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Continuous Testing Is Here. Here’s Everything You Need to Know You Didn’t Think to Ask

As of July 1, continuous testing is the new way CPA exam candidates plan and sit for the exam. If you’ve been a bit confused about what continuous testing means for your CPA exam journey, it’s understandable. The plan was announced in 2019 and was very quickly pushed toward adoption, with the final steps toward launch taking place during a global pandemic (as you all know). Due to the pace at which continuous testing was adopted and the fact that launch took place at the same time Prometric was just beginning to reopen most testing centers for the huge variety of licenses and certifications it administers tests for, it’s no wonder some CPA exam candidates are a bit confused. The TL;DR is: continuous testing has done away with blackout months and testing windows. But what other changes should candidates be aware of when planning their exams, and what myths about continuous testing are out there just needing to be busted?

When continuous testing was first announced in 2019, we saw many candidates were confused about what this would mean to them. As adoption moved forward, some of these misconceptions persisted. Some believed that being able to retest immediately after receiving a failing score meant that they’d receive their scores practically as soon as they walked out of Prometric. Unfortunately, the benevolent overlords of the CPA exam haven’t quite gotten to that point, but it does mean that candidates don’t necessarily need to wait around for their scores like they used to.

To slice through some of the confusion and make sure everyone is clear about what continuous testing means for their own CPA exam experience, we talked to Angie Brown, senior director of product management at Becker, to get the scoop.

Going Concern: Other than eliminating blackout windows, are there any major changes candidates should be aware of as far as applying for NTS, exam timing, applying, all that good stuff?

Angie Brown: The only change to the exam application process will be that students who receive notification that they failed an exam will be able to immediately apply to retake the failed exam. The reapplication process is relatively quick and should take about a week to receive approval.

GC: Does this change your recommendations for how many parts a candidate should choose for their NTS, and if so, what is your recommendation?

Brown: The number of parts per NTS should be determined by the NTS length (which varies on a state by state basis and can be three months, six months, nine months, or 12 months). A good rule of thumb for most candidates is to plan to take one exam every two to three months.

GC: Given that retakes can now happen much sooner under continuous testing than under the previous model, what is your advice to candidates who have failed an exam section (as in, should they move on to a new one or re-study and retake the one they just failed?), and does continuous testing change that advice?

Brown: If a candidate fails an exam with a score close to 75, the candidate should quickly apply to retake the exam, restudy all areas of weakness identified in the score report, and retake the exam as quickly as possible (within one to three weeks). Before continuous testing, it was not as easy to quickly retake an exam because candidates were prohibited from taking the same exam twice in a testing window. This rule was eliminated with continuous testing.

Friendly reminder: Becker students qualify for the Becker Promise, which is Becker’s tuition waiver program for candidates without unlimited access who complete their review course but do not pass the CPA exam.

GC: Does continuous testing change your recommendations for how much time a candidate should spend studying each section?

Brown: Continuous testing does not change the amount of time needed to study for each section, but it does make it easier to schedule exams.

GC: The score release schedule through 2020 is out, should candidates expect similar frequency going forward in regards to score releases?

Brown: Yes, the score release schedule for the second half of 2020 is representative of planned score releases under continuous testing.

GC: So what common misconceptions about continuous testing are you hearing from your students? One that seems persistent is that it means candidates will receive their scores almost immediately.

Brown: Unfortunately, candidates will not receive their scores immediately. The AICPA is going to stick with its score release schedule of 4X each calendar quarter. So students will not be able to “immediately retake” failed exams. They will need to wait to receive their score to find out they passed and then it will take about a week to apply for and receive an NTS to retake a test. But the retake process will be much quicker than it was before continuous testing.

We hope the above helps clear up any lingering confusion you may have about what continuous testing means. Don’t feel bad if you were one of the ones who mistakenly thought it meant CPA exam scores delivered right to you faster than a same-day online grocery order. Maybe one day.

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Check out more articles on the CPA Exam on Going Concern.