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Ethics and professional scepticism: overview

Ethics is more than just knowing the rules around integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality and professional behaviour. It's about identifying ethical dilemmas, understanding the implications, making judgements, and behaving appropriately, as well as using professional scepticism to build business trust. To develop your ethical capabilities, ethics is integrated throughout the ACA.


The ethics and professional scepticism programme you will follow depends on the date you registered with us as a student – this page is designed for students who registered up to and including 30 June 2020. If you registered from 1 July 2020, read the information that applies to you.


As you progress through the ACA, you will develop your ethical capabilities - in three ways – learn, practise and apply. You are required to complete all three elements before your employer completes the final sign-off at the end of your training agreement period.

This Ethics Learning Programme must be completed by 31 December 2021, it will no longer be supported after this date and you will need to start the new programme.

1. Learn

Ethics is examined in context within all 15 exams and you can view the ethical elements of each exam within the syllabus.

The learning element of your ethical training also includes an online Ethics Learning Programme, based on the ICAEW Code of Ethics. This programme will help you to understand the ICAEW ethical framework, identify ethical principles relating to a scenario and advise on appropriate ways of addressing an ethical threat. To log in to this programme, you will receive your log in details when you register as a student with us. The programme includes six modules and an assessment. The modules are:

  1. Introduction to the ICAEW Code of Ethics.
  2. The fundamental ethical principles.
  3. Threats and safeguards to the fundamental ethical principles.
  4. Conflicts of interest.
  5. Considerations for professional accountants in practice.
  6. Considerations for professional accountants in business.

If you haven't received your log in details or experience any log in problems with the programme, contact our student support team.

The assessment is a test of your ethical progress and requires approval from your employer before you attempt it. The assessment is 60 minutes long, includes 30 multiple choice questions and you must achieve a minimum of 70%. Every time you attempt the assessment, a record will be added to your ‘Ethics and professional scepticism’ tab in your online training file. The assessment is taken online and has an unlimited number of attempts.

Achieving a minimum of 70% within the assessment, shows that you are demonstrating a strong understanding of ethics. If you achieve less than 70%, you will not be able to submit your training file for final sign off to your employer, when your training agreement end date arrives.

You are also required to log your ethics progress within your online training file and this will be discussed with your employer at each six-monthly review.

It is recommended that you aim to complete the Ethics Learning Programme and the assessment before you attempt the Case Study, but do ensure you have approval from your employer before taking the assessment.

Important notice

Please note that we are developing a new Ethics Learning Programme, assessment and scenarios. The programme, assessment and webinars that you have access to from this webpage and within your training file will be available until 31 December 2021.

We recommend that you continue on the programme, assessment and webinars that you have access to, especially if you are part-way through your learning.

If you recently registered as a student and would like to transfer over to the new resources, speak to your employer and they will confirm this with us. If you transfer over to the new programme, either as a recently-registered student or from 1 January 2022 (if you haven't completed the programme, webinars and assessment available to you here), credit will not be awarded for the learning completed in the current programme, which means you will need to start the new programme, scenarios and assessment from the very beginning.;

2. Practise

A series of webinars - Practising Ethics - is available for you to watch when you have completed each module of the Ethics Learning Programme. Each webinar relates to a module within the programme and includes scenarios with ethical dilemmas. They have been designed to help develop ethics and professional scepticism skills and to facilitate ethical discussions within the workplace, either in groups or at each six-monthly review.

The scenarios enable you to practise what you have learnt within the Ethics Learning Programme.

3. Apply

Having learnt the basic ethical requirements within each exam and the Ethics Learning Programme, and practised them while watching in the webinars, you can then apply these skills and principles in practice. This can be done within your daily practical work experience and also within the ethical elements included in some of the steps in the professional development ladders.

Six-monthly reviews

It is a requirement of your ACA training agreement that you and your QPRT, counsellor, training manager or principal meet at least every six months. These meetings are to discuss and monitor your progress on professional development, ethics and professional scepticism, practical work experience and exams. It is your responsibility to update your records within your online training file.

View the six-monthly review guide on how to prepare for a six-monthly review, the topics you will cover during the review and how to submit your training file at the end of your training agreement. You can also view top tips on how to keep your training file up to date.

Your ethics and professional scepticism log

Log your progress within the ‘Ethics and professional scepticism’ tab of your online training file for each of your six-monthly reviews with your training manager, counsellor or principal. Here’s the process:

  1. Complete one or more modules of the Ethics Learning Programme in advance of your six-monthly review.
  2. After each module of the Ethics Learning Programme, watch the corresponding Practising Ethics webinar and consider responses to each scenario.
  3. Keep a note of ethical examples that you read in the news or see in the workplace as they will help you to talk about a real-life situation in your next review.
  4. In your training file, use the ‘Add ethics review’ button to log your progress since the last review, plus you will be asked to enter details of the review itself.
  5. When you have completed the Ethics Learning Programme, obtain approval from your employer to attempt the ethics assessment.
  6. At the end of your training agreement your employer will confirm that you are ethically competent, this includes taking all of the above elements into consideration and achieving 70% or more at the assessment.