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15 accountancy, finance and business exams

The ACA qualification has 15 exams over three levels. The exams are designed to fit with your students' practical experience, so they constantly progress through the qualification and gain an in-depth knowledge across a broad range of topics in accountancy, finance and business.

The exams can be taken in any order with the exception of the Case Study which has to be attempted last and in the final year of a training agreement. Students must pass every exam or receive credit.

Credit for prior learning is available for up to 12 of the exams depending on your students' previous studies and/or qualifications. You can choose to allow your students to apply for all or some of the available credits.

Syllabus, technical knowledge and skills grid

ACA exams

15 exams over three levels

Certificate Level

There are six exams at this level that introduce the fundamentals of accountancy, finance and business.

They each have a 1.5 hour computer-based exam which can be sat at any time. Your students may be eligible for credit for some modules if they have studied accounting, finance, law or business at degree level or through another professional qualification.

These six exams are also available as a stand-alone certificate, the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB). Students studying for this certificate will only complete these six exams. On successful completion, the ICAEW CFAB can be used as a stepping stone to studying the ACA qualification.

From 1 January 2019, we are implementing some changes to Certificate Level exams, including changes to the calculator policy, identification requirements and reminder emails. Students will also see that the exams look a little different. There will be no changes to the exam questions or the exam delivery software, but the colours used will reflect the new ICAEW brand.

Bookkeeping accounts and preparation programme

This optional bookkeeping programme is available to help your students to improve their understanding of accounting processes. It covers the process of recording transactions from source documents through to preparing financial statements, knowledge which can be used at all levels of the ACA. It also complements the learning materials and skills learnt at the Certificate Level Accounting exam.

Professional Level

The next six exams build on the fundamentals and test your students understanding and ability to use technical knowledge in real-life scenarios. Each exam has a 2.5–3 hour exam, which are available to sit four times per year, except the Business Planning alternative modules* for banking and insurance which are available in June, September and December.

These modules are flexible and can be taken in any order. The Business Planning and Business Strategy and Technology exams in particular will help you to progress to the Advanced Level.

*Alternative modules are available for Business Planning, there are three to choose from: Business Planning: Banking, Business Planning: Insurance and Business Planning: Taxation. An IFRS and UK GAAP version of the Financial Accounting and Reporting exam is also available.

Advanced Level

The Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management exams test your students understanding and strategic decision making at a senior level. They present real-life scenarios, with increased complexity and wider implications from the Professional Level exams.

The Case Study presents a complex business issue which challenges your students ability to problem solve, identify ethical implications and provide effective solutions. The Case Study tests through contextualisation the knowledge, skills and experience you have gained to date.

The Advanced Level exams are fully open book, so they replicate a real-life scenario where all the resources are at your students fingertips.

Tax Compliance - important update

We have removed the sub-sections in the Tax Compliance exam, so on the day of your students exam, they will see tabs numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This is the same as all other ACA Professional and Advanced Level exams. This means that if question 1 has sub-parts, for example, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, students will add their response to all parts in the one answer area, ensuring you include clear labels for each part. 

Financial Accounting and Reporting: UK GAAP exam is changing

The current Financial Accounting and Reporting: UK GAAP exam will be available until September 2018 only. From March 2019, a new Financial Accounting and Reporting: UK GAAP exam will be available. This new exam will cover micro and smaller entity accounting including FRS 105, as well as, FRS 102.

For all your students who have completed or are studying towards the current exam, a supplement will be available to help them with their Corporate Reporting: IFRS exam preparation.

Whichever version of the exam your students pass, current or new, they will be eligible for the Audit Qualification (AQ), as long as they sit and pass the Corporate Reporting: IFRS exam and meet all other AQ requirements.

