If you are working full time in public accounting while studying for the CPA exam, knowing when to schedule your exam can seem tricky. It may be difficult to find time to study in the months leading up to April 15th. Still, you don’t want to lose momentum or fall victim to the 18 month rule.
As soon as you pass the first section of the exam, you have 18 months to pass the remaining three sections of the exam, or you’ll lose credit for the first exam you passed. It’s crucial to plan your studies around your work schedule and the testing windows.
The CPA test schedule is made up of four windows, the first two months of each calendar quarter. These testing windows are:
- January 1 – February 28 (or 29)
- April 1 – May 31
- July 1 – August 31
- October 1 – November 30
You can take any or all sections of the exam during any testing window, but you cannot take any section more than once during the same window.
If you’re working in public accounting, January may be a great time to take a section since tax season hasn’t really ramped up yet. You’ll just need to be disciplined enough to study during the holidays when many people are attending parties and taking vacations. You’ll probably have a tough time taking an exam early in the second testing window, but you should be able to sit for a section at the end of May. That will give you approximately six weeks, from April 15th until the end of May, to study and prepare for the exam. It’s doable if you buckle down.
From there, another section can be scheduled any time you feel ready in July or August, and another in October or November. I typically scheduled my exams for the tail end of the latter three testing windows to give myself the most time to study and review. When I sat for REG, the last section I needed to pass, I scheduled the exam for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. While some people might be appalled at the thought of giving up a four day weekend, it worked great for me. I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my family, then spent all day on Black Friday studying instead of shopping. I didn’t score any great deals that day, but I did score a passing grade on REG the next day. I’ll take that over going to blows over a great deal on a DVD player at Walmart any day.
Many websites will discourage you from applying for a section of the exam before you are ready to take it, but I did not follow that philosophy. I was motivated by a deadline and I applied to take each section with a plan for being prepared by the end of the testing window.
One piece of advice I did take, though, was to schedule the exam appointment as soon as possible after I received my Notice to Schedule (NTS). If you wait until the last minute to schedule, you may find your first choice of exam date, time, and location unavailable. As soon as you have your NTS in hand, go to the Prometic website to schedule your exam.
Photo credit: noir imp via flickr cc