Beginners Guide to ACСA Exams: Everything You Need to Get Started

Beginners Guide to ACСA Exams: Everything You Need to Get Started

Did you know that pursuing the ACCA qualification can increase your chances of pursuing an international career?

The accounting body has over 7,400 ACCA-approved employers worldwide including multinational companies like Accenture, American Express Services and 3i Group PLC.

The ACCA course is a good choice if you are looking for an international job in finance.

A total of 179 countries are now filling important financial roles with ACCA graduates. ACCA also offers placement assistance with thousands of vacancies in top global finance firms through its dedicated job portal, ACCA jobs.

This article will take you through the ACCA curriculum, syllabus and exam papers and explain how to succeed on the exams. Firstly, let’s understand what ACCA can offer you as an aspiring finance professional.

ACCA vs Other Accounting Qualifications

The ACCA course helps develop a strong foundation in accounting principles, strategic thinking, professional skills, ethics and business acumen. These qualities can help you become an asset to many top financial firms.

The best part? ACCA is also an advisor to many governments and nations on economic and financial matters.

What is ACCA?

ACCA stands for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

It is a prestigious accounting body that was established in the UK in 1904. Today, the organisation has grown into a multinational organisation with nearly 219,000 members and 527,000 registered students.

What’s more? ACCA courses are perfect for students from non-finance backgrounds and there is no age limit except for a minimum entry requirement of 16 years of age with a high school diploma or GED. This is a key benefit of ACCA courses.

What is the Importance of ACCA Qualification?

Having an ACCA qualification makes you an asset to many corporations, firms, governments and businesses. The simple reason is the fact that the ACCA curriculum is challenging and designed with an industry-oriented perspective.

ACCA exams are known for being less theory-based and more based on reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

The ACCA qualification shows that you are a competent professional who has been tested and challenged in various scenarios through the ACCA exams.

Core benefit of ACCA qualifications: Once you pass the ACCA exams, you also become an ACCA member, which opens thousands of international employment opportunities through the approved employers.

Having ACCA qualifications also helps you earn higher salaries in the financial marketplace.

According to Kanan, an entry-level ACCA job can pay you a salary of £21,000 in the UK. Top ACCA employers in the UK pay chartered accountants with ACCA qualifications roughly £45,000 to £65,000.

Syllabus Details and List of ACCA Exams 

The ACCA syllabus has 13 papers/ACCA exams distributed under four levels.

Here is a simple breakdown of the ACCA exams list.

Level 1: Applied Knowledge Module:

Upon completing this level, you can become a Trainee, Bookkeeper or a Trainee Accountant.

Applied Knowledge papers:

  1. Business and Technology (BT)
  2. Financial Accounting (FA)
  3. Management Accounting (MA)

Level 2: Applied Skills Module:

Upon completing this level, you can apply for job roles such as Finance Trainee, Trainee Business Analyst and Internal Auditor.

Applied Skills papers:

  1. Corporate and Business Law (LW)
  2. Performance Management (PM)
  3. Taxation (TX)
  4. Financial Reporting (FR)
  5. Audit and Assurance (AA)
  6. Financial Management (FM)

Level 3: Strategic Professional Module:

Upon completing this level, you can find job opportunities in senior financial roles. You can also become a member of the ACCA once you pass all the levels. Completing the Strategic Professional exams is considered equivalent to obtaining a master’s degree in the UK.

Strategic Professional papers:

  1. Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)
  2. Strategic Business Leader (SBL)
  3. Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
  4. Advanced Performance Management (APM)
  5. Advanced Taxation (ATX)
  6. Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

Level 4: Ethics and Professional Skills Module

The Ethics and Professional Skills module is made up of 10 units with an end of assessment question designed to test your learning at the end of the module.

This level takes approximately 15 hours to complete according to the official ACCA website.

What is the Structure and Format of the ACCA Exam?

