cpa-exam-blackout-periods

You’ve been studying for a section of the CPA Exam for weeks, and now you’re ready to sit; however, scheduling the test isn’t as easy as it sounds. The CPA Exam is administered during specific testing windows each year, and there are several “blackout periods” throughout the year where you can’t sit. To help prepare you for scheduling, let’s talk about what the CPA Exam blackout periods are and when they happen; then, we’ll show you how to make the most out of them.

 

What Are CPA Exam Blackout Periods?

CPA Exam blackout periods are times throughout the year when the CPA exam is not administered. This allows for exam updates, bug fixes, and an overall candidate review by NASBA and the AICPA. It’s essentially a maintenance and review period to make sure the CPA exam is running smoothly throughout the year.

 

When Are The CPA Exam Blackout Periods?

Usually consisting of about 20 days, blackout periods happen in March, June, September, and December. Testing windows are always the two months before the blackout month. Below are the 2018 and 2019 testing windows to help prepare you to take your section of the exam:

 

2018 Testing Windows + Dark Months

Q1 Testing Window January 1st – March 10th
Blackout Month March 11th – March 31st
Q2 Testing Window April 1st – June 10th
Blackout Month June 11th – June 30th
Q3 Testing Window July 1st – September 10th
Blackout Month September 11th – September 30th
Q4 Testing Window October 1st – December 10th
Blackout Month December 11th – December 31st

 

2019 Testing Windows + Dark Months

Q1 Testing Window January 1st – March 10th
Blackout Month March 11th – March 31st
Q2 Testing Window April 1st – June 10th
Blackout Month June 11th – June 30th
Q3 Testing Window July 1st – September 10th
Blackout Month September 11th – September 30th
Q4 Testing Window October 1st – December 10th
Blackout Month December 11th – December 31st

 

These dates aren’t completely set in stone, and sometimes there are fluctuations in testing windows from year to year. To get the most accurate dates for testing windows and blackout dates, be sure to check out the AICPA’s website.

 

How to Use Blackout Periods to Your Advantage

Blackout periods can be frustrating if you don’t plan your studying to correspond with open testing windows. However, there are a few strategies you can utilize to make the most of blackout periods and prepare yourself for the next open testing window.

1. Sit for the exam at the beginning of a testing window. Here’s why:

  • Did you know you can take more than one exam within a single testing window? If you’re just starting to study, or even if you’re simply looking for a good date for your next exam, consider taking it immediately after the start of the next testing window. This means you’ll be spending the blackout period studying, and you’ll have time to potentially sit for a second exam within the same testing window. Keep in mind you can’t take the same exam twice during the same testing window. It has to be two separate exams.
  • Testing windows also tend to get full at the end, because everyone is rushing to schedule before a blackout period. By scheduling at the beginning of the testing window, you may have more options when it comes to date and time. You’ll also have flexibility; if you feel you aren’t ready to sit for your exam on your initial date, you’ll have a 70-day buffer to move your exam date back until the next blackout period (although, you do have to reschedule at least 30 days in advance of your original test date to avoid a fee).

2. Take a break.

If you’re feeling burnt out on studying and need a refresh, you can also use blackout periods to take a small break or to schedule in some much-needed social time. The CPA exam requires dedication, but you can use some of this non-testing time to decompress before jumping back into studying for the exam. Just remember your 18-month testing window begins once you pass your first exam, so don’t spend too much time away from studying if you’re in the middle of taking exams.

3.  Study efficiently.

To take the most advantage of blackout dates, you should equip yourself with the study material that helps you pass with less time spent studying. Check out Surgent’s A.S.A.P. Technology(TM) to learn more about adaptive learning, and how you can play to your strengths and bolster your weaknesses to pass the CPA Exam.

 

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Liz Kolar, CPA, CGMA, has been teaching CPA Review for more than 25 years in the United States, has personally taught more than 2,500 live sessions, and has helped thousands of candidates pass the CPA Exam. She founded Pinnacle CPA Review and co-founded Surgent Kolar CPA Review.