Uniform CPA Examination Applicants
The Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination (“the Exam”) is the exam that an individual must pass in order to qualify for licensure as a CPA in any of the 55 US jurisdictions (the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands). The Exam is one of the “Three Es” – Education, Examination, and Experience – that constitute the requirements for CPA licensure. Of these three requirements, only the CPA Exam is uniform (i.e., it is the only exam that is accepted for CPA licensure by all US jurisdictions), while education and experience requirements may vary from one jurisdiction to another. Candidates for CPA licensure must meet all three requirements. As a result, passing the CPA Examination is not sufficient in itself to qualify for licensure. The AICPA’s website, Become a CPA, is an excellent resource for learning more about the Exam and the path to licensure. In addition, NASBA has an Exam resources page that is quite informative.
The Examinations Section of the Board is responsible for processing Uniform CPA Exam applications and maintaining each candidate’s file until he or she successfully passes the Uniform CPA Examination.
Contacting the Examinations Staff
Phyllis Elliott, Specialist (919) 733-4224
NC State Board of CPA Examiners
PO Box 12827
Raleigh, NC 27605-2827
Without current contact information (mailing address, phone number, and email address) on file for each Exam candidate, the Board is unable to contact you regarding the Exam or other important issues. Address changes must be made in writing (Board staff cannot accept an oral change of address). Please submit a Change of Address by mail, fax, or email to:
State Board of CPA Examiners
ATTN.: Address Change
PO Box 12827 Raleigh, NC 27605-2827
Fax: (919) 733-4209
If an applicant’s name has legally changed and is different from the name on any transcript or other document supplied to the Board, the applicant must furnish copies of the document (marriage certificate, divorce decree, court order, etc.) that legally authorize the name change. Please contact Phyllis Elliott or Vanessia Willett for additional information.
Eligibility and Requirements
In North Carolina, a person is eligible to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination provided that he or she is a citizen of the United States (or has declared the intention of becoming a citizen); is a resident alien or is a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction which extends to citizens of this State like or similar privileges to be examined; is 18 years of age or over; is of good moral character; and meets the education requirements.
The educational requirement to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam is a bachelor’s degree (120 hours) from a college or university accredited by one of the regionally accredited associations in any subject that includes, or is supplemented by, a concentration in accounting.
21 NCAC 08A .0309, Concentration in Accounting, states:
(a) A concentration in accounting includes:
(1) at least 30 semester hours, or the equivalent in quarter hours, of undergraduate accountancy courses which shall include no more than six semester hours of accounting principles and no more than three semester hours of business law; or
(2) at least 20 semester hours or the equivalent in quarter hours, of graduate accounting courses that are open exclusively to graduate students; or
(3) a combination of undergraduate and graduate courses which would be equivalent to Subparagraph (1) or (2).
(b) In recognition of differences in the level of graduate and undergraduate courses, one semester (or quarter) hour of graduate study in accounting is considered the equivalent of one and one-half semester (or quarter) hours of undergraduate study in accounting.
(c) Up to four semester hours, or the equivalent in quarter hours, of graduate income tax courses completed in law schools may count toward the semester hour requirement of Paragraph (a) of this Rule.
(d) Where, in the Board’s determination, an accounting course duplicates another course previously taken, only the semester (or quarter) hours of one of the courses shall be counted in determining if the applicant has a concentration in accounting.
(e) Accounting courses include such courses as principles courses at the elementary, intermediate and advanced levels; managerial accounting; business law; cost accounting; fund accounting; auditing; and taxation. There are many college courses offered that would be helpful in the practice of accountancy, but are not included in the definition of a concentration in accounting. Such courses include business finance, business management, computer science, economics, writing skills, accounting internships, and CPA exam review.
The Board may approve an application to take the CPA examination prior to the receipt of a bachelor’s degree, if the concentration in accounting is already complete or is reasonably expected to be completed by the end of the school term within which the examination falls; and an applicant reasonably expects to receive the bachelor’s degree within 120 days after the application is received by the Board. However, if the applicant fails to receive the degree within the specified time, the Exam grades will not be released.
