After Taking the CPA Exam: Next Steps
If you're getting close to passing the CPA Exam, or you've passed the Exam (Congrats!), you're probably wondering what you have to do next in order to officially obtain your CPA certificate. Every state or jurisdiction is different, but here's a general overview of what to expect.
Step 1: verify that you have met the state requirements
There may be requirements you are unaware of, such as a minimum age, experience in public accounting, or residency. Most states have a work experience requirement (typically a year). An overview can be found on thiswaytocpa.com. You can click on the name of each state on this site for a more detailed summary of the requirements. We suggest going directly to your State Board of Accountancy website as this site only provides a summary. Links for most states can be found on nasba.org. Alternatively, many states’ Department of Licensing (or similarly named state agencies) will also have resourceful links.
Step 2: the ethics exam
Many states require you to take an ethics exam. Many of those states will only accept the AICPA Ethics Exam. The online version of the course is $159. A $30 discount is offered if you have an AICPA membership; unfortunately, membership is a minimum of several hundred dollars to join for the first year and you must have 150 credits completed. You need a 90% to pass and the exam is entirely multiple choice. Some states issue their own ethics exam. For example, California has the Professional Ethics for CPAs (PETH) exam, and Washington State requires the AICPA Ethics Exam and a state issued ethics exam.
Most people suggest buying the online version of the course since many ethics exams are typically taken remotely and online (it’s easier to search through a digital document than a hard copy). We spoke to several CPAs, and all said the ethics exam they took was tricky and not to be taken lightly, though most said they spent only a few days studying.
Step 3: apply for certification
Your state likely has an online application process. They may require you to submit documentation such as a signed statement from a supervisor or licensed CPA that can attest to your work or additional educational or exam records. You may have to complete an in-person interview with the board. Licensing fees range by state.
Step 4: check your status online
Once you’ve been issued a license, look yourself up on cpaverify.org, or your state’s license verification website. Take a moment to bask in the glory.
Step 5: stay certified
Check your state’s CPE requirements on learningmarket.org (click on the name of the state after you perform the search) and don’t forget to pay the license renewal fees.
First, bear in mind that you don’t need to know whether you’ve passed or not. If you studied hard, you deserve to celebrate! You’ve reached a major milestone. Have some fun!
Here are seven great ways to celebrate surviving the CPA Exam. You can adjust them to your personal style and preferences, but each of them is sure to boost your spirits, refresh your mind, and renew your motivation.
1. Throw a party with your friends.
Make a special effort not to talk about anything related to the Exam, or the profession in general. Be sure to invite the friends you’ve been neglecting in favor of studying. Inevitably, your friends will ask if you passed the Exam, or whether they can start calling you a CPA. Just smile and tell them that discussing anything CPA is off limits at your party.
2. Take your partner out on a date.
Chances are good that your significant other has been patient, supportive, and even helpful during your study sessions. Reward that wonderful person for their efforts with a nice, candle-lit dinner, or some other date you know they’d particularly enjoy. At the end of the date, make a special point of telling that person how much they’ve helped you and how much you appreciate their support.
3. Catch up on your favorite movies and TV shows.
You probably haven’t spent much time watching television or movies in the past few months. Remind yourself how relaxing it can be! Throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave and curl up for some much-needed entertainment.
4. Get away from it all.
Choose a destination and go for it! Changing your environment can be very therapeutic. Even a short weekend trip can rejuvenate your strained brain. If natural settings help you relax, plan a camping trip. Or, if you’re a more urban person, visit a big city you’ve never explored. Of course, you can always plan some fun in the sun at a resort or beach. The point is to get as far away from the CPA Exam as you can afford to.
5. Pop the cork!
Nothing says celebration like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne (or a non-alcoholic alternative, if you like). Just hearing that distinctive sound, followed by a long fizzy pour into a glass can be incredibly satisfying. Even more satisfying is the knowledge that you’ve earned it.
6. Buy yourself something nice.
Some people call it retail therapy. Most people simply call it shopping. Whatever you call it, you’ll be giving yourself a nice reward for a job well done. Take a trip to your local mall, boutique, or electronics store and stimulate our economy!
7. Sleep in late.
This one is simple. Many CPA Exam candidates sacrifice sleep to gain extra study time. While we tend to discourage this practice for its inefficiency, it’s probably not going to stop anytime soon. Sleep may be the best reward for your hard work. Getting caught up on that lost rest may be the best thing for your mental and physical health. So, go ahead and get some rest.
No matter what you do, you should make sure to take some time to reward yourself for your successes. If you focus solely on the work and forget to reward yourself, you’ll rapidly grow discouraged with the entire process. Discouragement is something that you simply cannot afford.
If you don’t get it right the first time, try again. Many candidates spend hours upon hours of studying for each part. They sacrifice their evenings, weekends, and even their relationships to get that 75 or higher. And they don’t just have to do this once — they must do it four times.
