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Become a Chartered Accountant: How To Pass ACCA

If you’re serious about your career ACCA qualification is the place to start. Here are the ins and outs of becoming a chartered accountant.

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What is an ACCA qualification?

The ACCA – the Association of Chartered Accountants – is the world’s leading global body for professional accountants.

ACCA offer several different exams. The largest and most popular is the ACCA chartered accountant qualification – usually known simply as the ACCA qualification. Once you’ve passed the ACCA qualification, you become a Certified Chartered Accountant.

What is ACCA’s Syllabus?

The ACCA chartered accountant qualification teaches you the technical, ethical and leadership skills you need to excel in finance.

To pass the ACCA, you must complete 14 exams, a professional ethics module, and professional objectives over 3 years of professional experience. The 14 exams are split into the following 4 parts:

Applied Knowledge

  • Accountant in Business (AB)
  • Management Accounting (MA)
  • Financial Accounting (FA)

Applied Skills

  • Corporate and Business Law (LW)
  • Performance Management (PM)
  • Taxation (TX)
  • Financial reporting (FR)
  • Audit and Assurance (AA)
  • Financial Management (FM)

Depending on your education so far, you might be exempt from any or all of the fundamentals papers and can start with the Professional papers immediately.

Strategic Professional

  • Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)
  • Strategic Business Leader (SBL)
  • Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
  • Advanced Performance Management (APM)
  • Advanced Taxation (ATX)
  • Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

Professional Ethics Module

The Professional Ethics Module is a compulsory module that you must sit to get the ACCA qualification. You can take it any time after completing the Fundamentals Knowledge papers F1, F2 and F3. Currently, the module takes around 20 hours.

Professional Experience Requirement

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To become a chartered accountant with the ACCA, you must complete three years of professional experience. You have to achieve nine Essentials and four or more Options performance objectives during this time.

These objectives relate back to areas of the ACCA syllabus, putting your technical knowledge into practice. To complete these objectives, you’ll track your progress online and have a workplace mentor who’ll sign off your results.

How long does ACCA’s qualification take?

Many students study for the ACCA while working, so they could qualify in only three or four years. If you decide to study full-time before completing your professional experience requirement, it’ll take longer.

You used to have to complete the ACCA qualification within ten years, but this has changed. The ACCA gives you seven years to finish the ACCA after passing your first professional level exam. There is no time limit to complete the Fundamentals papers.

If you don’t pass all your Professional papers within seven years, any passes you’ve achieved so far are invalid, and you must sit them again to get the ACCA qualification.

This is to ensure your qualification is up-to-date, maintaining the integrity of the ACCA qualification. Rules like this are why the ACCA chartered accountant qualification is so sought-after amongst finance employers: they know you have current, relevant and valuable knowledge when you pass the ACCA.

This brings us to the next important point…

Why study ACCA?

The ACCA qualification is recognised and respected all over the world. Becoming a chartered accountant is a fantastic boost to your career, putting you at the cutting edge of finance.

This isn’t just about building your technical know-how. The ACCA chartered accountant qualification teaches you the business acumen, strategic insight and professional conduct to be effective finance and business leader.

If you aspire to a senior career in an accountancy firm, in industry or even running your own business, the ACCA sets you up for success.

How to pass ACCA?

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Learnsignal works closely with a team of expert ACCA tutors for each module who have plenty of words of wisdom to share. Here are some of our tutor’s top tips to help you pass the ACCA. If you want to read more, check out the full interviews for an in-depth view of each paper, including the most common questions, exam techniques and the biggest mistakes to avoid.

Lynn Watkins, ACCA MA Tutor on stupid mistakes.

“Most students don’t find the fundamentals papers too difficult, but many let themselves down in the exam. Students often fail to read a question properly, for example. Or they haven’t practised their exam timing and run out of time to answer all the questions. At this level, the main reason students fail is poor exam technique – basic errors.”

Read more: ACCA Tutor Interview: How to Pass Management Accounting

Lincoln Miles, ACCA AAA Tutor, on ‘decoding’ scenario questions.

“You’ll face many scenario-based questions in the professional papers, so you have to go well beyond regurgitating knowledge. I use the word “decode”. You have to decode the scenario to work out how best to use your knowledge, spot why you’ve been given the information, and prioritise the important parts.”

Read more: ACCA Tutor Interview: How to Pass Advanced Audit and Assurance.

Mary Farmer, ACCA SBL Tutor, on the need to practice, practice, practice.

“My best suggestion would be to go through the material, and once you’ve understood it, move on to question practice straight away. Don’t dwell on learning the theory; as soon as you’re happy, move on to practice questions.

If you do 2 or 3 years’ worth of past exams, this will start to give you a pattern. You’ll begin to pick up on what the examiner likes to see and get to grips with how questions are structured. You probably want to be spending around 40% to 50% of your study time on practice questions.”

Garret Mulvin, ACCA PM Tutor, on covering the whole syllabus.

“A primary reason students don’t pass the ACCA is that they don’t cover the entire syllabus, especially on papers like F5 that are very broad. Students often fall down on the smaller areas they think are unimportant because they don’t study enough.

The margin between a pass and a fail is so tiny. Many students will score marginally above or below the pass mark, so one or two multiple-choice questions can make the difference. Knowing every area of the syllabus will get you over the line.”

Read more: ACCA Tutor Interview: How to Pass ACCA Performance Management

Peter Wooley, ACCA PM Tutor, on planning your answers.

“Students often fail because they tend to answer the question they wish they’d been asked – not the actual question. The big problem is students not planning their answers properly. They think as they’re writing, which means whatever goes on the page is just reflecting the jumbled thoughts in their head. It’s impossible to mark.

Markers spend about 5 to 7 minutes marking one entire script – they have to be quick. If you make it difficult for them to see your point, they won’t award you the mark. Take the time to think of a logical structure to your argument and make it clear on the page.”

Read more: ACCA Tutor Interview: How To Pass Advanced Performance Management.

Secure your future with an ACCA qualification

If you want to take your career in finance to the next level, becoming a chartered accountant is an obvious step.

The ACCA qualification is hugely respected because it teaches the higher-level technical, strategic and business skills that will prove critical for future finance leaders.

Alan Lynch
5 min read
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