From CPA application to the actual exam, the process is complicated and stressful for many CPA candidates. One of the many tasks is scheduling your CPA exam at the so-called “Prometric center.”
What is it, and how does it work?
Prometric is a company that specializes in administrating computerized examinations in exam sites throughout the USA. The Uniform CPA Exam is just one of the many standardized tests administered by Prometric. Additionally, Prometric also hosts the CMA certification exam and other tests for doctors, lawyers, and all sorts of professionals.
Now, Prometric is not affiliated with state boards of accountancy or any CPA-related organization like the AICPA or NASBA. Instead, they are a completely independent company that oversees the actual administration of the CPA exam. But they have nothing to do with the CPA license or exam content.
Prometric has locations in more than 160 countries. However, depending on where you live, you may have to travel to the nearest testing center.
The best Prometric CPA testing site is simply the one closest to you come exam time. But here’s an important point: You don’t have to take the CPA exam in the state where you plan to practice. The exam content is the same everywhere.
So, let’s say you’re a college senior living in San Diego, California. If you know you’re planning to make a post-graduation move to Seattle, Washington, you can still take the test in San Diego. Then, once you take and pass the CPA exam, you would need to meet the additional licensing requirements for the state of Washington.
You might even want to take the CPA Exam Hawaii if you want to get a nice suntan afterward! But seriously, there are circumstances that you may want to take in a different state, and it is great that Prometric and the CPA examiners give you this flexibility.
Location, location, location: These are genuinely the 3 most important words when scheduling your CPA exam. You just want to choose the site that’s most convenient for you. Here’s how you can find a list of Prometric CPA exam locations:
When you’re ready to schedule your CPA Exam, you can go ahead and complete the scheduling process. If you’re not quite prepared, I suggest reviewing the list of available test sites to ensure you have one close to you. If you have to drive a few hours or perhaps get a hotel room, you’ll need to do a bit more planning for exam day.
And, this likely goes without saying, but make sure you know how to get to the Prometric site before your exam day. Save yourself the stress! If you’re relatively close, drive by the site. If not, take the time to look at the directions and familiarize yourself with the area.
Essentially, you need permission to apply for the CPA Exam. More specifically, you need to apply to the appropriate state board. The board will review your application and determine if you’re eligible to sit for the exam.
That being said, state boards have specific criteria for determining eligibility. Some state boards require CPA candidates to have 120 total credit hours to apply for the exam. However, others require candidates to have 150 total credit hours. Typically, 120 credit hours is equal to a bachelor’s degree, and 150 credit hours is equivalent to a master’s degree.
Further, your state board may also mandate that your degree or at least some of your coursework relates to the CPA license. For example, they may want to see that you have relevant education in business or accounting.
If you meet the state board qualifications, you can move forward with submitting your CPA Exam application. Once the board receives and approves your application, you’ll receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS). The NTS is your ticket to the exam. It contains an ID number that you’ll use to schedule your exam through Prometric.
Note: the NTS does have an expiration date. For most states, you have 6 months from the date it’s issued to schedule your exam. If you don’t schedule your CPA exam within 6 months, you forfeit your exam fees and will have to repay them.
NTS expirations vary by state boards, but a 6-month expiration is the most common.
When you’re ready to make a “date” with Prometric, you’ll find the process to be rather quick. This statement is especially true if you’ve taken the time to find a testing site beforehand.
Here’s what the CPA Exam scheduling process with Prometric looks like:
Once you complete the scheduling process, you’ll receive an email confirmation from Prometric.
Beginning July 1, 2020, the AICPA and NASBA started continuous testing, which eliminates the CPA Exam windows. With continuous testing, you’ll be able to sit for the exam year-round, with some exceptions.
But note: continuous testing doesn’t mean you should procrastinate. Choose a goal date for your exam and work toward it.