The Board accepts degrees from the following regional accrediting associations:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical & Career Institutions
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission of Colleges & Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- Council on Occupational Education (formerly Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Occupational Education Institutions)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Pursuant to 21 NCAC 08F .0111, a person may not be eligible to take the CPA Exam if the Board determines that the person has engaged in conduct that would constitute a violation of NCGS 93 or the Rules of Professional Ethics and Conduct.
Applications for the Uniform CPA Exam
An individual who is sitting for the computerized Exam for the first time is considered an “initial applicant” and must complete an initial Exam application. An individual who has applied for and taken at least one section of the Exam and is applying to re-take a section of the Exam or to take additional sections of the Exam, is considered a “re-Exam applicant” and must complete a re-Exam application. All Exam applicants are strongly encouraged to review the Board’s statutes and rules regarding the Exam before applying to take the Exam as a North Carolina candidate. If you have questions about any portion of the Exam application, please contact Phyllis Elliott for clarification. It is important to include all necessary documentation (passport-type photo, method of contact, official college transcripts (no copies), & three (3) good moral character references (no family members) when submitting the application. Don’t forget to include all court records and any current or previous charges (including probation) with the application.
It takes about 15 business days for an initial candidate’s educational eligibility to be verified and Notice to Schedule (NTS) to be issued by NASBA. If you have not received an NTS from NASBA within 20 business days, please contact Phyllis Elliott. A re-Exam candidate’s application will be processed by the Board and an NTS issued by NASBA in about 10 business days. If you have not received a re-Exam NTS from NASBA within 15 business days, please contact Phyllis Elliott. The Notice to Schedule is valid for six (6) months from the date of issue, so a candidate will have a set period of time to schedule and take the Exam section(s).
Candidates are not required to take the Exam sections in any particular order; each candidate must determine which section he or she will sit for first, second, etc. Candidates are not required to pass one particular section of the Exam before applying to take another section of the Exam, but a candidate cannot take the same section of the Exam more than once in a testing window.
If you require special accommodations under the Americans with Disability Act, please contact Phyllis Elliott for information on the procedure for requesting special accommodations.
Notice to Schedule
Once your application has been processed and it has been determined that you are eligible to take one or more sections of the Uniform CPA Exam, you will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). One NTS will be sent to you listing the section(s) you are approved to take and enabling you to contact Prometric to schedule an appointment to take each section shown on the NTS. When you receive the NTS, it is critical that you make sure that the name appearing on the NTS is exactly the name on the identification documents that you will use during check-in at the Prometric testing center. If the information is not correct or the names on the NTS and your identification documents do not match exactly, immediately contact the Board to request a corrected NTS. The Board recommends that you make at least two copies of each NTS: put one copy in your car and another copy in your wallet, billfold, etc.
You must take your NTS to the Prometric test center; without it, you will not be admitted to the test center. Each NTS includes the examination section identification number for each approved section of the Exam. This number is also used as the “Launch Code” (Password) for each approved section. You will enter the Launch Code on the computer as a part of the login process. The Board has determined that an NTS is valid for six months only. During that six-month period, you must schedule and take the examination section(s). After the six-month period ends, the NTS will expire and all fees will be forfeited. It is strongly suggested that you not apply for a section of the Exam until you are ready to take to take that section. If you do not take all sections for which you registered before the NTS expires, you will not be able to extend the NTS or receive a refund of any of the fees you have paid.
Scheduling an Appointment to Take the Exam
The Uniform CPA Examination is offered the first two months of each calendar quarter. These months of testing are known as the “testing windows”:
• January 1 – February 28 (or 29)
• April 1 – May 31
• July 1 – August 31
• October 1– November 30
The Exam is not given during the third month (aka “blackout month”) of each calendar quarter to allow for systems and databank maintenance. It is important that you plan accordingly; it is your responsibility to schedule the sections of the Exam you have yet to pass so you do not lose credit for previously passed sections. You can take any or all sections of the Exam during any testing window and in any order. However, you may not take the same section more than once during any one testing window.
