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When to Take the CPA Exam

CPA exam applicants submit applications online. First-time applications generally take 4 to 8 weeks to process.

When to apply?

Deciding when to apply and sit for the CPA exam is the first step on your path to becoming a CPA. You have two options in deciding when to apply for the CPA exam: before or after graduation. Below we have outlined the timeline for each CPA exam scenario.

Application pre-graduation:

  • You can apply to sit for the exam up to 180 days prior to your expected graduation date.
  • You can begin sitting for exam sections up to 90 days prior to graduation, provided you have met all requirements except having an official transcript.
  • Within 150 days after sitting for the first exam section, you need to submit an official transcript to NASBA showing proof that you have completed the education requirements.

    NOTE: If a transcript is not submitted within 150 days, no credit will be given for any sections of the exam passed.


Example: Graduating May 31, sitting in April

December Apply December 1

180 days prior to graduation is the earliest to apply with a May graduation date
April Sit April 1

90 days prior to graduation is the earliest date you can sit
May Graduate
August Send transcript to NASBA

Send transcript as soon as possible but no later than 150 days after completing exam section

Applying too early could have negative results if you don't plan to sit before summer. Remember that your Notice to Schedule (NTS) is valid for 6 months. 

Application post-graduation:

Applying to sit for the CPA exam following graduation may allow you more flexibility in scheduling. Below is a timeline to keep in mind when applying to sit post-graduation.

Example: Graduating May 31, sitting in November

May Graduate

June Create timeline of dates to study and sit for sections
August Submit CPA exam application to NASBA
October Receive NTS from NASBA, schedule exam section
November Sit Nov. 1

Obtaining an application

If you have never applied for the exam before, start the process by visiting NASBA's website.

If you need to retake a section of the exam, you must complete your re-exam registration online.