exam section ID and first 4 letters of your last name
  3. From here you will be able to choose the date, location, and section of the exam(s) you wish to take
To learn about Testing Windows and find out what months you are not allowed to sit for the CPA exam click here.

CPA Exam Rescheduling Fees:

  • 30 days or more in advance: no penalty
  • 5-30 days in advance: $35
  • 1-5 days in advance: you will be charged the FULL price of the exam
  • Less than 24 hours before exam: rescheduling not allowed, you must reapply
*I would suggest that you schedule your exams at least 3-4 weeks in advance

6) Take your exam!

You MUST bring your Notice to Schedule with you to the Prometric testing center or you will not be able to take your exam! (I made this mistake once but luckily was able to race home, grab it, and get back in time to take it.. my Toyota Corolla has never driven so fast!) You are also required to present two forms of identification at the test center, one of which must contain a recent photograph. Each form of ID must bear your signature and cannot be expired.

CPA Application Tips and Information

  • You are not restricted to taking the exam in your state and are allowed to take it at any Prometric location
  • Once you pass your first CPA exam section, you have 18 months to pass the remaining three sections
  • You may apply to any state or jurisdiction, but can only register to take the exam in one jurisdiction at a time
  • Applications can be submitted at any time during the year
  • Make sure the name on your application exactly matches the name on the two forms of ID you will use at the testing center

Don’t Wait For Your NTS, Start Studying Today!

You can waste weeks of valuable study time waiting for your Notice to Schedule, use that time to get a head start on the section you want to tackle first and jump on it today, no excuses, no more procrastinating, just do it! Be sure to check out the Top 5 CPA review courses on the market in this side by side comparison chart to find out which one is the best fit.  

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  • Kalish
    Posted at 6 March, 2018 09:22 AM Reply

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as "0". Reason: Human SPAM filter found "credit score" in "comment_content" *] Hi BRYCE, This is Kalish. I have completed my International Evaluation from NIES and as per the report i am eligible to apply for CPA exams in North Hampshire and Oregon. I am living in North Carolina and i would like to get my CPA license in North Carolina if i clear the exams. Is there any option to get the license in North Carolina if i clear my exams in North Hampshire or Oregon . I mean could i transfer my exam credit scores to North Carolina Can you guide me in selecting the Jurisdiction?

    • Bryce Welker, CPA
      Posted at 5 April, 2018 22:53 PM Reply

      Hi, to find out if your CPA license will transfer between states please use this tool from the AICPA:

    • Kelli
      Posted at 16 January, 2018 09:56 AM Reply

      [* Shield plugin marked this comment as "trash". Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (comment token failure) *] Slightly off-topic but do you have to pass all CPA Exams before you can start your work experience towards the CPA required hours? I have passed two exams and am starting an accounting job, but wasn't sure if my experience hours start now or not until all 4 parts are passed. Can you offer any guidance on this?

      • Bryce Welker, CPA
        Posted at 16 January, 2018 21:33 PM Reply

        Hi Kelli, you can start your work experience before you even start studying for the CPA exam. Go get em! Cheers, Bryce

        Posted at 30 December, 2017 02:05 AM Reply

        [* Shield plugin marked this comment as "trash". Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (comment token failure) *] On what basis we should select the state board for appearing in cpa exam if we are eligible for many states. For example: New Hampshire, New York, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon.

        • Bryce Welker, CPA
          Posted at 16 January, 2018 21:55 PM Reply

          Hi! You should choose the state that you plan to work in as a CPA. Cheers, Bryce

        • Christine
          Posted at 12 December, 2017 01:00 AM Reply

          Hi Bryce, If you apply for an account in your state's BOA and they deem your application as deficient, would the reapplication processing time be faster than the 6-8 weeks the BOA now says it takes to process and give you your NTS? Thank you for your time.

          • James Edge
            Posted at 12 December, 2017 13:34 PM Reply

            Hi Christine, Unfortunately I'm not sure how long it would take the BOA to re-evaluate your situation because it varies drastically from state to state, the best thing you can do is call them directly to see if they can expedite the process. Cheers, James

          • Bunty Patel
            Posted at 13 September, 2017 06:37 AM Reply

            In Texas, If I failed and have to retake a section, can I take it right away, or have some kind of block out period before I can retake,?

