After years of undergraduate and postgraduate study you are now ready to begin your career as a California Certified Public Accountant. However, before you can practice as a CPA you will need to qualify for, sit for, and pass the California CPA Exam. To do this you will need to arm yourself with some basic information about where and how to apply, what to study, and what to expect on the test day. Luckily this article contains everything you need to know about taking the California CPA Exam.
California Board of Accountancy
2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 250
Sacramento, California 95815-3832
(916) 263-3680 phone number
(916) 263-3675 fax number
Requirements to Sit for the California CPA Exam
There are few basic requirements that you must meet in order to qualify to sit for the California CPA Exam. Besides being 18 years of age and of good moral character, California also has very specific educational requirements that you must meet in order to sit for the California CPA Exam.
First you must have a baccalaureate degree with 24 semester hours of accounting courses, and 24 semester hours of business-related courses. Below are two lists containing possible accounting courses and possible business-related courses to help give you an idea of what course qualify.
3. External or Internal Reporting
8. Financial Reporting
9. Financial Statement Analysis
12. Cost Analysis
14. CPA Review Course taken at an accredited college or university
Business Related Subjects
1. Business Administration
2. Business Law
3. Business Related Law Course
4. Information Systems
6. Business Communication
7. Business Management
8. Computer Science
The first step in the application process to sit for the California CPA Exam is to create a client account on the California Board of Accountancy’s website: http://www.dca.ca.gov/cba. After you create an account you will be sent a confirmation email that will provide you with a password that will allow you to complete your application process online. You will then need to print, sign, and mail in your application along with your application fee to the Board.
If you will need testing accommodations because of a disability you will need to request accommodations at the time you submit your application. You will need to fill out an accommodation form, which will be in your application packet. You will also need to submit an application fee along with your completed application and supplemental forms. To see what the most current application fees are you will need to visit the California Board of Accountancy’s website, however to give you an idea of what to expect, the 2006 application fee was $100. The California Board of Accountancy only accepts checks or money orders at this time, and you will need to write your Unique Identification Number or Application Remittance Form Number on your form of payment for proper processing.
Keep in mind that this packet will take about 30 days to evaluate and process before you can go on to the next steps. Deadlines for submitting applications have been eliminated because now testing is done two months out of every three months. The only time limitation is that you will have only six months to take your exams after you submit your application, so don’t apply for more tests than you will be able to successfully complete in a six month period.
After the Board receives your application, processes it, and approves you to sit for the California CPA Exam, they will submit an Authorization to Test to the NASBA. NASBA will then invoice you for the exams that you have applied for. You will have 90 days to pay this invoice before your application expires and you will have to apply again. The price for each section of the Uniform CPA Exam will be vary year by year so you will need to visit www.nasba.org to check on the most current rates, however, to give you an idea of what to expect, the 2006 NASBA fees for the Uniform CPA Exam were as follows:
AUDIT (Auditing and Attestation) $159.25
FARE (Financial Accounting and Reporting) $148.00
ARE (Regulations) $125.50
LPR (Business Environment and Concepts) $114.25
After your payment is received in full for your exams you will be sent a Notice to Schedule. This notice will contain scheduling and testing information, and it will tell you what your identification number is, and when your scheduling window expires. You will have about 6 months to schedule and take all of the exams that you applied for.
You can schedule your exam anytime during the six months that are convenient to you as long as the testing center is open and has space to fit you in. It is recommended that you register early to ensure that you get a testing space on the days that you want. Most testing centers are open Monday through Saturday during the following windows of time:
January 2 – February 28 (29)
April 1 – May 30
July 1 – August 31
October 1 – November 20
There are several ways in which you can schedule your exam. First you can call the Prometric Student Testing Service Call Center at 1-800-580-9648, or you can go to their website at http://www.prmoetric.com/cpa, or you can contact your local testing center.
Prometric Testing Center
2412 Central Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501
Site Code: 0067
1290 Hancock Street, Suite 250
Anaheim, CA 92807
Site Code: 0081 and 0529
501 Mobil Ave, Suite D
Camarillo, CA 93010
Site Code: 0502
5601 West Slauson Ave, Suite 110
Culver City, CA 90230
Site Code: 0001, 0591, and 0002
Sunset Village Shop Center
1241 South Grand Avenue, Suite F
Diamond Bar, CA 91765
Site Code: 0533
1045 Redondo Beach Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
Site Code: 0596
701 N. Brand Blvd, Suite 210
Glendale, CA 91203
Site Code: 5815 and 5863
Stone Creek Plaza
4330 Barranca Pkwy. Suite 208
Irvine, CA 92614
Site Code: 9035
7365 Carnelian Street, Suite 107
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
Site Code: 0531
413 East Palm Ave
Redlands, CA 92373
Site Code: 0556
11733 Fair Oaks Blvd
Sacramento/Fair Oaks, CA 95628
Site Code: 0508 and 0053
8380 Center Drive, Suite A
San Diego, CA 91942
Site Code: 0510
6755 Mira Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92121-4311
Site Code: 0550 and 0440
100 California Street, Suite 104
San Francisco, CA 94111
Site Code: 5869 and 5849
4030 Moorpark Ave, Suite 280
San Jose, CA 95117-4103
Site Code: 0047, 0014, and 0008
1360 North Dutton Street, Suite 100
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Site Code: 0515
400 Oyster Point Blvd, Suite 101
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Site Code: 5481 and 0066
Once you have your tests scheduled you will be ready to study for the computerized Uniform CPA Exam.
