How Hard Is ACCA? A True Guide In 2024

Pursuing the ACCA qualification opens doors to numerous global career opportunities. However, its strict syllabus gives pause to many aspiring accountants and auditors. 

This blog will answer all details about “How Hard Is ACCA,” offering insights for potential candidates in the USA and internationally. The pass rates reveal a bit of truth behind its infamous rigor. In December 2023, only 45% of exam applicants worldwide passed their exams on the first try. 

The Financial Accounting paper proves the most difficult, with only a 69% pass rate. However, the difficulty is subjective. However, being well-prepared and determined leads to success for motivated students.

Additionally, recent changes make the exams more skills-focused and streamlined. While ACCA’s standards remain high, support resources can set students up for success. 

With strategic planning and hard work, the ACCA journey is conquerable for students seeking this gold-standard credential.

Understanding the ACCA Structure Deeply

The ACCA qualification has three levels of exams – Knowledge, Skills, and Professional. To know more, read below:

Knowledge Level Exams

The first level in the ACCA structure is the Knowledge level, which consists of 3 exams. These exams provide students with basic knowledge in key areas of accounting and business:

  • Accountant in Business (AB) – This exam covers various topics, including business organization structure, corporate governance, project management, HR, accounting, and strategy.
  • Management Accounting (MA) – This exam focuses on management accounting techniques like budgeting, decision-making, performance evaluation, and control.
  • Financial Accounting (FA) – This exam deals with preparing financial statements, regulatory frameworks, accounting standards, and ethical practices.

These Knowledge level exams equip students with fundamental accounting and business knowledge to build upon in the later stages.

Skills Level Exams

The next level is the Skills level, which has 6 exams focused on developing professional skills and technical capabilities across various domains:

  • Corporate and Business Law (LW) – This exam covers legal systems, corporate laws, contract laws, employment laws, and ethical considerations.
  • Performance Management (PM) – This exam focuses on advanced budgeting, variance analysis, performance metrics, and evaluation techniques.
  • Taxation (TX) – This exam deals with income, sales, corporate, and international tax systems and regulations.
  • Financial Reporting (FR) – This exam covers the preparation of combined financial statements, IFRS standards, regulatory reporting, and analysis.
  • Audit and Assurance (AA) – This exam focuses on auditing principles, regulatory frameworks, risk assessment, and ethical practices.
  • Financial Management (FM) – This exam deals with business valuation, cost of capital, working capital management, investment decisions, and risk management.

The Skills exams take a scenario-based method to develop real-world finance capabilities.

Professional Level Exams

The final level is the Professional level, which has 2 exams:

  • Strategic Professional (SBL) – This exam assesses strategic thinking, leadership, governance, risk management, and innovation.
  • Advanced Financial Management (AFM) – This exam covers complex financing strategies, risk management, treasury operations, and advanced investment appraisal techniques.

These exams emphasize the highest level of professional ethics, doubt, governance, and strategic decision-making abilities.

Additionally, students must complete 3 years of relevant work experience and a skilled ethics module to get the ACCA certification.

Prior Qualification Exemptions

The ACCA qualification offers exemptions based on prior accounting, finance, or business qualifications. For example:

  • Relevant university degrees can exempt students from up to 9 papers.
  • Completing CIMA can exempt a student from up to 7 ACCA papers.
  • CPA or CA qualifications can lead to exemption from 4 ACCA exams.

The exemptions enable students to speed up their ACCA journey by getting credit for previous study and experience.

The well-planned three-tier structure and focus on practical skills, ethics, and experience requirements make ACCA a leading global finance qualification.

Top Reasons “How Hard Is ACCA” Exam

As we all know, the ACCA difficulty level is too high. Lots of students don’t make it on their first try. Here’s why they struggle:

  • Not Enough Preparation 

Many students don’t have the time to learn the material and practice questions. This lack of preparation leads to failing scores.

  • Bad Study Habits

Students often just re-read notes over and over. That’s not very effective in these competitive times. Testing yourself, spacing out study sessions, and doing practice questions are better ways to learn. Just memorizing stuff won’t help you apply concepts.

