10 Stupid Mistakes at Prometric CPA Exam (that can Totally be Avoided)

mistakes at prometric cpa exam

The following Prometric CPA Exam advice is the top 10 list is from Penny Vernon, who ran the Candidate Care department at NASBA for more than 10 years. Her advice is invaluable to exam candidates, so I’m happy to share it.

Penny’s List of Pitfalls at the Prometric CPA Exam

After studying so long for the CPA Exam, it’s easy to get distracted and make mistakes that can derail your success. Before going to the Prometric test center, I recommend taking these suggestions to heart.

1. Exiting Out of the Exam Prematurely

You might laugh, but quite a few CPA candidates have made this mistake.

If you’ve tried one of those practice exams that simulates the real Prometric CPA testing environment, you will notice an “exit” button on the screen. For obvious reasons, you should never have to touch this button unless you are finished with the testlet.

If you accidentally click on it, the system prompts:

You have not answered all questions in this testlet. Are you sure you want to leave this testlet?”

Things go back to normal if you click “no.”

However, an issue arises when a candidate panics and presses “yes.” The system gives you one more chance by showing the review mode of the questions. If you click “Review Testlet,” then you can still return to the testlet.

Otherwise, the system follows your instruction and ends the Prometric CPA Exam. In this case, you have no choice but to retake the exam at your own expense. That is, you’ll have to pay for a new NTS and retake that section.

2. Rescheduling Appointments

Another common problem occurs when a candidate reschedules an exam section, and when he shows up on the rescheduled date, the Prometric center doesn’t have his record. What a nightmare.

According to Penny, in most cases, this only happens due to the candidate’s own carelessness. It’s unlike that the staff at the CPA Prometric site made an error. To prevent this from happening, follow this advice:

  • Complete the rescheduling process. The appointment reschedule does not take effect until after you get to the “Reschedule Appointment: Appointment Complete” screen.
  • Always check if you receive an email confirmation once you reschedule. If you don’t receive the email, the system may not have captured the request.
  • Double check whether the rescheduled time and date, as well as all other information, is correct.
  • About 24 hours before your scheduled appointment, confirm that the Prometric site is ready for you. You can confirm your appointment by clicking here.

3. Waiting to Schedule an Appointment

There are benefits to scheduling your Prometric appointment at a later date. Some candidates make their appointment when they are almost ready to take the exam. Their reasoning, I supposed, is that they don’t want to schedule an exam until they are 100% ready. Or, they might wait if their schedules could change and they don’t want to risk rescheduling their appointment.

However, waiting for too long increases the risk of a Prometric center getting full. In that case, you won’t be able to take the exam on your chosen dates. The risk increases substantially if you can’t take time off during the weekdays. Friday and Saturday slots can fill up 2 months in advance at popular centers.

4. Timing Out in the Introductory Screens

Candidates are given 10 minutes to complete 3 introductory screens before the exam starts. If a candidate fails to go through the 3 screens, the exam will be terminated.

I’ve heard suggestions of using these 10 minutes to “brain dump” notes and formulas on the notepad. To me, this is a huge risk because the screen doesn’t display the time, and watches are not permitted on site. There is really no excuse to time out of the intro screens.

5. Reporting Issues at the Testing Center

If you encounter computer glitches or other technological difficulties during the exam, you must report the issue to the proctor immediately. The Prometric staff may be able to solve your problem without compromising your performance on the exam. Some of my readers have shared their experiences with me and related that the Prometric proctors were able to reboot their computers.

Just whatever happens, don’t panic. The Prometric staff understands how important your exam is. They are there to help.

6. Notifying NASBA

If a technology issue persists on your exam day and you think it affected your exam performance, you should file an official complaint with NASBA’s Candidate Care Department within five business days of taking the exam. When you email them at candidatecare@nasba.org, make sure you include your testing information and your ticket number that was generated by the Prometric staff.

Leaving a comment in the exam exit survey or telling the proctor about the incident on your way out the door is not considered official.

7. Taking the Wrong NTS to the Testing Center

A few of my readers actually forgot to bring the correct NTS. This may happen when candidates have multiple Notices to Schedule for different periods. Or, sometimes candidates keep their old NTS records for whatever reason.

Before you leave the house for your exam, make sure that you have the correct NTS. The proctor at the Prometric center will never let you in with the wrong NTS, so please triple-check that you bring the right one.

8. Forgetting to Bring Your NTS to the Testing Center

Same situation as above. Check your NTS the day before, the night before, and immediately before you leave.

9. Arriving Late

You must arrive on time to the Prometric center. All reasons for being late are unacceptable, including heavy traffic. In fact, Prometric recommends that you arrive 30 minutes early.

The best way to avoid this mistake is to do a “trial run” to the Prometric center a few days before, ideally at the same time of the day to better estimate the potential traffic conditions. If you live near any potential traffic hurdles, like trains that can hold up traffic or interstates that frequently get crowded in the morning commute, avoid them. And have a back-up route (or two!) in case traffic gets bad. If you go to Prometric’s website, they have a Google maps tool to help you find routes to the testing centers.

