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Independent student FAQs

Frequently asked questions from independent students.

What is an independent student?
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This is the term ICAEW uses for a student who is studying for the ACA qualification but they are not in an ACA training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE).

How do I become an independent student?
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To become an independent student studying for the ACA, you must:

I am an ACA student with ICAEW. Can I use the ACA letters after my name now?
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No. Please go ACA training agreements FAQs for the answer to this question.

Why do I need to register as an independent student?
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You must be registered with ICAEW as an ACA student to be able to take the ACA exams. In some countries, you will need to register as a student in order to claim any credit for prior learning.

As a student, you can access a wide range of benefits including:

  • free skills development webinars;
  • online student community with its blogs and Ask a Tutor sessions to provide you with exam-related support and contact with other ACA students;
  • past papers, syllabus and examiner feedback; and
  • student magazine VITAL and regular e-newsletters providing the latest information and exam support.
Can I get any credits/exemptions at the ACA exams?
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You may be eligible for credit for prior learning (which you may know as exam exemptions) if you have an accounting or business related degree or a professional accountancy qualification.

Depending on what you have previously studied, you may be eligible for credit/exemption on up to 12 of the Professional Stage exams of the ACA qualification.

For all questions relating to credit for prior learning, see CPL/exemptions FAQs.

My ACA training agreement with my employer has been cancelled. Do I need to register as an independent student to continue my ACA studies?
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No. You can continue to study for the ACA if your training agreement has been cancelled. However, you must be in an ACA training agreement to sit the Case Study! You cannot qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant without completing the requirements of the ACA training agreement.

You should do everything you can to try to find a new ACA training agreement. Please see the question later in this section for information to help find a training agreement.

Can I take exams without being registered as a student?
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No, you need to be registered as an ACA student to sit your exams.

Do I need to be in an ACA training agreement to complete my ACA?
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Yes*. You cannot qualify as an ACA without being in an ACA training agreement. You are entitled to sit all the ACA exams (except the Case Study) as an independent student but ICAEW regulations require students to be employed with an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE) to gain the required technical work experience (TWE) requirements of the ACA.

*the only exception to this is if you are studying for the ACA in a country where a memorandum of understanding (MoU) exists between your local institute and ICAEWwhich may recognise the work experience you have already completed as part of the qualification from your local institute. To see what the ACA looks like for different countries, go to ACA students (other countries).

How much does it cost to study the ACA as an independent student?
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This depends on a number of factors such as which country you study in, what type of tuition you take and if you are entitled to any credit (exemptions) at any of the ACA exams.

There are two types of costs – those payable to ICAEW and those that are payable directly to your tuition provider. ICAEW does not control the costs that tuition providers charge for their courses.

Fees payable to ICAEW are:

  • ICAEW annual student fee of £165 + VAT (if applicable). This is payable to ICAEW upon registration as an ACA student and each year of your studies. Please note that the date you register may change the fee that you pay for that year:
    • If you register within 1 January and 30 June the annual fee of £165 + VAT is required.
    • If you register within 1 July and 31 October, you will pay a half year fee of £82.50 + VAT.
    • The annual fee is also required if you register within 1 November and 31 December (in this instance, you will receive your first annual bill after 14 months).
    • Your annual student fee is renewable on 1 January each year.
  • Exam costs - these vary depending on which exam module you take. They are payable when you enter for an exam.
  • Credit for prior learning costs - you may know these as exam exemptions. Some students in some countries may be eligible to receive credit at a reduced cost or free.
  • ACA learning materials costs - you will need up-to-date study books and manuals for each of the exams you study (please check with your tuition provider as learning materials may be included in tuition costs).

Fees payable to your tuition provider are:

  • Tuition costs - there may be a number of ways for you to study for the ACA exams (eg, in a classroom, online etc). The availability and costs for these will vary by location and tuition provider.
I am registered as an independent student. How do I become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant with the ACA qualification?
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To become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant you need to complete all the essential elements of ACA training: exams, initial professional development (IPD), technical work experience (TWE) and structured training in ethics (STE).

You will also need to be in an ACA training agreement with an employer that is authorised by ICAEW to train ACA students.

You cannot qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant without having completed all the required elements of the ACA qualification and the ACA training agreement.

However, there are alternative routes available to members of some professional bodies.

Can ICAEW help me to find a training agreement?
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If you are working for an organisation that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer, you may want to talk to your employer about how they can become an ATE. It is a free and straightforward process.

For advice on finding a training agreement, you can visit our careers website at icaew.com/careers.

For additional support, please contact studentsupport@icaew.com.

What support do I get from ICAEW as an independent student?
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We offer all ACA students a variety of support to help with their studies:

I am an independent student studying for the ACA Professional Stage. What records should I keep?
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If you are registered as an independent student with ICAEW, there is no need to complete your training records until you are in a training agreement. This is because you will not be able to complete any of the other requirements of the ACA until you are in a training agreement.

You can sit the ACA exams as an independent student (except the Case Study) but you must be employed with an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE) to gain the required technical work requirements of the ACA.

If you are working for an organisation that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer, you may want to talk to your employer about how they can become an ATE. It is a free and straightforward process.

For advice on finding a training agreement, you can visit our careers website at icaew.com/careers.

For additional support, please contact studentsupport@icaew.com

How do I complete my technical work experience if I don’t have an ACA training agreement?
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If you are an independent student, you will not be able to complete any of the other requirements of the ACA until you have gained employment and are in a training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE).

Please note: you will also need to be in a training agreement in order to sit your Case Study exam.

If you are working for an organisation that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer, you may want to talk to your employer about becoming an ATE. It is a free and straightforward process.

For advice on finding a training agreement, you can visit our careers website at icaew.com/careers.

For additional support, please contact studentsupport@icaew.com.

Once I am in an ACA training agreement, can I count any work experience that I gained before my training agreement started?
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In the majority of cases the answer is no.

However, in certain circumstances, ICAEW can recognise up to a maximum of 12 months of prior work experience (which would include some technical work experience) gained before your ACA training agreement. This applies ONLY IF:

  • that experience was gained in an organisation that was registered as an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE);
  • AND you met the requirements to register with ICAEW from the date you are trying to claim credit;
  • AND your previous work experience must have been gained within a certain timeframe

You can find this on the guidance notes of the application form here

If your work experience, does not meet ALL of these conditions, then you will not be able to count it towards the requirements of the ACA.