For most CPA candidates, it usually makes sense to register and sit for each CPA Exam section one at a time. Typically, our friends at Surgent recommend that future CPAs start with the section that is their strongest based on their prior experience. Or, they start with FAR, since that section has the reputation for being the hardest.
But what a lot of candidates might not know is you can register for multiple sections at the same time if you want. In fact, there are even certain cost-saving benefits of registering for two or more sections at once. But it’s important to consider what this might mean for your study plan before just registering for all of them at once. Is it appropriate for your study plan? Do you have time to commit to the studying of more than one section before your Notice to Schedule (NTS) runs out?
Nevertheless, for my unique circumstances, it was smart to register for all of them at once. You see, I needed to pass the CPA Exam within a tight time frame. By registering for them all, I was able to save some hassle and fees.
In this article, I’ll discuss some of the potential benefits of registering for multiple CPA sections at once. I’ll also go over important details, like your NTS and when it could expire. Plus, I’ll give you tips for study management with the help of a CPA Exam review course.
My CPA journey
I started my career in banking. But after a few years, I switched to internal corporate finance and quickly noticed that all of the seniors in my department were Certified Public Accountants. I started to understand the potential benefits of getting the CPA credential.
Then, my boss encouraged me to pass the CPA Exam within the next year. I was not an accounting major in college, so the task seemed quite daunting at first. Plus, I was an international candidate, had a full-time job and was planning my wedding, too. So needless to say, I was busy. But still, passing the CPA Exam was an important goal, and I started studying.
I registered for all 4 CPA Exam sections at once
I decided to register for and take all four sections of the CPA Exam at once. Why? First, I wanted to prove to myself and my boss that I could meet the challenge. Second, I wanted to pass the exam before my wedding date. And third, I had to travel to Guam to take the CPA Exam, but that was one of the few options for international candidates at the time. I subsequently signed up to take all four tests over the span of two days to save on travel costs. I took one test in the morning of the first day, had a break for lunch and then took the second test in the afternoon. I got a good night’s sleep and then repeated with the last two exams the next day. I do not recommend this for most candidates – now that international candidates have more Prometric options, there is certainly no need to register for all the sections at once. But, you can still save a few bucks by registering for two sections at the same time, so pick the approach that works best for you and your time frame.
Potential cost savings
Before you pursue the CPA credential, it’s important to understand all of the fees involved. First, you must pay an application fee to your state board to verify that you’re even eligible to take the CPA Exam. After your board deems you eligible, you’ll need to pay a CPA Exam fee for each of the four sections you plan to take.
Finally, among the 55 jurisdictions that grant the CPA license, 52 of them charge a CPA registration fee. Usually, this fee ranges from $30 to $150. Plus, most (about 37) have a flat fee, regardless of how many exam sections you register for. Therefore, you can save a fair amount of money by registering for all sections at the same time.
For instance, let’s assume that your state has a registration fee of $150. If you separately register for each section, you’ll have to pay that $150 four times for a total of $600. However, if you register for two sections simultaneously, your state board will only charge you $300. That’s a potential savings of $300.
Travel and accommodations
Thankfully, the CPA Exam is being offered at more and more Prometric testing centers across the globe. However, you may still have expenses like gas and lodging, especially if you have to travel to another town to find a Prometric center.
For example, I took the exam before it was offered at international locations. So back then, the best option for international students like me was to travel to Guam. If I had decided to register and take each section separately, that would have meant a lot of travel for me.
NTS expiration tips
After you submit your CPA Exam application, your jurisdiction deems you eligible to sit for the exam, and you pay your fees, NASBA will issue your Notice to Schedule. Then, you’ll follow the instructions on your NTS to contact Prometric and schedule the dates and times of your exam sections.
So, if you plan to register for multiple CPA Exam sections at once, you need to be mindful of your NTS dates. After all, your NTS will only be valid for a certain amount of time. Each jurisdiction can set the amount of time that an NTS is valid. However, most boards issue Notices to Schedule that are good for 6-9 months. So within that time period, you must take – and pass – each exam section that you registered for.
Registering for multiple CPA Exam sections
Registering for more than one section doesn’t mean that you have to take them back to back. For instance, let’s assume that you decide to register for your first two exams sections at once. Maybe you want to register for FAR and AUD first, since many candidates start off with those sections. Once you receive your NTS, you could register for FAR fairly soon and AUD closer to the expiration date for your NTS. This way, you’re saving a little money by registering for two sections at once. But you’re not scheduling them so close together that you’ll be too stressed to pass them.
