Tips for Taking the CPA Exam
Congratulations, you’ve decided to take the CPA Exam. This is the first step in a rewarding journey to become a CPA. While taking the Exam requires preparation, there are many helpful resources available to guide you through the process.
Before the Exam
Before embarking on taking the Exam, some important requirements must be met. In New Jersey, candidates must meet ALL of the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Complete a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution
- Complete at least 120 semester hours of general college-level credit
- Complete at least 24 semester hours in accounting courses
- Complete at least 24 semester hours in general business courses
A good test to see if you meet the requirements is to take the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) Pathway to CPA Exam Quiz (nasba.org/exams/cpaexam).
So, you qualify. That’s great. The next step is to register and pay for the Exam. Visit NASBA’s CPA Central website and create a user account (cpacentral.nasba.org). Then, submit an application to register and pay for the Exam.
A NASBA Advisory Evaluation will identify any academic deficiencies in your education before you submit a first-time application for the Exam.
Once your application is approved, you’ll receive a Notice to Schedule form (NTS) which allows you to schedule your exam. Your NTS will provide a six-month period in which you can take the Exam. Note that the first time you register for the Exam, it may take six to eight weeks to receive your first NTS. Each time you register and pay thereafter, you will receive your NTS within two business days.
Scheduling a date for the Exam is relatively painless. Once you receive your NTS, you can schedule your exam through the Prometric website (prometric.com/test-takers/search/cpa). Scheduling your Exam allows you to create a study plan to meet the scheduled date. If needed, you can reschedule the Exam date once it is chosen, however, there are often fees and stipulations associated with rescheduling. More information can be found on the Prometric website.
Review the AICPA Uniform CPA Exam Blueprints (aicpa.org/becomeacpa/cpaexam/examinationcontent.html) to familiarize yourself with the format of the Exam, as well as the information covered in each section.
Next, it’s best to choose a CPA Exam review course that can help. Whether you are a recent graduate or a working professional many years removed from college, the use of a CPA Exam review course is highly recommended. Certain concepts tested on the Exam may not have been covered during college, or rules may have changed over time. A good CPA Exam review course will prepare you for the content that will be covered on the Exam and the style and format of the Exam, similar to what you will experience on your test day.
Additional information can also be found at the NJCPA website (njcpa.org/becomeacpa). There, you can find out what’s on the test, review sample CPA Exam questions and learn how to map out a CPA Exam timeline. It also explains what it takes to become licensed in New Jersey specifically, along with what qualifies to fulfill the experience requirement. NJCPA Student Members also save on several popular Exam review courses (njcpa.org/examprepcourses) and can enter the CPA Exam Fee Lottery.
Create a Study Plan
The amount of time needed to study will depend on how much time you have available barring work, family commitments, a Master’s program, etc. This is where “quality over quantity” study time applies. Studying for endless hours at a time is useless if one does not retain the knowledge. Break the information down into small, bite-sized concepts. Some general rules should apply:
- Start out with two 30-minute study sessions each day (or two to three concepts each day). This plan should be adjusted to fit your schedule. Remember to create flexibility in the study plan to account for unplanned life events.
- Eliminate distractions. Maintain focus during study sessions and avoid distractions. This may include choosing a comfortable and quiet location to study or putting electronic devices far from reach or in another room.
- Take breaks during studying.
- Set rewards for your hard work.
- Get ample rest/sleep.
Additionally, to get and stay motivated, it often helps to find a study buddy/group.
Karen A. Beerbower
Karen Beerbower, CPA, J.D, is a professor at Saint Peter's University.
This article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.