ACCA, the coveted Chartered Accountancy Qualification, is not an easy one to obtain. Every student needs to progress through three components of the ACCA Qualification on their journey to becoming a full-fledged ACCA member. These components are ACCA Coursework Exams (13 papers), an Ethics and Professional Skills Module, and Practical Experience Requirements (PER).
The ACCA coursework syllabus, as mentioned earlier consists of fourteen modules (including ethics and Professional Skills). The thirteen coursework modules are subdivided into two categories, namely the Fundamental level (9 modules or papers) and the Professional Level (4 modules or papers). There are four exam sessions each year, and a student can attempt up to 8 distinct papers in a year.
Fundamental Level Courses :
The fundamental level comprises 9 courses. Students who do not have a relevant undergraduate degree, or relevant professional qualification (CA for instance), need to pass all the 9 courses in this category in order to be eligible for the ACCA Qualification. The fundamental level is further subdivided into the Knowledge Level (3 papers) and the Skills Level (6 papers). The fundamental level papers are labeled from F1 to F9.
Knowledge Level or Applied Knowledge Papers :
The Knowledge exams provide students with a broad introduction to finance and accounting and develop the student’s essential understanding of practices and techniques in accounting.
The three examinations under knowledge level are :
- F1 : Business and Technology (BT): Structure, governance, and management of an organization, Influences and constraints of key environmental factors on business and accounting, Role of accountants in a business, Specific functions of internal financial control and accounting and Individual and team management
- F2 : Management Accounting (MA): Nature and purpose of management and cost accounting, Classification of cost and study of its behaviour and purpose, Computer spreadsheets and business mathematics, Standard costing and budgeting, Cost accounting techniques, Various decision-making techniques
- F3 : Financial Accounting (FA): Nature and purpose of management and cost accounting, Classification of cost and study of its behaviour and purpose, Computer spreadsheets and business mathematics. Standard costing and budgeting, Cost accounting techniques, Decision-making techniques
Skills Level or Applied Skills Papers :
The Applied Skills modules or papers build on existing knowledge, acquired during the knowledge level. It creates an understanding of applications and develops strong, broad, and practical finance skills required to function as a professional accountant in any sector or industry.
The six applied skills papers are :
- F4 : Corporate and Business Law (LW): Nature and purpose of management and cost accounting, Classification of cost and study of its behaviour and purpose, Computer spreadsheets and business mathematics, Standard costing and budgeting, Cost accounting techniques and Various decision-making techniques
- F5 : Performance Management (PM): Cost accounting methods, Budgeting and forecasting, Performance measurement techniques, Standard costing and variance analysis
- F6 : Taxation (TX): Cost accounting methods, Budgeting and forecasting, Performance measurement techniques, Standard costing and variance analysis
- F7 : Financial Reporting (FR): Cost accounting methods, Budgeting and forecasting, Performance measurement techniques, Standard costing and variance analysis
- F8 : Audit and Assurance (AA): Cost accounting methods, Budgeting and forecasting, Performance measurement techniques, Standard costing and variance analysis
- F9 : Financial Management (FM): Functions of a financial manager, Financial management environment, Investment appraisal and business valuation, Management of cost of capital and business finance, Working capital management, Business risk assessment
Strategic Professional Level
While the foundation courses provide the knowledge and skills, an ACCA graduate needs to develop strategic and leadership skills to flourish in future leadership positions. The Strategic Professional or Professional Level exams prepare students for future leadership positions. Students hone their technical, ethical, and professional skills and learn to approach problems from multiple perspectives.
The Strategic Professional Level comprises 6 papers, of which two are compulsory. Among the four optional courses, every student needs to choose two specializations. Students may specialize in areas that best suit their career ambitions.
- P1 : Strategic Business Leader (SBL): Role and function of governance in the management of an organization, Role of an accountant in risk assessment, Ethical framework for professional values and judgment
- P2 : Strategic Business Reporting (SBR): Professional and ethical duties of an accountant, Framework for financial reporting, Preparation of financial statements for group entities, Study probable financial reporting issues, Implications of changes in accounting regulation, Evaluation of current developments
Electives or Optional Courses (Students must choose two among the four courses)
- P3 : Advanced Financial Management (AFM): Stakeholder management, Advanced investment appraisal, Corporate re-organization, acquisitions and mergers, Advanced risk management techniques, Emerging issues in the world of finance
- P4 : Advanced Performance Management (APM): Assessment of strategic development and performance of an organization, Evaluation of external factors, Performance systems and design, Current global developments
- P5 : Advanced Taxation (ATX): Tax System, Tax planning methods, Communication
- P6 : Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA): Conceptual and regulatory framework for audit, Preparation of financial statements, Analysis and interpretation techniques
Ethics and Professional Skills Module :
Every ACCA student is required to complete an Ethics and Professional Skills module. This module is aimed at developing a range of skills to facilitate the employability of ACCA graduates. By providing case studies and introducing students to real-world business situations, this module aims to boost the credibility of ACCA graduates.
Difficulty Levels of the Papers
The level of difficulty of each paper can vary considerably from one candidate to another. In general, the difficulty depends on the candidate’s existing skill level, area of interest, and perception.
However, to assess the time required to prepare for each paper, one can take into account the pass percentage and opinions on difficulty. Based on data provided by students and institutes, it is determined that F1 (Accountant in Business) is the easiest paper with the highest pass rate of 85%, while P7 (Advanced Audit and Assurance) is the toughest paper with the lowest pass rate of 30%..
In general, it takes one month to prepare for a fundamental level paper and 2.5 to 3 months for other papers.
Completing the Papers
The 13 papers of the ACCA; and the Ethics and Professional skills module need to be attempted in modular order. Every student needs to attempt the Applied Knowledge exams, followed by the Applied Skills exams, which in turn is followed by the Strategic Professional exams. The Ethics and Professional Skills module can be taken at any point after completion of the Applied Knowledge exams.