Welcome prospective ACCA students!
In this article, we will examine all the important aspects of the ACCA qualification, helping you to understand what it’s all about.
You may have spent countless hours researching accounting qualifications only to get more confused with each webpage you open, or you may want to circumvent all that and just get to the nuts and bolts. Either way, this article will guide you towards the finish line.
Join us as we take you through the critical elements of the ACCA qualification.
Your future begins here.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
The ACCA certification is offered by ACCA Global - an international accounting body that produces professional accountants. A Chartered Certified Accountant is a highly specialised professional that works in the field of audit, strategic decision making and taxation, to name a few.
ACCA provides the gateway for chartered accountants to receive a globally recognised designation and therefore practice in their area of expertise.
The field of management accounting is the ‘new kid on the block’, and is a term used to explain an evolving industry based on complex accounting practices driven by technology and data analysis.
ACCA has responded masterfully to this demand by adapting its educational offering to navigate the industry through these changes. Furthermore, they have a large network of members, employers, academics and tuition providers, which provides a complex web of support and instruction to 219,000 members and over 500K students.
ACCA Qualification Structure
The ACCA professional qualification is based on internationally aligned accounting and auditing standards. When you achieve the membership status, your educational level will be equivalent to earning a full university degree.
The flexibility of the ACCA structure is perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of this certification. Depending on your level of education, you can enter at any level through the exemption process.
The full qualification consists of the foundation level, applied knowledge and applied skills level and strategic professional level. Over and above this, there is a compulsory ethics and professional skills module, as can be seen below.
ACCA exams can be taken four times a year in March, June, September and December.
Foundations in Accountancy (FIA)
You can complete all these awards within 12-18 months. Exams on this level are computer-based exams. All the exams can be written at a CBE center or at the training provider. Achieving the ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business will allow you to enter the Applied Skills level.
Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills exams
You can complete this within 12-18 months. There are nine exams testing these two competencies and once completed, you will obtain the Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business.
Strategic professional exams
Once again, taking around 12-18 months, this level consists of two essential exams and two optional exams.
Over the years, we have come to understand that certain combinations of exams work better than others. We’ve gained this advantage because we’ve helped thousands of ACCA students successfully pass their exams and now we can pass on this information to others.
Professional Experience Requirements (PERS)
To complete the qualification, you must achieve 36 months of supervised work experience. You will be asked to complete nine performance objectives - five essentials and four technical.
Further reading: ACCA Practical Requirements
ACCA subjects are divided into different levels, as discussed above. Here we provide a breakdown of the subjects that ACCA professionals will cover.
FOUNDATIONS IN ACCOUNTING
- Recording Financial Transactions
- Management Information
- Maintaining Financial Records
- Managing Costs and Finance
- Foundations in Business and Technology
- Financial Accounting
APPLIED KNOWLEDGE AND APPLIED SKILLS
- Management Accounting
- Acounting in Business
- Financial Management
- Business and Technology
- Corporate and Business Law
- Performance Management
- Business Taxation
- Audit and Assurance
- Financial Reporting
STRATEGIC PROFESSIONAL ESSENTIALS
- Strategic Business Reporting
- Strategic Business Leader
STRATEGIC PROFESSIONAL OPTIONS
- Advanced Financial Management
- Advanced Performance Management
- Advanced Taxation
- Advanced Audit and Assurance
Difficulty of ACCA
Let’s just be honest and upfront with this one. ACCA is not an easy qualification to achieve, but it is also not impossible. There will be a greater degree of work involved if you have to start at the certificate level and work your way up to the Strategic Professional level.
Your work experience and degree of prior knowledge will also determine how much work you will need to put in. The standards of ACCA are very high and that is precisely why it is in demand worldwide. So nothing worth having is going to come easy.
Perhaps one way of examining the difficulty of this qualification for yourself is to take a look at the current pass rates.
ACCA Pass Rates
After the foundations in accountancy level, the pass rate for applied knowledge and applied skills levels does drop drastically. The most difficult exams have an average pass rate of around 40%. Once you get to the strategic level, this drops even further, with a 32% pass rate for the most difficult exams.
If over 200,000 other students can achieve this certification, then you can too!
If you have a university degree, you will be eligible to apply for exemptions offered by ACCA.
The ACCA exemption process is rigorous. They want to maintain high quality standards and rightly so. You should be sure of two things before applying for an exemption:
That your degree is complete, and legitimate and that you can provide proof of completion
That you have enough knowledge to complete the exams on the level that you will begin on.
A maximum of nine exemptions are available for the Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills level of the qualification.
There are no exemptions awarded for the Strategic Professional level. This ensures that all students finish the qualification based on the same examinations.
You can register with ACCA online and submit your documentation directly to them for review. They will provide you with the results of your review and you should not register to write any exams until you hear from them.
Every student needs the support of their family, friends, employer and learning provider to make it through long-term study. For the ACCA student, there is a number of resources that can enrich the learning experience.
Forums are online discussion groups where tuition providers, mentors, lecturers, past students and current students can discuss topics relevant to the qualification. They provide a great deal of insight from the people who are intimately involved in the qualification, cutting down hours of research.
The practice platform is ACCA’s answer for students who want to practice mock exams and practice exam questions beforehand. It is quite a sophisticated system for a practice platform and has proven invaluable to students who don’t want to be faced with scenarios they are not prepared for during the exam.
Students learn to work with multiple screens, handle the spreadsheet application, use the word processor application and familiarise themselves with the online calculator.
