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Author: Penny Vernon, NASBA Candidate Care Manager
Posted: May 21, 2013

Top 10 CPA Exam Process ErrorsAs manager of NASBA’s Candidate Care Department, it’s my job to assist Uniform CPA Examination candidates who have issues along the path toward their ultimate goal: passing the Exam and becoming Certified Public Accountants.

With over 15 years experience working at NASBA, 10 of which spent in Candidate Care, I’ve helped thousands of Exam candidates work through every kind of mistake and error while navigating the CPA Exam process, and if I’ve learned one thing during my time in Candidate Care, it’s that many of the errors and mistakes candidates make can be totally avoided.

The following is a list of the top 10 errors I see candidates make throughout the CPA Exam process, and what can be done to sidestep them.

Exiting Out of the Exam Prematurely

Candidates sometimes make the mistake of accidentally exiting out of a testlet before answering all of the questions and continuing the navigations that close the testlet. When this happens, the Exam cannot be restarted to restore the skipped testlet and candidates are required to apply and pay for a new NTS to retake the section in a future testing window, as they have already had exposure to test questions.

When a candidate hits the “Exit” button in the middle of a testlet before attempting to answer all test questions, they receive a dialogue message that states: “You have not answered all questions in this testlet. Are you sure you want to leave this testlet?” If the candidate responds “yes,” they are then presented with the Review Screen which has instructions on how to return to the testlet. If the candidate exited the testlet in error, they should select the “Review Testlet” button from the Review Screen to return to the testlet.

In the sample test, as well as in the Exam itself, candidates are instructed to use the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen to move from question to question within a testlet (on both multiple choice questions (MCQ) and task-based simulations (TBS)). This is the best way to avoid accidentally exiting a testlet.

Rescheduling Appointments

Candidates frequently report to Candidate Care that they rescheduled an appointment on Prometric’s website, got to the testing center and found that they were not on the roster and not permitted to test.

Every candidate who reschedules an appointment with Prometric is automatically emailed a confirmation. It is important to read and verify the information on the confirmation. If it is not accurate, contact Prometric immediately. Usually, when a candidate goes to the testing center and finds that their name is not on the roster, it is due to an error made by the candidate in the rescheduling process.

Please Note: The appointment reschedule does not take effect until after the candidate gets to the “Reschedule Appointment: Appointment Complete” screen. It is at this point that the candidate receives the confirmation email. Most candidates who make rescheduling mistakes stop when they reach the “Appointment Verification” screen – which is for candidates to review the changes they have made before choosing to confirm.

Timing Out in the Introductory Screens

Candidates are cautioned on their Notice To Schedule (NTS), in the CPA Exam Candidate Bulletin as well as in the Exam itself that they are required to move quickly through the introductory screens after entering their Launch Code, or else the Exam will time out and cannot be restarted. If the Exam terminates, they will be required to apply and pay to receive a new NTS in order to take the section.

Once the Launch Code has been entered, the candidate has 10 minutes to complete the three introductory screens before the Exam terminates. During this phase of the Exam, the screens do not display the time, and candidates sometimes make the mistake of using these 10 minutes for other purposes and lose track of how much time has elapsed. Remember, candidates are not permitted to wear watches in the testing center.

Notifying NASBA

Contact NASBA Candidate CareIt states in the Candidate Bulletin, as well as on the Confirmation of Attendance that each candidate receives following the completion of an Exam section, that if any difficulties are experienced during testing, the candidate needs to notify NASBA’s Candidate Care Department at candidatecare@nasba.org within five business days of taking the Exam.

Leaving a comment in the survey and/or notifying the staff at the testing center does not replace the need to file an official complaint with the Candidate Care Department within the five day limit. While all emails received by NASBA are personally responded to regardless of when they are sent, only those received within the five days of testing are given consideration for further investigation.

Taking the Wrong NTS to the Testing Center

Candidates who take a section more than once usually keep all of their NTSs. It is not uncommon for a candidate to take a previously used NTS with them to the testing center, which will result in the inability to take the Exam and a forfeiture of fees. Check the date on the NTS to ensure that it is current before heading to the testing center.

Arriving Late

If a candidate arrives late for the scheduled appointment time, Prometric is under no obligation to let that candidate test. Accommodations cannot be made for those who arrive late for many reasons, including interference with starting times for the appointments of candidates scheduled to follow the late arrival.

Going to the Wrong Testing Center

Going to the testing center...Candidates need to be familiar with the location of the testing center before setting out to take their Exam. They should be wary of relying on GPS navigation, and if possible, visit the location prior to testing to ascertain the length of time it takes to get there – including the possibility of traffic issues. If a candidate goes to the wrong testing center, they will be turned away and will be required to apply and pay for a new NTS in order to take that section in the next testing window.

A resource that will help you prepare for test day, in addition to ensuring you make it to the correct testing center, is the “Test Drive” program offered by Prometric. This program allows you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with what to expect on test day by letting you walk through, on a practice basis, all check-in and testing procedures that occur at the testing center on test day.

Waiting to Schedule an Appointment

Candidates are advised in the Candidate Bulletin to schedule an appointment 45 days before they plan to take the Exam to ensure that they will get the date and time they wish. Waiting until only a couple of weeks before the desired time runs the risk of not finding an available seat, particularly toward the end of a testing window when the volume of candidates testing is the highest.

Forgetting to take the NTS to the Testing Center

As advised on the NTS, as well as in the Candidate Bulletin, no candidate will be permitted to test without the NTS – which contains the individual Launch Code. Some candidates make the mistake of taking the Prometric confirmation email instead, which will not be accepted in lieu of the NTS.

Reporting Issues at the Testing Center

Candidates need to report any difficulties they encounter during testing immediately to the staff at the testing center and not wait until after they have completed the Exam. The staff may be able to resolve the issue and will also send a report of the incident to NASBA confirming that the difficulty was observed by testing center staff. 

For more information about the CPA Exam application process that will help you further, please consult the Candidate Bulletin, the tutorial and sample tests available on the AICPA’s website, and this video from Prometric about what to expect on test day.

Other Suggested Reading


CPA Exam Candidate Bulletin

"Preparing for the CPA Exam" Series

CPA Exam Application Process Frequently Asked Questions