Understanding the ACCA exam structure

  • All ACCA exams are computer-based exams
  • Each section of the exam has a set time limit, so effective time management is crucial
  • You need to achieve a minimum overall pass mark (typically 50 per cent) to pass the exam. However, some exams might have a minimum mark requirement for each section as well.

The ACCA exam structure can vary based on whether you are attempting a Fundamentals Skills Exam or an Applied Skills Exam. Checking the format is crucial for your preparation.

Fundamentals Skills Exams:

These ACCA exam structures consist of two sections:

  • Section A: This section contains 35 objective-type questions (OTQs), typically with two marks each. These questions are sourced from all the topics in the ACCA syllabus. OTQs test your knowledge and understanding of key concepts.
  • Section B: This section usually includes three to four multi-task questions, often worth 10-20 marks each. These questions test your reasoning and problem-solving abilities and require the application of your knowledge to scenarios or case studies. They may involve calculations, analysis and interpretation of data.

Applied Skills Exams (LW, TX, FR, PM, FM, AA):

The ACCA exam structure for Applied Skills exams can differ slightly between subjects. However, they generally follow a similar exam format:

  • Section A: This section typically consists of OTQs, often with a mix of one and two-mark questions. The number of questions can vary depending on the exam, but it's usually around 20-35. They assess your understanding of core technical concepts.
  • Section B: This section contains several longer answer questions, worth more marks each (often 10-25 marks). These questions require a deeper analysis of scenarios, application of knowledge and demonstration of professional skills like judgement and evaluation.

What are the ACCA Exam Dates and Timetables?

The ACCA exam dates differ each year, so it is essential to check the updated exam dates and timetable from the official ACCA website. While there is no set ACCA exam timetable, all ACCA exams are held across four sessions over four months each year.

  • ACCA exam months: March, June, September and December
  • You can either take the ACCA exams in this session-based exam schedule or take the exams on-demand
  • You can attempt a total of eight papers throughout the four ACCA exam sessions each year, while there is no restriction like this for on-demand exams
  • ACCA exam results for session-based exams take six weeks and results for ACCA on-demand exams are published within 72 hours.

How to Register for ACCA

Exam entry and registration process

You can register for the ACCA exams through the official website. You have to upload relevant documents to the ACCA website as well as sign forms and produce ID.

Your application will cost you a registration fee of £79 to £89.

There are two entry routes for the ACCA exam:

  • Foundation’s Route: This route is for applicants who have completed a high school degree or GED as their highest qualification
  • ACCA Qualification’s Route: This route is for graduates and bachelor's degree holders.

What is the ACCA Exam Fee and Eligibility Criteria?

ACCA exam fees can differ from student to student based on the number of papers taken. The Acca exam fee must be paid based on the exams you sit. You can either pay for the ACCA exams under the session-based exams or on-demand exams.

To be eligible for the ACCA exams:

  • You must be at least 16 years of age
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Zero criminal records
  • Proof of ID.

To find out more about the latest ACCA exam fee structure and minimum eligibility criteria, please visit the official ACCA website.

How to Pass ACCA Exams on the First Attempt

ACCA exam tips and techniques

  • Structure your study plan: Consider the ACCA exam structure when planning your studies
  • Use high-quality resources: Textbooks, official ACCA materials and past papers (reflecting the ACCA exam structure) are valuable tools
  • Practise effectively: Practise answering past papers under timed conditions to pass the ACCA exams
  • Attempt the 13 ACCA exams in the correct order: ACCA exams can be attempted in any order of your choice, however, if you attempt them in the suggested order, you can increase your chances of passing the ACCA exams on the first attempt.

Consider obtaining guidance from mentors, counsellors, support groups and ACCA support courses to find out the best way to attempt the exams.

What are the Pass Rates for ACCA Exams?

In the September 2023 sitting, ACCA disclosed that 89,719 students appeared for the exams while only 3,763 students managed to pass all the ACCA exams.

The subjects that had the lowest pass rates in the ACCA qualifications were Advanced Audit and Assurance (34%), Advanced Performance Management (34%) and Performance Management (40%).

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