CPA Testing Windows 2020 (and Blackout Months)

CPA Exam Testing Windows and Blackout Months

I talk about CPA testing windows on various pages in this site, but I thought it would be nice to have a quick post to explain how it works:

Here is the text version from your reference.

CPA Testing Windows

Starting the CPA journey is never easy. You need to figure out whether the CPA title is worth it, how to apply, where to apply… before we start thinking about how to study.

The good news is that in terms of when you can take the exam, it is very flexible. Candidates have been allowed to take the exam anytime during the first two months of each quarter.

cpa testing windows and blackout monthsIn other words, the CPA testing windows are:

  • 1st Quarter: January to March 10
  • 2nd Quarter: April 1 to June 10
  • 3rd Quarter: July 1 to September 10
  • 4th Quarter: October 1 to December 10

The CPA Blackout Months Shortened by 10 Days

An extension of the CPA Exam testing windows went into effect in April 2016. At this time, end of the testing windows was pushed back 10 days into the CPA blackout months to meet the demand of increasing candidate numbers.

With 4 testing windows each year, that means the time allowed to take the exam each year is 40 days longer!

Candidates can pick any time within the CPA test windows to take the exam. You must take your exam at a Prometric testing center. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, and sometimes Monday to Saturday for some sites.

You may take one or more exam parts in each testing window as long as you do not take the same part more than once.

Other Important CPA Exam Dates to Remember

Once you start your CPA journey, you should mark down the day you pass the first part of your exam. This is because the 18-month deadline will start to tick.

Please note that it only starts to count once you PASS the first part, not when you TAKE the first part. For example, you are taking FAR in Jan 2019 and REG in Feb 2019. You find out later that you failed FAR and passed REG. The 18-month starts to count in February 2019, and you will have to complete all 4 parts by August 2020.

Tips in Scheduling Your CPA Exam Parts

I notice that many candidates choose to schedule the exam at the end of the testing window (end of February, May, August, November). There are two disadvantages:

  • Exam site tends to get full faster towards the end of each month. This means that you have to schedule in advance.
  • In case you aren’t ready and need to reschedule, there is no room for that because you are not allowed to postpone your exam to the next testing window.

If possible, try scheduling the exam at the beginning or middle of the window so you have the flexibility to postpone it without paying an extra fee and extra waiting during the blackout month.

Determining Which CPA Exam Part to Schedule First

Readers often wonder which part they should take first. There are two schools of thought — one is to take the toughest one first and get rid of that early on; the other is to take the easier one so you can build up your confidence.

I personally prefer the first option but it really depends on your own style. Another common way is to go for the one you are most familiar with first (no matter whether that’s the easier or harder one). This works great for a lot of my readers as well.

My Bloggers Have Different Orders and Reasons When Scheduling Their Exams

To give you an example, Travis and Sumit have different views on how they plan the exam sections:

cpa candidate travis VS cpa candidate sumit
Status: passed all parts
AUD -> REG -> FAR -> BEC
(In retrospect he would have taken FAR first)
Status: just started
AUD -> BEC -> REG -> FAR
(See why he takes FAR last)

 For Your Further Reading

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About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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