CPA Exam Application Process in 10 Steps: Beginners’ Guide

cpa exam application processHere is a quick overview of the CPA exam application process, and what to do after your application is approved.

I have comprehensive guides on how to become a CPA and how to apply for the CPA exam for international candidates if you need more details on each step.

Below is the text version from your reference.

1. Start the CPA Exam Application Process by Selecting a State

You may have learned that there are 55 state boards with slightly different CPA exam requirements, and you need to pick one state to apply. Two typical scenarios:

First scenario

You know where you want to register, because (1) you have been living/working there; or (2) you plan to live/work there in the near future.

Second scenario

You don’t know which state to apply. In this case, check out these two articles:

2. Select a Credential Evaluation Agency

Note: this step is applicable to international candidates only.

By international candidate, it means that you have taken at least one course in non-US universities. It depends on where you took the course instead of your nationality. For example, if you are a German national studying in the US, you are considered a “US / domestic” candidate. But if you are a US citizen who spent a semester in Singapore, the credits gained from this exchange program need to be evaluated by the evaluation agency.

Once you have chosen a state, check out the list of approved credential evaluation agencies. This is necessary because the state boards needs a third-party agency to “translate” your transcript into something equivalent to the US system.

You can pick an agency based on:

  • Acceptance by the board (most important!)
  • Pricing
  • Speed
  • Service e.g. online status update, inquiry turnaround time

If it is difficult for you to obtain the original transcript required for the evaluation, you may want to pick an agency that is willing to accept a photocopy and verify the authenticity on your behalf. This service costs considerably more but it can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Find out which evaluation agencies provide this extra service — list at the bottom of the post.

3. Send Application Form to State Board

US applicants

Fill in the application form online or send the form to the state board. Remember to contact your school and request a transcript to be sent directly to the state board.

International applicants

If you are quite certain that the evaluation process in step 2 runs smoothly, you can send the CPA exam application to the state board first. The agency will send the evaluation report to the state board directly.

If you aren’t sure, wait until you receive the evaluation report. If the result is not favorable, you can take care of the missing credits before application.

4. Wait for the Result

It takes anywhere from 1 week to 12 weeks depending on the state and time of the year. Big states such as California and Illinois takes the longest time.

5. Research on Review Materials

It’s a good time to check out the CPA review books or courses and pick one that suits your background, learning style and budget.

6. Double Check Your NTS

Once the application is approved, you will receive the NTS (Notice To Schedule) by email or mail. Check very carefully the information on your NTS and make sure the name matches with at least two sets of ID. You need to bring these IDs to the testing center for verification.

7. Schedule Your Exam

Your NTS is typically valid for 6 months (a few states give you 9-12 months). You can go to prometric website and schedule your exam anytime between now and the expiry date.

Try scheduling the exam at least 1 month in advance to secure good dates.

8. Create Your Study Plan

A good study plan keeps track of your progress and make sure you don’t fall behind.

My book also discusses extensively on study plans and general CPA exam prep tips.

9. Double and Triple Check

Triple check your IDs for verification on exam day are valid and that the name matches with the record on your NTS. You should also check out the testing center before the exam day to estimate traveling time and understand the traffic condition.

10. Sleep Early the Night Before

Tell yourself you are ready. Have a good sleep and get all ready for the exam!

Questions on the CPA Exam Application Process?

You can drop me a note on Facebook, or visit our FAQ page for other common questions.
You can also sign up to my free e-course to learn about the CPA exam process here:

If you like this post and would like to learn more about the CPA exam, check out my mini-course which is completely free. I have two versions designed for candidates with different background:

us-courseintl-mini-course
For US Candidates
(Those with US degrees, or
graduate/live/work in the US)
For Intl Candidates
(Those who study abroad, or
graduate/live/work outside of the US)

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • nidhi hariyani says:

    Hello,

    Thanks for putting up this wonderful article. I wanted information regarding how many copies of transcripts are required for the application and eligibility process. I am not yet decided with state and I want to go for evaluation where evaluator institute suggests 3 states.

    Your input willl be valuable.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Nidhi, thanks for your kind words!
      Typically the evaluator will send the report to these 3 states and you don’t need to send your transcript separately. You may want to double check with the evaluator and see if my understanding is correct. Regards, stephanie

  • Vivek Agarwal says:

    Brilliant Summary of the applicable process. Loved it! Thanks for the nice work Stephanie.

  • Alysha Stanger says:

    Useful suggestions . I loved the specifics . Does someone know where my company could access a blank TX TCEQ 10228 P1-7 Instructions/Form copy to edit ?

  • hena sanghvi says:

    Hi,
    i am bcom graduate..and inter ca…would i be eligible for cpa..

  • Himanshu Mishra says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Great article, I must say.

    I have some more confusions. Request you to please have a look and if possible can you give the answers for the same:

    1- I am from India, now living in Canada on student visa doing a master course which is going to over in April 2017. Moreover, I have graduated in B.Com and M.Com from Indian University and having 3.5 years of experience in taxation in Big 4 (KPMG). My question is that is that experience counted in getting CPA designation? In my case, what will be approx. expense in getting CPA designation excluding lodging, fooding and airfare and visa?