You should schedule your appointments as soon as possible after you receive your NTS. You must schedule your appointment at least five (5) days in advance of the test date. To increase the likelihood that you will receive first choice of date, time and location, you should schedule at least 45 days before the desired test date(s). You must take each section within the time period for which an NTS is valid (before it expires). You are allowed to take the examination at any one of the authorized Prometric test centers, whether or not the test center is located within the borders of the jurisdiction where you reside. There are six (6) Prometric test centers in North Carolina: Asheville, Charlotte, Greenville, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Wilmington. The most current list of test centers may be found on the Prometric website.
The easiest and quickest way to schedule an examination appointment (as well as reschedule and cancel an appointment, if necessary) is online through the Prometric website. Using the website provides you 24-hour access to scheduling and avoids any “on hold” waiting time. Because of this, you have the quickest and most direct access to preferred dates and test center locations. Additionally, you will instantly receive a detailed confirmation of your appointment (on screen and via email). Before you make your appointments, you must have received your NTS. Additionally, be ready to identify the dates, times and locations where you want to take each section. It is not necessary to make all appointments at one time. If you prefer, you may make one appointment at a time. If you do schedule more than one section on the same day, please be aware the online appointment system does not warn you of overlapping appointment times. It is your responsibility to ensure you have not scheduled overlapping times and have allowed enough time between sections for the check-in process.
After you have made an appointment for a section, you may find it necessary to change or cancel an appointment. Be aware that you may be required to pay a rescheduling fee or forfeit your Exam fees, depending on when you notify Prometric of the change or cancellation. If you are unable to appear for your appointment, you must cancel or reschedule using one of the approved methods or you will be marked as a “no-show” and you will forfeit your fees. If you cancel, but are unsure of when you will be able to reschedule, be advised that you must reschedule before the expiration date listed on your NTS or you will forfeit your fees.
Tutorial and Sample Tests
It is strongly recommended that all candidates visit the AICPA’s website and complete the tutorial and sample tests. The tutorial is a guided tour of the Exam. It demonstrates the functionality of question types, tools, resources and navigation found in the Uniform CPA Examination. The tutorial is not available at test centers and does not contain actual Exam content. The sample tests provide candidates with a preview of the Exam experience. It is a functional replica of the CPA Examination, and provides candidates with an opportunity to become familiar with the Exam’s format, in an interactive environment. Candidates are advised to familiarize themselves with the functionality demonstrated in the tutorial before they review the sample tests. The sample test software allows candidates to answer test questions that represent the question types found on the Exam: multiple choice, written communication and simulation. The sample tests do provide answers to sample questions but are not intended for use as study materials in preparation for the Exam.
After the Exam, candidate responses are forwarded to the AICPA for scoring. The responses are identified by Exam Section ID only. When advisory scores and performance information become available, the AICPA forwards them to NASBA for processing, which involves matching the scores and performance information to individual candidates.
Score reports include the following basic information: section name, section ID, date, section score, result, and credit status with respect to other sections taken. In most instances, scores are reported in numeric form. The numeric scores are reported on a scale of 0-99, with 75 as the passing score. The scale does not represent “percent correct.” A score of 75 indicates performance that reflects sufficient knowledge and skills to protect public interest. This information illustrates a candidate’s relative strengths and weaknesses in the identified areas. The sole purpose in providing this information is to help a candidates focus on his or her weaker areas when he or she studies to re-take an examination section. Performance information is not provided to successful candidates.
The Board may grant candidates credit for passing other parts of the Exam in another jurisdiction. To be considered for credit, the passing grades must meet the Board’s conditioning requirements. To transfer credit, the candidate must file an application for transfer of credit with the Board prior to sitting as a North Carolina candidate.
Online Score Retrieval
North Carolina Exam candidates may utilize the North Carolina page of the NASBA Gateway to retrieve scores within 24-48 hours of NASBA receiving the scores from the AICPA. NASBA and the Board use Twitter and Facebook to announce when the AICPA sends scores to NASBA. Candidates will continue to receive paper score notices by mail from the Board, but the online score retrieval allows candidates to know their scores more quickly. Because there is a lag time between NASBA posting the scores online and when the Board receives notification of the scores, letters to candidates are not immediately available. If a candidate does not receive a passing score on a section, he or she may submit a re-Exam application for that section and will be issued an NTS for that section.
