Tag Archives: Kaplan

The Evolving ACA

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.

Nick’s Diary – May 2012

As I entered into May, I was still high from the buzz of passing the CTA Hurdle exam, knowing that I was only a few days away from getting back to Bradenham. My chop-and-change lifestyle in April was swapped during May, as I focused solely on my corporate tax compliance work.

Getting back and focusing on my corporate tax work was ideal, as I have been increasingly taking on larger tax compliance jobs to continue with my tax development and understanding. Subsequently, it’s been a challenging month for me technically, but I’ve enjoyed taking the next step up the ladder in my abilities whilst making two more client visits.

Ever since I accepted my job in November 2009, I have been all too aware that CTA is a tough qualification. On day one at Bradenham, where I started my tutoring for CTA, the Kaplan tutor assured me that CTA is one of the hardest professional qualifications around. Over the next four days he did everything he could to prove himself right, and my head is still spinning from the sheer breadth and complexity of knowledge needed to sit just one CTA exam. I’m now looking forward to November, where I will sit my first two of four CTA exams, and I think it’s going to be a tough few months.

Study books aside though and Bradenham didn’t disappoint. The weather was fantastic (making concentrating an even tougher task) and the company always generated laughter. I managed to eat enough food for a month in the four days I was there so am adequately cutting back in the aftermath.

One of the modules I studied at Bradenham was Inheritance Tax (IHT) and since returning back to work, I have taken on responsibility for around 50 trusts. This perfect timing will help me to develop me IHT knowledge both practically and academically, a winning combo!

As the month draws to a close, I am looking to June for some time off to enjoy this fantastic British summer we are currently having. As for the extended public holidays in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee – I’m not exactly a royalist, but the idea of a BBQ and some sunshine at Pimms o’clock sounds too good to miss. No doubt by the time I blog again I will be burnt head to toe!

Nick’s Diary – October 2011

Seeing as the entire month of October was filled with Kaplan revision courses, study leave and mock exams I have wondered whether my life has been interesting enough this month to warrant a diary entry. However, as consistency is key, I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to just leave a two month block empty, so I’ve decided to blog about the ATT and CTA entry route.

I joined in January 2011 and by February I was at Bradenham focusing on my first phase of ATT tuition. Ever since, I’ve been attending courses at Kaplan and Bradenham aimed at preparing me for the exams I have just sat. Throughout this period I have continually sat internal ‘link’ exams which are designed to test my progress and help prepare me for the real thing. Overall this year, I think I’ve spent around 7-8 weeks at Kaplan studying for the ATT along with several more weeks at internal Grant Thornton Bradenham courses.

The ATT consists (or at least it will do in 2012) of three exams and two online e-assessments. The three hour written exam papers are Personal Tax, Business Tax and Accounting Principles and a specialist paper. The specialist papers are Business Tax Higher Skills, Business Compliance, Inheritance Tax and VAT. I sat Business Tax Higher Skills as this best reflected my work in the office. These exams are mainly computation based but do not require a genius’ understanding of mathematics, luckily. The e-assessments, one in Law and one in Professional Responsibilities & Ethics are new to 2012 so sadly I’ve not any experience of what they will be like for the new trainees.

I did manage to get a couple of breaks in between revision and headed over to my old stomping ground of Loughborough University for their Pizza Night and Careers Fair. It was great to go back and speak with up-and-coming applicants about my job, yet another thing I never thought I’d be doing when I joined Grant Thornton as a Tax Associate.

I sat all exams in one sitting which means if my results are favourable in January I’ll have an extra three letters after my name and will be a qualified Taxation Technician ? fingers crossed. Needless to say getting through the five solid weeks of revision and 12 hours of exams in two days was one major relief and it’s great to have my social life back. Although, looking back that investment of time and effort was well worth it and I look forward with muted confidence to results day. My five weeks out of the office made the ‘normal’ 7am start quite a shock to the system but with plenty of work to come back to I’ve quickly been lifted out of revision mode.

November’s calendar looks good so I’ll have plenty of interesting things to blab about next month, I promise.

If you’re interested in reading further about the Association of Taxation Technicians or the Chartered Tax Advisor qualifications the websites can be found here:

ATT: http://www.att.org.uk/students/attprospectivestudents

CTA: http://www.tax.org.uk/students_qualifications/newctastudents