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ACCA exam sitting advice

ACCA run four exam sittings a year in March, June, September and December. It can be confusing as to which exam to sit when, so here are some of your options. It’s entirely personal how you approach your studies, so this is just a guide.

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How the four exam sittings can work for you

ACCA allow you to sit up to four subjects in one exam sitting and a maximum of eight per year. When planning your studies, it’s important to consider factors such as:

  • your workload - do any of the exam sittings clash with busy periods at work?
  • your personal life - will there be any holidays or important events that will make studying to a particular sitting difficult?
  • and what best suits your approach to learning?

Depending on when you want to study, these are some of the most common choices:

Two exams per sitting, twice a year

Studying two subjects in two core sittings (either June and December, or March and September) will give you 12 to 16 weeks to prepare for your exams and still allow you to know the results from your previous exam sitting before moving onto the next.

You can really focus on your new subjects without having to worry about waiting for exam results. Plus, you can still use the other two sittings to resit any papers and keep your studies on track.

Traditional June and December ACCA exam sittings

One exam per sitting, four times a year

Studying one paper every three months allows you to focus on one subject at a time which you may find beneficial as you progress to the higher level papers. This is because some of the subjects in the higher level are harder, or have a larger syllabus to cover.

However, this might mean that you have to start studying for your next paper before you have the results of your most recent exam if you want to have the optimum amount of time to prepare.

Studting for all four ACCA exam sittings

Using a mix of exam sittings for more flexibility

This approach is ideal if you want to have more flexibility throughout the year and vary the number of papers you take at each sitting, to allow for peak times in work or important events in your personal life. For example, you could sit one subject in March, two in June and another in December. This would mean you are still sitting four exams in a year, but you have time for a summer holiday.

Combination of using 3 of ACCA exam sittings

What order?

With the ACCA qualification you can choose to sit your exams in any order. However, there are some important connections between subjects you should consider to give yourself the best chances of passing:

  1. 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 (FR) before Audit and Assurance (AA), or Financial Reporting (FR) and Audit and Assurance (AA) at the same time.

  2. Similarly, in the pathways above, we have put Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) before the options exams, especially if you’re choosing Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) as an option. Doing Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) first will give you the best chances of success in AAA.

  3. Before you attempt the Strategic Professional exams, we recommend studying the Ethics and Professional Skills module. This module is done in your MyACCA portal and should take about 20 hours in total. It could be completed in the gap between finishing one of your Applied Skills exams and starting studying for the new Strategic Professional exams. If you complete it at this time, ACCA say the results show you will be 25% more successful in your Strategic Professional exams.

  4. Finally, if you are a Level 7 apprentice, please be aware it is compulsory to do Strategic Business Leader (SBL) as your last exam, as this is your End Point Assessment for your Apprenticeship.

Otherwise, it is up to you whether you choose to sit the Strategic Business Leader (SBL) exam last or not, but be aware it does involve a different set of skills to other more technical exams. Some students feel better placed to attempt this exam once they have built up their confidence and ability with some of the other Strategic Professional exams first.

It might also be worth considering your job role when you are deciding which exams to do next. For example if you work in an accountancy practice, it might be helpful to do Financial Reporting (FR) and either Taxation (TX) or Audit and Assurance (AA), depending on the department you work in, before you do Performance Management (PM), as these subjects could help you in your day to day tasks.

You may also find the knowledge you have from work helps you to prepare for these exams, making them a good place to start to build your exam confidence. If you work in industry however, Performance Management (PM) may be more closely linked to your job, so the routes above would be ideal.

What Options subjects to choose?

Your job role now, or your future career aspirations will be key in your decision about which options to choose at Strategic Professional level. Other things to consider would be how much you enjoy the subject and how good you are at it. If you achieved a good score in Financial Management (FM), then you would be well placed to attempt Advanced Financial Management (AFM) for example.

In the study resources section on the ACCA website you will find a page for each of the options subjects. Scroll down to the technical articles and there is an article for each subject explaining the step up and key differences from the underlying subject at the Applied Skills level.

Have a look at the ACCA published pass rates for the options exams, but don’t be too put off by exams with the lowest pass rates. If these are going to be crucial to your future career or if it was a subject you loved at Applied Skills level then they are still worth considering, but you should be informed about which tend to be the trickiest for students.

Exam advice for each level

ACCA is made up of three levels: Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills and Strategic Professional.

You can move onto exams at the next level as long as you have completed the previous level, or are taking your final exams of the previous level at the same time. Other than that, ACCA do not have any rules on which order the exams should be attempted.

Applied Knowledge

You can overlap with Applied Skills as long as you are on the last exam of Applied Knowledge. The order of these exams isn’t critical, although some students find Management Accounting (MA) makes more sense if they have done Financial Accounting (FA) and learnt the basics of bookkeeping first.

Applied Skills

Subjects can be sat in any order, but as mentioned earlier, you should sit Audit and Assurance (AA) with or after Financial Reporting (FR). You can overlap with the lower level exams as long as you are on the last exam(s) of Applied Knowledge level.

Strategic Professional

Again, you can sit Strategic Professional exams at the same time as those from the lower level as long as you are on the last exam(s) of the Applied Skills level.

You should also be aware with all subjects at this level there will be a certain amount of assumed knowledge from earlier subjects at Applied Skills level, so if you were exempt or sat these some time ago, you should use the resources and advice in the beginning of your course to refresh your understanding.

If you haven’t yet enrolled on your course and you want some insight into the assumed knowledge for a subject, there are some really helpful syllabus guide documents in each subject’s study resources section on the ACCAglobal website, which will help you identify which subjects feed into each exam at the Strategic Professional level.

You can choose to sit your Essentials and Options subjects in any order, but do read the ‘What order?’ section above for some crucial tips to ensure you have the best chances of passing. If you are studying ACCA under a Level 7 Apprenticeship remember you must sit Strategic Business Leader (SBL) last, as it is your End Point Assessment.

Need help deciding?

If you want to speak to someone about your options, please get in touch with Student Services.

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