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Frequently Asked Questions: Testing Requirements

a. Who has to test?

b. General Test Information

c. Test Day Information

d. Test Results

a. Who has to test?

1. Who needs to take the RTRP competency test? (revised 2/22/12)

All paid return preparers who prepare Form 1040 series tax returns are required to take this test except: attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, and certain supervised preparers.(Note: Forms 1040-PR and 1040-SS are not considered Form 1040 series returns for this purpose.) Review this chart of return preparer requirements.

Those individuals required to take the Registered Tax Return Preparer competency test who already have a provisional PTIN have until December 31, 2013, to pass the test.

2. Can I take the RTRP test even if I’m not required to? (posted 10/27/11)

Yes, however, you must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number if you wish to take the test. You may obtain a PTIN at

3. Can I take Part 1 of the enrolled agent test (Special Enrollment Exam) to meet my RTRP test requirement? (posted 09/20/12)

No. Those who have a requirement to pass the RTRP test by 12/31/13 have two options: 1) Pass the RTRP test or 2) Pass all three parts of the SEE and become an enrolled agent. 

4. Is a CPA, attorney, or enrolled agent who keeps his or her license current but is considered inactive exempt from testing? (revised 10/27/11)

No. Only attorneys, certified public accountants, or enrolled agents who are active and in good standing with their respective licensing agencies are exempt from the RTRP test.

b. General Test Information

1. I understand that I have until December 31, 2013 to pass the RTRP test because I have a provisional PTIN. Can I continue to prepare all types of returns and claims for refund until December 31, 2013 if I wait to take the test? (posted 7/18/11)

Yes. Your provisional PTIN enables you to continue to prepare all types of tax returns and claims for refund through 12/31/13, provided you complete any required continuing education requirements and renew your PTIN timely each year.

2. If I pass the RTRP test, am I limited to preparing only the forms tested on the examination? (posted 7/18/11)

No. You will be able to prepare any Federal tax return or claim for refund if you pass the RTRP test unless the IRS develops additional competency tests for other tax returns in the future.

3. Do I have to pass the RTRP test more than once? (posted 4/12/12)

No. Passing the test is a one time requirement to become a Registered Tax Return Preparer. The continuing education requirement is yearly.

4. What language(s) is the competency test available in? (revised 9/19/11)

At least initially, the test is only available in English. Some feedback has been received that the IRS should offer the test in Spanish. After more data is available, we will consider the feasibility of a future Spanish version.

5. What happens to return preparers who have a provisional PTIN but do not pass the RTRP test by Dec. 31, 2013? (revised 9/28/10)

The IRS will contact them proposing to deactivate their PTIN and remove them from the list of authorized preparers.

6. Is the test offered online or do I have to go to a designated location? (revised 10/27/11)

You must physically go to a testing site, authenticate your identity, and take the test in person at the testing site. More information about testing, including test procedures, is available here.

7. What should I study to prepare for the RTRP test? (posted 5/14/12)

The RTRP test focuses on the ethical responsibilities of federal tax return preparers found in Circular 230 and on accurate preparation of Form 1040 and related schedules and forms. The purpose of the test is to demonstrate a minimum level of competency to prepare 1040 series returns. All efforts have been made to develop questions and answers based on general tax rules covered in the IRS publications, forms and instructions, rather than the exceptions found only in the Internal Revenue Code or Income Tax Regulations. For a list of recommended study materials click here.

8. Does the IRS offer study courses? (posted 8/11/10)

No, however, you may view a list of study resources here. Other organizations offer preparation courses. View a list of test preparation providers who are also approved continuing education providers.

9. What if I need extra time or special accommodations to take the RTRP test? (posted 10/27/11)

You may contact Prometric’s Special Accommodations Line (877-347-5080) and request an ADA Accommodations Request Form which must be completed by you and a licensed healthcare or mental healthcare professional. A determination will be made as to the appropriate accommodations based on the nature of your request.

