Author: Andy Goldstein, NASBA Electronic Media Specialist and Webmaster
If you're one of the thousands of candidates preparing to take your first section(s) of the CPA exam, you may be a little apprehensive about what to expect at the test center. While Part I in our "Preparing for the Uniform CPA Examination" series provided five tips for preparing to begin the process of taking the Uniform CPA Examination, in this article, we will provide you with three beneficial tips to help your next step – taking the Exam at the test center – go as smoothly as possible.
Tip #1: Review All the Preparatory Material Available to You
Kimberly Farace works as the Team Leader of the Client Services division of Prometric, the agency that operates test centers that administer the CPA exam. Farace said the biggest mistake candidates make is not reading material that is designed to help them understand what to expect on test day.
"It is so important that candidates carefully read the Candidate Bulletin, their Notice To Schedule (NTS), the Test Center Regulation Form and the directions on the screen during the exam," said Farace.
The Candidate Bulletin contains valuable information about the types of identification you need to bring with you to the test center, as well as how to work through the introductory examination screens, the examination break policy and much more.
Your NTS contains important instructions for test day, as well as the section identification number of your scheduled exam section(s). The section ID number is important because it is the Launch Code that you'll use to log in at the test center. As such, you will not be permitted to take the exam without your NTS, so it is critical that you bring it with you to the test center.
Among other things, familiarizing yourself with the test center regulations will let you know the items you are and are not allowed to bring into the test center. For example, soft ear plugs to block noise or center-supplied tissues are permitted in the test center.
Taking the sample tests and reviewing the tutorial on the AICPA website is also a must for you to become comfortable with the exam's functionality, format and directions.
Tip #2: Allow Extra Time Traveling to the Test Center
You know the general rule: If you're running a few minutes late, you will hit every red light and get stuck behind traffic on the way to your destination. It is imperative to make sure you know how to get to the test center and allow yourself extra time to account for things like unexpected traffic.
"Test takers should arrive at the test center 30 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time, as indicated in the Candidate Bulletin," said Penny Vernon, Manager of NASBA's Candidate Care department, which is tailored specifically to address candidate queries and concerns, specifically those that arise while at the test center.
The appointment time on your confirmation notice reflects the time of the exam plus 30 minutes. The additional 30 minutes is to allow time for signing in, getting scanned via hand-held metal detector wand, having your picture and fingerprint taken, reviewing the security and test center policies and being seated at a workstation. It is not additional testing time.
At your workstation, you will enter your Launch Code, read the introductory screens and complete the survey at the end of the exam.
"Once you enter your launch code to begin the exam, proceed directly through the introductory screens. There isn't time to write notes," said Vernon. "If you exceed the 10 minute time to go through the screens, your exam will time out and cannot be restarted."
Tip #3: Don't Delay in Reporting Issues
It's not often, but things can happen unexpectedly while taking the exam. If you experience any technical difficulty or something that seems out of the ordinary during testing, Vernon said to immediately notify the staff.
"They have the ability to stop your exam and the exam clock while working on the issue," Vernon said. "If a staff person does not respond to you raising your hand for assistance, get up and find someone to help you."
After completing the exam, if you feel the circumstances surrounding your test administration prevented you from performing at a level consistent with your knowledge and skills, or if you have a question or concern about the test, report them to NASBA's Candidate Care department at firstname.lastname@example.org. This must be reported to NASBA within five days of taking the examination, as instructed on the Confirmation of Attendance that you receive at the end of each exam. Vernon said leaving a comment in the survey or reporting the issue to the staff at the test center does not qualify as filing an official complaint.
Following the advice in this article will hopefully alleviate much of the nervousness you may have going into the test center. If you have never been to a test center, the following video from Prometric provides a good image of what you can expect, and has further detail on the Biometric-enabled check-in procedures:
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