CPA Exam Sections and Testing Windows

CPA Exam Sections and Testing Windows

Updated:October 19, 2018
Bryce Welker, CPA

The CPA exam is comprised of four separate exams that you must pass within an 18 month window. Click on any of the sections below to find out more details about what that test is comprised of.Uniform CPA exam sections:

  1. Audit and Attestation (AUD) – 4 hours
  2. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) – 4 hours
  3. Regulation (REG) – 4 hours
  4. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) – 4 hours
*To pass each exam you must score at least a 75% on each of them

CPA Testing Windows

The CPA Exam is offered during the first two months of each calendar quarter. These are referred to as “testing windows”.  You cannot take an exam during the last month of each quarter and these are known as “dead months”.

January & February:  Testing Window
March:   Dead Month
April & May:   Testing Window
June: Dead Month
July & August:  Testing Window
September:  Dead Month
October & November:  Test Window
December:  Dead Month

You are allowed to take all four sections of the exam during any testing window and  in any order they choose.  However, you may not take the same section more than once during any single testing window.

I don’t recommend that you try and take all four sections within one testing window as this can cause a major imbalance in your life and be quite overwhelming. However, if you are not working I think taking two or three sections per testing window is achievable if you plan it out well and stick to your study plan.

*Update: Effective April 2016, 10 extra days will be added to the end of the testing windows to meet demand from an increasing number of candidates. During the launch window of the next version of the Exam (April-June 2017), the 10-day extension will be suspended. The 10-day extension will then be reinstated for Q3 and Q4 of 2017.

*2017 Exam Sections Update: The new CPA exam changes go into effect on April, 1st 2017. Each exam section will be 4 hours adding an hour to both REG and BEC.

To find out how to register and pay for you next CPA exam section, check out my step-by-step CPA exam application guide.

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  • Jing
    Posted at 23 May, 2016 04:39 AM Reply

    Hi, if I apply for the exams and paid the exam fees, does that mean I can no longer change which sections I want to take? The NTS is valid for only 6 months? Does the 6 months start when you receive it or when you begin to apply for it? Thanks.

    • BWelk
      Posted at 1 June, 2016 04:20 AM Reply

      Hi Jing,From my understanding, you can't change the sections you want to take but you can reschedule the ones you've paid for anytime within the 6 month window. Does anyone else here know something different? The six months starts from the date the NTS was issued.Cheers,Bryce

    • Samyu K
      Posted at 22 May, 2016 14:51 PM Reply

      Hi Bryce,I am planning to take the Arizona CPA exam. In my initial application form, I have the option to apply for all 4 sections or fewer. What is the advantage of applying for all 4 sections? If I do apply for all 4 sections is there a time limit within which I should take those 4 sections? If I apply for only 2 , then do I have to pay an additional application fee when I apply for the other 2 sections?Would appreciate your insight on this. Thanks a lot.

      • BWelk
        Posted at 7 June, 2016 22:03 PM Reply

        Hi Samyu,Yes you would have to pay an additional application fee if you applied for 2 sections each time. Personally I like signing up for all 4 sections at once because I knew I would have to take all of them within the 9 month time period California state gives candidates on their NTS.Cheers,Bryce

      • Melissa
        Posted at 25 March, 2016 01:45 AM Reply

        Hello,I am looking to apply soon for the exam. Can I register for 2 sections now and take them in separate testing windows or both sections has to be taken in the same test window?

        • BWelk
          Posted at 31 March, 2016 19:35 PM Reply

          You can take each section once per testing window, so you can take all four sections in one window or you could take 1 section per window it doesn't matter.

        • spotlover
          Posted at 15 March, 2016 02:32 AM Reply

          Hi, I just found out I have to schedule all sections of the exam I want to take in the first 9 months up front. What is your recommendation in terms of the # of sections to schedule initailly? All 4, or just one or two, see how I do, then reapply again?

          • BWelk
            Posted at 31 March, 2016 19:49 PM Reply

            I scheduled all 4 sections at once because I new it would light a fire under me to stick to a consistent study schedule and knock them all out (and it worked)! I would suggest to do the same if you have a similar type of goal-oriented personality.Cheers,Bryce

          • robert
            Posted at 9 March, 2016 18:36 PM Reply

            Hi, i realize my AUD NTS expires on 4/1, if i don't take my exam, can i reapply for another NTS to take the AUD exam in the same window? do i need to do anything to ensure that i can take the exam in that same window because I need to take AUD in that window or i lose Reg.

            • BWelk
              Posted at 31 March, 2016 19:56 PM Reply

              Hi Robert,Ya pretty sure that isn't an issue if they can get the NTS to you in time. Definitely give them a call and find out the details though.

            • Landy
              Posted at 18 February, 2016 03:55 AM Reply

              Hi - I have taken AUD in 13 Feb 2016 and there is a big possibility not to pass, so in case not passing can I retake it again end of Feb 2016? Thanks

              • BWelk
                Posted at 19 February, 2016 07:32 AM Reply

                No you can only take the same section one time per testing window so you will have to wait until April 1st to retake it.