10. What is the cost of the RTRP test? (posted 11/22/11)

The test is $116 and must be paid at the time the appointment is scheduled. The test fee is non-refundable and not transferrable. Refer to the Candidate Information Bulletin (pdf) to read the policy for rescheduling appointments.

11. Must I schedule an appointment to take the RTRP test? (updated 3/28/12)

Yes and you must have a PTIN in order to schedule an appointment.

If you have an online PTIN account, schedule your appointment online by selecting “View Next Steps” from the Main Menu.

If you do not have an online PTIN account, schedule your appointment by phone (1-855-IRS EXAM).

Anyone who schedules by phone must provide a file number. Your file number is provided on your PTIN Welcome or Renewal Letter or on your PTIN Next Steps screen. Be sure to locate your file number before calling to schedule your test.

After scheduling your appointment, you will receive a confirmation letter via email. Be sure to review the confirmation letter to verify the test, date, time, and test center location. If you see any errors, contact Prometric immediately at 1-855-IRS-EXAM (477-3926).  

12. How do I reschedule or cancel an appointment? (posted 9/20/12)

You may reschedule your appointment by calling 1-855-IRS-EXAM (477-3926) or through your online PTIN account. You must have your appointment confirmation number located on your appointment confirmation email.

Rescheduling fees apply as follows:
No fee if you reschedule at least 30 calendar days prior to your appointment date.
$35 fee if you reschedule five to 29 calendar days before your appointment date.
Another $116 full test fee if you reschedule less than five calendar days before your appointment date.

There are no refunds for cancellations.

13. How far in advance can I schedule an appointment to take the RTRP test? (posted 4/24/12)

In general, you should be able to schedule your test up to 6 months in advance. At some test centers you may be able to schedule dates farther in advance. Schedule your appointment soon to secure the date, time and location that you prefer.

View a list of test center locations to determine if the test is offered in a city near you.

You may also view test center locations by address through the Prometric scheduling system. Access this system through your PTIN account by selecting “View Next Steps” from the Main Menu.

14. I live outside the United States and I tried to register to take the RTRP test, but the test isn't being offered near me.  What should I do? (revised 4/17/12)

Prometric, the IRS's test vendor, is currently offering the competency test in selected cities in the United States. We are continuing to work on details for testing preparers living outside of the U.S. Check the webpage ( periodically for additional guidance.

Once we have finalized the details, preparers living outside the U.S. will have a reasonable period of time to take and pass the test. We apologize for the delay.

You are still required to complete your continuing education requirements each year:

  • 2 hours of ethics
  • 3 hours of federal tax law updates
  • 10 hours of other federal tax law

15. Do the RTRP questions change from year to year? (revised 4/9/12)

Yes. The test questions are updated annually for tax law changes. Tests administered from April 16, 2012 through March 31, 2013 relate to tax year 2011,unless otherwise stated.

16. What is the Special Enrollment Examination and where do I get information on it? (posted 2/22/12)

Individuals who wish to become an Enrolled Agent must pass the Special Enrollment Examination. Learn more about becoming an Enrolled Agent here.

Enrolled Agents are exempt from the requirement to pass the Registered Tax Return Preparer test.

c. Test Day Information

1. Is the RTRP test open book or resource assisted? (revised 7/20/10)

Certain resources are provided at the testing center, including a calculator and electronic versions of Form 1040, Form 1040 instructions and Publication 17.

We highly recommend that you view the test tutorial to better understand how to use these sources electronically on test day.

2. What should I bring to the test? (revised 9/24/12)

Bring one unexpired government issued identification that includes your name, photo, and signature. The first and last names on the ID must be identical to the first and last names you registered under. You will not be permitted to test if the first and last names do not match. 

Paper and pencil, a calculator, and reference materials will be provided at the test site. Personal items are not allowed in the test room and must be stored in a locker. Persons not scheduled to take a test are not permitted to wait in the test center.

