Author: Andy Goldstein, NASBA Electronic Media Specialist and Webmaster
After all those hours of hard work in the classroom, taking review courses and studying like crazy, applying to take the Uniform CPA Examination seems like a daunting process.
There's more to applying for the exam than just filling out the application. You have to make sure you are up-to-speed with the educational requirements of the jurisdiction in which you're applying, you have to submit copious amounts of documentation, such as transcripts and other required information, and most importantly, you have to decide which sections you want to take and schedule when you want to take them.
Patricia Hartman, NASBA's Director of Client Services, as well as Examination Coordinators from NASBA's CPA Examination Services, offer up several tips for making the application process as quick and easy as possible.
Read the Candidate Bulletin
In addition to reading about your jurisdiction's educational requirements before testing, Hartman says reading the Candidate Bulletin is the most important thing to do before applying to take the Examination. The Candidate Bulletin covers every aspect of the Examination experience, from applying to receiving scores.
The Candidate Bulletin also includes important information about the Notice to Schedule (NTS), test center regulations, personal identification policies, advice about scheduling and an informative breakdown of the four different sections of the Examination.
Examination Coordinator Seth Goodowens said he cannot emphasize enough to candidates how important it is that they read the Candidate Bulletin and familiarize themselves with the requirements of their jurisdiction before applying.
"Unfortunately, the boards do not offer forgiveness for not knowing something," said Goodowens.
Visit the AICPA Website
The AICPA website is a great resource for those aspiring to become CPAs. Perhaps most useful to candidates looking to take the Examination is the tutorial and sample tests available on the website. Failure to follow the directions provided in the tutorial and sample tests might adversely affect candidate scores.
"Reviewing the tutorial and taking the sample tests available on the AICPA's website are crucial in helping candidates prepare for the content and functionality of the Examination," said Hartman.
In addition to the tutorial and sample tests, the AICPA website also offers helpful tips on how to prepare to take the Examination, scoring and testing FAQs, and even advice on how to get started as a CPA.
Order All School Transcripts
Whether you transferred to a different school or attended community college, Hartman advises candidates to order all of their transcripts before applying. She said sending in all of your transcripts with your application decreases the chances of slowing down the application process due to coursework getting missed.
Check Your Name
Ever heard the myth that students taking the SAT get points for spelling their name correctly? Sounds silly, but some of the most inadvertent errors can cause delays in the application and testing process.
Hartman said one of the biggest errors she sees that causes delays are mistakes in how candidates fill out their name on the application. This is especially common in international candidates with multiple names.
Candidates should take note when submitting their name on the application, because the same form of a candidate's name must appear on his or her application, NTS and on the identification the candidate presents at the test center.
Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Perhaps the biggest mistake candidates make when applying to take the Examination is scheduling more sections than they are prepared to take. For most jurisdictions, the NTS is good for six months. The Examination is not given during the third month of each calendar quarter to allow for systems and databank maintenance, so with a six-month NTS, a candidate only has four full testing months.
"Don't just pick any section. Choose the section you are prepared to take tomorrow, if you needed to," said Examination Coordinator Allie Marcoccia. "That way, when you get your NTS a week or so after applying, you aren't surprised and stressed on whether you'll have time to prepare before your NTS expires."
Though it's exciting to think about passing all four sections in six months, and signing up for all four at a time may save money in the short term, Hartman says it's actually cheaper in the long run to not sign up for more than two sections at a time, because candidates with a six-month NTS who sign up for all four sections at once only have the four testing months in which to pass all four sections, and that's very difficult to do.
"I see more people lose money because there are no refunds, and we can't extend an NTS unless there are extenuating circumstances," said Hartman. "People get confused. In most cases, the NTS is good for six months and your Exam credit is good for 18 months. The two are completely different things."
The amount of information available to candidates seems overwhelming, and there are things candidates can do on their own to help themselves along the way, but Hartman said NASBA is here to help candidates have a positive experience throughout the duration of the Examination process and beyond.
"We're not operating in a void. We want to be transparent to candidates," Hartman said. "We're here to help."
Candidates can also help themselves by performing a multitude of services anytime through NASBA's website, such as reprinting an NTS, obtaining advisory scores, finding Jurisdiction ID numbers and reprinting payment coupons.
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