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 travisVScpa 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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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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  • Jessamine says:

    Hi Stephanie!

    I would just like to ask.. After paying the $700+ exam fee, am I allowed a total of 9 months to take my first exam? Then the 18 months will run after taking the first exam? Or should I take all 4 parts within the 9 months given?

    I really hope I could get a response. Thank you!


    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Jessamine, it depends on your state board, but all except around 5 states gives you 6 months to take the exam. It starts to count when they issue the NTS (i.e. the approval ticket) and you typically get the NTS by email these days, so there is no delay in the mailing.

      Once you pass the first part of the exam, the 18 month limit starts to count. Let’s say if someone takes and fails an exam section, and the NTS expires, the person will reapply for a new NTS and during the whole process the 18 month limit does not kick in. Hope this is clearer? Regards, Stephanie

      • Jessamine says:

        Regardless of someone failing or passing the first part, it will still run for 18 months after taking the first part?

        I’m taking it in California. I need to know because i’m from the Philippines and I need to plan when to take the exam in the US.

        Thank you!

  • AbdelRaouf Serhan says:


    I live in Bahrain, and I start studying for CPA (BEC & REG) in BIBF Bahrain.
    please I want to know where I should apply for the exams and how?

  • Megha Maheshwari says:

    I have done CA B-Com and M-com from India and planning to pursue CPA.
    I have few question. Kindly help me with your replies and clear the doubts
    1) I am in India for 2 months and then I will be in Kuwait for 3 months . I have not started the procedure of CPA yet but can it be possible for me to give all the exam in Dec (first 10 days).

    2) to which state board I should apply according to the job opportunities. I understand that with my academic qualification I am eligible for all the states but I want to know where we have the more job options or which state CPA is widely acceptable /popular

    3)Can it be possible to give 2 exam from middle east and rest exam from US. if yes then how the licensure requirements will apply

    4) I realised that from April 2017 there will be a change in the course. So it is worth spending time and money for December or March Quarter considering I have not started yet.

    5) kindly suggest the best CPA review tutorial . I have found 6 but not sure as which to select .

    your early response will be highly appreciable.

  • Joshua says:

    Hi. So you’re a little off on the Q2 window. It is not open until June 10th.

    Hopefully it’s not too late.

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