ACCA Explained


April 21, 2021
Last updated August 01, 2021
ACCA Explained

ACCA qualification is highly regarded in the global accounts and finance sector as one of the most updated and industry-relevant professional degrees. It is known for its ardent curriculum, flexible exam schedules, and universal acceptance. Upon completion, individuals become capable enough to take any form of real-world finance and accounting challenges. ACCA-qualified professions are in high demand and are well equipped to meet the needs of today's diverse, interconnected business world that rewards them with both economic as well as social benefits. 

What is ACCA qualification? 

Established in 1904, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a global professional accounting body that offers the ‘Chartered Certified Accountant’ qualification. As of 2021, it has more than two hundred thousand members spread across 180 countries and maintains a uniform course structure that caters to almost 500,000 students worldwide. 

ACCA does not accord any academic level degree and is usually pursued along with other undergraduate degrees. However, this qualification based on international accounting and auditing standards is equivalent to completing a full university degree when students complete all 14 subjects under ACCA. 

There’s also a catch there; even when students do not complete the whole course, they can apply for a joint degree and get BSc or even Msc certifications. However, they have to clear certain ACCA subjects and are even required to fulfill additional criteria. 

ACCA accords membership to the global community of students and offers practice-oriented professional accreditation. There are consistent standards of content and a rigorous approach in maintaining quality for producing work-ready professionals. The credibility of the degree is therefore uniform worldwide. More often than not, the internationally accredited qualification is sought by many multinational and local business firms over other degree qualifications. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as the course covers mostly all areas of finance, from performance management in business to financial statements to accounting to taxation to auditing to law and business ethics. 

What are the steps towards completing the qualification?

You will have ten years to complete the entire course. That’s the maximum time limit to complete the course, but the course content is designed as such that it should not take you more than 3-4 years to complete the qualification. There are a total of 13 exams that are divided into three levels; Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills, and Strategic Professional. 

You are required to clear three exams under Applied knowledge, six under Applied Skills and 2 Essentials, and two options exams under Strategic professional. 

ACCA allows four exam sittings in a year in March, June, September, and December. Students can take up to four subjects in each exam sitting; however, a maximum of eight subjects are allowed per year. 

What are the different subjects under each level?

Under Applied Knowledge or Level 1, there are three subjects: Business and Technology (F1), Management Accounting (F2), and Financial Accounting (F3). The first level is the starting point of the ACCA qualification and includes these three subjects that cover the basics of the accounting and finance profession.

The second level is Applied Skills. This level includes the technical subjects that cover the principal skill sets required of you in the profession. Corporate and Business Law,  Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance, and Financial management are the subjects covered in this level. 

The third and final level is the Strategic Professional Level with four subjects in it. Two are compulsory and two you can choose from the options of four. 

The compulsory subjects often referred to as the essentials are Strategic Business Leader and Strategic Business Reporting. These subjects are designed to equip you with the specialized skills required of an expert in the field. They are designed to mold you into high-level advisory roles. 

There are four options under Strategic Professional, and you are required to choose two. Advanced Financial Management, Advanced Performance Management, Advanced Taxation, and Advanced Audit and Assurance are the four options for students to choose from. Out of these four, you are required to choose any two considering your expertise and field of interest.

How are the ACCA qualification examinations scheduled?

ACCA qualification allows students to choose to take exams in any order. So it is up to students to define the order for themselves. Special considerations need to be given while doing so because the subjects you will be studying will be connected, and without a proper grasp on one might make it a lot more difficult to sit for the other one. Other considerations for the same include your job routine, coordination between professional sets of skills, and the technical exams. 

The order of examination of subjects within each module can be random. But not the modules themselves. They have to be completed chronologically. 

You are also required to attempt an online module in professional ethics called Ethics and Professional Skills Module or EPSM. The experts in the field recommend it to be studied alongside Strategic Business Leader under Module 3 (Strategic Professional); this module is sometimes known as the 14th exam or subject. EPSM exam can be taken as soon as you’re done with Module 1. 

In order to acquire ACCA qualifications, you are also required to have a professional work experience of at least three years, and the professional experience must resonate with the subjects and modules you are required to study professionally. This is a step towards ensuring you come out as a polished expert well versed in technical as well as organizational skills. 

What is the scope of ACCA?

ACCA global qualification covers a lot of ground when it comes to finance and accountancy. The compact course is highly regarded and paves the way for other qualifications that you can earn alongside ACCA. This is more or less like double degrees. Let us explain how all of this works.

Diploma in Accounting and Business Management 

You get an ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business Management, which is an RQF level 4 qualification. After the completion of Module 1 and EPSM. As soon as you get done with EPSM, you are eligible for the diploma. 

Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business

Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business is accorded to students after completing Module 1, Module 2, and EPSM.

BSc in Applied Accounting - Oxford Brookes University

The ACCA professional body has partnered with Oxford Brookes University that enables you to gain a joint degree with your ACCA qualification. If you wish, you can apply for BSc in Applied Accounting at Oxford Brookes University. 

Following are the requirements for the BSc degree: 

  1. Passed the three ACCA Applied Skills (Module 2) examinations: Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance, and Financial Management.
  2. Passed or gained exemption from the other six papers in Module 1 or Module 2. And the exemptions have to be absolute. No conditional exemptions are considered.
  3. You are further required to complete the ACCA ethics and professional skills module (EPSM) and submit a research and analysis project. 

MSc in Professional Accounting - University of London

You must have cleared ACCA qualification, all thirteen papers to be eligible to apply for the MSc degree. In case that the papers were cleared more than five years ago, then you’re required to pass the assessment for the online preparation test, and if you earned ACCA Strategic professional papers more than five years ago, you’re required to submit a continuing professional development (CPD) record.

Where are the ACCA qualified professionals employed?

After completing all the stages, you become ready for the job market. These internationally accepted qualifications accept you in the ACCA global community as a member and open the avenues of finance and the corporate world for you. With the service and trade industry expanding at an unprecedented rate, the demand for well-qualified finance professionals is also on the rise. The job market needs to have professionals with adept skills and knowledge on every niche of the trade to be available for it to function efficiently. This is where an ACCA-qualified professional comes in. With the acquired expertise in the field, These professionals are welcome in auditing, consulting, planning, governance, investment banking, and all other sorts of corporate jobs.

The qualification is highly regarded globally and is equally rigorous. A high level of professional and personal competency is demanded of you. This needs to be considered before you join the course or plan for it. Remember, it’s always best to know about every particularity of any course before including it in your planner. 

Difference between ACCA and CIMA

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offers specialist management accounting qualifications. Also a globally recognized body, CIMA is more appropriate for those professionals who are already decided on the career path they want to choose. While ACCA covers foundation-level courses with core accounting skills and knowledge with specialization towards the end of the course, CIMA qualification covers specialization in business and management. An individual needs to consider where they would see themselves being employed and who they would like to work for in choosing between them. 

Although both widely recognized, ACCA is more appropriate for those individuals who want to explore the career options available in the accounting and finance sector that is not limited to business management accounting. For those individuals that are sure about their career choice in finance or management functions of bigger organizations. 

CIMA mainly focuses on developing professionals in management accounting and caters to the academic need of accountants already in the profession, supporting them to improve their management accounting skills.