              • Ana
                Posted at 1 February, 2016 02:52 AM Reply

                I have the becker materials from 2013 can I still use that material to take the exams this year (2016)?

                • BWelk
                  Posted at 1 February, 2016 21:23 PM Reply

                  Hi Ana, I would highly suggest getting some updated study materials. It's not worth studying for hundreds of hours and run the risk of failing because you studied things no longer on the exam and miss out on learning about the new content added to the exams over the last 3 years.Cheers,Bryce

                • Ahmed Mahmoud
                  Posted at 24 October, 2015 04:27 AM Reply

                  My BEC score credit is going to expire on 11/30/2015 and i want to take my last CPA examination (FAR) on November 25 but the exam results will be on December 2015, so in this case my BEC credit will be expired and i have to retake it again ? or as far as i took my FAR exam before the expiry date i will be fine even if the results were on December?

                  • BWelk
                    Posted at 27 October, 2015 18:41 PM Reply

                    As long as you take your exam before the expiration date then you will be fine.Cheers,Bryce

                  • Stephanie
                    Posted at 25 November, 2014 17:06 PM Reply

                    I was able to schedule a CPA exam in the first week of Exam, but understood no testing in any third month. Is this an error on prometric's part? The first full week of December 2014 is available.

                    • BWelk
                      Posted at 26 November, 2014 12:34 PM Reply

                      I haven't heard anything like this before, probably best to contact Prometric and double check.

                      • Stephanie
                        Posted at 1 December, 2014 13:52 PM Reply

                        OBviously the exam is on my mind - I intended to type - first week of December. :) Me neither. I was waiting until my test time Saturday to see what they do. My first one expires 12/31/13 so I really wanted to get this one in. Thanks for your response.

                        • lindsey
                          Posted at 26 February, 2015 23:32 PM Reply

                          Hi there, I just witnessed something like this for the month of March. Was it an error or did they let you take the exam?

                    • David
                      Posted at 9 November, 2014 04:17 AM Reply

                      Hi Bryce, I was wondering; I have the Becker 2013 Review program and still have several months left on it as I managed to have the license extended. I have heard there have been changes to the exam though since 2013. Are those changes significant? On which sections? Thanks!

                      • BWelk
                        Posted at 9 November, 2014 21:19 PM Reply

                        Since then the biggest change was to the Audit section. The other sections had only very minor changes to my knowledge.Cheers,Bryce

                      • Irene
                        Posted at 15 September, 2014 02:21 AM Reply

                        Hi, I have a question.... just past all 4 exams, however, I received the first score on 2/23/13 ( expiration date on it was 9/30/14), and received my last score on 9/9/14. Does it mean I complete it, or not?... sorry for the silly question.

                        • BWelk
                          Posted at 17 September, 2014 01:48 AM Reply

                          Congrats! If the expiration date said 9/30/14 then yes you should be fine. I would call your state board of accountancy if you have any doubts though.Cheers,Bryce

                        • Silena
                          Posted at 15 July, 2014 17:11 PM Reply

                          Hi, I am a little confused as I thought the CPA exam had been changed into two parts instead of four.

                          • BWelk
                            Posted at 17 July, 2014 22:20 PM Reply

                            Silena, no it's always been four sections and I haven't heard anything different for the future.-Bryce

                            • paul
                              Posted at 23 August, 2014 13:10 PM Reply

                              CMA used to be 4 sections but was recently changed to 2 sections. Maybe this is what you are thinking of?

                          • Myron Jones
                            Posted at 24 December, 2013 23:36 PM Reply

                            Hi I have all the 2013 Becker CPA Review material & I was wondering can I use this material to take the 2014 Becker CPA Review exam . What changes & updates are going to made. Thanks in advance

                            • Bryce
                              Posted at 25 December, 2013 00:08 AM Reply

                              I know the FAR exam is going to have updated material but that doesn't go into effect until June 2014. That was the only major change that I am aware of.Cheers,Bryce

                            • Wilson
                              Posted at 21 November, 2013 10:25 AM Reply

                              Hi, BryceI hope that everything goes well!I want to ask whether there will be big changes of FAR section in 2014? because the AICPA says there will be changes as shown below, and I don't know whether it means the FAR will change a lot.(1) Change “IFRS Framework” to “The IASB Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting”.(2) Change “AU Section 623, Special Reports” to “AU-C Section 800, Special Considerations – Audits of Financial Statements Prepared in Accordance with Special Purpose Frameworks”.Can you help me with this?Best regards,

                              • Bryce
                                Posted at 21 November, 2013 22:28 PM Reply

                                Hi,I've heard that the changes won't take place until June 1st, 2014 so I would try and take FAR before then if you can. I haven't looked into any of the changes yet as it's pretty far away from now, but I will do some research and see if I can find some more detailed information.Cheers,Bryce

                              • Rai
                                Posted at 14 November, 2013 07:07 AM Reply

                                Hi Bryce,I have filed application with Guam board and expect approval in Dec 2013. I am planning to appear in Jan/Feb 2014. However confused whether i should wait for 2014 course material or buy 2013. I understood new rules particular for Reg is application from July 01, 2014thanks for help

                                • Bryce
                                  Posted at 14 November, 2013 16:08 PM Reply

                                  Hi Rai,Buying a 2013 course shouldn't be a problem since most CPA Reviews include free updates for new course material. I am not of any major exam changes until July 2014 as you said. I would get started right away and begin your CPA journey!Cheers,Bryce

                                • Nancy
                                  Posted at 27 October, 2013 04:21 AM Reply

                                  Hi, if you are saying becker is expensive then which one you recommend that is better than becker? One more thing, I don't pass last 3 or 2 within 18 months will I loss all credits from 1st test and I have to start all over again?

