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ACCA FAQS: What do I need to know about ACCA Exemptions?

Many students are eligible for ACCA exemptions – but just because you can claim exemption doesn’t mean you should.

Many students are eligible for ACCA exemptions – but just because you can claim an exemption doesn’t mean you should. Read this article to find out the truth.

  • What are ACCA exemptions?
  • Am I eligible for ACCA exemptions?
  • What do ACCA exemptions cost?
  • Should I claim my ACCA exemptions?

This is part of our ACCA FAQs series, where we answer the questions hundreds of you have asked us. Learnsignal also runs regular webinars addressing your questions live and you can also check out our popular podcast show – Forget the Numbers: The Student Accounting Show. 

What are ACCA exemptions?

The ACCA qualification is designed for students without any foundational knowledge of accounting and finance. If you do have foundational knowledge because you’ve taken certain courses and qualifications you can often get an exemption from lower-level papers.

This means you don’t have to sit that paper unless you want to. (And we’ll come back to whether or not you should accept an exemption.)

Instead, you can claim your exemption, pay a fee, and you’re automatically awarded a pass for that exam.

Am I eligible for any ACCA exemptions?

Whether you’re eligible for exemptions depends on your education so far. You can potentially receive an exemption on any or all of the Applied Knowledge or Applied Skills papers.

Eligible qualifications include certain certificates and relevant foundation, Bachelor or postgraduate degrees and other professional qualifications.
For example, say you hold a Bachelor’s in Business Finance from the University of Durham, UK. You’d be eligible for ACCA exemptions on the three Applied Knowledge papers, with further exemptions possible depending on your Bachelor modules.

Check out the  ACCA exemption calculator to find out which ACCA exemptions you’re eligible for.

How can I claim ACCA exemptions?

You apply for exemptions when you first register as an ACCA student, or if you’ve gained new qualifications since registering. It’s important that you don’t enter any courses or make any decisions about next steps until your exemption is confirmed, as the ACCA won’t refund any money you spend mistakenly.

The exact process to claim your ACCA exemptions depends on factors like where you are in your ACCA journey and where your qualifications are from.

Use the ACCA’s step-by-step questionnaire to find out how you should claim.

What do ACCA exemptions cost?

The cost of ACCA exemptions depends on where you’re sitting your ACCA exams. In the UK, for example, exemptions from Applied Knowledge papers cost £76 each and Applied Skills papers cost £103 each. This is to cover administration costs.

Find out what the fees for ACCA exemptions are in your country here.

What if I’m not awarded exemptions I expected?

Exemptions are designed so students don’t have to take the same material twice. The ACCA have to be very careful not to give exemptions if the course doesn’t cover the material in enough depth.

Otherwise you’ll lack the knowledge you need to progress, and the overall credibility of the ACCA qualification will suffer.

What that means is, the ACCA have a rigorous assessment process before offering exemptions. This may mean students with similar qualifications gain different exemptions – because one course in one campus might be more detailed than the same course elsewhere.

So you might expect an exemption because you’ve taken an accounting module, but not be awarded it because the ACCA don’t believe your course was detailed enough to justify the exemption.

That can be frustrating but ultimately it’s for your benefit. If you were to take exemptions you weren’t entitled to, you’d struggle to pass later papers. Which brings us neatly onto the most important point about ACCA exemptions.

Should I claim my ACCA exemptions?

When you first discover you have exemptions, you might be thrilled. After all, it means you have fewer exams to take, and could pass the ACCA more quickly.
Now, that is true. ACCA exemptions mean you don’t have to study the same material twice. You can start at the right level for your existing understanding and skills. This saves time, and helps you qualify for the ACCA faster.

If you want to kick-start your accounting career, ACCA exemptions can help you realise your goals more quickly.

But that’s not the whole story.

The problem with ACCA exemptions is that the Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills papers exist for a reason. And that reason is to build your foundational knowledge and understanding before you’re tested in a more advanced way at Strategic Professional level.

The ACCA journey is designed so those earlier papers feed into the later papers. And that can be an issue, if you haven’t sat those earlier papers.

The whole point of exemptions is that you’ve already covered the material. But sometimes you might have covered the material a long time ago, or not in the same depth. Which could then mean you struggle with later papers because you don’t have the right foundation.

For example, Financial Reporting (what was F7) connects back to Financial Accounting (what was F3), but many students have exemptions from Financial Accounting.

Learnsignal ACCA tutor Wojtek Lyjak notes that many students struggle with the fundamentals of Financial Reporting for exactly this reason, because many courses don’t cover the important concepts of financial accounting in as much depth as the ACCA.

So what should you do?

Definitely read the syllabus from the earlier paper before you decide whether to claim your exemption. And if you’re a learnsignal member, take some practice questions from that paper too – to see if you’re getting them all right without effort.

Then be honest with yourself. If you have a deep understanding of the earlier paper, then claiming your ACCA exemption can be a great idea. But if you don’t, maybe taking that earlier paper will help you pass all your exams more quickly.


ACCA exemptions aren’t always a good thing

Most students think about ACCA exemptions like a free pass. You’re either thrilled to have exemptions, or frustrated not to. Especially if you think you deserve them.

But the thing is, the end goal with the ACCA isn’t just to ‘pass your exams’. No. Instead, the end goal  is to become a more astute, more knowledgeable professional.

That’s why employers love students who took the ACCA – because you know your stuff, and can add more value in the workplace.

With that in mind, you don’t want to ‘gloss’ the earlier papers – even if you can.
It’s crucial that you have a deep understanding of all the course material, to maximise your likelihood of passing but also to maximise the benefits of ACCA membership.

If you already have a genuine, deep understanding then claiming ACCA exemptions is a good idea. But if you’re honest with yourself and you don’t, you should probably sit the paper.

Conor Motyer
4 min read

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