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How to Choose Your ACCA Optional Papers?

How to Choose Your ACCA Optional Papers?

So, you have just 2 papers left to complete ACCA and you have to choose 2 from 4. How should you go about making your selection? Paul Merison, Director of ACCA at LSBF, outlines some very practical suggestions for students and marks them on a scale of 10 …

Within the professional level of ACCA, four optional papers lay before students:

  • P4         Advanced Financial Management
  • P5         Advanced Performance Management
  • P6         Advanced Taxation
  • P7         Advanced Auditing and Assurance

Of these four papers, each student has to choose, study, and pass, only two of these four papers. The question is – which one to choose. And this can be a difficult decision to make at times.

So how do you go about choosing what’s best for you? Here’s a practical guide to help your selection process.

Go for papers with the highest pass rates?

This is a very dangerous tactic. Just because others can pass something does not mean that you will! And pass rates can vary from sitting to sitting. Pass rates are definitely a factor to consider, but not the defining variable in your decision.


Good pass at lower level paper?

I met a student in Singapore who had 2 papers left to pass – audit and assurance (F8), and advanced audit and assurance (P7). Why select an advanced option paper on a subject where you have repeatedly failed the lower level paper?

It is not just the knowledge and understanding that carries forward, it is often the exam technique which can be very similar – so if you sailed through F8 this is definitely going to suggest you have some of the skills to get through P7.


Future career?

In most cases, employers just want to see you have finished the ACCA qualification, and are not very particular about which option papers you took. On the other hand, in some regulated careers (including audit) you may have no choice in which options are needed. But even then, it is usually possible to add another option paper at a later date after you are ACCA qualified should the need arise, so it is tempting to focus on getting your qualification first and choosing the option papers that get you a pass.


Choose the tutor, not the paper?

Spoiler alert! I am a tutor, so clearly I have a bit of a self-review threat here. Students are far more likely to pass an exam if they enjoy the learning experience. It is a proven fact that we retain information better when there are emotions attached to the subject, so if you are bored in class it is a major problem for your exam preparation. We all know where we were when we heard 9/11 was happening, because of the shock factor. ACCA classes are never going to hit emotional levels to that extreme, but the principle still applies.


What type of learner are you?

This links to the lower level paper issue described above.

As a student I was not great at tax papers, because I could not be bothered to learn the large number of rules. I was far better at papers where there was less to memorise, and more marks were available to practical analysis of scenarios (often requiring what seemed to be no more than common sense). This seems to have continued, based on the exam papers that I teach. In other words, the skills required to pass P6 are going to be very different to those needed for P7.


Combination of options?

You need to pick 2 papers. Think carefully about the combination. The P4 and P6 papers both have a big technical syllabus that will require many hours of study to cover all the necessary areas. If you have a busy lifestyle, this would appear a challenging combination of papers to sit at one sitting. P5 and P7 have somewhat smaller knowledge requirements, but rely more on understanding and application. A good approach can be the secret to passing these papers, and approach can be learned very quickly – just like some people master driving a car almost immediately (but plenty do not!).



Option papers are a very personal decision. Your friend might recommend papers that they found relatively easy to pass, but this is unlikely to mean much for your chances of passing unless you know for sure you have a similar learning style to your friend.

My advice is to select option papers that suit your learning style, and where you are sure you are going to find the classes interesting and enjoyable. Passing your final papers can feel like climbing a mountain, so do yourself a favour and choose wisely.

Paul Merisonis Director of ACCA at LSBF

A version of this article has been published by PQ Magazine.

<Principal image courtesy GPS Magazine/Some rights reserved>

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