Steps to Become a CPA 

Published February 23, 2010



Learn About the CPA Examination
You have been studying accounting for a long time and are now prepared to seek CPA licensure. You are ready to focus on the CPA Examination – its content, structure, format, and delivery. Review this website to familiarize yourself with the examination information available to you. Click here to view FAQs on examination topics.

Learn About the CPA Examination Process
Before you do anything else, read theCandidate Bulletin – the official handbook for individuals who plan to take the CPA Examination. As a CPA candidate, you will be required to know what your responsibilities are and how the examination process works. The Bulletin contains this and much other useful information. Click here to download and print a copy.

Prepare Yourself for CPA Examination Changes
Changes in the CPA Examination are made periodically, and major changes are scheduled to take place when the CBT-e project is implemented. Stay up-to-date! Read the Fall 2008 issue of The Uniform CPA Examination Alert for a description of the CBT-e changes to come. Read subsequent issues for project updates. Click here to access all CPA Alert issues. Also, watch for announcements on this website.

Prepare to Take the CPA Examination
Click here to review the “How to Prepare” materials. In addition to knowing your subject matter, you must know what kinds of questions to expect, what tools you will have to work with and how to navigate through the examination. Pay special attention to the information about the CPA Examination Tutorial and Sample Tests.

As a CPA Candidate, you will be required to be familiar with the examination’s functionality, format, and directions before you report to the test center. Failure to follow the directions provided in the tutorial and sample tests, including the directions on how to respond, may adversely affect your scores.

Decide on the Jurisdiction to Which to Apply
Select the jurisdiction (state/territory) in which you wish to qualify as a CPA. Review the eligibility requirements for the CPA Examination and the CPA licensure requirements of the Board of Accountancy in that jurisdiction. Requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another. If you are not certain where you would like to qualify, review the requirements of several jurisdictions before deciding.

To obtain information about Board of Accountancy requirements – jurisdiction by jurisdiction – click here to view a jurisdictional map. After you make your decision, follow online instructions for your jurisdiction to request an application.


Submit a Completed Application and Documents/Pay Required Fees
Fill out your application accurately and completely and submit it as instructed. Depending on the jurisdiction to which you are applying, your application may need to be submitted to a Board of Accountancy or to an organization representing the Board. You need to know exactly where and how to submit it. Because fee payment procedures vary by jurisdiction, be sure to follow your jurisdiction’s instructions regarding application and examination fees.

Submit Academic Documents – If Required
If you are a first-time candidate, you will be required to submit official academic transcripts. Follow directions on how these documents have to be submitted. Note that if you completed academic requirements outside the U.S., your Board may require that your credentials be evaluated by an agency approved by the Board.

Submit Request for Special Accommodations – If Needed
If you need special accommodations at the examination under the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you must present your request in conjunction with your application so that the Board of Accountancy in your jurisdiction can consider your request. Special accommodations require advance Board approval.

Do you have questions about the application process, the documents you need to submit, the fees you must pay, or your jurisdiction’s eligibility requirements?
Contact the organization to which you submitted your application – either the Board of Accountancy in your jurisdiction or an organization representing the Board.


Receive the Notice to Schedule (NTS)
When you receive the Notice to Schedule (NTS), you are officially eligible to take the examination sections for which you applied. Congratulations! You will need the NTS to schedule examination appointments and to be admitted to the examination. First, review the NTS to make sure the information on it is correct and your name on the NTS coincides exactly with your name on the identification documents you will take to the test center.
Read more about this in the Candidate Bulletin.

Do you have questions about your NTS or does your NTS need to be corrected?
Contact the organization to which you submitted your application – either the Board of Accountancy in your jurisdiction or an organization representing the Board

Schedule the Examination
As soon as possible after you verify your NTS, schedule your examination sessions so that you may have the best choice of dates/times and testing locations. Pay attention to the length of time for which your NTS is valid and to the “testing windows” (the two months of every quarter when testing is available) that are coming up. Note also that once you have been determined eligible to take the examination, you can take the examination at any authorized test center – you are not required to take it in the jurisdiction in which you are applying. For step-by-step instructions on how to make testing appointments on the Internet or by phone at Prometric test centers (or at the Guam test center operated by NASBA) refer to the Candidate Bulletin.

Do you have questions about test centers or scheduling examination appointments?
Contact Prometric Candidate Services Call Center at 800-696-2722. If you are applying to take the examination at the test center in Guam, follow the contact instructions provided in the Candidate Bulletin.


Report to the Test Center
Come prepared! Before your test date, read the Candidate Bulletin for information about acceptable forms of identification and the rules in effect at test centers with respect to the check-in process, the launch of the examination, and required candidate behavior. On the day of your appointment, be sure to bring your NTS and the necessary acceptable personal identification documents to the test center. Plan to arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes early. Also, remember that your testing appointment is 30 minutes longer than the time allowed for the examination so that you may complete the sign-in process and survey without infringing on your examination time.

Take the Examination
Conform to all test center requirements, follow instructions, plan your examination time, and do a great job when you answer examination questions. Report any equipment/functionality issues to the test center staff without delay. (Report any comments about test questions or examination software after the examination. Test center staff cannot help with such issues.)

Do you have questions about the examination you just took, comments about your testing experience, or any issues to report?
Refer to the Confirmation of Attendance that you received at the end of the examination session. This document contains contact information and instructions on where to turn if you have questions or have anything to report.


Receive Your Score Report
Your score report will show the score you just earned as well as any previously earned credit. If you need information about scoring, read “How is the CPA Examination Scored?” available here, and review the FAQs on scoring, available here. If you have questions about the Candidate Performance Report, review the FAQs available here. If you have received failing score(s) and have no examination credit, plan to re-take the examination until you are successful. Start studying today!

If you have received passing scores in some sections and have no previously earned credit, remember that you have 18 months to pass all CPA Examination sections. The count-down to the 18 months begins when you pass your first section(s). Plan your testing schedule accordingly.

If you have received failing scores but have previously earned credit, look at your 18-month cycle to determine whether you can still re-take the sections you need to pass without losing credit.

If you have now passed all four sections of the CPA Examination – Congratulations! Your worries are over.

Do you have questions about your Score Report or your Candidate Performance Report?
Contact Candidate Care at NASBA by e-mail , FAX 615-880-4225, or telephone 866 MY-NASBA (866-696-2722).


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