Rescore/Review and Appeal Options
Unsuccessful candidates who would like their scores to be reviewed and verified may wish to request a rescore/review; those who wish to challenge a question or simulation may consider the appeal process. A rescore is a review and verification of a candidate’s Uniform CPA Examination score. If you would like to have your score checked, you may want to request a rescore/review. You should understand, however, that all scores are subjected to several quality control checks before they are reported. Therefore, rescores very rarely result in a score change. Pursuant to 21 NCAC 08F .0113, a candidate may request a rescore/review of his or her score within 60 days of the date the Uniform CPA Examination Score Notice is issued. Please note that the date printed on the score notice is the beginning date for requesting a rescore/review. If you apply after the deadline date, your request will not be processed. After the Board submits your rescore request to the AICPA, and the AICPA reviews your score, the AICPA will report the result through NASBA to the Board. The Board will then transmit the result to you.
The appeal process provides Uniform CPA Examination candidates with the opportunity to appeal failing scores. The appeal option enables candidates to view the test questions or simulation problems that they answered incorrectly together with their responses, and to submit comments on-line. The confidentiality of the examination requires that such viewing sessions take place only in authorized locations, under highly secure conditions, and in the presence of a representative of the Board. You should consider requesting an appeal only if you want to review your incorrect responses because you believe that there is a question or simulation problem that you would like to challenge. When you review the questions or simulation problems that you have answered incorrectly, you may decide to challenge the validity of one or more items. If you decide to do so, you must be prepared to present a cogent, vigorous, and compelling defense of your incorrect responses. Please note that you will not be able to submit new responses during an appeal. However, you will have the opportunity to challenge question(s) or simulation problem(s) and defend the response(s) you provided at the examination. Pursuant to 21 NCAC 08F .0113, a candidate may request an appeal of his or her score within 60 days of the date the Uniform CPA Examination Score Notice is issued. Please note that the date printed on the score notice is the beginning date for requesting an appeal. If you apply for an appeal after the deadline date, your request will not be processed. You must pay the appeal fee when you submit the request to the Board. Subsequently, you will be charged a separate fee for each item (question or simulation problem) that you decide to challenge. If the Board determines that you qualify for an appeal, the Board will submit your request to the AICPA. The Board will schedule your viewing session for you. Your online comments during this session will be transmitted to the AICPA through NASBA.
After the session, the AICPA will review your responses on the section you are appealing, consider the online comments you submitted, verify your score, and forward the result to NASBA. (Note: You will not receive detailed information about the question(s) you challenge because of the need to preserve the confidentiality of examination content.) NASBA will then report the result to the Board and the result will then be transmitted to you.
21 NCAC 08F .0105, states that a candidate must pass all sections of the examination with a grade of 75 or higher on each section. A candidate is subject to the following conditioning requirements:
- A candidate must obtain a passing grade (75) on all sections of the Exam within an 18-month period;
- A candidate may sit for any section of the Exam individually;
- A candidate may sit for each section of the Examination up to four times during a one-year period, but not more than one time in a three-month testing window; and
- Credit awarded by the Board for passage of a section of the Exam is valid for an 18-month period beginning on the date the section is taken, not the date of the score notice.
A candidate who is on active military service shall not have the time on active military service counted against the 18-month period unless the candidate applies to take the Exam during the active military service in which case each month a candidate sits shall be counted toward the 18-month period.
Successful Exam Candidates
An individual who passes all sections of the Exam within the 18-month period is considered a successful Exam candidate and will receive notification from the Board that he or she may begin the process of applying for licensure as a North Carolina CPA. A successful Exam candidate’s Exam scores do not expire.
Q & A
Q. Does the Exam include essay questions?
A. Essays (constructed responses) are incorporated into the Exam simulations.
Q. Can I extend my Notice to Schedule beyond the six (6) months from the date it was issued?
A. No, the expiration date for a Notice to Schedule cannot be extended.
Q. What assistance is provided to candidates to help them prepare for the Exam?
A. Familiarization materials are available on the AICPA’s exam website. It is imperative that candidates complete the tutorial and sample tests prior to taking the Exam.
