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When and how to Begin CPA Exam Application Process?

What is the right time to begin the CPA exam application process? What to take for application process? That are typical, yet critical questions arise just before [or during] CPA exam application process. This post provides the answer.


CPA Exam Application Process Time Table

[1]. Select the state/jurisdiction in which you plan to practice as a CPA. Consult the NASBA exam Web site,, to obtain a list of state board Web sites and examination application information for the state in which you plan to practice. Due date: 6 – 7 months before your test date

[2]. Download the application for the state/ jurisdiction of your choice. Prepare a file folder to keep all application materials accessible. Due date: 6 – 7 months before your test date

[3]. Send international transcripts to the proper authorities for a foreign transcript evaluation. Due date: 7 – 8 months before your test date

[4]. Obtain transcripts to prove your education. Determine if the Board of Examiners allows you to mail in official sealed transcripts directly. If the answer is yes, obtain official sealed transcripts. Do not open them. Save them to mail in with your completed exam application. If the answer is no, verify that your university has sent your transcript. Due date: 6 – 7 months before your test date

[5]. Obtain the required identification photos. Due date: 6 – 7 months before your test date

[6]. Complete the application. Ask a friend to check your application for completeness. Copy all supporting materials, even your check or credit card information. Due date: 6 – 7 months before your test date

[7]. If necessary, complete any special needs or disability verification. Due date:
7 – 8 months before your test date

[8]. Verify that the Board of Examiners has received all of the necessary application materials. Due date: 4 – 5 months before your test date

[9]. Double-check your Prometric test center site and date. Due date:
4 – 5 months before your test date

[10]. Verify that your two forms of identification match your name exactly as shown on the notice to schedule (NTS). Check identification the day you receive your NTS.

Completing The Exam Application

Most CPA exam applications can be downloaded from a Web site. For a complete listing of Web site addresses and state board phone numbers, refer to the NASBA Web site at www[dot]nasba[dot]org. NASBA is charged with the task of maintaining the official candidate database. This complete database lists all candidates who have been authorized to test. No candidate is permitted to apply to sit for the exam in more than one state or jurisdiction at a time. Candidates should select the state or jurisdiction in which they plan to practice as a CPA. When you receive your application, make a copy of it. Use the copy to prepare a rough draft.

Take the application process seriously. Read the instructions carefully. An incomplete or incorrect application can lead to a delay in acceptance. Wouldn’t it be awful if you studied hard and were very prepared for an exam section in an upcoming testing window, only to discover a few weeks into the process that your state board has denied you admission for your selected testing window? If you are unclear as to the information required, clarify it with your board immediately.

Common exam application mistakes include:

  • Leaving requested information blank
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Questions answered incorrectly
  • Questions skipped because they are on the back of the application form or on another sheet of paper
  • Missing signatures
  • Inappropriate fee enclosed or check made payable to the incorrect party
  • Improper attachment of necessary photograph(s)
  • Missing supporting information such as college transcripts
  • Mailing the application to the wrong address
  • Mailing the application too late to qualify to sit in the desired testing window

Ask a family member, colleague, or friend to review your application copy. Then carefully transfer the information to the original application. Use the appropriate writing instrument (usually a black or blue pen). Avoid using a mark that smears.

Some states allow you to complete the application online. For downloaded applications, don’t try to be fancy by typing the information unless it is clearly stated to do so. You can make numerous mistakes when typing an application. Watch the address section. Many application forms ask you to list a temporary and a permanent address. If you list your parents’ home as your address and your parents plan to be in Europe on a twelve-week cruise of the Mediterranean, who will be home to give you the mail you might receive from the board? If you have made an error or omitted information, the board sometimes contacts you via regular mail.

Be careful when giving e-mail addresses. Many work environments run virus protection software that prevents employees from receiving e-mails from a source such as the NASBA or your state board. If you plan to move, think about the time lag—will your local post office continue to forward mail long enough for you to receive your authorization to test? Be sure the mailing and e-mail addresses that you provide are addresses that you check frequently.

Photo Identification

Most jurisdictions require that one or more photos be attached to the actual application form. Read the instructions carefully and follow the exact procedures. For example, don’t submit a color photo when a black-and white photo is requested. If a color photo is acceptable, be sure that the color of your hair, eyes (for those who change the color of their eyes with contacts), and general look is what you will resemble when you arrive several weeks later at a Prometric test center to sit for an exam section. If you plan to wear glasses at the test center, wear glasses for the picture. If a passport photo is requested, having your picture taken in a photo booth will not suffice. If a regular photo will do, be sure you follow the directions and take the head and shoulders at a close range. Remember that the purpose of this photo is to verify your identity, as you will appear at the exam. If a discount is given for buying more than one photo, go ahead and buy two or more. You will use the photos when you reapply to take additional sections.

Most states do not allow candidates to apply to sit for sections more than six months in advance. If you select two sections in the first six months, you will need that extra photo to apply for the remaining sections in the next six month time frame.

