How Long Does ACCA Take to Complete in Full?

Here we discuss the structure of the ACCA qualification, how long each level takes on average and what other factors will determine the time it takes to complete ACCA in full.

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Anyone wishing to study management accounting has likely come across ACCA. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has a reputation as the world’s leading body for professional accounting qualifications.

Anyone that has been down this road will tell you that it takes time and commitment. Just how much time is something you probably want to know before you begin.

The short answer is it takes anything from 3 - 5 years. During this time you will also need 3 years of work experience. 

How that time is apportioned across the different levels and exams requires a longer discussion. 

In this article, we discuss the structure of the ACCA qualification, how long each level takes on average and what other factors will determine the time it takes to complete ACCA in full.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the structure.

ACCA Course Structure

The full professional qualification consists of four levels and an Ethics and Professional Skills Module.  

Image courtesy of ACCA Global

It is possible to enter the qualification at any level, depending on what level of education you already hold. Exemptions are given for previous studies in finance and accounting at an ACCA approved institution or university.  

Read: Minimum Entry Requirements for ACCA in 2023 to understand the entry points for each level.

If you have no previous studies in accounting, you will start at the Foundations Level.

Foundations Level

Consisting of three levels, the Foundation Accountancy qualifications give you technical skills and knowledge to work in a range of accounting functions at the junior level. 

The qualifications are as follows:

  • ACCA Diploma in Financial and Management Accounting (RQF 2)
  • ACCA Diploma in Financial and Management Accounting (RQF 3)
  • ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business (RQF 4)

Each diploma takes has several exams, and if you intend to make rapid progress you can complete these levels in 12 - 18 months depending on how many exam sessions you sit for in one year. 

Acquiring the RQF level 4 diploma will qualify you to enter the ACCA qualification at Applied Skills Level. 

Annual Exam Sessions

There are four exam sessions per year. In March, June, September and December. Exams can be taken online and booking is made via the ACCA online booking system.

Applied Knowledge Level

This level will equip you to take on a role as a trainee accountant or bookkeeper.  

There are three Applied Knowledge exams:

  • Business and Technology
  • Management Accounting
  • Financial Accounting

ACCA Applied Skills Level

Once completed this level gives you an Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business. There are 6 applied skills exams.

  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Performance Management
  • Taxation
  • Financial Reporting
  • Audit and Assurance
  • Financial Management

It is possible to complete the Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills Levels in 12-18 months.

Strategic Professional Level

Specialising in giving you a real-world focus, this is the last level of the ACCA qualification. It consists of two essential exams and two elective exams. 

This level can be completed in 12-18 months. 

See exam layout below:

Image courtesy of ACCA Global

Summary of Time Frame for Completion

These time frames include the completion of the Professional Ethics Module and 36 months of work experience and show the average completion time for this qualification if you start with no previous studies.

ACCA Exemptions

You can receive exemptions for ACCA courses depending on previous qualifications. The ACCA has an exemption calculator that can be accessed via its website.   

Exemptions will greatly affect the completion time of your qualification. If you have many years of previous experience in the finance and accounting industry, this will also assist you. Even so, the minimum completion time is 12 - 15 months, based solely on the average number of exams students are capable of writing in one year.

Factors that Affect Time Frame of Completion

Work and Family Commitments

The number of work responsibilities that you carry can affect your ability to write exams at each session. This also goes for family responsibilities. Although most students would like to write exams four times a year, their plans are often derailed by their personal lives.

It is important to keep a clear perspective of the load you are capable of carrying. ACCA membership is a highly desirable goal that will require sacrifices, but unnecessary pressure and stress on you, your colleagues and your family may not be worth graduating quickly.

Time to Process and Assimilate Skills in the Workplace

Your employer may require you to slow down or speed up your learning depending on the projects that are a part of. The order of the exams may need to change as the objectives of your employer change. Plan for this with your supervisor so that you decrease delays. 

Learning Provider Partner

A learning partner that can adequately support your learning journey cannot be underestimated. Through the years, students have learned the hard way that they need a trusted and reliable source of course material and exam preparation.

Find a provider with on-demand videos, live webinars, and mock exams which can put you through your paces with worked examples and scenarios. Additionally, if the learning provider gives you a platform to interact with other students, then put them on your shortlist.

VIVA will provide all of these elements in its ACCA courses, with an award-winning track record in accountancy tuition. Click here to join our mailing list and access our free 64-page ACCA Subject by Subject Pass Guide.


In conclusion, we have provided you with an idea of how long it takes to complete each level of the ACCA qualification. We have also given you some tips on what factors affect this timeframe.  

In order to determine how long it will take you personally, consolidate the following information:

  1. Exemptions for previous studies
  2. Work commitments
  3. Family responsibilities
  4. The number of exams you want to write in one year
  5. Testimonials from other students on how long it took them to complete ACCA
  6. The ability of your learning partner to provide quality material on demand and without delay

All these factors together will tell you how long you as an individual need to complete the ACCA qualification. 

If you’re scouting around and unsure where you want to study. Give one of our agents a call and find out about our early bird discounts on ACCA courses.

We hope to hear from you, but if not, we wish you all the best in your future studies. 

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