Q. Do all candidates take the same Exam, or does each candidate take a different test?
A. Candidates take different, equivalent Exams. In the computerized testing environment, each candidate’s Exam consists of items drawn from a pool of test questions according to defined specifications. Although candidates take different tests, the specifications ensure that the results are comparable. The specifications also include exposure controls to limit the extent to which examinees are administered the same sets of questions.
Q. With candidates taking different tests, how does the AICPA ensure that each candidate is being correctly assessed?
A. The test delivery system ensures that all tests meet content and psychometric specifications. The testing package delivered to test centers contains not only test items, but also the rules for the administration of tests drawn from that collection of items. All items are classified according to their content and statistical properties before they are administered in an operational test. The testing software administers items according to the specifications to ensure that each candidate is administered a test of appropriate content coverage and difficulty.
Q. Is the Exam scored on a pass/fail scale or a numerical scale?
A. North Carolina candidates receive numerical grades. A score of 75 or above is a passing score.
Q. Can I immediately find out my score after taking a section of the Exam?
A. No, the Exam contains structured responses that must be transmitted to the AICPA for scoring.
Q. Who sets the passing score for the Uniform CPA Examination?
A. The passing score is determined by the AICPA Board of Examiners (BOE). Like most other significant BOE decisions, the passing score decision is supported by a strong collaborative effort among the examination partners. The standard-setting process followed for the computer-based test (CBT) was rigorous, and performed with input from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), state board members, and several consultant psychometricians. In setting the passing score, the BOE considered many factors, including standard-setting study results, historical trends, any changes in examination content, and input from the academic community and the profession. The passing score is the basis of the pass or fail decision recommended to boards of accountancy on the advisory score report
Q. What is the passing score?
A. The passing score is 75 on a 0-99 scale. The scale of 0-99 does not represent “percent correct.” A score of 75 indicates examination performance reflecting a level of knowledge and skills that is sufficient for the protection of the public.
Q. Is scoring an automated process?
A. Scoring is fully automated for all examination components except the written communication portion of simulations. Some written communication responses are scored by a network of readers (CPAs), while others are scored using an automated process. All scoring routines–whether automated or not–are verified at various stages of the scoring process.
Q. What scoring method is used to score the CPA Examination?
A. The AICPA uses IRT (Item Response Theory) for the objective portion of the examination. IRT is a well-established psychometric approach to scoring used by licensing and certification examinations that administer many different test forms. IRT scoring ensures that scores and pass or fail decisions based on scores from different examination forms are comparable. Based on the large amounts of data that are collected in pretesting, the difficulty level as well as other statistical characteristics of examination questions are known and taken into account in scoring.
Q. If I am given more difficult questions to answer than another candidate, how can our responses be scored comparably?
A. IRT scoring takes into account differences in the difficulty of test questions in addition to other statistical properties. IRT scoring uses statistical properties of items, and the pattern of correct and incorrect responses, to calculate scores representing candidates’ knowledge and skill levels. These scores are comparable because they have been calculated taking difficulty levels, as well as other item statistics, into consideration.
Q. Given the different values of examination components, how are total scores calculated?
A. For all examination sections except BEC, separate scores are produced for multiple-choice questions, written communication, and simulations (not including written communication). The three part scores are then weighted according to the percentage value of each component, and added together to arrive at a total score.
Q. Are pretest questions scored?
A. No. Responses to pretest questions are never taken into account in calculating candidate scores. Pretest questions are included in every examination (they may be multiple-choice questions, portions of simulations, or written communication exercises) only for the purpose of collecting data. The data are needed to assess the quality of the questions, and to collect scoring information for later use when the questions become operational items
Q. Are scoring adjustments made for candidates who experience difficulties during testing?
A. No. All candidate results are scored using the same process and method to ensure uniformity and the validity of the pass or fail decision. In the rare instances when serious technical problems occur during testing, candidates may be given free retests.