Prometric test sites don’t have unlimited seating for the CPA exam. Some testing sites are relatively small. So, schedule your exam as soon as possible after receiving your NTS. You want to ensure you have a seat in your preferred location on your preferred date. I’d recommend scheduling your exam 3-4 weeks in advance of your test date. Again, save yourself the stress of not getting in the door.
Prometric does offer a convenient “seat availability tool” through their website. The tool allows you to check availability at your preferred exam location. And, you don’t need your NTS number to use it.
If you lag behind or don’t want to pressure yourself to a fixed deadline to finish your study, you can schedule the exam later. Here are two important considerations:
You can reschedule the test online as long as you have the exam section ID. You can change the date up to 24 hours before the exam.
However, timing is critical to avoid extra charges. You can cancel or reschedule your exam appointment at no additional cost if you do so at least 30 days in advance of your appointment. However, if you cancel or reschedule between 5 and 30 days of your appointment, you will have to pay a fee directly to Prometric.
|Time Before Scheduled Appointment||Fees|
|30+ days||No fees|
|5 – 30 days||$35|
|1 – 4 days||Full exam fees|
|Less than 24 hours||Not allowed|
If you end up needing to reschedule your CPA Exam less than 24 hours in advance, you’ll need to reapply or take the exam at your scheduled date and time. If possible, I’d recommend sitting for the exam in that case because you don’t want to forfeit your CPA Exam fees. Give it your best shot!
To reschedule or cancel an appointment, you must visit the Prometric site. From there, you need to enter your confirmation number and the first 4 characters of your last name. You can then view your appointment details and make updates.
You will not pay Prometric directly for the CPA Exam. However, Prometric will be given a portion of your exam fees. As you may already know, CPA exam fees vary by state boards of accountancy.
I highly suggest you look into the CPA exam fees for the state or jurisdiction where you plan to practice.
I do want to add one caveat about fees. Initially, you do not have to pay Prometric directly for the CPA exam. But if you cancel or reschedule your exam, you may have to pay them an additional fee.
The best day to take the CPA Exam is the day that works best for you. In other words, there is no magic exam day.
In some cases, your exam may come down to your comfort and confidence level. For example, if you choose a Monday appointment, you’ll have the previous weekend to get in your last-minute studying. You can go into the exam with the content fresh in your mind. Conversely, you may prefer a Friday, so you have the following weekend to decompress.
However, your exam date can also just be a matter of convenience. If you work, have kids, or are in school, you may not have a lot of flexibility in your schedule. So, you take the most convenient date and go with it.
So, you may never feel 100% ready to take the CPA exam. But I can offer you 2 pieces of advice to help you boost your confidence.
First, I highly recommend investing in a CPA exam review course. This type, of course, helps prepare you for the exam and gives you the tools to ensure you can pass on the first try.
Many of the CPA review courses include practice questions, flashcards, and exam simulations. Some programs also offer support from actual CPAs, free trials, and guarantees that you will have access to the content until you pass the exam.
However, a CPA review course is an investment. Therefore, I want you to make an informed decision. I provide detailed reviews of the most well-known and best CPA exam prep courses. Once you decide, I also offer CPA review discounts to help you save.
Second, ensure you’re building in enough time for studying. Now, as a general rule, you should plan to spend 80 to 150 hours studying for each exam section. So, roughly speaking, you should spend 330-440 hours preparing for the complete exam. However, these estimates can be shorter or longer based on your current understanding of the exam content and whatever else you have going on in your life (e.g., kids, work).
Again, you want to be as stress-free as possible come exam day. As part of this, you need to be prepared to walk into your Prometric site with everything required to sit for the exam.
On test day, Prometric requires you to have:
Now, you won’t be able to take the CPA exam without the items I’ve listed.
In other words, plan ahead and double/triple-check that you have them before you head to Prometric.
For $30, you can book 30 minutes for a real-life experience at the center. Nothing will be graded. You can also take the opportunity to find out the best way to travel to the site.
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!