You'll need to deal with not one, but three organizations: your state board of accountancy, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), and Prometric – the company who runs the testing facilities.
Be accurate and thorough. If your application gets rejected for being incomplete, you'll have to do it again, and will possibly miss out on sitting for the exam when you would like.
From start to finish, this process can take 1-2 months. However, it's worth giving yourself a little extra time, as a mistake can cost you a delay in the process. That can be a real problem if you've left everything to the last minute.
The CPA exam is not open to the public at large. You will need permission from one of the 55 State Boards of Accountancy.
Every jurisdiction has its own rules about eligibility. Education requirements, experience requirements, and testing fees can vary. Some jurisdictions also have particular residency or citizenship requirements.
Based outside the United States and interested in becoming a CPA? Not to worry, you can still sit for the CPA exam. Just apply to one of the many jurisdictions that allow for international testing. In addition, if you are already a Chartered Accountant, you may be eligible for a much shorter, IQEX examination!
You're going to have to prove your education. That means academic transcripts. Contact your school's registrar office. You'll probably have to apply in writing and prove your identity.
If you're lucky, your school might allow you to apply for your transcript online instead.
It's a good idea to sort out your transcripts well in advance of when you plan to sit the exam. As the date looms closer, it will be one less thing you need to worry about. You'll have enough on your mind just with exam preparation.
If your application is accepted, you will receive an “Authorization to Test” from your State Board of Accountancy. This allows you a window of time to select which exam sections you want to sit. In most states, this time period is 90 days.
You can choose which exam sections to sit from the NASBA website. You will need to pay the fee for each section at this time.
Be careful to only choose exam sections that you are ready to sit for in the near future. The “Notice to Schedule” issued by NASBA is only valid for a certain time period. This time period varies by state, but is typically six months.
If you don't sit for an exam section before your Notice to Schedule expires, you will have wasted the money it cost you.
The next step is applying to sit for the CPA exam.
Many state boards handle this process using NASBA's CPA Exam Service, or CPAES. If you're applying to one of the 33 state boards covered by the CPAES then you can apply online at CPA central.
If you're applying to a state board of accountancy not covered by the CPAES then you will need to contact the board directly.
Once you've received your Notice to Schedule, you can book your exam time and location at the Prometric website. You can reschedule this time if you need to; depending on how much notice you give, there may be a rescheduling fee attached.
You have studied for months. All of your proper paperwork is filed and the time has come to establish yourself as a future CPA. On exam day, be sure to arrive thirty minutes early and have your identification ready for check-in. You will not need any other items.
For candidates concerned with the testing procedures, Prometric offers a test-drive of the facility and exam format for $30.00. This will allow you to walk through the entire process from check-in to the end-of-test report and will help acclimate you to the environment prior to the big day. You can pay the fee and schedule your test-drive at Prometric.