CPA Exam Application Process

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CPA Exam Application Process

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.

Related Blog Posts & Resources

CPA Application Tips and Information

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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  • Rose Chomor
    Posted at 21 November, 2018 12:11 PM Reply

    I have a payment coupon for all 4 sections that expires on 2/4/2019. I shouldn't have applied for all 4 sections at the same time, but now that I did I am going to attempt to take and pass all 4 in the 6 months. Can I wait until 2/4/2019 to pay giving myself extra time to study? Because my thinking is that the 6 month clock doesn't start ticking until I pay for the exams, triggering the NTS, correct? So really I will have until approximately 8/4/2019 to sit for all 4 sections, right?

    • Bryce Welker, CPA
      Posted at 15 January, 2019 09:14 AM Reply

      You are correct that the NTS clock doesn't start until you pay for your exams and receive your NTS. You can definitely start studying before you apply for your NTS too to give yourself an even longer timeline. Cheers, Bryce

    • Sarah
      Posted at 9 November, 2018 15:30 PM Reply

      How far in advance before wanting to take my first test should I plan on starting this application process?

      • Bryce Welker, CPA
        Posted at 15 January, 2019 09:44 AM Reply

        Hi Sarah, If you believe you have met all your state's requirements to sit for the CPA exam, then I would suggest applying about 1 month before you plan to take your first CPA exam section. If you are unsure, I would add another month to that timeline. Cheers, Bryce

      • lily
        Posted at 23 May, 2018 23:26 PM Reply

        I submitted my application today and requested to send my official transcript today as well. Would that be okay? Should I regret that I did not request the transcript first and submit the application?

        • Bryce Welker, CPA
          Posted at 27 June, 2018 20:29 PM Reply

          I guess it depends if your transcripts already get transferred over successfully before they receive your application. I wouldn't stress about it, if you give them a call they will help you get registered and figure out whatever you need to do. Cheers, Bryce

        • 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

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