I wrote a blog on 19 September 2012 which explained the ACA as I have experienced it. I ended the blog by briefly mentioning that the ACA qualification is constantly evolving and adapting to the changing needs of businesses and the needs of its members. I have written this blog specifically for those applying to do the ACA qualification post July 2013 as there have been a few changes announced to the course structure.
As before there are still three stages to the qualification, however the names given to the first two stages have changed from Professional Stage Knowledge and Professional Stage Application to Certificate Level and Professional Level respectively.
On the Certificate level the only noticeable change is that the accounting paper style of questions is more similar to that found in the second stage. This is just one of many changes, which have been made to the exam structure so that the move from one stage to another is smoother and free from sudden changes in style and difficulty.
The changes found in the professional stage are much more significant. The qualification appears to be evolving to include more tax, this is partly so that the qualification continues to appeal to tax trainees like myself and not just auditors, management accounts or business analysts etc. That said, they have not added an extra exam, instead they have merged Financial Accounting and Reporting into one longer exam and have split the old tax exam into once Tax Compliance paper and a Business Tax Planning paper.
This change appears to be part of a wider movement which could see the ACA and Chartered Institute of Taxation (CTA – what many see as the gold standard of tax qualifications) creating a qualification which once passed allows students to apply for membership of both the ICAEW (ACA) and CIOT (CTA). Reasons behind this joint programme are that it would reduce the cost of studying for both, reduce the time spent out of the office and removes any study overlap. In addition, employers can still remain confident that their students have gained all the relevant skills. As and when more details are released I will update you.
Finally there have also been some changes to the advanced stage. The two technical integration papers have been refined so that they allow students to become well practised in the skills necessary to pass the case study.
As such two major trends appear clear. One there is definitely a push for the ACA to continue to be an all rounded business qualification as such there is a clear move to include more taxation into the syllabus. Secondly, changes have been made to make the movement from one stage to the next smoother, so allowing the student to gradually develop and learn the necessary skills to become qualified.