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Student Insights

ACA FAQs: your questions answered

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 29 Jun 2023

young woman support customer service caller phone headset long curly hair stripe shirt ICAEW Students FAQ

The ICAEW student support team is on hand to answer all of your ACA questions. Here are the most frequent queries and where to find additional information.

Credit for prior learning (CPL)

Am I eligible for Credit for Prior Learning?

If you already have an accounting or business-related degree or a professional accountancy qualification, you may be able to apply for credit/exemption against an ICAEW exam module. If you are a full member of CICPA, ICAB, ICAI, ICAP, ICASL or ICPAK, credits are part of your ICAEW registration process. If you hold an academic qualification in accounting that is less than five years old, and achieved a minimum mark of 50% in all relevant degree modules, then you may also be eligible for exemption. 

It’s important to note that you may be eligible for a CPL, but your employer may not want to recognise any credit, so check with them before applying.

How do I use the Credit for Prior Learning directory?

The Credit for Prior Learning directory shows which academic and professional qualifications are eligible for which credits. If you see your qualification, ensure you meet all the criteria listed. If your degree is listed in the CPL directory, you will need to share evidence of modules completed and marks/grades gained (usually a transcript) and evidence of the award (for example a certificate). If you experience difficulties uploading your supporting documents, you can email them to cpl@icaew.com quoting your ICAEW student number.

How many credits can I claim? 

If eligible, you can claim credits for Accounting, Assurance, Business Strategy & Technology, Business, Technology & Finance, Financial Management, Law, Management Information and Principles of Taxation. Once you have sat an exam, you cannot retrospectively apply for credit for that module. 

Access more information on CPL.

Practical work experience

How many practical work experience days do I need to complete and what kind of work should it be?

During your training agreement period, you should accumulate and show evidence of at least 450 days of practical work experience. If you are an AAT-ACA Fast Track student or eligible for a two-year training agreement, it will be 300 days. This does not include sick leave, holidays, study leave, off the job training or office administration. There is a minimum requirement of 65 days across a minimum time period of three months. This applies in all cases unless a student is moving to a different training office but remaining within the same organisation. 

Practical work experience is undertaking real-life work of a financial, business and/or commercial nature in at least one of the following six categories: Accounting; Audit and Assurance; Tax; Financial Management; Insolvency; Information Technology. A day counts as seven hours. If you work more than the required number of days, continue to record them in your online training file

Can I get credit for prior work experience? 

In some circumstances, we may be able to recognise work experience you obtained before entering your training agreement. It must have been gained within the 24-month period preceding registration and can only be from an office authorised by ICAEW to train students. Detailed guidance can be found on the credit for prior work experience form.

Find out How to nail your practical work experience.

Online training file 

How should I record my practical work experience days?

You need to record them in your online training file. This is a mandatory part of the ACA. Make sure you keep it up to date, as an incomplete file isn’t compliant with regulations and will mean you cannot move into membership. You can update your file online 24/7. Keep records or timesheets of the number of work experience hours you complete, and log this after your six-monthly review by clicking on the ‘add practical work experience’ button. When you have done this, your six-month period will be locked and stored within the file. Continue to record your practical work experience days until the final day of your training. Our series of videos takes you through each tab of the file to help you keep up to date.

How do I get my training file signed off?

You must submit your training file for final sign-off on the final day of your training agreement. Your employer will log in to confirm final sign-off. There is no need to wait until you have passed all your exams. If all other elements of the ACA are complete, you can still submit your training file. It will be placed in the system to be processed and will be verified once you have passed the exams. To claim your audit experience towards the Audit Qualification, you must seek final approval from the authorised audit individual at your organisation before the end of your training agreement, and before you submit your training file. 

Get more information on the online training file.

Access arrangements

Do I qualify for access arrangements?

If you feel your exam performance may be hindered due to a health condition, disability or specific learning difficulty (SpLD), such as dyslexia, we may be able to put access arrangements in place to support you during your exam(s). We can also consider access arrangements for requests relating to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and prayer time during the exam.

You can apply for access arrangements for an SpLD if you have been diagnosed by a qualified assessor and have a diagnostic report which meets the requirements. If the condition you are suffering from is considered a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, we will do everything we reasonably can to support you. This may involve adjustments such as awarding you extra time, rest breaks, a reader or a scribe. 

