With May graduation season nearly upon us, handfuls of future CPAs around the country are preparing to tackle one of the most important events of their careers: the CPA exam. Unlucky for them, few colleges adequately prepare accounting grads to enter the real world and though you may have the knowledge necessary to practice the art of accounting, chances are you’re completely lost on how to get started on the CPA exam.
Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. Just a reminder that if you have a CPA exam question for us, do feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you along.
Anyway, soon-to-be grads, here’s what you need to be thinking about:
Confirm when your degree is posted – As with most things CPA exam, the rules and procedures vary depending on the state you will be sitting in. Few states allow you to sit with less than 150 semester units and even fewer allow you to sit without your degree posted to your transcripts so the first thing to do now is find out how long your school takes to post your degree. Some schools will let you pay an extra fee to expedite this process so if you are in a rush, inquire at your school if you can move this along.
Apply to sit for the exam with your state’s board of accountancy – Once you have your degree, you’ll need your school to send your transcripts to the board of accountancy to which you are applying (NASBA if you’re in a NASBA state, or CPAES – authorized provider of CPA exam qualification services for some states). You cannot send them in yourself (even sealed, official ones) and should submit any application fees and forms in at the same time as requesting your transcripts be sent.
The Board will match your application (and likely cash your check before doing anything else) with your transcripts and like magic, you’re authorized to sit for the exam. If you meet your state’s requirements, that is. It’s usually a good idea to look these up before leaving school just in case you need to sneak in Federal Taxation or Advanced Accounting to please your State Board.
Start studying for the exam when you apply to sit – Though it’s probably wise to focus on finals for now if you are graduating this spring, you can get a jump on studying by starting your CPA exam review around the same time you submit your application. Always check with your state to see how long this might take (generally 4 – 6 weeks) as you don’t want to start studying for BEC 4 months before you will actually be able to sit. Keep in mind that just because you are authorized to sit for the exam you will not necessarily begin testing immediately and will still have to factor in wait times for your payment coupons (NASBA wants their money) and Notice to Schedule (NTS). Generally these take 10 business days each to arrive.
So start the application process as soon as you qualify. A summer off can turn into 2 or 3 years of procrastination and next thing you know you are trying to remember which side debits go on and still no closer to your goal of CPA licensure.
Hope that helps and good luck to all of the soon-to-be new grads!