These FAQs will provide you with answers to the most common questions related to the Uniform CPA Examination®. You can also find information about applications, accommodations, eligibility, Exam credit, fees, jurisdictions, licensing, and other general administration topics on NASBA’s CPA Central. For questions related to Exam scheduling and testing centers, you can visit the Prometric website. If you cannot find an answer to your question, contact the AICPA or NASBA directly.
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The Exam is a 16-hour, four-part assessment that you must pass in order to qualify for a CPA license. It is designed to test the minimum knowledge and skills required of a CPA. The Exam is managed by three main partners:
- The AICPA develops, maintains, and scores the Exam
- The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) manages the National Candidate Database
- Prometric is the company that delivers the Exam at its authorized test centers
The Exam is provided on behalf of Boards of Accountancy, which issue CPA licenses.
You can take the Exam at authorized Prometric test centers throughout the 55 U.S. jurisdictions as well as select international locations. See "International FAQs" for testing countries.
No. You must take the Exam in English.
You must pass all four sections of the Exam within 18 months. The calculation of when the 18-month timeframe begins varies by jurisdiction. Check with your specific Board of Accountancy for details.
Exam requirements depend upon the jurisdiction where you choose to become licensed. You can find details by referring to your specific Board of Accountancy.
Exam fees depend upon the jurisdiction where you choose to become licensed. You can find details by referring to your specific Board of Accountancy.
You must first decide on the jurisdiction to which you will apply. After selecting your jurisdiction, you can obtain application materials and submit your completed applications as directed.
No. You can take the Exam (and qualify as a CPA) only if you meet the requirements of a Board of Accountancy in one of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions.
Review the Exam Structure to learn more about the number and types of questions in each section, breaks, testing time and other related topics.
You will take a different but equivalent Exam. The questions presented to you are drawn from a pool of test questions according to defined specifications. Although you take different Exams, the specifications ensure that the results are comparable.
There may be minor differences among different administrations but these differences are accounted for during scoring. The AICPA enhances test security by creating multiple forms of the Exam with different questions for different administrations. Each form is comparable but not identical.
Great care is taken to match the forms in terms of content and item difficulty. Remember, you may be given questions of varying difficulty depending on your performance. Question difficulty is accounted for during scoring. Therefore, it does not mean that it is easier to get a higher score simply because you receive easier questions.
You only need basic computer skills to take the Exam. You are expected to be familiar with the use of a mouse and keyboard, and with basic spreadsheet and word processing functions. You must also be able to use a four-function online calculator.
In order to respond to Exam questions, you may need to:
- Select a response from available options by clicking on a radio button
- Perform standard financial calculations utilizing a Microsoft® Excel spreadsheet or four-function online calculator
- Type a memorandum or letter in the written communication tasks
- Perform an Authoritative Literature search in the research portion of simulations
- Copy and paste text using the standard shortcut keys
- Use scrollbars
- Resize or move windows
- Highlight excerpts in exhibits that you would like to remember
You will have access to a version of Excel with certain functions unavailable. You will not be tested on your ability to use Excel. The program is available only as a tool to use during the Exam. The Exam uses a word processing application that is similar but not identical to Word.
No. This is a computer-based Exam.
You can find each Exam section’s topics in the CPA Exam Blueprints. The Blueprints show you the content allocation, skill and score weighting, and references. They also provide representative tasks for the content areas.
For all simulations, you have access to Authoritative Literature, which includes some sections of the AICPA Professional Standards (in the Auditing and Attestation section), FASB Codification (in the Financial Accounting and Reporting section) and Tax Code (in the Regulation section).
Exam Sample Tests
The sample tests let you practice with the format and functionality of the Exam as it will appear in a Prometric test center so that you are prepared prior to your test day. There is one sample test for each of the four sections of the Exam. No live content is used in the sample tests. Although an answer key is provided, you should not consider correct answers reflective of your readiness to take the Exam.
The sample tests include two multiple-choice testlets and three task-based simulation testlets for each of the three sections of the Exam: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Regulation (REG). The Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) section of the Exam sample test includes two multiple-choice testlets, two task-based simulation testlets and one written communication testlet. You will also have access to tutorial topics found by selecting the “Help” button in each sample test.
Sample tests are web-based and require an Internet connection. They will work on most devices and operating systems. You should use a 23-inch HD (1920x1080) monitor for an experience similar to an actual test center.
The sample tests are optimized for Microsoft® Internet Explorer 11, which is used in the Prometric centers. Our testing shows that it also works well in Microsoft® Edge, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox. We do not recommend Apple Safari at this time.
