Tip for Success: Don’t register for more than two sections on your initial NTS

30 Jun 2008

CPA Exam Strategy

Note – this CPA Exam strategy tip is no longer valid. NASBA has since corrected this glitch. It adversely affected me at the time, but has since been corrected.


Note – someone left a comment that said that NASBA has fixed the glitch that won't allow you to retake a section when you have other sections left on your NTS. I hope that this is the case.

As a jaded veteran of the CPA Exam process, I've learned a few quirks and tricks along the way and want to share them in hopes that people can learn from my mistakes.

Tip for Success: Don't register for more than two sections on your initial NTS

I learned this one the hard way. It was Fall 2005 (3 years ago?…yeah, I know…insert excuse here_______) and I had just gotten back the word that I failed FAR – my first section, with a 70. I felt like the most worthless person in the world, but I was going to persevere and get right back on the horse and take FARE again in the next window, right? Wrong.

When I sent in my initial application and then my subsequent Notice to Schedule, I paid for all 4 parts because I was going to pass all four parts the first time obviously, so why go through the redundancy and hassle of getting more than one NTS?

Well, what they don't tell you in the non-existent fine print and what will garner little more than an “oopsy” from the NASBA customer service rep is that once you get an NTS, you must sit for all parts on your NTS before you can re-take a failed section on that same NTS.

The NASBA rep explained that it's a glitch in their software that causes this ridiculousness. “Is anyone going to get around to fixing it?” I asked. “uhhhh…I don't think so,” she said.


SO – if you pay for all four sections and don't pass the first one, kiss your short term memory of the subject goodbye and we'll see you in 6 months when you sit for it again.

Even if you're going to knock the exam out in 1 attempt for each section (weren't we all?), it still makes sense to get an NTS for a maximum of two sections at a time – that way you're not chained to AUD, REG, BEC when all you want to do is re-study some cash flow statements and not for profits and go take FARE again.

Leave a Reply


Jessica 16 years ago

I happened to stumble upon your site and I love it! I just received my NTS on Friday and am just in the beginning stages of studying. Thanks for both the laughs and the helpful information. I will make sure to visit often throughout my next 1.5 to 2 years of studying (hopefully no more!)

BTW I registered for two sections only... good thing!

another71.com 16 years ago

nah...you'll knock it out in a year or less. The key to passing - above and beyond your review package is how hard you work at it.

If you stick to a plan, are diligent, and have a review program even remotely worth its salt, you will do well.

Don't cut corners and don't slack off and you'll be done with this in a year.

...for what that's worth from a corner cutter and a slacker. ha.

Inko 16 years ago

I have to add a rebuttal to this particular article.

Keep in mind that every time you have to re-order your NTS it is 50 dollars. I selected the first 2 without reading the fine print, passed them in a month, then felt robbed that I had to pay again and wait over 2 1/2 weeks only to hit blackout month.

I don't have a family nor a full time job so my odds to pass are far better than another71's so depends on your situation. I can't afford financially to not pass since i'm in debt. The job I was interning for fell through due to the darn economy, so there went my immediate reimbursements for CPA stuff.

Just adding my 2c so people are informed.

Keep it up another71. I read every week or so.

As my quote goes:
"I don't really know where I am or where I am going. I just know where there's a beginning there's an end. And a story makes up the whole mess between."


another71.com 16 years ago

Keep in mind that every time you have to re-order your NTS it is 50 dollars.

Well I'll be.

I just learned something. I paid $238 for REG today and just went and looked how much the exam cost was on the NASBA site and it says $170-something. I guess I never realized the $50 fee for each NTS.

Hmmmm...well, I see Inko's point, but I still think that 2 at a time is the safe way to go - that way you have the freedom to quickly retake a section if you need to.

I don't think I would feel comfortable getting an NTS for 3 or 4 sections. $50 is $50, but it's...10 lattes (I buy quad-shot lattes, so they're $5 :) )

Anonymous 16 years ago

I registered for all 4 parts last year. Failed AUD and was able to register for it again the next window. They must have fixed the problem. Thanks!

Lindsay 16 years ago

I wish I would have read this BEFORE I paid for all 4 of mine in January! Ah well.

I actually just sat for the REG test a couple hours ago (and I'm here at work, what kind of nutcase am I?) - this was my first experience and it really wore me out. 3 more to take before Oct.. yippee.

I did want to ask, how long does it usually take to hear about results? Also, how heavily weighted is the Written Comm portion of the Simulation? I totally gave the wrong answer to one of them and it's got me all worried....

Thanks for a great blog!

another71.com 16 years ago

Lindsay -

I'm always mentally drained after an exam...yes you are crazy for going back to work.

If you sat today, you can pretty much bank on getting your results online by August 15-20th. - somewhere in there. The wait sucks.