So… it’s not so difficult to see why failing a part of the Exam once or twice can be discouraging and even downright heartbreaking. Especially when you’ve put everything on the line only to go back to square one.
But — it’s not as horrific as you think. Many CPA candidates have found that the reason they failed the CPA Exam wasn’t due to limited ability, intelligence, or determination. Here are the top 3 reasons why people fail the CPA Exam and how you can avoid these pitfalls when you sit for your next one.
1. Study Time
The AICPA recommends a study time of 1-2 hours for every hour of lecture time. Combine this with the number of lectures for any review course that explains the large and sub contents for each part of the Exam, and you’re looking at a total of over 400 hours of studying to pass all 4 parts. That’s about 2 weeks and 2 days of consecutive studying without sleeping or breaks!
Many candidates either do not create a strict study plan to stick to, or simply don’t know whether or not they’re studying enough. This can lead to both over and under studying. Luckily Roger CPA Review’s patent pending SmartPath Predictive Technology™ takes the guesswork out of CPA Exam preparation. SmartPath™ assesses candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, helping them hone in on what they need to study and how much. Candidates simply need to meet the SmartPath targets in order to know that they’re prepared for Exam Day.
Another common error is failure to do research. If you’re an accounting major, there will be topics on the test that you did not cover in class. And if you’ve been out of school for a bit, there will be topics you’ll have to revisit to remember on top of the new ones you have to learn.
Research what is tested on the CPA Exam in order to better prepare yourself for what to expect and how many extra hours of study time you’ll have to put in in order to master old or new concepts. This way, you won’t be surprised or stressed about having to rearrange your study plan, especially if you’ve already scheduled your test or need to meet a deadline in which to take the whole Exam. Plus, it’s just plain good for your soul.
Some other general unpreparedness is not bringing the correct documentation with you to the Prometric Test Center on test day; not leaving early enough for unexpected traffic delays; or not looking up information regarding location. Make sure you have everything ready and correct to take with you on test day. You smile now, but it happens!
It’s understandable that sitting for each part of the CPA Exam is nerve wracking. You’ve invested time, money, and countless other things that all lead up to test day. Don’t let that get the best of you. We know it’s not the easiest thing to do, but don’t let fear or intimidation side track you from all your hours of hard work and preparation. It’s like the little devil on your shoulder; ignore it!
Many candidates allow doubt and frustration to creep into their systems during Exam Day. They will spend too much time on trying to figure out questions they don’t know the answers to; begin to think that they’re not doing very well based on the level of difficulty on their testlets; or execute overall poor time management, leaving not enough time to complete the entire Exam or completely skipping a task-based simulation, written communication, or multiple choice question(s).
Intimidation is a powerful force, and if you let it sit on your shoulder during test day, it can end up swallowing you whole. There will be questions you’re not 100% sure about; there will be some that you may have to guess on; and there will be moments where you’ll doubt yourself. The only thing that is certain on test day is how much time you have to finish the Exam; therefore, use time management effectively.
Give yourself a set number of minutes for each multiple-choice question and written communication or task-based simulation section. Read each question carefully, paying attention to the dates, numbers, percentages, or small nuances that can cause you to respond incorrectly. Answer the ones you know, guess on the ones you don’t, and move on. If you enter the Exam with confidence in what you know and don’t give in to fear or anxiety, you’ll do just fine.
4. Lack of Motivation
It’s hard enough to get through the work day, let alone spend the remainder of the evening with a CPA review book in one hand and some flash cards in the other. Most normal people get to go home and relax after their 8-hour shift; but unfortunately for CPA Exam candidates, this is not the case.
It’s easy to fall into a “study rut,” where you just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks like you’ve barely made a dent in your FAR book. During these times, students are tired, and lack motivation when they’re restricted to such a strict schedule for weeks and months on end. As a result, they fall behind in their study plan, are easily distracted, and don’t absorb the material very well. Lacking motivation is an especially dangerous pitfall and can very easily lead to self-deprivation that domino effects into bad study habits and a non-passing score.
It’s perfectly normal to feel this way sometimes — especially when you haven’t seen your family and friends as much as you’d like to and you’re constantly opting out on, well, life. But where there’s a will, there’s a way! If you find yourself in such a study rut, get out as quickly as possible! Take a break; go watch The Avengers; go to that dinner party and then get back on track ASAP. It’s also always a good idea to reach out to others who may be feeling the same way on forums and to remind yourself of all the amazing benefits you will reap once you pass all the Exams. In retrospect, these 400 hours of studying are trivial in comparison to the remainder of your life as a CPA.
So, if you’re a first-time test taker, thinking about becoming a CPA, have already failed a couple of times, or are registering for the last part of the entire Exam, keep in mind the amount of preparation, confidence, and motivation you’ll need to do well the first time. And even if you don’t, that’s okay! It’s a learning experience that will help you improve and pass the next time around.