If you are an aspiring ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) student looking to advance your career in the accounting field, studying two of the optional papers at the Strategic Professional level will provide you with the practical knowledge and skills you need to excel in the relevant area.
In this in-depth blog post, we will examine the various ACCA optional papers offered in 2023 and highlight why they are crucial for success in today's competitive accounting industry. We aim to provide you with all the information you need to decide which optional paper is right for you. 
What are the ACCA Optional Papers?
Once you have successfully passed the Applied Skills, Applied Knowledge, Ethics and Professional Skills, and Strategic Professional (Essentials) exams, it is time for you to turn your attentions to the next stage of your ACCA journey: the Strategic Professional (Options) papers - sometimes shortened to the "ACCA Optional Papers".
Taking two of these papers is required to finish out the ACCA's Strategic Professional Level and will allow you to specialise in a particular area of accounting, finance, or business. The following optional papers are currently available:
- Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
- Advanced Performance Management (APM)
- Advanced Taxation (ATX)
- Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)
It is important to note that these optional papers are a crucial component of the ACCA qualification, as they provide students with the opportunity to specialise in specific areas of accounting and finance, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
By taking these papers, you can gain valuable insights into your chosen profession and build a strong foundation for your future career prospects. This will also help you stand out from other professionals and become a strategic business leader. 
Overview of the Four ACCA Papers
#1 Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
The exam requires a comprehensive understanding of financial management principles and practices. Candidates must demonstrate their knowledge and skills in areas such as financial analysis, investment appraisal, budgeting, forecasting, decision-making, risk management accounting, and corporate finance.
This is divided into two sections, A and B, each lasting three hours and fifteen minutes.
Here, you will encounter a single case study worth 50 marks. These marks are split into 40 technical marks and 10 professional skills marks. To excel in this exam, you must be ready to perform calculations, make comparisons against relevant information, analyse the results, and offer recommendations and conclusions.
The questions will require integrating professional skills related to the scenario, including analysis and evaluation, scepticism, and commercial acumen.
Dec 2021 - 41%
Mar 2022 - 43%
Jun 2022 - 41%
Sep 2022 - 42%
Dec 2022 - 41%
#2 Advanced Performance Management (APM)
To pass the ACCA Advanced Performance Management (APM) exam, you must thoroughly understand performance assessment and strategic management principles and practices. The APM paper will allow you to demonstrate your sound understanding and knowledge of the critical performance management concepts, principles, and practices required for effective management in today's business environment.
This evaluation will require you to examine the organization's mission statement and strategic goals, as well as the methods it uses to control, manage, and measure performance in pursuit of its organisational goals.
You may also be asked to analyse the organisation's performance report, information systems, new strategies or projects, and performance management and measurement systems as part of the evaluation. You may also be required to present their response in a specific format, such as a Board of Directors report.
This will challenge you to tackle various factors affecting organisations' performance in various business situations. It will require you to consider the wider context and understand the various factors contributing to organisational performance.
Dec 2021 - 32%
Mar 2022 - 34%
Jun 2022 - 33%
Sep 2022 - 34%
Dec 2022 - 33%
#3 Advanced Taxation (ATX)
The taxation paper requires both technical and professional knowledge. Current income tax, corporation tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax, national insurance, VAT rules, and international taxation are all covered in the ATX curriculum.
The questions will be based on scenarios that may require consideration of multiple taxes, some aspects of planning, and the interplay of taxes. The exam will be three hours and fifteen minutes long.
This section includes two mandatory case-study questions. The first question is worth 35 points, including 4 professional points, while the second is worth 25 points. In addition, this section may also award 5 ethics marks.
It has two mandatory 20-mark questions on business and personal tax concerns.
Dec 2021 - 37%
Mar 2022 - 38%
Jun 2022 - 42%
Sep 2022 - 43%
Dec 2022 - 39%
#4 Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)
This is a professional-level paper that requires candidates to demonstrate their understanding of assurance principles and practices and their ability to apply that understanding in various contexts.
Candidates must understand auditing standards and regulations, risk assessment and internal control systems, analytical procedures and sampling techniques, evaluation of evidence obtained during an audit, financial statement reporting, and professional ethics to pass the AAA exam.
It consists of a three-hour and fifteen-minute examination. The exam is split into two sections, with the questions in both sections predominantly requiring written explanations. Also, you must determine materiality and perform relevant calculations as needed.
