FAQs for Massachusetts CPA Exam Candidates

These FAQs reflect the changes to the rules and regulations that were approved by the MA Board of Public Accountancy and went into effect on May 19, 2017.

CPA Exam Educational Requirements

1. What are the eligibility criteria to sit for the CPA exam as a Massachusetts candidate if I don’t yet comply with the educational requirements to become certified as a CPA?

To be eligible to sit for the exam, you must:
a. Be at least 18 years old
b. Have completed, or will complete within 90 days of your degree conferral date, 120 semester hours (or 180 quarter hours)* of credits from a nationally or regionally-accredited college or university. Associate degree or Community College courses are now also acceptable.
c. Have 21 accounting credits including coverage in

  • Financial accounting
  • Audit
  • Management accounting
  • Taxation

Introductory or elementary courses can be counted toward the 21 credits.
d. Have 9 business credits including coverage in

  • Business law
  • Finance
  • Information Systems

* Note: To convert quarter hours to semester hours, multiply total quarter hours X 2/3. To convert semester hours to quarter hours, multiply total semester hours X 3/2.

2. What if I am not sure if I meet the educational requirements to take the exam?

CPA Exam Services (CPAES) will review your transcript of past and current courses to identify academic deficiencies. The fee is $100 for this advisory review. Visit cpacentral.nasba.org for details.

3. What if I satisfied some of my educational requirements at a school outside the United States?

You will need to have your educational credentials evaluated by the Center for Educational Documentation or NASBA.These are the only evaluation services accepted. This evaluation is not necessary if you studied a semester abroad as part of your program at a U.S. accredited college.

4. Is there a difference between the educational requirements to sit for the exam and those to obtain CPA certification?

Yes, you need 150 educational credits for CPA certification in Massachusetts. Specific coursework depends on the highest degree you obtain. To view these requirements, please visit www.cpatrack.com.

5. Is there a time limit to meet the 150-hour certification requirement if I pass the exam before attaining 150 credits?

No, there is no longer a time limit to meet the educational requirements for CPA certification.

6. Can I sit for the exam during my final semester before my baccalaureate commencement?

Yes, the new regulations allow you to sit for the exam within 90 days of your degree conferral date.

7. What if I apply for the examination before I complete my degree and/or required accounting and business courses?

In addition to your application, you will be required to complete a Certificate of Enrollment (COE) form as evidence that you are enrolled and that all courses and graduation requirements will be completed within 90 days of sitting for the exam.

Once the educational requirements have been met, an official transcript must again be submitted to CPA Exam Services (CPAES) to confirm degree conferral and/or satisfactory completion of courses. Failure to do so will result in the loss of any credit received for any part of the examination passed prior to providing the final official transcript.

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8. Can I use credits earned as Independent Study to meet the accounting credit requirement?

Yes, as long as your college categorizes the course as an accounting course on your transcript. The credits cannot be used to meet any of the four required areas of coverage, i.e. audit, taxation, management accounting or financial accounting.

9. Can I use internship credits to meet the accounting/business requirements?

Yes, if the credits are recorded as semester hours on your college transcript. None of the required subject area coverages, i.e., audit, tax, financial accounting, and management accounting can be accomplished by an internship; formal course instruction is necessary.

10. Can I take credits online?

Yes, however, the on-line course must be taken at a regionally- accredited college or university and the course has to be one that is offered within a degree-granting program (you do not have to be enrolled in the degree program). The college must provide you with a transcript upon completion.

11. Do I need to earn a minimum grade for my credits to count?

No, and credits earned in courses graded by pass/fail are accepted.

12. How do I know if some of the accounting and business courses I took meet the requirements? The course titles are a bit different.

If a course title does not clearly relate to the coverage area, you may need to submit a course catalogue, syllabus or letter from a professor detailing the coverage.

13. How should I select my accounting and business elective courses?

It's a good idea to review the Examination Blueprints published by the AICPA to insure that your courses will cover all of the subject matter tested on the exam. Check out the CPA exam pages under “Become a CPA” on www.aicpa.org. Courses in advanced excel, data analytics and oral and written communications are valued by accounting firms.

14. When is the examination given?

The exam is offered during the first two months of each calendar quarter – these months are referred to as “testing windows.” Testing is available in January amp;& February, April & May, July & August, and October & November. Testing centers are usually open 6 days a week.

15. Must all four-exam sections be taken at the same time?

No, you may take any section of the exam in any testing window and in any order you wish. You will not be required to pass one section prior to applying for another. However, you may NOT take any single section twice in the same testing window.

16. Must the exam be taken in a computer-based format?

Yes, the exam is only available in a computer-based format.