    2- What’s the difference between CPA USA and CPA Canada? Which is more valuable and easier to finish etc.? Being in Canada for one year more, which will be easier, economical CPA to do at least in my case?

    3- Does CPA requires post or pre experience to get the designation?

    4- Is there any possibility to get scholarship to be funded for my CPA course?

    I know, I have asked many questions but to get started, I need to clarify these confusions and there is no better place than this platform.

    Regards,
    Himanshu Mishra

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Himanshu,
      Thanks for your note! With your BCOM + MCOM you should be fine with the exam requirements in general. There are a few states that may ask for specific courses (e.g. specifically on US GAAS or US taxation). You can either top it up with a couple of those courses, or pick a state that doesn’t need them.

      The vast majority of states recognize experience prior to the CPa exam. Your Big 4 experience is the most relevant if you are able to have a US CPA sign your work verification in the capacity of your supervisor. They should be very familiar with the verification process.

      There is no association between US CPA and Canadian CPA. In my opinion CPA Canada is useful only if you stay in Canada long term, because it is designed to be a local qualification. You can learn about the process here: https://ipassthecpaexam.com/how-to-become-cpa-in-canada/

      Lastly on the scholarship, I’ve come across some from AICPA etc but if you google for it you’ll find quite a few lists of them. Not all are relevant to you but worth taking a look. Good luck! Stephanie

      • Himanshu says:

        Hi Stephanie,

        Thanks for such a detailed and prompt reply. I really appreciate it.

        One more question. Request you to put yourself at my place. Being an Indian, having Bachelor and Master in commerce from Indian Universities (3+2 years of education) and having 3.5 years of taxation experience in Big 4 (till June 2014, afterwards having freelance experience in Business Development etc.) and currently studying Master in E-business Technology at University of Ottawa, Canada till April 2017, afterwards planning to get job at Big 4 either in Canada, US or anywhere else.

        1- Which state board will be the best option for me to opt for, keeping in mind that I won’t have SSN and I do not want to do any specific courses and also I am not sure where I will practice later on or get job if I pass the course?

        2- Should I wait to get jobs as maximum companies sponsor the total fees for CPA in most cases?

        3- If waiting for jobs is irrelavant and time consuming and uncertain, then which courses preparatory institute will be the best for me as I need a mentor and classes to cover all the four sections as almost 5 years back I have studied all these subjects and not sure how I am good now?

        4- Should I sit for all the four sections at one go or sit 2 at a time as I am not that great in accounting to clear all at one go? Through these online institutes who prepares for CPA, is it possible to clear all 4 at one go if full focus is given?

        There are so much informations on AICPA and other websites and creates confusion sometimes but at this platform I have seen and experienced that specific solutions are given for specific questions so I am troubling you again.

        Regards,
        Himanshu Kumar Mishra

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi Himanshu, on your questions:
          1. I am afraid I don’t have the time to provide a solution like a consultancy firm, so I’d really appreciate you narrow down your choices first and then we can discuss further. This page may help: https://ipassthecpaexam.com/cpa-international-students/
          2. not sure what you mean by that?
          3. In my opinion it is better to make sure you are qualified before moving on to the studying, but I do have a list of top review providers for your reference: https://ipassthecpaexam.com/cpa-exam-review-courses/
          4. It is always possible, and I did take 4 exams in one go myself, but it is risky and you have to determine the likelihood of passing if you go for all 4, vs 2 at a time. It’s really a decision you have to make yourself, based on your own ability and time commitment for this exam.

          Regards, Stephanie

  • RASHID AHMED says:

    I read all articles but anywhere I didn’t find the solution of my query. I am very much confused about the eligibility for cpa exam for Indian students. Some experts says distance education is totally not eligible for CPA in state and says eligible. I know different state has different evaluation procedures but I want to know that any of these states accept distance education for CPA eligibility. I want a reliable answer. Whether I am in any STATE of USA for CPA EXAM with my current master degree as follows:
    Currently I am CA final year student in India and I have already passed B.com (H) from distance learning and MBA again from distance learning (Both degree from recognised and reputed university).

  • Jason says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    The advisory evaluation report from NIES shows a total of 140 credits for my four-year degree. I completed 12 more accounting credits with University of North Alabama’s online program. I just feel kinda confused about the application process.
    Should I send my degree to NIES for international evaluation which will be forwarded to CPAES later and request an official transcript from UNA to CPAES? CPAES will sum up credit hours from those two and qualify me for the exam?
    Or should I send both my non-US degree and transcript from UNA to NIES so that their report will show a total of 152 credit, then the report will be sent to CPAES?
    Your advice is much appreciated!
    Regards,
    Jason.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Jason,
      Yes, your first point is correct. You can send the non-US qualifications (your degree I believe) to NIES for evaluation, and for UNA credits you can send the transcript directly. There is no harm sending everything to NIES and they might mark it on the report; but it is our responsibility to send the US part of the qualification ourselves. Regards, Stephanie

      • Jason says:

        Hi Stephanie,

        Btw, for the purpose of international evaluation by NIES, a color passport copy is needed. Do you know if it needs notarizing/certifying? NIES has been silent on my email so I’m asking around.