Financial information, strategic, operational, and other pertinent financial information for a client's business, as well as portions of audit working papers, including the results of analytical procedures, will be included in the assessment.
This section should prepare you to answer completion, review, and reporting questions. This will make you evaluate the viability of continuing as a going concern, the impact of subsequent events, and scrutinise identified misstatements and their effect on the auditor's report. You may also be asked to evaluate the content of a report to be delivered to management or those in charge of governance.
Dec 2021 - 34%
Mar 2022 - 33%
Jun 2022 - 31%
Sep 2022 - 34%
Dec 2022 - 32%
Factors To Consider When Selecting an Optional Paper
By considering these factors, you can make a knowledgeable choice and pick an ACCA optional paper that will best support your personal and professional aspirations.
To make an informed decision about which optional exam to take, you must consider your previous results and how you performed in similar exams. This factor will assist you in determining which subjects you are most comfortable with and which may be more difficult for you. It can also help you decide which paper best suits your career goals and objectives.
Level of Comprehension
It is also important to select an optional paper exam that matches your level of comprehension so that you can maximize your chances of success. By assessing your level of understanding before selecting an exam, you can ensure that you are well-prepared for the challenge ahead.
We suggest you consider your career path and how the optional paper will fit into it. You should choose a subject that will help build on the knowledge gained in a related subject in the Skills module and give you the skills needed for your desired career path.
The passing rate for each paper varies depending on the difficulty level and content covered in the exam. For example, Advanced Financial Management (AFM) has a higher pass rate than Advanced Performance Management. This is due to AFM being more focused on corporate finance topics, while APM covers a wider range of topics, such as risk management and financial reporting.
It is important to remember that even though some exams have higher pass rates than others, all of them require hard work and dedication in order to pass. It is essential that you take the time to properly prepare the format and structure of whichever exam you choose by studying regularly and attending practice sessions or mock exams if they are available.
Tips to Excel in the ACCA Optional Exams
Once you have chosen which ACCA optional exam to take, here are some of the best tips on how to prepare for it and perform at your best:
Understand the Nature of the Exam
Before taking an ACCA exam, it is essential to be familiar with each paper's syllabus and exam pattern. This will help you know what topics each paper will cover and how much time you should devote to studying them. You can also review previous ACCA exams to understand the questions that may be asked.
Make sure you manage your time wisely. Allocate enough time for each section so that you can answer all questions thoroughly and accurately. Once you have planned out how much time you need to study each topic, create a schedule that outlines when and where you will be studying each day. This will help keep you on track and ensure you don't miss any important topics or deadlines.
Don't Treat it as a Maths Exam
While some calculations may be required, the emphasis should be on understanding and applying concepts rather than memorising formulas and equations. This means that you should read through the materials provided and ensure that you understand what is expected of them.
Practice Past Papers
Another great tip for ACCA optional exam success is practicing exam questions before taking the test. This will help you become acquainted with the format and types of questions that may appear on the exam and give you an idea of how much time it takes to answer each question correctly. Practicing questions also help build confidence so that you feel prepared and ready to go when the test comes around.
Utilise Study Resources
There are plenty of online study resources that can help you prepare for your ACCA optional exams. These include practice tests, sample questions, tutorials, and other helpful materials that can guide how to approach each topic covered in the exam. Taking advantage of these resources ensures that you are adequately prepared for any question that may appear on your examination day. 
We highly recommend that you avail of VIVA's entirely FREE 64-page ACCA Subject by Subject Pass Guide. There you will find excellent tips and advice on studying for all ACCA exams, including the optional papers. It includes free study resource links, Prizewinning Students' advice, examiner advice, and more.
Click here to access VIVA's 64-page ACCA Subject by Subject Pass Guide and get added to VIVA's ACCA mailing list.
Excel with Confidence
We know that with so many choices, it can be hard to decide which route is best for you. But now that you know the difference between each paper, you are better equipped to decide which exam is right for your career and educational goals.
With hard work and dedication, we assure you that you can pass any of the four optional papers you decide to take. VIVA is here to support you throughout your journey with expert guidance and resources.
Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. Together, we can help you reach your full potential and succeed in your ACCA exams.
1 - https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en.html
2 - https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/how-to-become-a-strategic-leader/
3 - https://kaplanpublishing.co.uk/acca