                                  • Bryce
                                    Posted at 27 October, 2013 22:16 PM Reply

                                    I would recommend CPAexcel, Yaeger CPA Review, and Roger CPA Review (all better than Becker!) This will help you choose the right one, Yes, you will lose credit for all exams that are over the 18 month window.

                                  • Andrea
                                    Posted at 19 October, 2013 05:41 AM Reply

                                    Hi!Do the 18 months begin the date you received your passing score, or the date you took the test?Thank you!

                                    • Bryce
                                      Posted at 21 October, 2013 14:24 PM Reply

                                      Hi Andrea,The 18 months starts the day you pass your 1st exam.

                                    • ben
                                      Posted at 31 July, 2013 05:24 AM Reply

                                      Once you pass one section of the CPA exam, how much time will we have to pass the rest of the eaxm?

                                      • Bryce
                                        Posted at 31 July, 2013 14:28 PM Reply

                                        Hi Ben,You have 18 months after you pass your first exam to pass the remaining 3.

                                      • Ann
                                        Posted at 8 July, 2013 08:48 AM Reply

                                        How long did you have before you took the exam? I only have a few months and find it daunting.

                                        • Bryce
                                          Posted at 8 July, 2013 13:05 PM Reply

                                          Hi Ann,I studied for about 2 months before each exam, closer to 3 for FAR. A few months is plenty of time if you are consistent, just 1.5 hours a day is enough if you stick to your study plan and want it bad enough. You're on the right track, keep at it!Cheers,Bryce

                                        • Vicky
                                          Posted at 25 April, 2013 02:25 AM Reply

                                          HiI've been comparing the different review options and have a question stemming from the Becker package. In their options, they distinguish between 2013 and 2014 packages. Is there a large change in testing format/knowledge between years that I should be concerned about when choosing? I am sure that I will have at least one exam that will swing into 2014.Also, I have been approved by an "approved" transcript evaluation company that I can write the exams without any additional semester hours. I still however have to wait for final approval from the California Board before I receive my authorization to test. Currently they are running behind schedule and have advised of a 6 week turn around from when they receive applications and payments to decisions on authorization. I am also feeling a little disappointed that I may also have to wait an addition 5 weeks for my NTS! Is it wise to purchase a package now to begin studying? I would really like to write an exam by the end of May!Many thanks,

                                          • Bryce
                                            Posted at 26 April, 2013 21:16 PM Reply

                                            Hi Vicky, The only section, to my knowledge, that is going to be adding new material in 2013 is Audit. This will take place in June of 2013 and you can read about the additional information that will be covered on the NASBA website. Many review courses will automatically update their materials for these changes and give them to you for free, however, I am not sure about Becker's policy so you should contact them directly if you're heart is set on them (very overpriced in my opinion).For your second question, my advice is to absolutely start studying now!! I also had to deal with the California Board of Accountancy and by the time I got my NTS I was already halfway through studying for my first exam. There is no reason to procrastinate your studies unless you feel like there is a very large chance that your application will be rejected. One of my favorite quotes comes from Abraham Lincoln, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Go get em Vicky!Bryce

                                            • Aanchal
                                              Posted at 21 May, 2013 03:38 AM Reply

                                              Dear Bryce,Thanks for sharing all the valuable info on CPA. I had taken the CPA back in 2003 and missed by 1 or 2 points in the subjects. I had been using Becker at that time. I took Aud again and missed by 1 point. I kind of got disheartened then and quit studying for the CPA. Recently I feel the need to complete my CPA mainly to free my mind from this twinge of regret of not finishing my commitment and also to develop more confidence in my career. I need some advise and was wondering if I could possibly talk to you over the phone. Would that be ok? I want your opinion on a couple of things and that would make it a long comment on this website.

                                              • Bryce
                                                Posted at 21 May, 2013 16:35 PM Reply

                                                Hi Aanchal,I am currently living in Bangkok but if you send me an email with your questions at [email protected] I will help you out as much as I can.Cheers,Bryce

                                                • richa
                                                  Posted at 27 March, 2014 13:34 PM Reply

                                                  Hello Bryce, I am an indian, who lives in bangkok.i am graduated in arts but done masters in finance and control.i want to crack CPA exams. so, can you guide me that from where i can start.Regards,Richa

                                                  • Bryce
                                                    Posted at 27 March, 2014 14:53 PM Reply

                                                    Hi,So are you going to fly back the US to take the exams or where are you going to take them? Check out my blog to learn more about getting started,