  • Not Nailing the Basics

The ACCA exams build on basic accounting and finance ideas. If you don’t take the time to master the fundamentals totally, the more advanced stuff will be confusing. 

  • Poor Time Management

The ACCA exams are timed. Students who spend too much time on some questions and run out of time on other sections struggle. 

  • Test Anxiety

Some students freak out about the exam pressure. This leads to freezing up, panicking, and underperforming on test day. Thus, they fail the exam.

  • Not Enough Practice

There’s no replacement for doing as many practice questions as possible. Students who don’t go through enough past papers have trouble with the question formats and styles.

Addressing these issues can help test performance. The key is consistency, smart studying, and building exam skills.

Also Read: Equity Research vs. Investment Banking (The Key Differences)

Tips for Success in the ACCA Exam (Boost Your Score)

Doing well on the challenging ACCA exam is achievable with the right preparation and mindset. Use these key tips to study effectively and maximize your chances of passing.

1. Start Studying Early

It is wise to start your revision with plenty of time to spare before the exam, which allows you to learn the material properly and avoid last-minute cramming. Additionally, make a plan for studying and commit to following it.

2. Understand The Exam Format

Make sure you know the exam structure and format inside out. This will help you plan your time effectively on the day. Be familiar with the questions so you know how to approach each section.

3. Practice With Past Papers

Past exam papers are valuable study tools. Work through them under timed conditions to get used to the exam pressure. Review your answers to identify weak areas that need more focus.

4. Learn Exam Technique

There are certain methods for approaching and answering ACCA exam questions that can make a big difference. For example, planning longer answers before writing and managing your time per question.

5. Focus On Weaker Areas

Use practice exams and questions to diagnose the topics and skills you find most difficult. Devote more time to revising these weaker areas. Seek help from your teacher if necessary.

6. Take Breaks 

Studying for long periods can lead to tiredness and poor focus. Make sure to take regular breaks in your revision schedule to refresh your mind. Getting adequate sleep is also crucial.

7. Stay Calm On The Day 

The key is avoiding stress and panic. Prepare properly, and remember all the knowledge is in your head. Read questions carefully, allocate time sensibly, and double-check your answers.

So, from the ACCA study tips, it is clear that early preparation with hard work leads to clearing this tough exam.

Is ACCA worth it?

The ACCA qualification is globally recognized and highly respected in the accounting and finance fields. Its strict curriculum covers all key areas and develops technical knowledge and transferable skills. 

Although ACCA exams demand great time and effort, the qualification can greatly boost career options and earning potential. For professionals seeking to advance their accounting careers, obtaining the ACCA designation is likely to prove worthwhile in the long run.

Career Opportunities That You Have With ACCA Certification

Getting ACCA certified can lead you to many jobs with good salaries. It’s like opening up a new world of career possibilities where you can earn a nice paycheck and move up.

Job TitleRangeAverage
Finance Manager$34k – $148k$100,851
Accountant$39k – $90k$62,211
Finance Director$88k – $192k$130,862
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)$101k – $349k$143,216
Senior Accountant$50k – $92k$77,551
Accounting Manager$77k – $115k$101,625
Vice President (VP), Finance$127k – $176k$149,673

Comparison of ACCA to Other Accounting Qualifications

Figuring out how tough ACCA is can be important for people aiming to become accountants. By comparing ACCA to other accounting qualifications, we can see how hard it is and what makes it different

QualificationExam FocusCareer Path
ACCAFinancial accounting, management accounting, audit, tax, financeAudit, tax, advisory, corporate accounting, CFO
CPAFinancial accounting, audit, regulation, business environmentsPublic accounting, corporate accounting, CFO
CMAFinancial planning, analysis, control, decision supportCorporate accounting, financial analysis, management accounting
MBA in AccountingBroad business skills with an accounting focusCorporate accounting, management, executive positions

Costs Associated With ACCA Exams And Membership

To become an accountant with ACCA, you need to know how much everything costs. This includes the fees for exams and becoming a member. It’s important because these costs can impact your journey to becoming a certified accountant.