No. However, if you want a realistic picture of how the text will appear in a Prometric test center, we recommend using an HD monitor.
The sample tests can run on monitors with less than the minimum suggested resolution. If you do, you will see scroll bars.
You can eliminate the scrollbars on monitors with less than the suggested resolution by using the browser zoom shortcut keys:
- PC: Ctrl-[minus sign] and Ctrl-[plus sign]
- Mac: Command-[minus sign] and Command-[plus sign]
Zooming out will resize the Exam to fit on your screen without scrollbars, but you may find that the smaller text is more difficult to read.
When taking a sample test, a context menu appears when you click the right mouse button. It will allow you to copy, paste, and perform other operations. Note: This feature is not available at Prometric test centers.
The passing score is 75 on a 0-99 scale. Scores are not curved. Find out how your score is determined by reading about Exam Scoring.
The passing score is determined by the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE), which considers many factors, including standard-setting study results, historical trends, and Exam content changes. The BOE also receives input from NASBA, consultant psychometricians, the academic community, and licensed CPAs. The passing score is the basis of the pass or fail decision recommended to Boards of Accountancy on the advisory score report.
Scoring is fully automated for all Exam components except the written communication tasks. Most written communication responses are scored by a computer grading program, which is calibrated using human scorers. In some cases, responses are scored by a network of human graders (all CPAs). If your score is close to the passing score, your written communication tasks will be automatically re-graded by human graders. When there is more than one grader for a response, the average of the scores is used as the final grade.
The AICPA uses Item Response Theory (IRT) for the objective portion of the Exam. IRT is a well-established psychometric approach to scoring used by licensing and certification examinations that administer many different test forms.
All scoring routines, whether automated or not, are verified at various stages of the scoring process.
Score release dates are posted for each testing window.
The Exam uses a multistage adaptive test delivery model for all multiple-choice testlets. Your first testlet will be given at a level of moderate difficulty. The next testlet will be the same level or slightly more difficult based on your performance. The adaptive model is not used for task-based simulations or written communication tasks.
Yes, it is fair. Since the characteristics of the test questions are taken into account in the scoring, there is no advantage or disadvantage to being assigned testlets of different difficulty. The AICPA uses multi-stage testing because the test questions are matched to proficiency levels, and therefore fewer questions are needed to obtain accurate estimates of proficiency.
The difficulty levels of the test questions (and other statistics that are used to describe each test question) are determined through statistical analysis of candidate responses. At the question level, difficulty is not quantified as a category (e.g., moderate or difficult), but as a numeric value along a scale. Testlets are classified as either medium or difficult based on the average difficulty of the questions within that testlet. All testlets have questions ranging in difficulty. Questions in difficult testlets just have a higher average level of difficulty than those in medium testlets.
Pretest questions are included in every Exam (they may be multiple-choice questions, task-based simulations, or written communication tasks) only for the purpose of collecting data. The data are needed to assess the quality of the questions, and to collect scoring information for later use when the questions become operational items. They are not part of your score calculation.
No. Your results are scored using the same process and method to ensure uniformity and the validity of the pass or fail decision. In the rare instances when serious technical problems occur during testing, NASBA may offer you a free retest.
No. Your results are scored using the same process and method to ensure uniformity and the validity of the pass or fail decision.
Score Hold (specific to the 2018 Q2, Q3, and Q4 testing windows)
Due to the launch of new Exam software in April 2018, the AICPA must evaluate test question performance for the Q2, Q3 and Q4 testing windows. Scores will not be released on the typical rolling schedule. Please review the score release dates for each 2018 testing window.
NASBA will determine which candidates may be impacted by 2018 score holds and share this information with all Boards of Accountancy. You will be contacted if any a decisions are made with regard to affected candidates.
Score Review and Appeal
Score review is a service we offer you for additional assurance that operational quality controls in the scoring process were complete and the scores are accurate. Score review is not a re-grading of the Exam, or an opportunity to find additional points, review content, or to have alternate responses considered. It is simply an independent verification of your Exam score.
The verification for the multiple-choice questions and the task-based simulations involves making certain that the approved answer key was used and that it was applied correctly. Verification for the written communication tasks involves making certain that each of the submitted responses were scored.
You can contact your Board of Accountancy, or its designated agent, for instructions on requesting a score review, required fees, and meeting the score review request deadline. If you apply after the deadline date, your request will not be processed. The option to apply for a score review is available only for a short period of time after your score has been reported to you.
Each score review cycle begins at the start of the following testing window. For example, the score review cycle for scores reported for the first quarter testing window of the year begins at the start of the second quarter testing window. Each score review cycle is for scores reported for the most recent testing window only. For example, the second quarter testing window review cycle is for scores reported for the first quarter testing window only.