This policy is the same for most other professional exams—you cannot be late.

10. Going to the Wrong Testing Center

This is another silly mistake. Make the effort to check out the Prometric center before your exam day. And remember that larger cities can have multiple Prometric sites, so make sure you’re going to the right one.

What to Bring to a Prometric CPA Exam

Have you thought about what to bring to the Prometric site on your exam day? You will need:

  • Your NTS, or Notice to Schedule. And as previously mentioned, make sure you pack the right one.
  • 2 forms of valid identification: a primary and a secondary. Your primary identification must contain a recent photograph. Examples of primary identification include a valid (unexpired) passport, driver’s license, or state-issued ID with a photo. And examples of secondary identification are a credit card, debit card, or ATM card.
  • At least until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll need to bring a mask or other face covering.


  • The following are NOT accepted as identification: Social security cards, green cards, student ID cards, employee ID cards.
  • Your name on your NTS and your 2 pieces of identification must match EXACTLY. You could even have problems if one piece of ID has a middle name or initial and one does not.
  • If you are taking the CPA Exam at an international location, one piece of identification MUST be your valid passport.

What NOT to Bring to Prometric

Just as important as the CPA Prometric what to bring list, make sure you don’t bring any of these banned items into the exam room. When you arrive at the Prometric site, you’ll be given access to a locker to store your bag, your materials, and any food or drink you may have brought with you.

Do Not Bring the Following into the Exam Room

  • Notes, flashcards, or study materials of any kind. The CPA Exam is a “closed book” exam, so all study materials are banned from the exam room.
  • Your cell phone. In fact, you can’t even look at it during an allowed exam break.
  • Your favorite calculator. If you want to use a calculator, you can use the one built into the exam. Or, you can ask for a Prometric normal calculator from the staff. (Click here for an entire article about the CPA Exam calculators. I strongly suggest reading it when you can.)
  • Any anxiety tools or fidget devices. If you bring these items into the exam room, the Prometric staff will confiscate them.
  • Food, drink, and medication. If you bring anything with you (like your favorite to-go coffee mug), you can leave items in the Prometric lockers. If you need to take medicine during the exam, you need to leave your medications in your storage locker and take your medication during a scheduled break.

A Note about Jewelry

On the day of your exam, avoid wearing ornate jewelry or hair ornaments. Although you can wear a wedding or engagement ring, you aren’t allowed to wear any other jewelry. Plus, you can’t wear large hair accessories, tie clips, or cuff links.

Do A Prometric Test Drive

Did you know that for a $30 fee, you can actually practice the entire CPA Exam check-in process at your Prometric center? Prometric calls the program Test Drive. In fact, it allows you to do a practice check-in, verify that you have the right kinds of ID, sit in the exam room and check it out, open a sample test, and then check out.

If you’re someone who has a little test-taking anxiety, this Test Drive could help calm your nerves. Click here to go to the Prometric site and sign up.

Prometric Security Check

Prometric wants to be sure that everyone who takes the CPA Exam does in a fair manner. So, the Prometric staff do everything they can to make sure the exam room is secure. Before you enter, the staff might ask you to remove your glasses or jewelry to inspect for camera devices that could record the exam content. Once the inspection is complete, you will receive your glasses and other items back.

For this reason, Prometric asks that you don’t wear jewelry, except for a wedding or engagement ring. You should also refrain from wearing large hair clips, barrettes, or headbands. Cuff links and tie clips are prohibited.


How do I contact Prometric Candidate Care?

Prometric Candidate Care can assist with exam appeals and other matters. Click here to contact them.

How do I contact NASBA Candidate Care?

You can reach the NASBA Candidate Care Department by emailed candidatecare@nasba.org. Make sure you include your testing information and the ticket number assigned to you by the Prometric staff if your concern is about an exam day issue.

What’s the Prometric No Show Policy?

If you have an emergency and contact the Prometric center more than 24 hours before your scheduled appointment, you might be able to request an extension. They are granted on a case-by-case basis with the proper identification.

However, if you do not show up for your appointment without canceling or rescheduling in advance, you will have to reschedule your exam.

What do I need to sit for the CPA Exam at Prometric?

You’ll need to bring: your NTS (Notice to Schedule) plus two forms of valid ID, including one with a recent photo. If you’re taking the exam at an international location, you must use your passport for one form of ID.

What Do We Learn from This?

Don’t Panic!

Stupid mistakes are made when people freak out.

Don’t Take Chances

Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your exam. Don’t be a smarty-pants and use the10 minutes during the exam’s intro screens to brain dump your notes. And don’t wait until the night before to find your IDs or the correct NTS.

This is all common sense, but as we try to squeeze every second for more studying, we tend to take bigger risks than we normally would.

Stay Organized

Getting the wrong NTS and going to the wrong centers are appalling CPA Exam mistakes to avoid, but they get on Penny’s top 10 list. As much as you might be stressed out right now, stay calm and organized. This will only do you good. Get mentally prepared so you can perform your best.

Presentation from Penny on the Same Topic

This presentation was organized by the PA Institute of CPAs in 2014.

For Your Further Reading

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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