Find your state at NASBA.org and see if they release scores online. You'll need your section ID and DOB.

The written comm. is 10% of your grade and they grade for content and quality of writing. Rumor has it that they only grade one simulation. Even if you wrote a bunch of garbage for an answer, as long as you dressed it up and used correct gramm(e)r and spelling, and tossed in a "wherewithal" or two, I wouldn't worry.

3 more sections before Oct? That means you're going to sit for 3 sections in August? September is an off month. I bet you meant by the end of Oct...(end of August...Oct 1st...end of Oct) ?

Congrats on taking your 1st exam!

lindsay 16 years ago

Thanks for answering a newb's questions. As soon as I walked out of the test site I KNEW I screwed up that WC. How annoying! If only my brain didn't start back up 15 minutes earlier...

I ended up staying at work for 2 hours and got the H out of there. I couldn't even formulate an intelligent conversation.

I'll hope for my scores on August 11th - happy birthday! YOU PASS! Oh, and I'm in CA, I didn't see anywhere on that site where I could log in?

I plan to take BEC at the end of July, then I'll do AUD at the end of August, and that leaves all of September to study for an early October FAR test. I'll either gain some motivation in all this or seriously burn myself out. The tests are paid for, I might as well at least sit for them; no point in letting that go to waste.

And damn, I forgot those wherewithal's!! FAIL.

Brandon 16 years ago

I disagree. I think that all CPA candidates should register for all 4 parts. Candidates registering separately incur additional exam fees. I registered for all 4 parts at once I got a 92 on FAR, an 88 on AUD, just took REG (think I passed) and will take BEC at the end of August.

It takes about 2 months from the time you mail away the forms until you get your NTS. Then the NTS is valid for 6 months. That is a total of 8 months of preparation for for 4 exams. That's 2 months per exam, more than enough time for preparation.

I applied for the NTS in January and got my Becker material at that time as well. I immediately studed for FAR at that time because I wanted to take that exam first. I got the NTS in March and scheduled FAR in April, AUD in May, REG in July, and BEC in August. So I scheduled 2 exams per window for 2 windows total.

I studied for FAR from January to April and got a 92. I studied for AUD from April to the end of May and got an 88. I studied for REG from the end of May to the beginning of July. And I just started by BEC review.

The bottomline is that registering for all 4 parts will save you money, and let's be honest. The CPA exam is not that hard!

You spent 4 years in college or 1-2 years in grad school so you know at least 90% of this stuff. So it's just a matter of reviewing it.

If you put 2-3 hours of study time per day 6 days a week and practice all the multiple choice questions at least twice, you can pass the exam! The CPA exam is not particle physics or rocket science, just accounting, tax, law, auditing, and business concepts. You don't need to be a genius to pass.

And do all of yourselves a favor, buy Becker! It is the most comprehensive review service and has hundreds on top of hundreds of CPA exam questions and simulations to review. If you put the time and effort into it, you can pass.

So I suggest that you minimize your cost and maximize your experience by registering for all 4 parts first. Even if you put minimal study time in, you could very well pass any or all of the exams. Like I've said, you know this stuff already through college!

J 16 years ago

At my firm, and I think most big 4's are like this, you get the first time you sign up reimbursed. So, if ou sign up for 2 parts, you get 2 parts 'free'. If you sign up for 4 parts, you get 4 parts 'free'. I signed up for all 4 parts when i took it, studied for 3, passed 2, failed 2. I passed the other 2 the next time around. So, it cost me about $400 out of pocket to get my CPA. Not bad.

Emily 16 years ago

The CPA exam is easy??? Ha, that's funny. Although I have to say that this time last year I never thought I would have 2 sections of the CPA exam passed.

But I am between a rock and a hard place. My audit section expires in the middle of January. But that isn?t the only time constraint for me. In the state of VA I have to pass my last two sections (REG and FAR) by the end of November or I will have to go back to school for additional credit hours to meet the 150 credit hour requirement (I was grandfathered in for a couple of years). The real silly thing about it?my extra credit hours can be ANYTHING I want. I can take a simple English class?or how about golfing?

So yeah, here?s to hoping that I will be able to pass them by the end of November. REG has been a struggle for me and I do LOTS of tax work where I work.

Anonymous 15 years ago

YOU WILL PASS! You MUST think that! I had a 4.0 in Accounting, I used Becker (D&T paid for it!), I work full-time for D&T, so I only took one section at a time, I had NO LIFE for 15 months, and STILL had to work my tail off to pass. But, it worked. If you prepare the way Becker says to, you WILL pass. I was 4-for-4, with an 83.25% avg for the 4. YOU WILL PASS!

Matt 15 years ago

Not fixed.

Matt 15 years ago

Not fixed.