Accounting Certifications: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

3. CPA exam and preparation

One of the more important parts of getting your CPA license is applying for and passing the CPA exam.† There are certain requirements that a CPA candidate needs to meet before taking the CPA exam.† CPA exam requirements are established by the state in which you plan to apply for the exam and ultimately, the CPA license.† Usually, a candidate would need to have 120 credit hours from an accredited university; some of these hours will need to be in accounting and business administration subjects.†

Even though each state establishes their own criteria for CPA exam takers, the actual CPA exam is the same across all states. The CPA exam includes four parts.† Each part is taken separately.† All four parts need to be taken and passed within 18 months.† The four parts are as follows:

  • Financial accounting and reporting (FAR)
  • Auditing and attestation (AUD)
  • Regulation (REG)
  • Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

There are several general steps you will take for the CPA exam.† Note that these steps may vary by state so consult your state Board of Accountancy and NASBA (National Associate of State Boards of Accountancy) for the specific list.† Also note that requirements or steps may be changing from time to time so check them before you start the process:

  1. Submit an application to take the exam.† Depending on the state where you intend to receive your CPA license from, your application will need to be submitted directly to NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy) or the state Board of Accountancy. When you submit your application, you will also be required to pay applicable fees.
  2. Receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS).† This document will be provided by NASBA and is required before you can schedule the test with a testing location.† NTS are usually valid for six months after which you will need to pay application fees again to receive new NTS.† Some states may have different deadlines so check with your state Board of Accountancy.
  3. Schedule the exam.† CPA exams are administered by a company called Prometric.† You will contact this company to schedule and take your exam.† Prometric has numerous testing locations in different U.S. states and even abroad.
  4. Take the exam.† You will be taking the exam at the Prometric testing location you have scheduled with.† The Prometric website has additional information about test takersí anticipated time of arrival and other details.
  5. Receive the exam score.† On the day of your exam at a Prometric testing location you will not be able to see your scores.† Scores are released later and you will be notified when your score is available.† At the time of this article writing, scores are made available to test takers about 16 times per year.† In order to pass the CPA exam, you need to have a score of 75% or more for each of the four parts of the CPA exam.

Aside from the CPA exam application process itself, another significant component of the CPA exam is the preparation.† The CPA exam is considered to be hard so rarely do CPA candidates pass it without investing a significant amount of preparation time.† Even with preparation, the pass rate is about 50-60%.† Studying for the CPA exam usually involves acquiring and using preparation materials.† There are a lot of choices, and you can perform a Google search to find them.† Without endorsing any of these, we can mention Becker, Gleim, and Wiley.† There are also online forums or training materials that you can use.† These preparation materials are not cheap, so you may want to consider checking with your employer, for example, if they cover such costs.† Taking and preparing for each of the four CPA exam parts takes time.† It is possible that you will need to allocate about a year or longer to prepare for, take, and pass all four parts.† There may be limitations on how much time you have to pass all four parts before testing scores for already passed parts will expire; check with NASBA or your state Board of Accountancy.

Our website ( provides a good accounting foundation for studying so feel free to check out our materials as an introduction or intermediate level of accounting at a fraction of a cost from other sources.† Please note: our training materials are not geared directly towards the CPA exam preparation.

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