After NASBA submits your request to the AICPA, the AICPA reviews your score and reports the result through NASBA to your Board of Accountancy, or its designee. NASBA, the board, or its designee, will then transmit the result to you.
In the jurisdictions that allow appeals, the process provides you with the opportunity to appeal a failing score. Where available, the appeal option enables you to view the multiple-choice test questions or objective simulation problems that you answered incorrectly together with their responses, and to submit comments online. The appeal does not include the written communication tasks.
The confidentiality of the Exam requires that such viewing sessions take place only in authorized locations, under highly secure conditions, and in the presence of a representative of your Board of Accountancy or its designee.
You should consider requesting an appeal only if you want to review your incorrect responses because you believe that there is a question or simulation problem that you would like to challenge.
When you review the questions or simulation problems that you have answered incorrectly, you may decide to challenge the validity of one or more items. If you decide to do so, you must be prepared to present a cogent, vigorous, and compelling defense of your incorrect responses.
Please note that you will not be able to submit new responses during an appeal. However, you will have the opportunity to challenge multiple-choice test question(s) or simulation(s) and defend the response(s) you provided at the examination.
Contact your Board of Accountancy, or its designee, to determine whether the appeal option is available in your jurisdiction.
You should contact your Board of Accountancy, or its designee, for the exact amounts of these fees. You will be charged a separate fee for each item (multiple-choice test question or simulation problem) that you decide to challenge.
If your Board of Accountancy determines that you qualify for an appeal, the board will submit your request to the AICPA through NASBA. The board, or its designee, will schedule your viewing session for you. Your online comments during this session will be transmitted to the AICPA through NASBA.
After the session, the AICPA will review your responses on the section you are appealing, consider the online comments you submitted, verify your score, and forward the result to NASBA. (Note: You will not receive detailed information about the question(s) you challenge because of the need to preserve the confidentiality of Exam content.) NASBA will report the result to your board, or its designee, and the result will be transmitted to you.
International testing allows U.S. citizens as well as eligible international candidates to take the Uniform CPA Examination® (Exam) in select countries. If you’re a non-U.S. citizen, this process allows you to purse the U.S. CPA license. The AICPA, NASBA and Prometric provide the same services for international testing as they do for U.S.-based testing. The Exam and licensure process is the same for international candidates as it is for candidates within U.S. jurisdictions.
Testing windows for international candidates are the same as those for U.S. candidates
Once you complete the international registration process, visit the Prometric website to schedule your Exam.
Eligible candidates can take the Exam at Prometric testing centers in Bahrain, Brazil, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). To determine if you can take the Exam in one of these countries, review the specific FAQ below.
If you are a citizen or resident of Japan or the U.S., you can take the Exam in Japan.
If you are a citizen or resident of any of the following countries, you can take the Exam in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (UAE):
- Saudi Arabia
If you are a citizen or resident of any of the following countries, you can take the Exam in Brazil:
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- French Guiana
- St. Kitts/Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent/Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
No. You must present your passport as a primary form of identification. This includes U.S. citizens living abroad.
The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric operate testing centers under the strictest of security measures, guarantee data integrity and security, and protect candidates’ privacy. The three Exam partners decided that citizenship and residency requirements, and the integrity of certain kinds of proof of identification, provide a needed layer of security and allow us to better serve Exam candidates.
International testing locations are evaluated based on a set of criteria, including:
- Demand volume for the Exam from candidates in those countries
- Ability to deliver the Exam without legal obstacles
- Security threat to the Exam (both physical security and intellectual property security) assessed at levels equal to those presented domestically
- Existence of established Prometric test centers
Countries that do not meet these criteria to the combined satisfaction of NASBA, the AICPA and Prometric are not considered as testing locations. We appreciate the desire for additional international testing locations and regularly review new locations for possible expansion.
If you register through a non-participating jurisdiction, you can take the Exam only at approved testing centers in the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. Please check with NASBA to see if your jurisdiction participates in the international program.
Please visit the NASBA website for application information.
No. Once you get an NTS for one of the international testing centers, it cannot be interchanged with an NTS for any of the U.S. testing centers. You must notify NASBA to change back to a domestic NTS.
There is no provision for withdrawing from the Exam and/or requesting an extension of your current NTS. Application and/or Exam fees are not refundable. If your NTS expires prior to taking the Exam, or you miss a scheduled testing appointment, you will not be able to reschedule or receive a refund on any of the fees paid. You will have to reapply for the Exam and pay the appropriate application/registration and fees.
Please review the score release dates for details.