If you are suffering from a short-term condition, we will provide support in accordance with the ACA assessment regulations, subject to the receipt of sufficient notice and suitable medical evidence.

How long will my application take?

We recommend applying as soon as possible, when you register as a student with ICAEW, or as soon as you are aware that you may need arrangements. All access arrangements applications and enquiries must now be submitted online

For Certificate Level exams, apply for access arrangements at least 21 working days before your intended exam date – do not book your exam until arrangements have been confirmed. For Professional and Advanced Level exams, the access arrangements application deadline is the same date as the exam applications deadline. We will review your enquiry or application and aim to provide a response within 21 working days. In some circumstances, this can take a little longer. We will then let you know if your application can be approved, or if we need more information.If your evidence is not sufficient, we cannot consider further evidence for the exam session after the booking window close, therefore we recommend applying to allow enough time for your application to be reviewed.

Please also be aware that passwords should be provided in the text box when submitting any supporting evidence and all contact details should be kept up to date to avoid any unnecessary delays. There is also a size limit within the application portal, any evidence over 1MB will not be received. Students should split the document or reduce the file size. Please ensure all information provided is of sufficient quality to be read.

Do my access arrangements expire?

This will depend on the nature of your condition. Some arrangements, such as for dyslexia, will be awarded for all sessions while you are studying. Others, such as for a temporary injury, would be for the expected time as outlined in your application. Once your arrangement expires, you will need to submit a new application with up-to-date medical evidence if you wish to extend access.

Why has my application for access arrangements been declined? 

This is most likely because you do not meet the requirements, or because not enough supporting evidence has been supplied. Please provide as much relevant information as possible and carefully read the information on access arrangements

If you require assistance, submit your enquiry at my.icaew.com/examsonline or contact student support.

Learning materials and errata sheets 

Which books should I buy? 

Your tuition provider will let you know which materials you will need. Alternatively, refer to the ICAEW Bookshelf. All ICAEW Learning Materials are digital only. As the syllabus, exams and learning materials are reviewed and approved by our examiners each year, we only recommend you use the latest editions. Find out more about the digital learning materials and how to order them.

What if I’ve ordered the wrong books?

If you purchased the wrong workbook, you will need to contact student support, and we will refund the purchase and mark the order as cancelled. This information will then be passed to the ICAEW Bookshelf and the workbook(s) will be removed.

How are any errors within the learning materials corrected?

ICAEW updates its learning materials annually to reflect changes to the syllabus, current legislation and technical standards. Occasionally, errors may appear in the material. We publish details of any errata on the relevant exam resources page for each module.  

Get more information on learning materials.

Training agreement

How do I change my training employer?

If you need to move employer during your training due to exam failure, relocation or any other reason, there are a number of steps you have to take. Check your employment contract and speak with your HR representative to ensure you understand any potential implications for repayment of tuition fees. 

Before you leave, ensure your practical work experience days are fully up to date in your online training file, to the last day of your employment. If you are gaining audit experience, ensure this has been recorded up to the last day of your employment and your employer has provided feedback. Finally, make sure your QPRT has cancelled your training agreement online. If this does not happen, you will not be able to re-register with your new employer and your experience may be lost. Read this article for more advice.

How do I re-register with a new employer?

When you start with your new employer, obtain their Authorised Training Employer (ATE) code and re-register as an ACA student using the re-registration form and your original student number. Ensure that your new employer is already an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer, otherwise they may not be able to offer you an ACA training agreement. Get more information on re-registration.

Exam applications

Why can’t I book my exam? 

It could be that the booking window is not yet open: refer to the key ACA dates and deadlines. For the Advanced Level Case Study exam, students need to complete all other exams first before they can book this final stage. We recommend students also confirm with their employer they are ready to book. For those on the Level 7 apprenticeship, students need to ensure they have the Gateway completed before they can submit their Project Report too. 

Exam centres are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to book your exam early. If an exam centre doesn’t appear, it means that this centre is fully booked. You will still be able to sit your exam via remote invigilation. Remember to book your exam by the session closing date, we do not accept any late applications or changes once the deadlines have passed. If you are unable to access the online booking system, contact us


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