What are the 13 ACCA exams?

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ACCA is the most globally recognised accountancy qualification, and is ideal if you want to become a chartered accountant, or work in an accountancy, audit, or tax firm. ACCA consists of three levels – Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills, and Strategic Professional – and there are 13 exams in total to take before you’re fully qualified.

Here is a breakdown of the exams.

Applied Knowledge subjects

Applied Knowledge has three exams, all of which are compulsory. They cover a broad introduction to finance, and develop your understanding of accounting techniques.

  1. Business and Technology (BT) – an introduction to basic business principles and how different business systems interact.
  2. Financial Accounting (FA) – this exam covers the underlying concepts relating to financial accounting, and the essential techniques you need, such as double entry accounting and the preparation of basic financial statements.
  3. Management Accounting (MA) – you’ll learn accountancy techniques to support management in planning, controlling, and monitoring performance in a range of business contexts.

Applied Knowledge question types

There are a range of questions types in the Applied Knowledge exams, and each exam has 50 questions:

  • Multiple choice questions – you’ll need to pick the correct answer from one, two, or three options. If there are four options, the question will be worth two marks. If there are less than four options then the question is worth one mark.
  • True or false – you need to choose whether the statement is correct or incorrect – and these are worth one mark.
  • Multiple response – you need to pick more than one answer from a set of options. If you select two from three options, then it’s worth one mark. If you choose two from four options, then it’s worth two marks.
  • Multiple response matching – these questions are usually presented in the form of a matrix, where there are two items to consider in the left column and two choices – such as Yes/No or High/Low – in the top row. You have to select Yes or No, or High or Low for each item. This type of question is worth two marks.
  • Number entry – this applies to questions in Management Accounting and Financial Accounting. You’ll need to make a calculation and enter the answer as a number. This type of question is worth two marks.
  • Multiple-task – you’ll be given diagrams to look at and answer questions about, statements to read and process, and scenarios with follow up questions to answer. They may be split into two parts, where one question is about the scenario, with a follow up question set on a related theme, but not connected to the scenario.
  • Gap fill – you’ll have to complete sentences or paragraphs by filling gaps that appear in the text. You’ll need to click on the gap and choose from a selection of drop-down options. The answer might be a single word, short phrase, or numbers.
  • Hotspot – these questions ask you to choose the correct answer by clicking on the appropriate choices on a set of boxes, or a diagram. Answers can be deselected by clicking on a different option, which cancels the previous one. The system won’t allow you to choose more options than needed.

Things to remember

You only have 120 minutes per exam, so it’s essential that you practice with mock exams to get used to the pace of the exam. You don’t really have time to spend ages mulling over a question. If it doesn’t come to you relatively quickly, move on. You can always come back to it if you have time. As a rough guide, you should have completed 25 questions by the end of the first hour.

Applied Skills

Applied Skills has six compulsory exams. These exams build on your existing knowledge, and help you build strong, broad, and practical finance skills. You’ll get the skills you need to be a professional accountant in any industry.

  1. Corporate and Business Law (LW) – you’ll learn about the general legal framework, as well as the specific legal areas that are relevant for business, so help you understand and identify the need to ask for specialist legal advice when necessary.
  2. Taxation (TX) – this exam covers the tax systems for individuals, single companies and groups of companies.
  3. Financial Reporting (FR) – you’ll learn how to apply accounting standards and the theoretical framework required to prepare financial statements of entities and how to analyse and interpret those financial statements.
  4. Performance Management (PM) – the exam covers how to apply management accounting techniques to quantitive and qualitive information for planning, decision-making, performance evaluation, and control.
  5. Financial Management (FM) – develop the knowledge and skills necessary for a finance manager, in regards to investment, financing and dividend policy decisions.
  6. Audit and Assurance (AA) – you’ll learn about the process of implementing the assurance engagement, and its application in the context of the professional regulatory framework.

Applied Skills question types

Like Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills has a range of question types, but there are also longer form answers needed. You will be asked to provide a narrative answer to some of the longer, higher marked questions.

For example in section C of Financial Reporting, there are two 20-mark questions to answer, which accounts for 40% of the exam. You’ll need to be a lot more thorough and show any workings when it comes to calculations.

At this level the questions are a lot more scenario based, rather than just facts. You may also be asked some knowledge questions, but demonstrating you understand the topics is much more important at this stage.

Things to remember

You should have a good understanding of the financial reporting rules before you attempt to learn how to audit a set of accounts. So sit Financial Reporting before Audit and Assurance. Or sit Financial Reporting and Audit and Assurance at the same time.

Strategic Professional

At the Strategic Professional level you will sit four exams. There are two compulsory exams, and four options – of which you need to choose two. At this level you will develop a strategic vision using a blend of technical, ethical and professional skills. By choosing two exams to focus on, you can specialise in areas that best suit your career ambitions.

Compulsory

  1. Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) – you’ll learn how to use your professional judgement to apply and evaluate financial reporting principles in multiple business contexts and situations. This subject arms you with the skills to confidently explain reports, and the impacts of transactions, to a broad range of stakeholders.
  2. Strategic Business Leader (SBL) – this four hour case study exam uses scenarios that could occur in your day-to-day working life, and enables you to demonstrate your technical, ethical, and professional skills in your responses.

Options – exams 12 and 13

Advanced Financial Management (AFM) – in this subject you’ll practice the professional judgement expected of a senior financial executive or advisor, in taking or recommending decisions relating to the financial management of an organisation in private and public sectors.
Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) – learn how to apply strategic management accounting techniques in multiple business contexts and to add to the evaluation of the performance of an organisation and its strategic development.
Advanced Taxation (ATX) – this exam covers how to provide relevant information and advice to individuals and businesses on the impact of the major taxes on financial decisions and situations.
Advanced Performance Management (APM) – you’ll learn how to analyse, evaluate and report on the assurance engagement and other audit and assurance issues, in the context of best practice and current developments.

As well as the above subjects, you’ll also need to take an Ethics and Professional Skills module. This is compulsory for ACCA members, and will help you develop a good understanding of ethics in accounting. You’ll study real-life scenarios to hone your ethical and professional skills. ACCA recommend that you do this module before you start any of the core subjects.

Strategic Professional question types

Strategic Professional asks a lot more of your analytical skills than the other two levels. You’ll be asked to analyse, discuss, and demonstrate your knowledge related to a scenario, financial statements, and any other material you are given.

You will be given information in a variety of formats – be it annual reports, presentations, spreadsheets, briefing notes, interview transcripts. And you’ll be asked questions that will require narrative answers. The questions are worth a lot more at this level, so you’ll need to take your time, really understand the material in front of you, and answer the question thoroughly.

Things to remember

Practice makes perfect. It’s essential that you get used to the exam format before you go in for the real thing. Strategic Professional exams are notoriously difficult, so get some mock exam practice in early, so you’re fully prepared for when the time comes to sit them.

Ready for ACCA?

If you’re interested in ACCA, or you’re ready for your exams, check out our ACCA pages for more information.