CPA Exam Terms: A Coherent Vocabulary Guide


The ABCs and 123s of CPA Exam terminology can sometimes be confusing, especially if you’re a new candidate trying to navigate your way through CPA Exam applications and registration. So we’ve decided to put together a list of common CPA Exam terms below and their definitions to help make things a little easier for you when you’re receiving emails or encountering forums that talk about the NTS, ATT, and how your best friends are some guys named NASBA and AICPA. 

Or download and print out the CPA word list to stick on your fridge or corkboard. It’ll be a great reference as you continue to study and apply for sections of your exam! 

AICPA (The American Institute of CPAs)

The AICPA represents the accounting profession, sets ethical standards, auditing standards, and develops the CPA Exam. The AICPA & NASBA are both responsible for determining the eligibility of candidates to sit for the CPA Exam. AICPA is also responsible for setting and scoring the CPA Exam, and then transmitting the scores to NASBA. 

American Accounting Association (AAA)

One of the largest community of accountants in academics, the AAA’s diverse membership looks to shape the future of accounting through teaching, research, and thought leadership. 

ATT (Authorization to test)

This is your application packet to take the CPA Exam. Once you have submitted all the required information and fees, your application is sent for processing whether or not you will be authorized to test. 

Beta Alpha Psi (BAP)

BAP is the premier professional accounting and business information fraternity which recognizes academic excellence and complements members’ formal education by providing interaction among students, faculty, and accounting professionals. They hold an annual meeting every year in different cities in which students and professionals come together and network. 

The Big 4

This is a reference to the top 4 largest CPA firms in the world: KPMG, Ernest & Young, Deloitte, and PwC. 

BOE (Board of Examiners)

This is an executive committee of the AICPA who has the responsibility of preparing and grading the CPA Exam. 

CPE (Continuing Professional Education)

This is part of the life-long learning required for CPAs to provide service to the public. It is a set of activities that CPAs must continuously partake in to maintain and increase their professional competency. 

CPAES (CPA Examination Services)

CPAES provides resources of CPA Exam-related services to 33 participating states and territories. Such services include application processing, credential evaluations, and score reporting. 

EEE’s (Education, Experience, Exam)

The triple E’s are referred when talking about the requirements that need to be met when applying for a CPA license. 

Elijah Watt Sells Award

A coveted award presented to CPA candidates who take all 4 sections of the CPA Exam at one time and receive the 3 highest combined grades. 

IQEX (International Qualification Examination)

This exam is for accounting professionals who are members of non-U.S. professional associations that have entered into mutual recognition agreements with U.S. Boards of Accountancy. 

NTS (Notice to Schedule)

Hooray! This is an exciting acronym for all candidates. This means that your ATT has been accepted, and you now have the ability to schedule your testing appointment through the Prometric Testing Center of your choice. 

NCD (National Candidate Database)

This is a database of all CPA candidate information that has been created to aid NASBA, state Boards of Accountancy, the AICPA, and testing centers to protect candidates’ personal data during the application and Exam processes. The NCD is where your ATT is sent for approval. 

NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy)

NASBA is an organization dedicated to serving the 55 state boards of accountancy in the United States. NASBA and the AICPA are responsible for determining eligibility of candidates to sit for the CPA Exam and has the final authority on communicating exam results to candidates. At NASBA, you’ll find helpful resources and information regarding the CPA Exam, licensure, and the industry as a whole. NASBA also acts as a forum for the state boards. 

Payment Coupons

What you are given to pay for your CPA Exam application fees. 

Prometric Testing Center

A testing organization where you will take your CPA Exam section(s). You can go here to schedule, reschedule, or cancel your Exam as well as find locations near you. 

State Boards of Accountancy

Every state has its own State Board of Accountancy which details requirements candidates need to meet to sit for the CPA Exam as well as obtain licensure. We highly recommend contacting your State Board of Accountancy directly for questions about eligibility to sit for the CPA Exam since they will have the last say on the matter and because every state’s requirements differ

State Societies

An organization in each state that serves the needs of CPAs in that state. They work together with the AICPA and other organizations to help advance the goals of the accounting profession. We highly recommend becoming a member of your state’s state society in order to reap benefits such as career opportunities, mentorship, etc. 

Validation Period

The validation period refers to the amount of time you have to schedule and take the examination section(s) you registered for after receiving your NTS. 

Have any other terms you think are worth mentioning? Leave us a comment below! 

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