What is the CPA exam? It is the test by which Certified Public Accountants are given their professional license and credentials. The test is administered by the AICPA, also known as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
A Certified Public Accountant is someone who works as a financial watchdog of sorts, making certain that business accounts are honest and true. A CPA can perform an audit of a business or do forensic accounting research into the books. A CPA’s tasks can include personal financial planning, technology consulting or business valuation. And Certified Public Accountants can also serve as tax preparers or work within firms in the financial department.
The Uniform CPA Examination, in the words of AICPA, “protects the public interest by helping to ensure that only qualified individuals become licensed” to practice as Certified Public Accountants. Every person seeking a license to be a CPA must pass this examination.
The exam is given in one of 55 jurisdictions in the United States. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands all issues licenses. There is no national licensing body within the United States.
The uniform test means that each jurisdiction’s Board of Accountancy, which issues CPA licenses, knows that the person in question has the required skills and knowledge to serve as a Certified Public Accountant. You can feel confident that a CPA has the ability to handle your accounting issues because she or he has passed the Uniform CPA Examination.
In addition to the examination, CPAs should also meet certain requirements in regards to education and experience in order to obtain a license. Out of these three areas, the examination is the only one that is consistent and uniform throughout all 55 American jurisdictions. Experience and education requirements can vary.
The examination has four sections. These are Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) and Regulation (REG). Together these four sections consist of 14 hours of testing. Auditing and Attestation and Financial Accounting and Reporting both consist of a four hour examination each. Business Environment and Concepts and Regulation are three hours each.
The examination was first used by three Boards of Accountancy in 1917 to certify public accountants. By 1952, it had been accepted in all 55 jurisdictions. The pencil and paper test was phased out in 2003 and was replaced by a computer-based test.
You can contact the local board of accountancy to get an application for the Uniform CPA Examination. You will need identification and to pay certain fees for each segment of the test. Once your application and payments have been processed, you receive a Notice to Schedule from NASBA, or the National Association of the State Boards of Accountancy.
You should always be certain that the information on your Notice to Schedule matches your name as it appears on your legal form of identification. You otherwise cannot get in to take the test. If there is an error, contact the board of accountancy immediately to correct the mistake. Bring your identification and the Notice to Schedule with you to the examination.