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What is the Uniform CPA Examination?
The Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination is developed by the AICPA with significant input and assistance by NASBA and state boards of accountancy. It is designed to assess the knowledge and skills entry-level CPAs need to practice public accountancy.
The CPA Exam is one of the “Three Es” (Education, Examination and Experience), that is required for licensure as a CPA in the U.S. The successful completion of the Uniform CPA Exam is a requirement in all 55 jurisdictions; where Education and Experience requirements may vary for each state or jurisdiction. Many jurisdictions also require an additional exam in ethics in order to obtain a license (sometimes referred to as the fourth “E”).
NOTE: The CPA license is the only license for accounting professionals and is issued by state boards of accountancy in the 55 jurisdictions (There is not a national CPA license).
The CPA Exam is a 16-hour, computer-based test comprised of four sections:
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
- Regulation (REG)
The CPA exam employs a combination of question formats. It includes the traditional multiple choice questions and essays, as well as highly innovative simulations – questions that replicate workplace situations and require the application of knowledge and skills to arrive at solutions.
- CPA Exam Checklist
- The Uniform CPA Examination Candidate Bulletin
- Oklahoma CPA Applicant and Candidate Handbook
CPA Exam Roadmap
(Sources: OSCPA, OAB, AICPA, and Becker Professional Education)
Step 1: Fulfill Education Requirements (for your licensing state)
First, determine where you plan to sit for the CPA exam, and then make sure you obtain the appropriate education and other requirements needed to qualify in that state. While this may sound pretty simple, the tricky part is that the education requirements to sit for the CPA exam are different for every state. For example, some states require 120 total semester hours to qualify; while others require 150 total hours. There are also more narrow educational requirements specific to each state such as 33 semester hours in accounting and 36 semester hours in business. A different state might require 33 semester hours in accounting and have no minimum semester hours for business. There are also other requirements that states enforce regarding age, residency, etc. You should be sure to review requirements and criteria for states you are considering for application. Each state board of accountancy provides this information on their individual websites. You can also find the state-specific exam requirements for most states here.
For Oklahoma residents: Before submitting your qualification application for eligibility with the Oklahoma Accountancy Board (OAB), make sure you have completed each of the following education requirements on the eligibility checklist.
- A minimum of 150 semester hours of college education including a baccalaureate or higher degree, also including:
- A minimum of 76 semester hours of upper-level division course credit
- A minimum of 30 semester hours of accounting course credits above introductory accounting (2000-level accounting courses at OSU), including at least one course in auditing or assurance. The auditing or assurance course must have a concentration on external auditing standards including but not limited to Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS). Internal Auditing does not meet this requirement.
- A minimum of 9 semester hours of upper-level division-related course credit in any of the subjects of economics, statistics, finance, business management, marketing, business law, business communication, risk management, insurance, financial information systems or computer science.
- Must be an Oklahoma resident prior to and at the time of submitting the qualification application. Former or future residence in the state of Oklahoma is not considered.
- The degree and all credit hours needed to qualify are posted to your official transcript.
- Electronic transcripts must be sent directly from the university to the OAB examination coordinator.
- Western Governor’s University transcripts must be submitted with a detailed breakdown of competency units from the university.
- Graduate-level financial accounting and managerial accounting equivalent to undergraduate principles of accounting do not count toward the required 30 semester hours of accounting.
- If you attended more than one college, you must submit an official transcript from each college.
- College credit earned outside the United States must be evaluated by an approved evaluation service. The OAB website contains a list of approved evaluation services on the Foreign Education Information page.
- Credit for CPA Exam review courses may be counted for credit toward eligibility only if reflected on an official transcript.
Step 2: Submit an Application
After you have fulfilled the education requirements dictated by your state board of accountancy, you can submit a qualification application for eligibility.
What do you need to submit?
- Qualification application
- Academic transcripts (electronic transcripts must be sent directly from the university to the OAB Examination Coordinator, Rebekah Flanagan.
- Qualification fees ($65.00), which include:
- A $50.00 nonrefundable application fee, required with the qualification application
- A $15.00 criminal history background search.