Exam regulations, dates and support

Credit for prior learning

Credit for prior learning is our term for exam exemptions. If your students have completed an academic qualification such as, a degree, Masters or a diploma, or have completed a professional qualification, they may be eligible to apply for credits towards some of the Certificate and/or Professional Level exams. Credit isn’t restricted to accounting or finance degrees, so if they have covered the ACA syllabus at university, college or as part of a professional qualification, their application will be considered.

You can choose to allow your students to apply for all or some of the available credits.

Exam applications, dates, deadlines and fees

It is your students’ responsibility to apply for exams before the closing deadlines. Students must be registered with us to apply for exams and they can apply via their online training file.

Booking an exam

Students can book their Professional and Advanced Level exams via their online training file. When they apply, they simply enter a town, postcode or country as their preferred location and the five closest exam centres with availability will appear. They then select the centre where they want to sit their exam.

Exam centres are available on a first come, first serve basis, so ensure that your students book their exam early. If an exam centre does not appear when location details are entered, it means that this exam centre is fully booked. If your students have access arrangements, the centres that meet their specific arrangements will be displayed.

Once they have completed their booking and made payment, they will receive an application summary by email. They will be able to make any changes to their application online until the exam closing date.

Late exam applications

Please ensure that you and your students are aware of all deadlines when applying for ACA Professional and Advanced Level exams. Any late exam applications are unlikely to be accepted. Any requests received within the week after the closing date, that can be accommodated, will incur additional fees. Please do encourage your students to book their exams early.

Exam regulations

There are several key ACA exam regulations that you and your students need to be aware of:

  • ICAEW regulations allow a maximum of four attempts per Certificate and Professional Level exam. If a student fails the same exam four times, that student will be excluded from continuing as an ACA student.
  • There is no limit on the number of attempts allowed on any of the Advanced Level exams.
  • The Advanced Level Case Study must be the last exam attempted. You students will only be able to attempt the Case Study exam in the final year of their training agreement. You can decide when your students are ready to sit the Case Study. Your students should be close to completing the professional development, ethics and professional scepticism, and practical work experience before attempting the Case Study.
  • There is no time bar.
Exam results

There are a number of ways that your students can receive their exam results for the Professional and Advanced Level exams:

  • Students can choose to receive their exam results by email and/or text message. Registration for this service can be completed as part of the online exam application process or using the results notification link on the online exam applications system. The deadline for applications for receiving results this way is 17:00 UK-time on the Friday before the relevant results despatch at each session.
  • Pass and credit lists are posted on our website at 12:00 UK-time on the date of release at icaew.com/examresults
  • They can download the ICAEW app to view their exam results or view their results via the online training file.
  • Students can call the student support team on +44 (0) 1908 248 250 from 12:00-17:30 UK-time on results release day.

The qualified person responsible for training (QPRT) or the authorised training principal will receive written confirmation of the results of your students. You can also view your students' exam results via their online training file.

If your students have failed an exam and believe that the result is not correct, or would like more information about their marks, they can request either a marks review or a marks feedback.

Prize-giving

Each year we award prizes to the students who achieve the highest marks in the Professional and Advanced Level exams. We award one prize per subject after each exam sitting to the student who achieves the highest mark in the exam. The International Subject Orders of Merit detailing the prizes are published with the results after each exam sitting.

We also award the Annual International Order of Merit to students with the highest average mark across all exams. This is to reflect the different patterns of exam sittings that students follow, and is published in January each year for the Professional Level and in December for the Advanced Level.

Each prize-winner will be invited to the International ACA Prize-giving Ceremony which is held at Chartered Accountants' Hall, to be presented with their certificate and prize.

Exam support for your students

Students can access past exams, examiners feedback, useful articles and study webinars within the exam resources area of our website. This area of the website requires students to log in to view the information.

They can discuss topics of interest and network with each other on the ICAEW online student community. They can follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn and read our quarterly magazine for ACA students, Vital, to receive the most up to date exam support and information.

We also send regular emails to students to provide them with the most up to date information on the ACA qualification, support and resources.