3. How long is the RTRP test? (posted 10/27/11)
There are 120 questions. The test is timed at 2 ½ hours and your appointment will average 3 hours. You should plan to arrive for your test appointment at least thirty minutes early to check in. Once you are seated in the test room, you may take a short pre-test computer system tutorial. Following the test, you will have the opportunity to participate in a customer satisfaction survey.

d. Test Results

1. How many questions do I have to answer correctly to pass the test? (revised 2/28/12)

Test questions are weighted in value to arrive at an overall scaled score that ranges from 50 to 500. The passing score is 350 and higher. If you fail the test, you will receive diagnostic information to assist you with future examination preparation.. More information about test results can be found in the Candidate Information Bulletin.

2. How will I get my RTRP test score? (revised 4/4/12)

You will receive your test score at the test center immediately after taking the test.

3. Do I have to send my RTRP test results to the IRS? (revised 4/4/12)

No. Scores are automatically shared with the IRS and IRS records will be updated accordingly. If you have an online PTIN account, the test requirement on the “Next Steps” page will be removed 7-10 business days after you pass the test.

4. I am a supervisor and want the test results for my entire staff. Can I obtain them? (posted 10/27/11)

No. Test results will only be made available to the individual taking the test.

5. Can I find out which questions I got right and which ones I got wrong? (posted 2/28/12) 

No. We will not provide test results on a question-by-question basis. If you fail, your performance in each Knowledge Domain will be shown on your test results letter. This information can assist you with future examination preparation. For a breakdown of the topics that fit into each domain, view the Test Specifications.

6. If I am required to pass the test and have not done so, can I still be considered a Registered Tax Return Preparer? (posted 2/28/12)   

No. You may not hold yourself out as a Registered Tax Return Preparer. You must pass the test and a tax compliance check before obtaining the Registered Tax Return Preparer credential.

7. How did you determine the passing score? What percentage of questions do I need to get right in order to pass? (posted 2/28/12) 

The passing score was determined by the IRS following a cut score study. The cut score study followed a modified Angoff method for establishing the cut score. A panel of subject matter experts composed of Enrolled Agents, CPAs, unenrolled preparers and IRS representatives developed a definition of the minimally qualified candidate. Using this definition, they considered each item on the base form and estimated the difficulty of the item for the minimally qualified or borderline candidate. The results of these estimates were analyzed and presented to the IRS for final decision. Once the passing score was determined for the base form, Prometric used a statistical equating process to ensure comparability of scores on all forms. Scaled scores are used to report the scores. The tests have been developed to identify the passing candidate from the failing candidate. We do not use either normal distribution or a preconceived pass rate to establish the passing score.

8. How is my total scaled score calculated? (posted 2/28/12) 

Scaled scores are determined by calculating the number of questions answered correctly from the total number of questions in the examination and converting to a scale that ranges from 50 to 500. The IRS has set the scaled passing score at 350, which corresponds to a minimum level of knowledge deemed acceptable by those persons who will be practicing before the IRS. Failing candidates are provided a scaled score value so that they may see how close they are to being successful. For example, candidates that receive a scaled score of 304 are very close to passing. Candidates with a scaled score of 100 are far from passing.

9. What do the different levels mean on my test results letter? (posted 2/28/12)  

If you fail to obtain a passing score, your test results letter gives feedback on your performance level in each Knowledge Domain.

Level 1 identifies an area of weakness where additional study is necessary. It is important for you to focus on this domain as you prepare to take this test again. You may want to consider taking a course or participating actively in a study group on this topic.

Level 2 means that you may need additional study.

Level 3 means that you clearly demonstrated an understanding of the subject area.

10. What should I do if I passed the RTRP test but haven't received my RTRP certificate? (posted 5/2/12)
Certificates take 4-5 weeks to process. If it has been more than 45 days since you passed the test, please contact the PTIN Information Line to inquire into the status of your certificate.
NOTE: Certificates may be delayed if the name in your PTIN account doesn't match the name you provided Prometric when scheduling your test.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 27-Mar-2014