            • Bryce Welker, CPA
              Posted at 20 September, 2017 12:12 PM Reply

              In every state, you have to wait until the next testing window to retake the same section. Here is some more information about CPA testing windows,

            • Anamika
              Posted at 21 July, 2017 10:08 AM Reply

              Hi, I have retake the two exams , do I need to go through the whole procedure (Submitting all documents again) And whats the total fee for the same Regards, Anamika

              • Bryce Welker, CPA
                Posted at 22 August, 2017 12:23 PM Reply

                Hi, If your Notice To Schedule (NTS) still hasn't expired then you are able to sign up for you next exams right away. If it's expired then you will need to apply for a new NTS. The re-examination fee varies state by state and can be found by selecting your state from this page: Cheers, Bryce

              • Eric Newton
                Posted at 21 March, 2017 15:51 PM Reply

                Do you know why some people recommend applying for 2 sections at a time? Is there a downfall of applying for all 4 sections at one time so you don't have to apply again or pay more fees?Thanks, Eric

                • BWelk
                  Posted at 21 March, 2017 19:03 PM Reply

                  It might seem like signing up for all four would save you money, but in reality, it doesn't. This is a clever trick by NASBA to make more money from fees. Your Notice to Schedule (NTS) has a validation period in which you must take the exams you paid for (most expire in 6 months, but check your state for specific numbers). So unless you plan on taking all 4 exams within a 6 month period, I would highly suggest that you pay for 2 at a time and reapply for the next 2 when you’re ready for those. If not taken within that 6 month period, your NTS and fees for those sections will be forfeited and you'll haver to pay again.

                • Jaya Prakash
                  Posted at 24 February, 2017 15:48 PM Reply

                  Hi,I am from India and planning to take exam in UAE. I have got my NIES evaluation as well and planning to apply for NTS. But there is difference in my name between NIES evaluation (Name as S,Jaya Prakash) & my Passport (Sur Jaya Prakash). Is there any problem in applying NTS ? Which name should I prefer to apply NTS.Thank you in advance for your reply.

                  • BWelk
                    Posted at 21 March, 2017 18:27 PM Reply

                    You need all your registration paperwork to match your name on your legal ID. So I would suggest you contact your state board and clarify so you don't run into any problems once you walk into the test center and go through registration on test day.

                  • Kevin
                    Posted at 4 January, 2017 02:02 AM Reply

                    Hi Bryce and everyone,I.I am a US Citizen who has completed a double major in Business Administration and Marketing previously in Missouri (Total= 146 Credit Hours) ** AACSB Accredited Business CollegeII.This includes 28 Credit hours of: acc, law, econ, stat, and fin courses (Not sure how they specifically categorize "Accounting and Finance" for acceptance criteria). III.When I return to the United States, Which state is best to pursue a CPA given my above details?IV.I would take my exams here in New Zealand, but I worry about the current international mutual recognition partnership policies changing during my process (and also probably don't have enough time to manage it here in NZ)Thanks for the input,Cheers from Auckland!Kevin

                    • Tina
                      Posted at 30 September, 2016 11:15 AM Reply

                      Hi Bryce,I have graduated with a non-accounting major and took the required courses 4 years ago at my local college. I have finally decided to buckle up and study for the CPA exam. I'm not sure yet, but I am leaning towards Roger CPA review than others because I enjoy his lectures. Judging by your replies below, I think supplementing with Wiley's test bank is what I am aiming towards. Can you tell me what your thoughts are about their cram course and flashcards? Do you think that Roger is a good choice for me? Also, I'm not sure if I should choose the Premier or Elite package if I decide to go with their products.By the way, thank you for your helpful tips on your blog. You have a wonderful website!

                      • BWelk
                        Posted at 28 October, 2016 21:55 PM Reply

                        Hi Tina, yes if you enjoy his lectures then you should definitely go with Roger. I've heard their Cram Course is solid too although I've never actually used it.Cheers,Bryce

                      • Samantha
                        Posted at 8 April, 2016 16:42 PM Reply

                        I am going to be taking the NY CPA Exam, and I wanted to find out how long it usually takes to receive the authorization to test after applying for it.

