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Independent student FAQs

Frequently asked questions from independent students.

All information is accurate as of June 2021 – unless stated otherwise.

What is an independent student?
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You are an independent student if you are studying for the ACA qualification, but you are not yet in an ACA training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal.

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?

No. You can only use the ACA designatory letters after your name when you become a fully qualified ICAEW member.

Why do I need to register as an independent student?

You must be registered with ICAEW as an ACA student to be able to take the ACA exams. You will also need to be registered as a student before you can claim any credit for prior learning.

Once you become an ACA student, you will benefit from a wide range of fantastic resources and services to help you in your studies. Here’s what we have to offer:

  • a dedicated student support team;
  • free exam resources - past exams, practice questions, examiner feedback, errata, exam webinars etc;
  • access to your local student society or group for exam support, local events and study buddies;
  • access to free learning content from across ICAEW such as digital skills training, economic insights and more; and
  • regular e-newsletters with the latest student news, job alerts, exam resources and exam date reminders.
Can I apply for exemptions/credit for prior learning towards the ACA exams?

You may be eligible for credit for prior learning (which you may know as exam exemptions) if you have an academic qualification such as a degree, Masters or a diploma - that has elements of law, business, finance or accounting within it - or, have a professional qualification.

Depending on what you have previously studied, you may be eligible to apply for credits for up to 12 of the Certificate Level and Professional Level exams.

My ACA training agreement with my employer has been cancelled. Do I need to register as an independent student to continue my ACA studies?

No. Please note you need to be in the final year of an ACA training agreement to be able to take the Case Study exam*. You can only qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant when you have successfully completed all the requirements of the four elements of the ACA qualification.

* ACA assessment regulations state that students may not attempt the Case Study until they have completed all but their last year of approved training by the end of the month in which the assessment is held unless authorised to attempt the examination earlier by the Managing Director, Education and Training.

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.

How much does it cost to study the ACA as an independent student?

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.

Fees payable to ICAEW are:

  • The annual student fee of £180 (+ 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 between 1 January and 30 June the annual fee of £180 + VAT will apply.
    • If you register between 1 July and 31 October, you will only be required to pay a half year fee + VAT.
    • You will be required to pay the full annual fee if you register between 1 November and 31 December (in this instance, you will receive your first annual bill after 13/14 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 register for an exam.
  • Credit for prior learning costs - please be aware that students in some countries may be eligible to receive credit at a reduced cost or free.
  • ACA learning materials costs - you will need to purchase the most up-to-date learning materials for each of the modules you choose to study for. Remember to check with your tuition provider before purchasing any learning materials, as these may be included in their 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 (classroom, online and one-to-one). The 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?

To become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant you need to complete all four elements of ACA training: exams, practical work experience, professional development, and ethics and professional scepticism. You also need to complete a formal period of training under an ACA training agreement with an authorised training employer or principal.

You will not be able to qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant without having completed all of these required elements of the ACA qualification.

You cannot use the ACA letters after your name until you have completed all elements and have become a fully qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

Can ICAEW help me to find a training agreement?

There are a number of ways we can help. If you are working for an organisation that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal, you may want to talk to them about becoming one. The process is free and simple. Our business development team are happy to talk to you/your employer through the process.

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

Look for ACA training opportunities on our dedicated Training Vacancies website. You will find a variety of UK and overseas vacancies from employers including accountancy firms, commercial organisations, not for profit and the public sector. Check this site regularly as new vacancies get added regularly. You can register on the site, upload your CV and create a personal profile. Your profile can then be easily searched by employers recruiting ACA students. Some companies choose not to post their jobs on our site, so always check the websites of companies you want to work for.

Get yourself and your CV employer-ready - sign up to our free Careers+ hub for insight on getting ready for interviews, assessment centres, how to job hunt effectively and lots more.

If you have passed four or more ACA exams already, you may be eligible to upload your CV to our Available Student Register - this register is used by employers looking to recruit ACA trainees with part of the ACA already completed.

What support do I get from ICAEW as an independent student?

All ACA students benefit from a wide range of fantastic resources and services. These are designed to help you in your studies and in the workplace. They include:

  • A dedicated student support team – here to help and advise you throughout your training via live web chat, email or phone;
  • Student website – find the latest information, guidance and exclusive resources to help you as you progress through the ACA at icaew.com/dashboard;
  • Student insights hub - an online hub with useful articles, videos and resources to help you with work, study and life;
  • Regular e-newsletters – with the latest student news, exam updates and reminders;
  • Exam resources – past exams, exam software practice, errata, exam webinars, syllabus and examiner feedback to help your revision;
  • Student groups – join your local ICAEW student society or network to connect with other ACA students and get involved in social activities, study buddy groups and more.
  • Gain access to free resources from across ICAEW including free digital skills training, economic insights and more.
How do I complete my practical work experience if I don’t have an ACA training agreement?

If you are an independent student, you will not be able to complete the requirements of the ACA until you have gained employment and are in a training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal.

Remember: you will also need to be in the final year of your training agreement, before you can sit the Case Study exam.

If you are working for an organisation (or individual) that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal, you may want to talk about becoming one. It is a free and straightforward process. Our business development team will happily talk to you and your employer about what's involved.

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

Once I am in an ACA training agreement, can I count any work experience that I gained before my training agreement started?

In the majority of cases the answer is no. However, in certain circumstances, we will recognise up to a maximum of 12 months of prior work experience (which would include some practical 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 or principal;
  • AND that this experience was gained within the 24 months before your ACA student registration date;
  • 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 the two years prior to the start of your training agreement.

Please note that 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.