Charlotte Partington, Subject Matter Expert at BPP, shares guidance on completing the final step of your ICAEW Level 7 Accounting Professional apprenticeship.
As an ICAEW Level 7 apprentice approaching the end-point assessment, you will have spent three to four years developing your knowledge, skills and behaviours. During this time, you will have completed off-the-job training; gained practical experience in the workplace; sat 14 of the 15 ACA exams; and kept your training file up-to-date. Your employer will also have kept track of any other requirements, such as achieving a Level 2 in English and Maths.
Now, it’s time to complete both parts of the end-point assessment. The first part, the ACA Advanced Level Case Study exam, is a four hour invigilated examination in which you must achieve a mark of at least 50%. The second element is the Project Report, requiring you to answer four questions that assess your skills and behaviours over the past 12 months.
“To be a good accountant, you need to be able to advise clients effectively. Up until this point, you have been studying the technical knowledge required to allow you to do this. The end-point assessment allows you to demonstrate that you can combine all this information into a business report, taking account of a client’s specific circumstances and providing useful advice,” Charlotte explains.
1. Case Study exam: study the advanced information
“The Case Study exam puts you in the position of a final year trainee writing a business report on the current position of a client,” Charlotte says. “You are required to advise the client on the best way forward based on information that you can prepare in advance of the exam as well as new information that you receive in the exam.”
Around eight weeks before the exam, ICAEW will publish advanced information on the fictitious client, including the industry they operate in and the products and/or services they provide. It will contain approximately 14 exhibits or around 40 pages of information. You need to fully understand the contents of each exhibit and how they might be used in any of the three Case Study exam questions, known as ‘requirements’.
“It is vitally important that students know the advanced information back to front,” Charlotte adds. “This may initially seem daunting, but remember that there is no other syllabus for the Case Study exam and all the knowledge tested in the exam is brought forward from other exams you have already passed.”
2. Case Study exam: practice, practice, practice
The Case Study exam has a prescribed format: three separate requirements that follow a similar pattern each exam sitting. Although you cannot predict exactly what you will be asked, reviewing past exams will familiarise you with the themes that are covered in each requirement.
“For example, in Requirement 1 you will be required to carry out financial analysis on the most recent management accounts, provided in the exam, and compare them to the previous year’s data, provided in the advanced information,” Charlotte says.
“The exam is time pressured so it is important to have a strategy as to how you will tackle it. Tuition providers will prepare mock exams based on the advanced information to help you fully understand the exhibits and to practise the exam to time. You should practise old case exams to time as attempting all three requirements will give you the best chance of passing.”
3. Case Study exam: understand the marking system
The Case Study exam follows a particular marking grid, which is different to the previous exams you will have sat. “Marking grids for Case Study exams are available from your tuition provider or on the ICAEW website,” Charlotte adds. “Once you understand the marking grid, you can ensure that you tailor your responses to gain as many marks as possible.”
4. Project Report: plan ahead and manage your time
The Project Report assesses evidence of the skills and behaviours you have built during your apprenticeship. “It’s a chance to reflect on the most relevant work experience examples from the last 12 months and showcase both your aptitude and personal development goals,” Charlotte says.
The report has four requirements that must be addressed. For each requirement, you will identify a situation that best demonstrates your skills and behaviours. It is recommended that each answer is structured into four key sections:
- Describing the situation.
- Explaining your actions.
- Evaluating your effectiveness.
- Describing the lessons learned.
“Make sure you allow adequate time to prepare the report, use a different situation for each question and ensure there’s enough scope for you to talk about your own contribution to the project or task,” says Charlotte. “The work you’ve done during your apprenticeship will have prepared you well for this report and you should expect to reflect on the varying experiences that you’ve had as well as what you have taken forward as learning points.”
5. Project Report: be precise and specific
“Always use a specific situation, not a general or theoretical situation, and don’t just describe what’s happened,” Charlotte explains. “Reflect on development areas too, and don’t be afraid to talk about things to improve on.”
Marks are also available for well written reports so be aware of using acronyms as well as general spelling, grammar and punctuation. “Leave time to proofread your answers,” Charlotte advises.
After the end-point assessment
Once you have completed and passed the Case Study exam and Project Report, you will have formally completed your Level 7 apprenticeship programme and you will receive your completion certificate. You can then continue to work towards achieving your ACA qualification by completing the 450 hours of Practical Work Experience, Professional Development ladders and Ethics.