Quality CPAs are in high demand in the state of Montana, and in fact many cities in the state are experiencing a shortage of CPAs which is leading many local firms to compete vigorously for the available candidates each year. This competition is creating a very attractive entrance package for CPA candidates and new CPAs in the state. If you would like to reap the rewards of this current situation, and if you are interested in becoming a CPA in the state of Montana, then you will need to educate yourself on the educational requirements to sit for the exam, the format of the exam, and the material that will be covered in the exam. Like many other states, the state of Montana is transitioning many of its professional licensure tests to computers. This transition will help to not only improve legibility of answers, but also will help to automate and speed up the grading processes and distribution of CPA exam scores.
The first thing that you need to know is if you are qualified to sit for the CPA exam. The basic requirements include a baccalaureate degree and a total of 150 semester hours. While this usually will mean that the candidate will also have a MBA or a Masters of Accounting degree in addition to their undergraduate degree, it is not necessary, as long as the required coursework has been taken. To ensure that you have the necessary coursework background, make sure that you have taken at least 24 semester hours of upper level, or graduate level accounting courses including: financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and management accounting, and at least 24 semester hours in business related courses such as business law, business ethics, and management leadership.
Registering for the Montana CPA Exam
The first step in registering to sit for the CPA exam is to fill out and submit an initial application. You will need to fill out this form if this is the first time that you will be attempting to sit for the Montana CPA exam, if you took the Montana CPA exam before but didn’t pass any of the sections, or if you have taken the CPA exam in another state but want to become licensed in the state of Montana.
When you submit your initial application form you will be required to pay two fees, the application fee of $170 (for all four sections, see registration form for individual section application fees), and the examination fee of $159.25 for the auditing and attestation section of the exam, $114.25 for the business environment and concepts section of the exam, $148.00 for the financial accounting and reporting section of the exam, and $125.50 for the regulations section of the exam. You don’t have to take all of the sections at once, and if you fail a section of the exam but pass others, you only have to retest on the sections that you failed. What ever you decide to register for remember that you will need to be ready to take the exam for the registered section(s) within 6 months of your application, or you will have to apply and pay applicable fees again. In addition to your fees you will also need to submit official transcripts of your coursework with you initial application. The testing agency will need to verify that you qualify to sit for the exam before they will be able to send you scheduling information.
If you do qualify, and have submitted all of the required registration material and educational documentation, an Authorization To Test will be sent to the NASBA testing database. You will then be notified that your application has been accepted, and you will be given instruction on how to schedule your exam, where you will need to go, and when you will need to be there. Test sites, times, and space availability will vary greatly year to year, and even testing window to testing window, so it is highly recommended that you schedule your test early to ensure that space will be available for you to take your exam section(s).
What Each Section Covers
As mentioned above, each section of the Montana CPA Exam covers a different area of accountancy.
In the Auditing and Attestation section (AUD-4.5 hours), the test will cover your proficiency in applying your knowledge of auditing procedures, generally accepted auditing standards, miscellaneous standards related to attestation engagements to real world situations, as well as your general knowledge of these subjects.
In the Business Environment and Concepts (BEC-2.5 hours) section of the examination you will be tested on your general knowledge of, and your ability to apply your knowledge of accounting reasoning to general business transactions. This means you will need to be able to document what accounting standards or laws require what accounting procedure.
In the Financial Accounting and Reporting Section (FAR-4 hours) you will be tested on generally accepted accounting principles for private business organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and governmental organizations. To study for this section you will need to learn the differences in accounting and reporting procedures, as well as what accounting standards are used in each instance and who each type of organization is required to file reports with.
The last section, Regulations (REG-3 hours), you will be covering various regulations that are applicable to accounting procedures. This section will cover federal taxation, ethics, professional and legal responsibilities, and business law. Studying for this section will be mostly memorization of statutes, standards, codes of conduct and codes of ethics.
Studying For the Montana CPA Exam
The complete Uniform CPA Examination lasts 14 hours and it is divided into four sections: Auditing and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulations. You don’t have to take all four of these sections in one sitting, however, you only have 18 months from the time the first section is taken to complete all four sections before your earned credits expire and you have to re-take the sections.
Studying for each section will need to involve a lot of time and dedication. It is highly recommended that you enroll in a CPA Examination Preparation course offered by an accredited university, or if you learn better independently, you should enroll in a distance education CPA Examination Preparation course. There are many of these courses available in the market, however, I would like to strongly caution you against selecting a course based on its price instead of its effectiveness. If you don’t know what prep course to take, you can always go to the AICPA, or NASBA websites for recommendation.
In addition to taking a preparation course it is also highly recommended that you utilize the educational materials that are provided by the CPA Exam board. You can get content specific outlines for each section, as well as sample tests, simulations, and tutorials from their website at http://www.cpa-exam.org. You will also have access to a free six-month subscription to accounting professional materials and literature once you have qualified as a CPA candidate. This online access will include access to AICPA Professional Standards, FASB Current Text, and FASB Original Pronouncements. These documents will be especially useful in keeping your knowledge current, especially if it has been awhile since you graduated from college.
Finally, if you really want to ensure that you will pass your CPA examination, I would highly recommend that you try to get an intern position with a local CPA office. Studies on adult learning have shown that adults learn better when they can see how concepts are applied in real life situations, and when they are actively involved in the process that they are learning about. This suggests that you will be able to better ingrain all of the information, procedures, and processes needed to pass the CPA exam in your brain if you are doing CPA work, instead of just reading about it.
What ever path you choose remember that you will need to devote at least one full month to studying before you attempt to take the CPA exam. Try to integrate a variety of study techniques and options to maximize your investment of time and money.