Here Are Some Tips on Having a Less Crappy CPA Exam Experience at Prometric From a (Probably Legit) Prometric Employee

retro computer

A short while back, one brave soul (ThrowAway20112348) presented themselves as a Prometric employee on Reddit and shared some insight, tips, and rules for U.S. testing centers. The universe thanks you, friend to CPA exam candidates.

Now, I’d like to share the love by recapping their message from the great testing center beyond.

In their post, said Prometric employee (who otherwise chose to remain anonymous, obvs) gave us a little peek behind the testing center curtain. They explained that Prometric is really just the middleman between you and NASBA. Therefore, NASBA determines when the exam is available (i.e., testing windows), what equipment you use to take the exam (computers, keyboards, noteboards, etc.), and how technical issues are resolved. So, please, only blame Prometric for Prometric’s flaws, not NASBA’s.

Our Prometric employee then provided some more detail about the process of fixing problems. They indicated that the testing center assistants (TCAs) aren’t always the most informed. Instead, they’re only given the amount of training necessary to keep the center operational from day to day. So, think the Walmart electronics department instead of the Apple Genius Bar.

Therefore, the TCAs must call upon Prometric’s IT department to solve computer dilemmas. In what I can only assume is tragically accurate language, ThrowAway20112348 declared that this procedure is “insanely slow and redundant.” Thankfully, they clarified how insanely. “We will literally get asked if we checked if the computer was turned on and other similar obvious checks before they will start digging for a real solution.” Oh, so it’s that bad?

But the one consolation is that the TCAs have not been brainwashed into oblivion. No, they are still sensitive, caring human beings who know you’re hurting when things go wrong at the testing center. They may not feel your 150-credit hours, $3,000+, over 400 study hours, my-social-life-is-dead pain, but they’re aware that you put a lot of time and effort into this exam, so they really do feel bad. Or, at least one of them does.

To help you avoid as many Prometric troubles as possible, our individual on the inside dispensed some essential advice. Check out these 9 testing center tips:

  • You have to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes before your appointment. But if you don’t want to wait on other people, show up even earlier. I know it’s a lot to ask, but it may be worth it.
  • If you want to see those clunky, loud keyboards that other people are banging away on switched out for quieter ones, complain to NASBA so NASBA can put the pressure on Prometric.
  • Test out both of the markers you get with your noteboards and ask for a different one if either is subpar.
  • Brace yourself for the frigid, sexist 1960s study-supported temperatures with a hoodie or light jacket. Yes, it’s annoying to be a little cold, but it’s also bad to be a little sleepy when you’re trying to test or a little suffocated by the stench of the 30 other test takers in the room.
  • Raise your hand if you have a problem with your exam. Then, continue to raise your concerns if the TCA doesn’t volunteer to do anything more than report an issue that’s preventing you from accessing something you’re supposed to have. Usually, the answer is to restart the computer, so you won’t lose any testing time, just a little patience.
  • Auth Lit Hack: If your exam ever says, “Document not found” when you’re searching in the Authoritative Literature, try this: click through the Table of Contents until you get to the desired document. Clicking the document at this point will allow the content to load. The TCA should know how to do this, but just in case they don’t, now you do. But they should still file a report for you to let NASBA know about the malfunction.
  • Exam Scheduling Hack: Say you’re really on top of things and you’re trying to book an exam appointment more than a month out (I know, who does that?). If you see that your center of choice is already booked, call them. They may have yet to reveal all of their available days for that distant-future time period, so you’re not out of luck. But it depends on the testing center, as some open all their available days before others do.
  • If at any time you have a question or concern, talk to the TCA (nicely, per ThrowAway20112348’s request). Or call your local testing center if you need information prior to your appointment. ThrowAway20112348 assures us that the TCAs should be able to address most of your worries.
  • And finally, if you do encounter a super rude and unhelpful TCA, take back the power and report THEM.

In their Reddit post, our Prometric mediator also listed some regulations governing all CPA candidates. You can find all of these regulations (and more) in NASBA’s Candidate Bulletin, which should be your go-to for exam information, rules, and general legalese.

Last but not least, the CPA candidate choir chimed in with some of their own Prometric experiences. Some of them reiterated regulations from the bulletin, others offered their best advice for surviving the 4+-hour ordeal, and still others may or may not have made some shady suggestions. So, good times all around!

I personally recommend referring to the Candidate Bulletin to learn exactly what will be expected of you on exam day. But I also appreciate all the invaluable revelations bestowed upon us by of our new favorite Prometric employee. Let’s get this girl or guy into the CPA Exam Hall of Fame!

Stephanie Ng is the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and publisher of several accounting certification exam prep sites. Stephanie is a licensed CPA (not in public practice) and avidly encourages others to earn professional accounting certifications and designations. To help candidates do so, Stephanie recalls her own experience as a CPA candidate to rank CPA review courses honestly.

Stephanie spent several years working at Morgan Stanley as an investment banker and later went to work in internal corporate finance in the private sector. She now volunteers full-time as a CFO with the charitable organization New Sight.

She is committed to assisting tax preparers, accountants, and future accountants in achieving their career goals by providing useful information on her websites.

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