C-P-A. The three letters that every accounting student fears. So, what does “CPA” stand for? Certified Public Accountant. In order to practice and provide opinions on accounting matters in the U.S., one needs to obtain a CPA sometime in their career. The rewards of having a CPA are great, but most students stress out about the exam and the preparation required for the exam itself.

But the fear is unnecessary; the CPA is not as bad as it sounds! The CPA exam is actually a misnomer. It should be the CPA exams. To pass the CPA, an individual is required to achieve a score of 75 (it is not 75%, but rather a weighted score of 75) on all four exams. The four exams that must be passed within 18 months of each other are Audit and Attestation, Business Environment and Concepts, Financial Accounting and Reporting, and Regulation. Each exam is four hours long.

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Preparation for the first exam should begin a few months before you actually plan to take the first exam. Reason being: you need to apply to your state board to gain permission to take the CPA exam. Each state has different requirements that it needs to review for each candidate before the candidate is granted permission to schedule for their first exam (or given an “NTS”– notice to schedule). For example, Ohio requires a student to have 150 credit hours before sitting for the first exam. Additionally, candidates must complete 30 hours of accounting and 24 hours of business courses prior to applying for the NTS. More information on other states and exceptions to the rules, you can go to the NASBA website.

Once you have received permission to take the CPA exam, the studying can begin. Most students choose to use software called “Becker” or one of  hundreds of other software programs to help prepare for the CPA. Purchasing the software itself is expensive, but most accounting firms will provide you reimbursement for the  software if you end up working for them.

A year ago, I never imagined that I would be taking and sitting for the CPA. However, here I am, one year later and I already have one exam under my belt. The exam is not as hard as people tell you it is and as long as you come prepared, I am sure you will do fine. Best of luck to all my future test-takers!

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