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Credit for prior learning (CPL)/exemptions FAQs

Frequently asked questions about credit for prior learning, also known as exemptions.

All answers accurate as of January 2015.

How can I find out if I am eligible?
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First, you should check the online credit for prior learning directory. This gives you an instant view of which academic and professional qualifications are eligible for which credits. If your qualification is listed on the directory please ensure you meet all the criteria listed.

The CPL directory is not an exhaustive list. If you cannot find your qualification on the directory, or if you do not meet the criteria on the directory but still want to apply, please consider this carefully because if you choose to apply for CPL and your application is not awarded, you will not get your application fees refunded. You will need to complete an application form to apply for credits if your degree is not listed.

It is your responsibility to apply for any credit to which you believe you are entitled. Early application is essential – we recommend that you apply for each or all credits before you start your studies. If you have sat an exam module, you will not be able to apply for CPL for that module. Applications take up to 14 days (from receipt of your completed application) to be assessed and processed.

The date shown on the certificate and transcript for your academic qualification must have a year-end within 5 years of the year of your CPL application e.g. if you are applying in 2015 the transcript and certificate must be dated either 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015.

How do I know if I’m eligible for CPL for the Business Finance module?
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The Business and Finance module is a wide ranging syllabus, often CPL is awarded based on completion of the whole degree. Essentially what we are looking to identify is whether the degree programme has covered each of these key areas:

  • Business objectives and functions – business objectives, strategic plans, business plans etc.
  • Business and organisational structures (30%) - the differences between businesses carried out by sole traders, partnerships, limited liability partnerships, alliances and groups.
  • The role of finance (25%) - knowledge of how the accounting and finance function supports business.
  • Role of accountancy profession (15%) – the importance of financial reporting and assurance.
  • Governance, sustainability, corporate responsibility and ethics (15%) – includes knowledge of ethics, internal audit and the corporate governance code.
  • External environment (15%) – includes macroeconomics and microeconomics.
If I am eligible for credit for prior learning will I automatically receive it?
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  • CPL is not awarded automatically. You need to apply for them and those students who are not under the cost reduction scheme will need to pay for each module.
  • You may be eligible for credit for prior learning (CPL), but your employer may not want to recognise any credit. You should check with your employer before applying for credit.

For full details and relevant CPL forms, go to icaew.com/cpl.

I am an AAT student, what credit/exemptions can I get?
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  • You are eligible for credit on up to five modules of the ACA Certificate Level depending on which AAT units you have completed. Go to the online ACA credit directory for more information.

For all questions relating to the AAT-ACA Fast Track, see AAT-ACA Fast Track FAQs.

Do I need to register as an ACA student before I can apply for credit for prior learning/exemptions?
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Yes, you will need to register as a student before you can apply for CPL.

Can I sit an exam and apply for credit of that same module at a later date?
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No, once you have sat that exam, you cannot then apply for credit of that module.

Can I sit an exam while I am still applying for credit on a different exam module?
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Yes. Remember though, that it takes a minimum of 14 days from the date at which ICAEW receives all required information for your application to be assessed and awarded.

How much does it cost?
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For the relevant costs for credit for prior learning:

If I apply for credit for prior learning (CPL) but it is not awarded, do I get my money refunded?
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No. Application fees for CPL are non-refundable.

How, when and where do I apply?
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How: Most students can apply for credit for prior learning (CPL) online. However, those claiming credit with cost reduction or with a specialist route to membership will need to apply using a paper-based application. You can find this information and access the online and paper-based application for CPL at icaew.com/cpl.

When: Once you have registered as an ACA student. You can apply for CPL at any time, however when you have sat an ACA module, you are unable to apply for CPL against this module. Applications take up to 14 days (from receipt of your completed application and supporting documentation) to be assessed and processed.

Where: Send your completed application form and copies of your supporting documents/evidence to:

CPL Manager,
Metropolitan House,
321 Avebury Boulevard,
Milton Keynes,


Providing there are no payment details in any of the documentation you can email them to cpl@icaew.com.

What supporting documents/evidence do I have to supply? Does this have to be original documents or are photocopies OK?
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If you have a qualification that is listed on our online directory and are applying for credit for prior learning (CPL) you must send:

  • Evidence of modules completed and marks/grades gained (usually a transcript)
  • Evidence of award/qualification (for example a certificate)

If you have a qualification that is not listed in our online directory and you are applying for CPL - you must send a copy of your university transcript and degree certificate plus all relevant syllabus or module descriptors and exam papers for each module being used to claim credit.

If you have a professional qualification and are claiming CPL - you must send copies of your award certificate and evidence (eg, result notifications) of each module or paper completed.

Good quality copies or scanned versions may be used, and these can be faxed or emailed but you must include your application reference number. ICAEW cannot accept screenshots of web notification pages or similar electronic notifications. We reserve the right to ask for original or certified documents.

How long does it take to apply for CPL?
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We will assess and respond to your application (including all your supporting documents and evidence) within 14 days of receipt. If we need you to send in additional information, your application could take another 14 days from receipt of all required information on top of the original time to be fully assessed.

You cannot claim credit for an exam that you have already attempted.

Can I check the progress of my CPL application?
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Yes. You can check the progress of your application at CPL application.

  • If your application status says applied, this means we have received your initial application. If your application was made online it means we're still waiting to receive your supporting evidence.
  • If your application says pending we've received your application and supporting information but something more is needed. We will have emailed you telling you what this is.
  • If your application says declined then you have not met the criteria for credit in this subject.
  • If your application says awarded then you have been given credit in this subject
What information on CPL can the student support helpline tell me?
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They can help with They are unable to help
Talk through the CPL procedure Tell you which credits you will get if your qualification does not appear on the CPL directory
Tell you costs Tell you if you supporting information was received if it was only posted within the previous five days
Talk you through the credit for prior learning form  
Talk you through the credit for prior learning directory  
Talk you through the procedures for applying