Blog Home / Study Guides & Resources / What Order Should I Do My ACCA Professional Exams?

What Order Should I Do My ACCA Professional Exams?

Here are 6 principles to consider while choosing ACCA professional papers, and how it relates back to the fundamentals papers.

Congratulations on conquering the ACCA Applied level exams! That’s a significant milestone. But as you stand atop this achievement, you’ll notice the more challenging professional-level terrain awaiting you. This is when you ask yourself, “What Order Should I Do My ACCA Professional Exams?”

Fear not. With the foundation you’ve built and strategic planning, you’re well on your way to further ACCA triumphs.

The initial challenge? Determining the sequence of your professional exams. We’ll first delve into six crucial principles to guide your choices. Then, we’ll explore each professional paper and its connection to the fundamental papers you’ve completed.

Mapping Out Your ACCA Professional Journey

The Professional level comprises two modules:

  • Essentials Papers: These are foundational and mandatory.
  • Options Papers: You’ll need to select a few from this category based on your interests and career goals.

Five Guiding Principles for Your Decision

  1. Prioritize Ethics: The Ethics and Professional Skills Module is essential to attain ACCA membership. Ideally, tackle this after your fundamental exams and before diving into the professional ones. This module equips you with vital concepts beneficial throughout the professional level.
  2. Balance Theory with Practicality: Avoid gravitating solely towards papers perceived as “numbers-centric.” A harmonious blend of theoretical knowledge and numerical proficiency is indispensable at this level.
  3. Pace Yourself: Reflect on how many exams you can realistically attempt annually. While ACCA offers quarterly exam opportunities, aligning with your personal capacity and preparation level is crucial. Remember, a measured approach often leads to success.
  4. Stay Updated on New Papers: ACCA periodically introduces new papers or modifies existing ones, as they have recently done for SBL and SBR. Ensure you’re informed about these changes to make strategic decisions.
  5. Hone Your Exam Techniques: The transition from fundamental to professional demands a shift in exam techniques. Regular practice and past paper attempts are invaluable. The right technique can significantly boost your chances of success.

Understanding the Interplay Between Professional and Fundamental Papers

Each professional paper has elements that resonate with the fundamentals. Recognizing these connections can provide a strategic advantage. Deciding on your ACCA professional papers is a pivotal step. This guide aims to provide clarity and direction as you chart your path forward. Best of luck on your ACCA journey!

Strategic Business Leader (SBL)

While the SBL paper is unique with it’s pre-seen case study. As we said above, the Ethics and Professional Skills module is important for professional papers. That is especially true of SBL. But this paper is linked to so many of the earlier Applied Skills papers that it is easier to identify the only paper it doesn’t reference, Taxation. Since this is an Essential Paper, you should get started here as it can only help you by teaching you how to hone your professional skills and technique for this and the later exams.

Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)

This paper shares a lot of common ground with Financial Reporting. If it has been a while since you took Financial Reporting, you should think about refreshing your knowledge for SBR. Examiners often comment that students make basic mistakes on the material they should know from earlier papers. Don’t be that person! SBR is also a very large syllabus, so be careful what else you take on. This is a paper not to over-commit on.

What Are My Options

So those are the Essentials – but what about your Options? You must choose two from the following list. Most students make their choice based on:

  • Which do you think you’re more likely to pass
  • What will most help your future career

Let’s look at each paper.

Advanced Financial Management (AFM)

If the Financial Management (FM) paper was your thing, you will probably be well suited to AFM too. AFM is an extremely tough course because it’s a highly specialized paper in a technical area, but it does link nicely back to FM. You’ll benefit a lot from previous knowledge of FM, so this is one to think carefully about if you excel in FM.

Advanced Performance Management (APM)

APM is probably a technically easier paper than AFM, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good choice for you. The negative to choosing the APM paper is that it has a strong relationship with Performance Management (PM), which you probably took a long time ago (if at all, if you had exemptions). If you do choose APM, the skills you gained in SBL on tackling questions will also help. You should also refresh your knowledge of the PM syllabus.

Advanced Taxation (ATX)

Advanced Taxation and Taxation have a direct relationship. The difference is that ATX expects you to apply the skills and knowledge you have gained and provide professional judgment. This is a love-or-hate paper – but it tends to be best suited to people who’re regularly involved in tax already or plan to build a career in tax. Be wary of choosing this paper if you have little experience or interest in taxation.

Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

If you’ve already completed SBR, this could be a fantastic paper to take immediately afterward. The calculations from SBR don’t come up in AAA, but the basic principles from SBR are crucial to a successful pass. Taking AAA also means you need to reassess your exam technique a little. The examiner expects a vast range of points and wide knowledge of many other papers. Again, the breadth and scope of the syllabus here mean AAA might be a paper to sit alone. Then you’d have plenty of time to study and not risk jeopardizing your performance elsewhere.


In conclusion, the journey through ACCA’s professional papers is both challenging and rewarding. The key is to strategically align your choices with your strengths, prior knowledge, and career aspirations. The question, “What Order Should I Do My ACCA Professional Exams?” is pivotal. The answer lies in understanding the interplay between the papers, staying updated with ACCA’s changes, and leveraging the insights provided in this guide. As you embark on this next phase, remember that every paper is a stepping stone towards your professional growth and success in the ACCA realm. Best wishes on your continued journey!

Read more: What Order Should I Take My ACCA Exams?

Alan Lynch
4 min read

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *