At the ACCA conference held in London (11-12 February 2015), four important changes were announced.
4 sittings a year
ACCA is moving to 4 sittings a year; March, June, September and December from 2016 with a pilot in a limited number of exam centres in September 2015. This will give students more flexibility to adapt their study around work and personal commitments, and if unsuccessful students can sit it again relatively quickly.
One word of warning, if any students are thinking about deferring from June to September, check the availability in the local exam centre before deciding, just in case the papers aren’t running. Also bear in mind because of the significant changes to the F7 and P2 syllabus, the result of the updated Finance Act, what has been studied to June will require updating. Kaplan will be running a Live Online transition course to help students to understand the changes relevant to the September exam.
December’s exams will be over one week not two
ACCA have changed the December exam timetable. No longer will the exams be sat over 2 weeks, now it will be just 1, to accommodate the new 4 exam sittings. This means that some paper combinations will no longer be possible. In particular, if students are coming to the end of their studies, they will no longer be able to sit P3 with P6 and P1 with P5 as now the exams will be on the same day. It is really important that students carefully consider the courses to sit in June to make sure they can actually sit them and they aren’t on the same day.
Professional level can be taken in any order
Currently, if students are studying at the Professional level, the Essentials papers (P1-P3) must be sat before the 2 options. However for all exam sittings from September 2015, the Professional level exams (P1–P7) can be taken in any order. This may help make the Option papers feel more manageable as students could sit an Option paper closer to the underpinning Skills paper. For example, if a student were to sit F9 in a June sitting, they could go on to sit P4 the following sitting giving less time to forget the assumed knowledge that they would be expected to have when sitting P4.
It is strongly advised that if students plan on taking the P7 exam that they take the P2 exam in advance or at the same time as any accounting standards examinable at P2 are also examinable at P7 and these standards are assumed knowledge for P7.
Progression rules for the Fundamentals and Skills papers will remain in place, in order to maximise the possibility of students progressing successfully through their studies – so basically starting with the easier papers first.
The 10 year rule becomes the 7 year rule
You may also have heard about changes to the 10 year rule. Under the current rules, students are removed from the register if they have not completed the exams within 10 years of their initial registration date.
Under the new rules a seven year limit will be introduced at the Professional level. There are no time limits for passing the Foundation or Fundamental level exams. However, it is strongly recommend that students take exams on a regular basis to increase their chances of success. Once students have long breaks in their studies it becomes difficult to get back into the routine of studying and also to remember all the necessary underpinning knowledge needed to successfully progress.
Students will have seven years to pass the exams at professional level (P1-P3 and two of the options papers P4-P7). If students do not pass all the Professional level exams within seven years, they will lose any passes that were achieved more than seven years ago and will need to retake those exams. The seven year time limit starts when you pass your first Professional level exam.
If students are already registered with ACCA, they will not be any worse off. The completion date on myacca still applies. Only once this date expires will ACCA look at the professional level papers.
Rebecca Evans is an ACCA subject specialist and Head of ACCA at Kaplan Financial.