Okay CPA friends, we’re going to work smarter, not harder. We’re going to learn to work with the CPA test schedule.
When Can I Take My Exam?
There are four “testing windows” for the CPA exam each year, and consequently four “blackout dates.” Blackout dates are the last month of each quarter and are months in which exams cannot be taken. So you essentially have the following months to take your exam:
Testing Window 1: January & February
Testing Window 2: April & May
Testing Window 3: July & August
Testing Window 4: October & November
Temporary Update: According to NASBA, the AICPA is allowing exams to be taken the first ten days of the blackout months, starting the second quarter of 2016. That means the first ten days of June, September, and December 2016 are open for exams, and the first ten days of March 2017. Apparently, after that, the 10-day testing window will be suspended.
This extension could be great news for you if you are rushing to take an exam by the end of a quarter but would feel comfortable with a few extra days of studying.
How Should I Schedule My Exam?
The tough part about scheduling is that testing seats fill up fast. You almost have to schedule an exam before you even start studying for it to make sure you get a good seat. So don’t wait until you’re ready to take the exam to schedule; do it far in advance.
Having said that, you should always make sure you have enough time to study for the exam. If you think it will take you a month to study for an exam, maybe schedule that exam five weeks out to give you a little buffer. It’s much better to have more time to study than too little.
As far as which exam you should schedule when, it’s personal preference. Some people like to schedule what they consider to be the hardest exam first, so they can get it over with. Others hope that scheduling the easiest exam first will lead to a much-needed confidence boost. Still others (like me) go in no particular order and just hope for the best. It’s all based on preference.
Working With The CPA Test Schedule
I had absolutely no clue about the blackout months when I first started studying and was planning on taking my first exam in June. Needless to say, it was a shock when I had studied for three weeks and went to schedule my exam. DON’T BE LIKE ME!
It’s really important that you learn about the testing windows and plan ahead. Know the test schedule front to back, know when the blackout dates are and the available testing windows, work with the testing schedule to study for, and take your exams. I would even do a rough estimate of how long it will take you to study for each exam and when your estimated exam dates will be. It will take all that last minute pressure off.
And, believe me, that makes a huge difference.
Good luck, my CPA friends!