        Regards,
        Jason.

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi Jason, these are specific requirements from NIES and I am not in the position to answer these questions on their behalf. In my opinion you should get an answer directly from NIES. How long have you been waiting for their reply? You may want to have a follow up email or just call them up. Regards, Stephanie

  • Neha says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for this wonderful article.
    I have completed my B.com ( Accounting and Finance) and M.com in “accounts” from India. Also I have total 5 years of work experience in Accounts field. I am planning to give CPA exam from WA state. But I am confused how the evaluation process is based? Do I need to mail my all original documents and degree certificates to “NASBA” ? Also currently I am on dependent visa, I hope my visa status wont be a problem.

    Thanks
    Neha

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      hi Neha, thanks for your note. Yes, you need to get your credentials evaluated first. If you choose NASBA’s service, send the documents and application form to NASBA international evaluation service.

      The experience requirement is among the more flexible, which is good news, but do double check to see if you can fulfill them. Working experience in accounting may not be sufficient if it cannot be verified by an appropriate person, e.g. a US CPA.

      H4 visa holders can generally take the CPA exam but please double check with WA board and see if they strictly require a SSN (both for taking the exam and for licensing). From what I remember, the answer is no but it’s prudent to confirm yourself. Good luck! Stephanie

  • Vinti Jain says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for the wonderful article.

    Currently I am residing in North Carolina state and I am thinking to apply CPA from Washington state, so do I need to go to Washington for giving exams and application procedure? Basically I wanted to know that where will exam going to be held?

  • Pranav Pendse says:

    Hello Sir, Thank you so much for posting this information. Can we work in USA after passing CPA exam

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Pranav,
      Thanks for your note. The CPA license or the passing of the CPA exam does not give you the visa/work permit to work in the US. Having said that, there are ways for you to work in the US through work visas such a H1B. You can explore and see how to obtain one (note: it’s pretty difficult to get).

  • Rajiv kumar says:

    I am rajiv kumar , l have passed m.com from nalanda open university (india bihar)with 52.88% , I want a job in america or Britten , what are doing by me for get a job in america or Britten , in present time I living in india and I am very confused . Please help me .

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Rajiv, I am not sure how I can help you on this, because even if you get a CPA license, it doesn’t directly help in terms of landing a job in the US (or the UK). In my opinion it is the easiest to work in a big US company, do an excellent job, then request internal transfer to the US offices. All the best!

  • Ngwa Blaise forben says:

    Hello sir thanks for this write up am a Cameroonian now am working in Dubai with a residents visa I had my bachelor’s degree in accounting back home with a GPA of 3.19 am I qualified and what should I do thanks

  • Rohit Shukla says:

    hi,

    i have completed B.Com as well as M.Com from Indian University. Now i want to take admission and give exam for CPA. also i want to know the exam procedure ( can i give exam in india or i have to go somewhere to giving the exam)?.

    Thanks

  • Ritesh Mital says:

    Hii Stephanie,

    This is Ritesh from India. I want to ask that,i didn’t get first division in my

    B.com. Do I qualify for US CPA exams? I am also pursuing M.com.

    Did this affect my eligibility for qulified for CPA exam? Or I need to pursue some other courses to become eligible for the CPA exam..I am very much passionate for the CPA exam.Please reply ASAP.Thanking You

  • Ina says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have taken the board exam in the Philippines twice but haven’t pass it yet. In our country to be able to take the exam for the third time I have to enroll in a cpa review center to get refresher course and get the required units. Will this be applicable as well if I want to take the board exam here in UAE? Thanks.

  • Waleed Abdelhamid says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for all your support and comments. Any suggestions for which parts to take together, I am planning to take 2 parts at one time. For example FAR + AUD at the beginning the BEC + REG. Do you think this combination makes sense or should I start with BEC and REG?

    Thanks a lot.

  • HASNAIN HASHMI says:

    Hello MAM. I have cleared my fundamental level papers of ACCA which are equivalent to a three years bachelors in UK. I would be shifting to NEW YORK ALBANY within 3 months, so from where i would be getting a start for the CPA. Kindly give a reply as soon as possible I will be thankful to you.

  • Emmanuel Newton says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for the information, however, my inquiry is not settle still. I’m not a USA citizen and may not want to work and live there(USA) unlike otherwise. I currently work with one of the Big Four Auditing firms and may be assigned to different location as may be prescribed by the firm – not necessarily the US.
    That said, is it possible to write my cpa exam in the US when I do not have intent to live and work there?

  • Hemant Kumar Verma says:

    Thanks for adequate information about the cpa exam

  • Divya says:

    Thanx for this article. I have a question I had mcom externally means directly from university not from any college will I be eligible for CPA. And I had done inter CA also.

  • Hiral k vaghela says:

    Hello man
    I m Hiral from India.i have completed my master of commerce in India also completed master of philosophy (m.phil) in India.I am also CA inter.i have a plan to shift Canada and enroll in Cpa programme there.can u give me some advice regarding how to start there and if some benefits are available with my existing study..

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