What You Need to Know About the Computerized Uniform CPA Exam
AUD will last 4.5 hours
FARE will last 4.0 hours
ARE will last 3.0 hours
LPR will last 2.5 hours
If you plan on taking the Auditing and Attestation (AUD) section of the Uniform CPA Exam then you will want to study the following information:
1. Auditing Procedures
2. Generally Accepted Auditing Standards
3. Other Standards That Are Applicable to Attest Engagements
4. Planning the Engagement
5. Internal Controls
6. How to Obtain and Document Information
7. How to Review Engagements and Evaluate Information
8. How to Prepare Communications
If you plan on taking the Financial Accounting and Reporting Section (FARE) of the Uniform CPA Exam then you will want to study the following information:
1. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Business Enterprises
2. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Not-For-Profit Enterprises
3. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Government Entities
4. Concepts and Standards for Financial Statements
5. Know What Items Are Commonly Found on Financial Statements
6. Know How to Account For and Report Various Transactions
If you plan on taking the Regulation Section (ARE) of the Uniform CPA Exam then you will want to study the following information:
1. Federal Taxation Procedures and Regulations For Individuals
2. Professional Ethics
3. Professional Legal Responsibilities
4. Applicable Business Laws
5. Federal Taxation Procedures and Regulations For Entities (Both For-Profit and Not-For-Profit)
If you plan on taking the Business Environment and Concepts Section (BEC) of the Uniform CPA Exam then you will want to study the following information:
1. Business Structures
2. Economic Concepts
3. Financial Management Issues
4. Information Technology
5. Planning and Measuring
6. Reasoning Used as a CPA
Format of the Uniform CPA Exam
The Uniform CPA Exam has recently been transitioned from a paper and pencil exam to a computerized exam. Because of this transition, the format of the exam has also evolved. Each section will consist of multiple choice testlets comprised of 24 to 30 questions. Each testlet will then be supplemented with a case study called a simulation. You will be given 30 to 50 minutes to complete each simulation. The simulations will test your ability to perform entry level CPA tasks.
Studying for the Uniform CPA Exam will be quite an undertaking, as you will be tested on six years of college level education. To help you with this process it is highly recommended that you enroll in some type of CPA Exam Preparation Course offered by a college or university. However, this is not mandatory, and there are many high quality self-study CPA Exam Review Courses available to you.
You can also utilize the study materials provided by the testing board, including an exam tutorial that is offered on the following website: http://www.cpa-exam.org/lcr/exam_tutorial.html. This tutorial will offer you many great tools for passing the Computerized Uniform CPA Exam. First this website will offer you an explanation on how the test is designed and what subjects it will cover. It will also review what types of questions you will be asked to answer, and what types of responses they are looking for. Finally, you will be able to run through a few sample questions and one case study, so you can practice taking a computerized exam.
In addition to taking a CPA Exam Review Course, and using the exam tutorial, it is also highly recommended that you know the following information before you sit for the CPA Exam:
1. Be familiar with spreadsheets, and be able to use them. You will also need to know how to write spreadsheet formulas that will calculate columns and rows, as well as calculate other financial computations.
2. You will also be expected to know how to use a four-function calculator to derive standard financial calculations.
3. You will need to be familiar with, and be able to utilize information contained in online authoritative literature. You may want to practice this skill at home, by accessing these authorities and looking for specific rules, regulations, and standards that apply to test review questions.
4. Study the Internal Revenue Code and Federal Tax Regulations that were in effect 6 months prior to your exam. You can find this information at the IRS’s website: http://www.irs.gov.
5. Know the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 as it will be used throughout the exam.
6. AICPA Standards will also be used, so know them and how they are applied to different situations.
7. Learn and memorize federal laws that relate to accounting and reporting
What to Expect on the Test Day
On the day of your exam(s) you will want to arrive early, at last 30 minutes earlier, so you can check in and get situated before you begin testing. You will need to provide two forms of personal identification that has both your signature and your photograph on it. For example a valid drivers license and a valid passport are both accepted forms of id.
After you have been checked in you will be assigned a computer and given instructions. Begin to test only after you have been given permission to do so. Do not cheat, or act disruptive, as these actions can get you expelled from the testing center, and perhaps even prohibited from taking the CPA Exam again.
Your scores will be made available to you as soon as they are ready, but expect 4 to 6 weeks to pass before hearing anything. If you have any questions about when and where your scores will be made available, contact nasba.org.