                        • Evan Watson
                          Posted at 16 February, 2016 16:38 PM Reply

                          I would like some help in meeting eligibility requirements. I currently live and work in TN, have a Bachelor's degree and working on my MBA. I won't be done until December (if i were to overload my class schedule along with working full-time). i would have no chance at adequate study time with a full-time job and 9 hours of school. Is there any options i have as far as applying in other states to be able to sit for the exams this fall and push finishing school to next spring. I REALLy want to get the exam over with before they make the changes scheduled for 2017

                          • micah Arcadipane
                            Posted at 25 November, 2015 05:12 AM Reply

                            If I took the exam in NY and didn't receive the email with my test results, or deleted it on accident, how can I find out my grade? Email cant be the only way to hear back from the government the the results is it? It's been close to a month now. My brother is a officer and it took him 2 weeks to hear back.

                            • sean
                              Posted at 15 November, 2015 13:44 PM Reply

                              If I apply for AUD and BEC and after I receive the NTS for those exams, do I have to schedule the dates for those exams right away? or can I first schedule AUD upon receiving NTS and schedule BEC after 4 months or so (4 months after receiving NTS)? Thank you.

                              • Heath James Mason McAteer
                                Posted at 19 October, 2015 17:56 PM Reply

                                Does the NTS include the blackout dates? For instance, you only have 6 months to schedule and take your exam. Does this mean 6 TEST months, or just 6 months? Example: January-June is 6 months. January, February, April, May, July, and August are six testing months, I know this is a silly question, but I'm very curious! Thank you!

                                • BWelk
                                  Posted at 20 October, 2015 23:09 PM Reply

                                  This means just 6 months total regardless of how many test months are included in that period.

                                • krispykree
                                  Posted at 4 October, 2015 03:04 AM Reply

                                  You said your Cali NTS too 5 weeks to get... is that from the time you submitted your CBA application? I submitted my application to the CBA 8/17, they got my remittance 9/2, & they sent my ATT to NASBA 10/1. Do I still have to wait 5 more weeks to get my NTS??

                                  • BWelk
                                    Posted at 14 October, 2015 14:15 PM Reply

                                    Hi, Not sure what "ATT" stands for.. It took 5 weeks from the time I submitted my application to get my Notice To Schedule.

                                    • BWelk
                                      Posted at 14 October, 2015 14:16 PM Reply

                                      Hi John,This is how I did it: Cheers,Bryce

                                  • cpabound907
                                    Posted at 9 September, 2015 03:05 AM Reply

                                    I am getting conflicting information about taking parts of the test in different states. I want to take 1 or 2 parts in NY and the remaining parts in MD. NY only requires you to have completed 120 credits to start taking your exam but MD requires you to have your physical bachelors degree--I will be getting both my bachelors and masters degree in spring of 2016 but want to start taking the exam now. Ny says you can sit for all or part of the exam but MD says no one should be able to do that and if I apply to Maryland after taking a part in NY my application will kick out. I spoke to some CPA instructors and they said I should be able to take parts in different states I just can't register at the same time which I wouldn't be doing. Who could I contact to find out if this is or isn't a possibility? THanks

                                    • Alexandra Colucci
                                      Posted at 1 September, 2015 00:32 AM Reply

                                      What do we send our transcripts to?

                                      • BWelk
                                        Posted at 1 September, 2015 05:12 AM Reply

                                        To your state's Board Of Accountancy.

                                      • Carmel Mayol
                                        Posted at 26 August, 2015 20:14 PM Reply

                                        Hi Bryce,I am looking to apply for the CPA exam. I went to school in California but now live in Florida. All of the educational requirements have been met except the Business Law class that Florida requires. I have heard of people applying in states they do not live in and then transferring their grades to the state they live in once they have passed all four tests.What are your thoughts on applying for a state (such as CA, MA, DE) that does not specifically require Business Law units?

                                        • Jackobe
                                          Posted at 26 August, 2015 01:49 AM Reply

                                          After we pass one part of the exams, is there anything we need to do? or does AICPA automatically have our record?Also when we pass the first exam, does the 18 month period begins on the date the score was released or the date we took the exam??Thank you.

                                          • BWelk
                                            Posted at 2 September, 2015 02:38 AM Reply

                                            No you don't need to do anything after you pass one section of your exams.Hmmm, That's a very good question. I'm almost positive that it starts from the day you actually took the exam since that is the date recorded. I'm not 100% though so you should ask your state Board of Accountancy to double check if you think you are going to be cutting it close on the 18 month window.Cheers,Bryce