You will receive an emailed letter if the qualification application has been approved or denied. If your application is approved, you will be required to submit a candidate for examination application and pay the appropriate fees. See Step 3 for further details.
Step 3: Pass All 4 Sections of the CPA Exam
How Do I Apply for the CPA Exam?
- For Oklahoma residents, you must submit a candidate application for examination through the OAB when applying for individual sections. You can apply for a single section or multiple sections on one application (we recommend that you apply for all sections so that you only have to pay one application fee).
- You must pay a $50 exam application fee, which can be paid by check, cash or money order (made out to NASBA).
- You must pay NASBA for each section of the exam. Each section is currently $208.40.
What Happens Next?
- NASBA will issue a Payment Coupon (PC) for the sections you selected on your exam application. The PC is valid for nine days.
- Once your payment is received, NASBA will issue you a Notice to Schedule (NTS).
- Once NASBA issues the NTS, it is valid for 180 days. If you fail to schedule and sit for all exam sections on the NTS within the 180 days, you will forfeit fees paid and must reapply to sit for any exam section(s) not taken.
- As an exam candidate, you can sit for each section at any Prometric location, regardless of state.
- Exams can only be taken during an open window, and there are four windows per year:
- January 1 – March 10
- April 1 – June 10
- July 1 – September 10
- October 1 – December 10
CPA Exam Format
The CPA Exam is a computer-based test comprised of four sections. The current exam—administered by the AICPA —takes a total of 16 hours for all four-parts.
- Auditing and Attestation (AUD) — 4 Hours (72 questions and eight task-based simulations)
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) — 4 Hours (62 questions, four task-based simulations and three written communications tasks)
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) — 4 Hours (66 questions and eight task-based simulations)
- Regulation (REG) — 4 Hours (76 questions and eight task-based simulations)
You may take each part in any order you choose, as long as you complete all four-parts within 18 months.
The CPA Exam consists of the following testing components:
These questions appear on all four-parts of the CPA Exam and are based on the topics described in the Content Specification Outlines (CSOs). Each exam section includes three multiple-choice testlests or groups of questions.
Simulations use real-life work situations to test your in-depth knowledge and skills in a particular subject area. Some tasks you may be asked to perform include searching databases or working with spreadsheets and forms. Task-based simulations are presented after multiple-choice questions and appear on three of the exam parts: Financial Accounting and Reporting, Auditing and Attestation, and Regulation.
Written communications tasks
Appearing only in the Business Environment and Concepts exam part, these tasks require you to respond in either memo or letter format to a scenario based on the topics outlined in the CSOs. You will have access to word processing to prepare your answers.
Grading the CPA Exam
To become a certified public accountant, you must pass all four-parts of the Uniform CPA Examination. Each of the four-parts of the examination is graded on a scale of 0 to 99, using a rigorous scoring structure. The minimum passing score is 75. You have an 18-month rolling period to pass all four sections of the exam. An section score taken outside of an 18-month window will roll-off and have to be retaken.
CPA Review Programs
- Gleim Exam Prep ($999 - $1,999)
- Wiley CPAexcel ($2,100 - $2,800)
- Becker Professional Education (Becker Bundle $3,987; 4-part CPA Exam Review $3,393)
Step 4: Apply for CPA Certification and Become Certified
- Get 1,800 hours of experience in accounting related work.
- Your hours must be verified by a CPA, PA or other professional who is approved by your state board of accountancy.
- Your 1,800 hours can be obtained up to four years prior to or after complete the CPA Exam.
- Submit the experience verification form provided by your state board of accountancy. For Oklahoma residents: Experience Verification Form.
- Take and pass the AICPA Ethics Exam with a grade of 90% or better.
- Submit an application for certification. For Oklahoma residents:
- Once your 1,800 hours of experience have been approved by the OAB, your will receive an application for certification.
- You will return your application for certification, ethics exam results, and certification fee to the OAB.
- The OAB Board must approve each successful candidate at the next Board meeting. Once approved, you will receive official notice and your CPA Certificate.