Providing key insights into the accounting industry, this blog also answers burning questions that ACCA students have. Get to know past students who have made a success of their careers for extra inspiration and confidence that ACCA is a big deal in the accounting and finance field.
Benefits of ACCA for your career
The accountancy profession has well established regulations and governing bodies that ensure a high standard of practice. Management accountants are sought for their professionalism, analytical skills, and ability to work as senior strategic decision-makers.
ACCA students are prepared to enter the working world in every way, and so this prestigious qualification has a number of benefits for your career and future. Let’s examine some:
- Higher salaries from respected accounting firms. Depending on location, an ACCA qualified student can command an annual salary of between £36,000 and £54,000.
- ACCA qualified students are in demand around the world for their ability to operate in the areas of risk advisory, audit and assurance, forensic accounting, internal audit and taxation
- Chances of employment with one of the big four accounting firms increases substantially when you have graduated
- You are able to open your own practice, become a partner in a global firm, or hold a senior executive position with the practise certificate issued by ACCA.
ACCA members enjoy the privilege of belonging to one of the world’s most prestigious accountancy bodies. ACCA accreditation is recognised around the world in 180 countries.
The ACCA allows students to register for a form of membership known as affiliate when they do not yet have enough working experience. This is a huge advantage for those close to finalising their professional qualification.
You can become an ACCA affiliate when you have passed all 13 exams as well as the ethics and professional skills module, but haven’t yet met the 3 years working experience requirements (PERS).
You are considered ACCA qualified when you have completed all the requirements, including the 3 years of working experience. Full ACCA membership attracts an annual subscription fee which gives members access to free resources and the ACCA global network of partners, employers and past students.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is required for ACCA members. These requirements can be found on the ACCA Global website and include a wide range of on-the-job projects and training, making this requirement achievable for members.
ACCA Full Qualification Cost
Even when you have decided on the best accounting qualification for your future, the financial aspect can be daunting. Long-term financial obligations can be draining on your pocket, as any student who has completed tertiary education can tell you.
You want to get your mind around the potential costs for this qualification as soon as possible and smartly work out whether it’s possible for you to take on this challenge.
Here are some of the costs associated with the ACCA qualification:
*pricing correct as of 2023 for UK students. These fees are subject to change as prescribed by ACCA Global
ACCA has partnered with several UK banks to provide tuition support. There are also a number of options for financing the ACCA course.
- Employer sponsorship
A number of prestigious employers offer support in the form of a sponsorship. They may have stipulations in place, such as working for the company for a number of years so they get a return on their investment. It is best to look at the company website for this information - know that you can live with the terms of the sponsorship before accepting this kind of support.
- Scholarships, Bursaries
Top institutions offer these options for students who meet the criteria for academic excellence. Scholarships are published on the ACCA Global website along with the criteria for eligibility.
ACCA partners with accredited employers to provide an internship programme through the employer. The costs for the internship are taken up by the company.
The ACCA opens up a world of possibilities for the chartered accountant. There are over 100 job roles that you can participate in. Here are just a few of those roles:
- Finance manager
- Statutory auditor with signing off power in multiple countries
- Internal auditing, with the ability to monitor auditing standards in multiple countries
- Strategic business leader
- Chief financial officer - This is the job role that many ACCA graduates find themselves fulfilling quickly after acquiring certification
- Foreign investment manager
- Taxation specialist
- Fund-certified chartered accountant
- Forensic accountant
- International research and data specialist
- Accounting supervisor or manager, signing off financial transactions on behalf of the company
ACCA Qualified Salaries
The average salary for chartered certified accountants in the UK is £ 33,000. As previously discussed, this depends on the location and the company that you are employed by.
This salary is greatly increased by benefits and bonuses offered by the company as well as the potential for partnership and senior executive positions.
ACCA vs. AAT
The AAT qualification is certified by the Association for Accounting Technicians and offers foundational accounting skills for individuals who have no previous accounting knowledge or experience.
We can explain the difference like this: While the AAT provides the world with accounting technicians that can manage the day-to-day accounting tasks and the completion of financial statements, ACCA provides management accountants that specialize in strategic decision making and data analytics.
AAT is often the feeder into the ACCA certification and exemption is given at the certificate level of ACCA if you have completed certain AAT modules.
ACCA is, without a doubt, the harder of the two to achieve, but that seems logical when we consider that ACCA is producing senior-level auditors, taxation experts and CFOs. The working experience requirements are therefore less for AAT than ACCA.
ACCA vs. CFA
Whilst the ACCA qualification focuses on certifying chartered certified accountants, the CFA institute in the USA focuses on certifying chartered financial analysts.
Both are excellent qualifications and are recognised worldwide in nearly 200 countries. In a nutshell, the differences between the two are as follows:
Can I self-study for ACCA?
Before you make your final decision, let’s answer this question for you.
According to a former student Belinda, who is now ACCA qualified and the founder of Afro Girl Diaries - yes, it can be done! You can read all about her experience via our Knowledge Centre.
However, the better question is, why would you want to self-study when you can benefit from having highly experienced tutors and the support of other students?
VIVA is an award-winning online accountancy tuition provider and an ACCA Silver Learning Partner. We have nearly 1,000,000 lecture views to date and a 4.9 out of 5 student rating on Trustpilot.
We know what it takes to get students through their qualifications fast, and cost-effectively. Explore our ACCA courses here!