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Critical thinking skills

Time to think and freedom to challenge are essential if auditors are to develop and demonstrate a questioning mind.

A long-running conundrum for auditors has been how best to apply – and demonstrate the application of – an appropriate level of professional scepticism. The faculty’s recent Practical Auditing Discussion Group (PADG) considered how auditors could be trained and developed to hone their skills in this challenging area, drawing on examples from regulator findings over the years. With a lack of demonstrable professional scepticism being a common review finding, there were plenty of examples to choose from. The PADG focused on three main themes:

  1. How much scepticism is enough?
  2.  How do we document and demonstrate a suitably questioning state of mind?
  3. How do we foster and train the necessary questioning and challenging approach?

The discussion drew heavily on ICAEW’s thought leadership paper Scepticism: The Practitioners’ Take and the experience of PADG attendees who concluded that while curiosity may not be great for our feline friends, it should be the bedrock of audit. The PADG discussed this and how to develop behaviours and attitudes that result in a questioning mind, despite commercial pressures that mitigate against engagement teams being willing to explore questions for fear they will affect costs or the meeting of a deadline.

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