17. Is the exam offered in different languages?

No, it is only offered in English.

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Applying for/Scheduling/Taking the CPA Exam

18. How do I apply for the exam?

Applications are filed with CPA Exam Services (CPAES), a division of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) located in Nashville, TN. To obtain an application, go to www.NASBA.org and select CPA Exam and Massachusetts as the jurisdiction. You will have six months to complete the sections for which you apply.

19. What is a Notice to Schedule or NTS?

A Notice to Schedule or NTS is your notification of approval to take the exam sections for which you applied. Once you receive it, you may contact Prometric to schedule your exam appointment. It will expire in 6 months and if you cannot take all the exam sections, you will NOT be able to extend it or receive a refund or credit.

Verify that all information on the NTS is correct and that your name EXACTLY matches the name on the identification documents that you will use to check-in at the testing center. If the information is incorrect or the ID and NTS do not match, immediately contact CPAES (1.800.CPA.EXAM).

20. How do I schedule an exam appointment?

Once you receive your Notice to Schedule (NTS) you will need to contact Prometric to schedule your testing dates. You can do this online at www.prometric.com/cpa or by phone at 800.580.9648. You must schedule a separate appointment for each exam section but it is not necessary to book your appointments all at once. To increase the likelihood of receiving your first choice of date, time and location, you should schedule at least 65 days before the desired date. Your NTS is valid for 6 months; if you do not take all sections for which you have been approved, you will forfeit your fees and will have to reapply.

21. How much does it cost to take the exam?

All applicants, both first-time and re-exam, are required to pay both an application fee and an examination fee each time they apply to CPAES. To view the fee schedule, visit www.NASBA.org and select Massachusetts as the jurisdiction. You must be prepared to take all sections for which you apply within 6 months from the date you receive approval. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of fees and the need to reapply.

22. Is financial assistance available to take the CPA exam?

Yes. The Educational Foundation of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs conducts a lottery in May of each year to award a limited number of vouchers to assist with exam costs. To be eligible, you must take one or more exam sections between May 1st and April 30th. In addition, you cannot receive financial assistance from your employer in the form of payments/reimbursements of exam fees or review courses, or receive a bonus upon passing the exam. For more information, visit the scholarship section of CPAtrack.com.

23. Where do I take the exam?

You may take the exam as a Massachusetts candidate at any Prometric testing center in the United States, its 5 jurisdictions, or an approved international site. In Massachusetts, sites are in Boston, Brockton, Burlington, Lowell, West Springfield and Worcester.

24. Is there a time limit for passing the four exam sections?

Yes, you must pass all four exam sections within a rolling eighteen (18) month period that begins on the testing date the first examination section is passed. If you do not pass all four (4) exam sections within the eighteen (18) months, you will lose credit for each section passed outside the period and you will have to retake that section(s). Applicants cannot retake a failed section(s) within the same testing window.

25. What is the process to obtain special accommodations for the exam?

Special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may be requested as part of the application process. To download the ADA Modification Form, visit www.NASBA.org.

26. What is the passing score?

The passing score for each section is 75 on a 0-99 scale.

27. How and when do I receive my scores?

For more information, candidates are encouraged to review the CPA Exam Score Release Timeline FAQ found on the AICPA’s exam site: www.aicpa.org/BecomeACPA/CPAExam.

28. What can I do to prepare for the exam?

Check out the “CPA Exam” section of www.thiswaytocpa.com and www.AICPA.org. Once there, you can:

  • Review the “Examination Blueprints” that detail what will be tested on each section of the exam.
  • Review the policy on New Pronouncements.
  • Take the exam tutorial and sample tests.
  • Subscribe to the free six month subscription to the Professional Literature.
  • Read your NTS carefully.
  • Read the Candidate Bulletin.

29. Are there review courses to better prepare me to pass the CPA exam?

Yes. Although the Society does not endorse one particular course, MSCPA members receive discounts with several providers. It is recommended that you select the program that best suits your learning style. Check out CPAtrack.com for more information.

30. Is there a website that I can use as a resource for exam and certification information in Massachusetts?

Yes. The MSCPA’s student website www.CPAtrack.com is a valuable resource for exam and certification information as well as specifics about college programs, scholarships, internships and job opportunities. There, you will find links to relevant sites such as the American Institute of CPAs, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy.

These FAQs reflect the changes to the rules and regulations that were approved by the MA Board of Public Accountancy and went into effect on May 19, 2017.

Young Girl on a Skiing Trip

The regulations that allow a candidate to sit for the exam with 120 educational credits went into effect on January 1, 2007. To help you better understand the implementation of the rules, please view these Frequently Asked Questions developed by the Society.