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Selecting your ACCA Options papers

Books and pen

Within the Strategic Professional Level of ACCA there are four optional papers:

  • Advanced Financial Management (AFM - formerly P4)
  • Advanced Performance Management (APM - formerly P5)
  • Advanced Taxation (ATX - formerly P6)
  • Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA - formerly P7)

You have to select, study and pass only two of these four exams. Choosing the right papers for you is very important. We hope the guidance below helps you make the right choice. We've got further exam sitting guidance to help.

General information and guidance

The optional papers all build on the knowledge gained in a related subject in the Skills module. If you found the lower level paper extremely difficult or were exempt from it, you are likely to struggle at the higher level paper. Therefore, we suggest you avoid choosing an optional paper in these circumstances, if possible.

ACCA pass rates

Our pass rates are proven to be higher than the national average.

If you currently work in a specific role (e.g. auditor) it may give you an advantage to select a paper that examines topics you'll have already experienced in your role, and vice versa. However, if you're thinking of changing your role in the future, you may wish to choose a paper which reflects your future career plans.

Read through the detailed study and syllabus guides on the ACCA website and view past exam papers. This will give you an idea of the type of topics covered. If you are interested in a particular subject, then it often makes studying and understanding the topics much easier.

Exam information

Each exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long.

The exam papers are divided into two sections:

Section A - compulsory - normally two questions carrying approx 60% of the marks

Section B - select 2 out of 3 or 4 questions, for the remaining 40%

There are four exam sessions per year. You can sit a maximum of four exams at each session, and a maximum of eight distinct exams each calendar year.

Need any more help?

We hope that the information above and in the following notes will assist you to make a choice on which optional papers are best for you.

If you need further help, we suggest you contact your local Kaplan centre and discuss your position with an experienced ACCA optional paper tutor. The ideal time to do this is during an ACCA Open Day although tutors are available all year round. To find out more about our courses, please visit the Kaplan website.

Alternatively, please contact studentservices@kaplan.co.uk and we will help you with your enquiry.


Advanced Financial Management - AFM

What assumed knowledge will I need?

AFM follows on directly from Financial Management (FM) and the key areas are Investment Appraisal, Corporate Finance and Risk Management. Students who enjoyed FM would be well suited to AFM as all of the topics in FM are examinable again but in far greater depth and in a much more open ended way. Students need to think through financial management issues and come up with their own solutions and suggestions and there is often more than one way of answering the question’s requirements.

What is the style of examination?

The AFM exam is a combination of calculation and discussion and will therefore suit those who are good all-rounders, and who can cope with both numerical and discursive aspects of exams. The exam is very demanding but by focusing on the basics, students should obtain enough marks to pass.

Will it suit me and how will it help for the future?

AFM is particularly suited to those who work in commerce and industry, and especially those who are likely to be involved in strategic planning, project appraisal, corporate finance or risk management. It fits well with either Performance Management (PM) or Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA), and some of the material and ideas overlap with Advanced Performance Management (APM). It would also suit students working in practice who may wish to pursue a career in business or financial advice rather than pure tax or audit and assurance.

Syllabus

Available on the ACCA Global website.

Aim of paper

To apply relevant knowledge, skills, and exercise professional judgement as expected of a senior financial executive or advisor, in taking or recommending decisions relating to the financial management of an organisation.

Advanced Performance Management - APM

What assumed knowledge will I need?

APM is a high level Management Accounting paper and the syllabus assumes a sound knowledge of papers Management Accounting (MA) and Performance Management (PM). Consequently, a review of these subjects is recommended before beginning the course.

What is the style of examination?

Candidates are often misled in believing that APM is a purely discursive paper and in fact there is a large computational element, typically 50% of the marks. Section A questions may or may not be based upon the same scenario and may test areas from several parts of the syllabus. Section B questions are based in a small scenario and at least one will be entirely discursive in nature.

Will it suit me and how will it help for the future?

APM is particularly suited to those working in industry dealing with management accounts on a daily basis.

Syllabus

Available on the ACCA Global website.

Aim of paper

To apply relevant knowledge, skills, and exercise professional judgement in selecting and applying strategic management accounting techniques in different business contexts and to contribute to the evaluation of the performance of an organisation and its strategic development.

Advanced Tax - ATX

What assumed knowledge will I need?

A candidate choosing to study Advanced Tax at professional level should be prepared to build upon the technical skills acquired at Taxation (TX) or other previous studies if exempt. A sound knowledge of current income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, National Insurance and VAT rules will be assumed when students begin the ATX course.

If ATX has not been studied recently, then the purchase of a Kaplan Finance Act Update course is highly recommended, as this will explain (via an online video and book) the impact of the latest Finance Act on the TX syllabus and highlight the required knowledge which is assumed at the start of the ATX course. If you purchase a Kaplan ATX tuition course, the Finance Act Update is included automatically.

What is the style of examination?

The emphasis of the ATX syllabus will be to provide students with a professional and practical application of tax rules that they are likely to face in a scenario with a client.

Consequently it is both a computational and discursive exam with real life multi-tax scenario questions requiring the application of higher skills to give tax planning advice and understand the interaction of taxes.

The ATX exam requires the following skill sets: analytical ability, technical tax knowledge and computational ability.

Will it suit me and how will it help for the future?

ATX is often a paper that is popular with people that work in a practice or tax environment and ATX will allow them to gain expertise in this area. Knowledge of tax is also important to individuals who work in commerce or plan on a business consulting career.

ATX Advanced Tax is popular with students as it examines real life scenarios which people find both interesting and relevant.

Candidates who have passed the final examinations of the ACCA (including ATX Advanced Tax UK variant) may apply for exemption credit for the Application and Interaction paper of the CTA qualification.

In addition to this, having passed ATX it may be useful for students to consider sitting it with Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) to assist them in obtaining an ACCA Practising Certificate in the future (subject to ACCA approval).

Syllabus

Available on the ACCA Global website.

Aim of paper

To apply relevant knowledge, skills, and exercise professional judgement in providing relevant information and advice to individuals and businesses on the impact of the major taxes on financial decisions and situations.

Advanced Audit and Assurance - AAA

What assumed knowledge will I need?

Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA) should only be selected at professional level if the student has a sound knowledge of the material covered in Audit and Assurance (AA) and Corporate Reporting.

What is the style of examination?

AAA is a wholly discursive paper and the questioning style within the P7 exam will require the use of higher skills and the application of a variety of auditing techniques not seen or expected at F8. Candidates will draw on many different areas of the AAA syllabus as well as good corporate reporting knowledge.

The advanced audit examiner is happy to examine the audit of complex areas of Financial Reporting (FR) such as Share based payment. You will need to know your IFRS’s from FR for this one. The questions will be split into a number of requirements that may cover any area of the syllabus and section B will examine using a short scenario focusing on much more specific topics.

Will it suit me and how will it help for the future?

AAA is a very practical exam that is popular with students that have a senior audit role within a firm of Accountants that offers audit and assurance to clients. It is therefore a more practical exam than AA and the candidate will be placed in a real life scenario when attempting questions in which to apply gained knowledge.

Syllabus

Available on the ACCA Global website.

Aim of paper

To apply your relevant knowledge, skills. It's also to use professional judgement in analysing, evaluating, concluding and reporting on the assurance engagement and other audit and assurance issues. This should be carried out within the context of best practice and current developments.

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