From the 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. NASBA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, also plays a crucial role in the CPA Exam application process. They work hand in hand with state boards to provide assistance and streamline the application procedure. For example, NASBA grants candidate authorizations, ensuring that they meet the necessary requirements to sit for the CPA Exam. They also issue your Notice to Schedule (NTS), which allows you to schedule your exams at Prometric testing centers.
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.
Although the CPA Exam had continuous testing between 2020 and 2023, the CPA Exam windows are back in 2024.
If you failed a section of the exam, you must wait for your score to be released before you can re-schedule an exam for the section you failed.
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 its 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:
When it comes to choosing a testing date for the CPA Exam, you can consider a couple different strategies.
The first approach (which is what I encourage you to do) is to schedule your exam early and work toward a specific goal. This means that as soon as you receive an approved Notice to Schedule (NTS), you can immediately go online and lock in a date for your exam. The advantages of this tactic include having a set deadline to motivate you and increasing your chances of getting your preferred exam day, time, and testing location. However, there are also potential downsides to scheduling early. For example, you might need to reschedule your CPA Exam if you underestimate your study time or if unforeseen circumstances arise, which may result in additional fees.
The second approach is to prioritize your studies first and schedule your exam once you feel adequately prepared. This method allows you to wait until you are confident before committing to a specific testing date. The benefits of this approach include knowing that you will be well-prepared on exam day, avoiding rescheduling fees, and eliminating the distraction of a looming deadline while you study. However, there are potential disadvantages to this strategy as well. Waiting too long to schedule may lead to procrastination due to the absence of a firm deadline, and you may be less likely to secure your preferred exam day, time, and testing location.
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
|5 – 30 days
|1 – 4 days
|Full exam fees
|Less than 24 hours
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’ve probably heard that the CPA Exam changed at the beginning of 2024. So to keep you prepared, I’ve laid out this guide to scheduling your CPA Exam with Prometric after the exam changes.
After January 1, 2024, the CPA Exam will consist of six sections, divided into two categories: core sections and discipline sections. But don’t worry – you don’t have to take all six new CPA Exam sections! Instead, you’ll have to take three required core sections (AUD, FAR, and REG). AUD focuses on Auditing and Attestation, FAR covers Financial Accounting and Reporting, and REG focuses on Regulation.
In addition to these core sections, you must chose to take one of three discipline sections (BAR, ISC, or TCP) that allow candidates to choose one specific field of study. The BAR section focuses on Business Analysis and Reporting, ISC covers Information Systems and Controls, and TCP addresses Tax Compliance and Planning.
Therefore, candidates will have to study and pass one discipline section in addition to the three required core sections in order to complete the CPA Exam after January 1st, 2024.
If you are thinking of tackling the hardest section of the CPA Exam first, you have several pros and cons to consider.
As you can see, it’s important to thoroughly weigh these pros and cons before deciding whether to tackle the hardest CPA Exam section first. Each person’s learning style and preferences may differ, so consider your own strengths, weaknesses, and circumstances to make an informed decision.
However, it is important to note that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) regularly incorporates new questions into the CPA Exam. Plus, the AICPA has already vetted the 2024 updates, ensuring that future scores will not dramatically fluctuate in comparison to the 2023 scores.
With this in mind, candidates should have confidence in their scores even after the 2024 revisions. So instead of panicking and rushing to Prometric to take the CPA Exam before the end of 2023, stay focused! It’s better to study thoroughly and pass your exams on your first try. (You should avoid a CPA Exam fail because it will lead to additional expenses and headaches.)
What’s more, it’s worth taking a minute to consider the underlying reasons behind the exam changes. Basically, the CPA Exam is changing to better align with the skills that today’s CPA’s need.
Good news – Prometric offers testing accommodations for CPA candidates who need them. The types of accommodations vary and include adjustable desks for people with back injuries or text-to-speech software for those with hearing impairments. The complete list of accommodations available at all Prometric centers can be found in their testing accommodations PDF.
Keep this in mind: your jurisdiction’s board of accountancy must approve your testing accommodations before your exam day. To initiate this process, you should contact your board about the specific accommodations you need. Upon approval, your board will provide this information to NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy), which will then include your approved accommodations on your Notice to Schedule.
If you need special testing accommodations, please be aware that you cannot schedule or reschedule your exam through Prometric’s website. Instead, you must contact the Candidate Services Call Center at 1-800-580-9648 to make your scheduling arrangements.
In fact, if you need special testing accommodations, try to schedule your exams at least 10 days in advance to make sure everything goes smoothly. This gives Prometric enough time to accommodate your specific needs.
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. In the same way, if you are a morning person and feel more mentally sharp during the early hours, scheduling your exam for the morning may be ideal. This way, you can take advantage of your natural state of alertness and tackle the exam with a fresh mind. On the other hand, if you find that you are most productive and focused in the afternoon, it might be more beneficial to schedule your exam for that time. By doing so, you can ensure that you are not distracted by fatigue or mental exhaustion, which can hamper your performance.
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.
And regardless of whether you choose morning or afternoon, it is crucial to create and practice in a controlled environment leading up to the exam. This means avoiding any potential stressors or distractions that could impact your mental preparedness. Try to minimize negative work interactions or frustrating traffic situations that may affect your mindset on exam day. By maintaining a calm and focused state of mind, you give yourself the best chance to perform at your peak and achieve success on the CPA Exam.
So, you may never feel 100% ready to take the CPA exam. And there are certainly instances in which you’d want to delay your CPA Exam. However, if you’ve been studying diligently, you can feel more secure in your decision to take the exam as scheduled. 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).
No, you are not required to take all parts of the CPA Exam at once. That would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it! Thankfully, though, the CPA Exam allows for flexible scheduling, and you can choose to take multiple sections of the exam at different times. (That is, as long as you pass all of the sections within 30 months.) Most candidates focus on one exam section at a time to increase their chances of passing. However, if you have time constraints or other factors that require you to take multiple parts on the same day, it is possible to do so. (In fact, I took sections back-to-back and passed on my first try!) If you have to do this, try to adjust your study plan so your testing times do not overlap.
Plus, it’s worth noting that the Prometric online scheduler does not provide a warning if there is an overlap in testing times. So it is up to you to double-check your schedule to avoid issues.
International candidates taking the CPA Exam have several options. Many states participate in the international administration of the exam, which means that candidates can choose to take the exam in various Prometric testing centers located in different countries. Some of the countries that offer these testing centers include England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, The United Arab Emirates, and India.
However, before scheduling an exam at an international Prometric center, it is important for candidates to confirm with their state board first. After all, each state can have specific requirements or regulations for international candidates.
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!