With Surgent CPA Review, students are able to reach a passing score within just 46 hours of study – which is around three weeks – so giving yourself three months per each section is reasonable and allows you to have room either side.
If your NTS expires before you’ve met that challenge, you will have to repeat the whole process again. That means submitting a new exam application, including additional application and testing fees.
So here’s a word of advice: don’t register for multiple sections if your schedule won’t allow you to pass them before your NTS expires.
Using a CPA review course
A reputable CPA Exam review course can significantly reduce the number of hours you’ll have to study for the CPA Exam. Moreover, choosing the best CPA review for your learning style is the most reliable way to pass the CPA Exam the first time.
Today’s best providers use e-learning platforms that actually help you study more effectively. For example, Surgent’s A.S.A.P.® Technology has been proven to reduce CPA candidates’ study time by a considerable amount. The course begins with a series of quizzes to test your baseline knowledge. Based on the results, the platform then identifies your weak content areas and creates custom daily study plans designed to strengthen your weaknesses. That means you won’t waste time reviewing the content you’ve already mastered.
This type of adaptive approach is the best way to study for and pass multiple CPA sections at once.
A review course can even save you money
A CPA review course can actually save you money in the long run. Of course, there is an upfront cost purchasing a course. But then, it will help you study faster. That means you can register for multiple sections at once, potentially saving you from paying so much for your state’s CPA Exam registration fees. Plus, if you study with a good review provider, you’re much more likely to pass the CPA Exam your first time. This helps you avoid more fees if you have to retest or get a new Notice to Schedule. But if you’re registering for multiple CPA Exam sections at once for the cost-saving benefits, make sure you’re getting discounts on your exam review, too. For that reason, I have an exclusive Surgent CPA discount that makes their award-winning course very affordable.
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Also, to make your CPA journey even easier, some CPA Exam review providers also offer financing for their courses. For example, Surgent CPA Review offers payment plans through a partnership with Affirm lending. With this option, you can spread out the cost of your review.
You might want to think about financing your review course if you plan to register for all of your CPA Exam sections at once. Financing might help your wallet if you’re also paying for your exam application, examination, and registration fees at the same time.
Tips for effective studying
If, after reading this, you’re thinking about registering for and passing more than one CPA Exam section at a time, then just remember that you’ll need a good study plan. Here are some of my top tips for effective studying.
- First, and perhaps most importantly, understand the challenge that you’re up against. Learn about the CPA Exam, the content, the format and the types of questions.
- Second, choose the CPA Exam review course that matches your learning style. A review provider can help you study smarter, resulting in fewer overall study hours.
- Critically think about the time that you’ll have to study, and then create a study schedule. If your review course includes a personalized study planner, use it! If you’re concerned about the time frame you have to study, check out resources like How to Pass a CPA Exam Section in Less Than Three Weeks.
- Create a quiet and clutter-free study space. When you’re studying, avoiding checking your emails or social media. Make study time quality time.
- Work through your entire review course. Don’t skip around – that only makes it easy to gravitate toward the material we enjoy more.
Take advantage of everything your review course has to offer. Supplemental materials like flash cards, short videos, mobile apps and audio lectures can be a good way to squeeze in short bursts of studying on-the-go.
In the end, it’s your choice to register for one or more sections of the CPA Exam at once. It might be a good choice for some CPA candidates, but not others. But if you do decide to go for it, I would start by choosing the best CPA review course for your learning style. Next, create a workable study plan and stick to it.
Stephanie Ng is the Executive Committee member responsible for Finance at New Sight Eye Care, a charity registered in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. She oversees the financial aspect of New Sight in Hong Kong, including accounting, taxation, financial management and compliance.
She began her career as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers in New York and Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong before joining her client to work in the Group Finance Department, where she spent five years specializing in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions and debt refinancing. She also extended her role to management accounting and financial accounting and obtained her US CPA qualification.
Stephanie also is a published author of the book “How to Pass the CPA Exam.” Additionally, she created and published “I Pass the CPA Exam,” a CPA help site. Her guidance and mentorship have helped hundreds of thousands of candidates pass their exams.