The ICAEW Chartered Accountant qualification, the ACA, is one of the most advanced learning and professional development programmes available. It is valued around the world in business, practice and the public sector.

How is the ACA qualification structured?

The ACA qualification is made up of four elements which provide students with a combination of finance knowledge, accountancy skills and real-world business experience.

They are:

  • 450 days of practical work experience – offering invaluable insights into the realities of a career in chartered accountancy. 
  • 15 exam modules – covering a broad range of topics including: financial management, law, assurance and business strategy.
  • Professional development – preparing you to successfully handle different situations that you’ll encounter throughout your career.
  • Ethics and professional scepticism – providing you with the skills to work under close scrutiny and be confident you are making the right decisions. 

Exam Modules

To become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant you must study and pass 15 exam modules focused on different aspects of accountancy, finance and business. Designed to provide you with in-depth knowledge across a broad range of topics, each of the ACA qualification modules are directly relevant to the work that you will do throughout your training. Certain undergraduate courses may also cover similar modules which will allow graduates to have exemptions if they have already passed these transferrable modules at University. Claritas still allows graduates with these exemptions to attend the taught courses of these modules without a need to take the exam.

While the modules are split over three levels: Certificate, Professional and Advanced, the modules can be taken in any order, except for the Case Study which must be taken last.

Certificate Level

  • 1.5 hour computer-based assessment.
  • Can be completed at any time at approved test centres.

These modules will introduce you to the fundamentals of accountancy, finance and business. Most ACA students complete the Certificate Level within the first year of their training agreement.

Professional Level

2.5-3 hour computer-based exams which can be sat at four times across the year to fit flexibly around your training contract.

Advanced Level

The Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management modules have been designed to test your understanding and strategic decision making at a senior level. You will be presented with complex real-life scenarios, which expand on the Professional Level modules.

The Case Study presents a complex business issue which encourages you to problem solve, identify the ethical implications and provide an effective solution. It must be completed last, and is aimed to test all of the knowledge gained throughout your studies training.

Professional Development

Professional development prepares you to successfully handle a variety of different situations that you’ll encounter throughout your career.

You will be applying your professional development to real-life scenarios in your practical work experience, which will support your progression through your ACA training.

ACA students must demonstrate improvement across seven areas of professional skills, including communication and decision making.

  •  Adding value
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Technical competence

Ethics and Professional Scepticism

Ethics is integrated throughout the ACA qualification to develop students’ capabilities. It’s about identifying ethical dilemmas, understanding the implications and behaving appropriately. 

Ethics is more than just knowing the rules around confidentiality, integrity, objectivity and independence. It’s about identifying ethical dilemmas, understanding the implications and behaving appropriately.

Professional scepticism, meanwhile, is an attitude that includes a questioning mind and being watchful of conditions that may indicate possible error or fraud.

By using these principles, ICAEW Chartered Accountants can help guarantee that they are transparent and honest in all business relationships and that their judgment is not compromised through bias, conflict of interest or undue influence.

Throughout the ACA qualification you will be expected to develop your professional scepticism and your ethical capabilities and practically apply these skills.

The above information is a brief insight in to what the ACA entails, however if you wish to find out more, please click this link to go straight to the ICAEW ACA website.