Be sure to affix your photo in the correct area. Before you attach your photo, write your name on the back so if the photo falls off, the board will know to whom it belongs. Tape, staples, and paper clips often do not remain attached and could result in your photo or application form becoming torn. To affix the photo, use rubber cement.


Exercise special care when providing the state board with transcripts. Some states require that your university mail the transcripts directly to the board. Other states will allow you to obtain official sealed transcripts and include the transcripts along with the application form. Note that transcripts are not considered to be “official” after they have been opened. To be safe, request two copies of your transcripts; open one set, inspect it to make sure the information is what you expected to receive, and then submit the second, unopened set along with your application. Some colleges issue sealed transcripts that are considered to be official because a raised seal is pressed on the paper documents. Go ahead and submit the sealed transcripts; they are considered official proof of the coursework completed.

Some colleges have different forms of transcripts: official sealed transcripts and transcripts mailed to students. Speak with the records and registration department and ask if what you see on your latest transcript report is the same information that is included in the official sealed transcript.

If your jurisdiction requires specific courses, you must be sure the transcript provides enough information so that an outsider looking at the transcript can tell the course subject and the number of credits granted. Beware; repeated courses will count only once, not twice. The good news, however, is that usually grades of A to D will count, and usually there is no time limit on how recently the courses must have been taken.

If you are unsure whether you will be authorized to take the test, call your board and ask if you can mail or fax a copy of your transcripts for review. Sometimes the board will perform a preliminary evaluation to let you know how close you are to meeting the requirements.

Don’t ask a professor or friend to evaluate your transcripts. Even a CPA Review course manager or director is not qualified to conduct a transcript evaluation. Your state board is the only group that approves candidates to sit for the CPA exam.

International Transcript Evaluation For CPA Exam Purpose

For degrees or college credit earned outside of the United States, many jurisdictions require that a foreign transcript service evaluate your transcripts. Always check with your jurisdiction before paying a fee to a foreign credential evaluation service. Most jurisdictions prefer to complete the task themselves and will not accept the work of another credential evaluation service. Allow for extra time when submitting foreign credentials. Having foreign transcripts evaluated often adds two to six weeks to the entire application process.

Some international schools do not issue a second set of transcripts. Graduates carry one original set with them. If this is your situation, be sure you send the original documents via a one-day service such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. You wouldn’t want to lose the only proof you have of your education. Hours earned in international study abroad programs usually are not considered to be international credits and therefore do not require an international transcript evaluation. Verify this fact with your state board. For those state boards who use outside evaluation services, conduct a follow-up with the evaluation service every two weeks.

After the evaluation is complete, forward all of the information to your state board. Ask your board if it also needs the original documents. It is up to you to begin the process early enough to obtain all of the proper approvals in time to sit in your selected testing window.

CPA Exam Application Deadline

According to the various state boards, there is no longer an exam application deadline. However, to you, there is a deadline if you have prepared a plan and want to sit for a section or two within a certain testing window. Some boards may take as long as three months just to evaluate a domestic first-time exam taker’s application. Add additional time for an international transcript evaluation, and you just might be precluded from sitting in your planned window. Avoid the stress—send the application in well before you plan to sit. If you are found to be deficient in hours earned, then you will have time to complete the necessary coursework.

Most state boards approve candidates for a certain time period, for example, six months. If a candidate plans to sit for three exam sections in the first six months and the remaining section six months later, he or she must complete a second application form. Although the process is not as rigorous as the first time, as transcripts are not required the second time around, the process still takes time. Budget the proper amount of time.

Mailing The CPA Exam Application

Verify the mailing address. If you have any doubts about the correct address, phone the board and ask. If the board includes an envelope to return the application, use it. Clearly indicate a complete return address in case delivery problems occur. Again, avoid using markers that can smear if the envelope gets wet. Don’t guess on the postage. Take the envelope to the post office and have it weighed.

Spend the extra money to send the transcripts and application certified mail. Use a mail process that allows you to track the receipt via the Internet. This is an effective and inexpensive method of assuring that your application arrives on time. Don’t throw away the instructions and the extra application forms. Prepare a file folder labeled “CPA Exam Application.” Put your copy of the application in the file, along with extra forms and copies of transcripts. Make a copy of your check, and place it in the folder, too.

Keep the folder handy in case you receive a phone call or e-mail from the board. If you accidentally omitted a required form, you can consult your file, quickly complete the form, and promptly return it. Keep your mailing information in the same folder.

CPA Exam Application Follow-Up

Don’t leave the receipt of your application to chance. If you do not receive an acknowledgement from the board within two to three weeks after you mail your application, phone to inquire about your application status. Always be calm and courteous. Most board members are not CPAs. They often license many groups within the state, such as electricians, lawyers, barbers, and plumbers. Explain that you are just making sure that you followed the necessary procedures. You are not checking up on the board, you are checking on the status of your application.

When transcripts have been mailed directly by your college or university, be sure to verify with the board, not the university, that the transcripts have been received. The university or college may have sent the transcripts to the incorrect address or may not have sent them at all. You will be sure of meeting the requirements only if the board has received your documents on time.

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