When you decide to pursue the CPA license, know that it’s a significant decision that lays the groundwork for a rewarding career with expanded opportunity and enhanced earning potential. Like anything worth having in life, the journey to the CPA requires commitment, discipline and planning; a journey that begins with the gateway to the profession, the Uniform CPA Examination.
As a CPA candidate, you must be thoroughly familiar with the entire Examination journey
– from the time of application to sitting for the Examination and passing all four sections. You must learn how the process works, candidate responsibilities, the rules governing a candidate’s progress, and Examination and licensure requirements.
The accountancy board in the state in which you qualify as a CPA candidate determines the requirements governing applications for the Examination and licensure; the NASBA Candidate Bulletin provides candidates with requirements that apply to taking the Examination.
Study, Study, Study
Study is the best preparation for passing the Examination. You should avail yourself of preparation resources such as review courses, study guides or other materials, including the Examination Blueprints found on the Examination Content page of the AICPA website.
Know What’s On the Examination
To prevent unwelcome surprises on the day of the Examination, you must learn what subject matter comprises every section. Content to be tested on the Examination is covered in the Examination Blueprints. The blueprints provide an in-depth look at what you can expect to see on the Examination, including content topics, the skill level at which content will be assessed, and tasks representative of those you may be asked to complete. You should thoroughly study the Examination Blueprints before ever sitting for the Examination, familiarizing yourself with the task statements presented for each section. It’s also important for candidates to know when new pronouncements are eligible for testing. Be sure to review the Policy on New Pronouncements when preparing for the Examination.
The blueprints, as well as other content-related information, are found on the Examination Content section of the AICPA website
We advise you not to simply memorize sample questions or answers as a way of preparing for the Examination. It’s important to fully understand the Examination’s content and be capable of applying the concepts you’ve learned in school or on the job as they relate to the tasks presented in the Examination Blueprints.
Review the Tutorial and Take the Sample Tests
To familiarize yourself with the Examination, you should review the CPA Examination tutorial, which explains test navigate and what tools and resources will be available at the test center. After reviewing the tutorial, take the sample tests for each section to get a preview of content and to observe the Examination’s functions in action. You will be tested on the Examination using three different item types: multiple-choice questions (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBS), and written communication tasks. The sample tests will show you how these items will be presented to you.
Remember: The word processing and spreadsheet applications on the Examination are similar to but not identical to commercial applications. Candidates must learn how the Examination technology works. Reviewing the tutorial and sample tests before the Examination is important as these materials are not available at test centers.
CPA candidates are required to be familiar with the Examination’s functionality, format, and directions before reporting to the test center. Failure to review the directions provided in the tutorial and sample tests, including the directions on how to respond, may adversely affect scores.
Manage Time Wisely
Just as studying is important to passing the Examination, so too is planning for the testing experience. You have 18 months to complete all four sections. Plan your journey to allow sufficient time to study and test for each section. The "clock" for the 18-month window typically starts after you receive your first score. However, this may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Contact your state board of accountancy for exact requirements.
Along with overall planning, test day planning is critical. Each section is composed of five testlets that must be completed within four hours. You should allow sufficient time to get through the various items types. A prepared candidate will typically be midway (two hours) through an Examination section after the completion of the third testlet. While this pace may vary from candidate to candidate, it’s a good rule of thumb to follow.
Leverage Mentors / Colleagues / Friends
Preparing for the Examination doesn’t have to be a solo act. Find other colleagues or friends who are taking the Examination and study together. Support among candidates can be valuable and encouraging. If you don’t understand something when studying, ask a CPA colleague or professor for guidance. There are also countless blogs, review courses*, and other preparatory resources to help you get prepared. Additionally, the AICPA manages a CPA Candidate group on LinkedIn where you can connect with others and receive up to date information throughout your Examination journey.
*While the AICPA strongly encourages candidates to fully study and prepare for the Examination, it does not publish Examination review materials or endorse any specific review method or course. To obtain advice on whether to take a review course, which course to take, or which materials to buy, speak to faculty members or colleagues. Such recommendations are not available from the AICPA.
Subscribe to the Essential A&A Research Collection
In addition to the available 30-day free trial, AICPA Student Affiliate Members can get a subscription to the Essential A&A Research Collection for $75.00 for 1 year. When logging into the AICPA website with a member user account, the AICPA Student Affiliate Member discount will be automatically applied during checkout. Candidate questions or issues should be directed to the AICPA Service Center at 888-777-7077 or email@example.com. Learn more about AICPA Student Affiliate Membership.
Look to Examination Partners for Accurate Information
The AICPA, along with its partners, NASBA and Prometric, provide candidates with accurate, up-to-date information related to all aspects of the Examination process. We should be your first stop when it comes to getting the answers your need to specific questions.