Fee TypeAmountDescription
Initial Registration£89One-time fee for registering with ACCA
Annual Subscription£134Payable each year to keep your student status active
Exam EntryVariesFee for each exam you enter
ExemptionVariesFee for each ACCA exam you are awarded exemption from

You must pay these fees on time to avoid problems with your ACCA student status and exam eligibility.

Also Read: What Role Do Investment Bankers Play in Securities Markets?

How Long Does It Take To Pass ACCA?

Getting through all the ACCA exams takes around 3 to 4 years on average. But it can be faster or slower for each person.

The ACCA has three exams (Read more above)

Applied Knowledge Exams: These cover the basics of accounting, economics, and law. With steady studying, most people pass these in 6 months to 1 year.

Applied Skills Exams: These go deeper into specific accounting topics. They are tougher and can take 2 to 4 months of prep for each one. It usually takes 1 to 2 years to get through all these exams.

Strategic Professional Exams: These advanced exams are needed for leadership roles. You need 4 to 6 months of intense study for each exam. Passing all three strategic exams can take another 1 to 2 years.

On top of the exams, you need three years of relevant work experience as you study. This can add 1 to 2 extra years to the process.

So, while the full ACCA takes about 3 to 4 years on average, it depends on the person. You may finish faster if you study carefully and manage your time well. 

Taking tutoring classes and joining study groups also helps improve exam pass rates. However, staying motivated through the long journey is key to passing all the ACCA exams.

ACCA Exam Reattempt: What You Need to Know

When studying for the ACCA qualification, worrying about retaking exams is normal. You might wonder how often you can retake a paper or module and what would happen if you did. The good news is that ACCA allows you to retake individual papers or modules that you haven’t passed. This way, you can focus on the parts you need to improve without retaking the exam. However, the number of retakes you’re allowed depends on the level and module of the exam.

Don’t worry, retaking an ACCA exam has no direct negative consequences for your eligibility. Your previous attempts won’t affect your future exam scores or the validity of your ACCA qualification. However, it’s important to consider the time and effort you’ll need to invest to retake an exam.

To maximize your chances of success, prepare well and focus on areas where you need to improve. Take advantage of the resources available and ensure you understand the material thoroughly.

Benefits Of Getting ACCA Qualification In USA

Getting the ACCA qualification can boost your career here in the USA. Let us quickly tell you some key benefits:

  • It’s a famous credential recognized worldwide. Having those initials after your name opens doors.
  • You must pass some tough exams covering all kinds of accounting topics. So it shows you’ve got serious skills.
  • ACCA allows you to work in different accounting jobs – audit, tax, management, and forensic accounting!
  • You can look for gigs in other countries, too. The ACCA is your passport to international opportunities.
  • In the UK, the ACCA allows you to become a Chartered Accountant.
  • Big multinational companies love hiring ACCAs. You learn useful stuff like strategic thinking and leadership abilities.
  • Many ACCAs report higher pay and quicker promotions. 
  • You stay up-to-date on the latest international standards and practices in accounting.

So, the ACCA boosts your resume and opens new possibilities. Studying alongside a job lets you apply the skills right away. Passing those tough exams shows you are serious about this career. If you want to take your accounting career global, ACCA is your ticket!

What Do I Need To Know Before I Embark On ACCA?  

It is a hard task. 

The written exams are tough and require much studying to pass them unless you are a gifted child. Working twice as hard doesn’t pay off. Working once harder leads to better results than failure.

Find an effective approach to learning. Underlining the text has been proven fruitless.

Once it is done, you will receive a reward.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it necessary to have work experience while taking the ACCA course?

Yes, at least for candidates with relevant work experience for three years.

Can one combine other responsibilities with the ACCA course?

Certainly, tuition for ACCA is usually flexible so that students can work and do other things.

Are there any resources that can assist one in preparing for the ACCA exams?

Indeed, associations of chartered certified accountants provide candidates with some mock papers and revision materials for their exams.

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