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Q&A with the ACCA

Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy, and Alison McHugh, ACCA Director of Education Development,  talking.

We recently asked Alison McHugh, ACCA’s Director of Education Development, a series of questions on what it means to be a Platinum Tuition Provider, what developments have been made to the ACCA qualification, and how it has changed over time. Read on to find out what she had to say...

Kaplan is a Platinum Approved Learning Partner, Platinum being ACCA highest approval level. What has Kaplan Financial done to achieve this status?

ACCA awards its highest level of approval – Platinum – to learning providers which demonstrate excellence in their course management and delivery (this covers things like the support and advice they provide students with, and how easy it is for students to contact tutors) and which continuously receive positive student feedback. As a Platinum Approved Learning Provider, Kaplan Financial is therefore giving you a great learning experience as you prepare for your ACCA exams.

In addition, Kaplan has to meet ACCA’s Platinum exam pass rate targets. These targets apply to F4 to F9, and P1 to P7, and require learning providers to meet or exceed ACCA’s global pass rates for at least 75% of the exams the provider teaches towards. Given that Kaplan offers a first-class and comprehensive range of courses that covers all of the targeted exams, the pass rates achieved by Kaplan students in ten or more exams exceed global pass rates. What a fantastic achievement!

ACCA has an Approved Content Provider programme and Kaplan Publishing is just one of three providers that has approval under that programme. No doubt there are stringent criteria that Kaplan has to meet to gain approval. Could you give some insight into what these are?

Yes, there is a range of very stringent criteria that Kaplan Publishing had to meet for approval, criteria which ensure ACCA students globally have access to high quality study texts and question banks for their Foundations and ACCA exam studies. They cover, for instance, the range of products offered, staffing levels and roles (to ensure first-class, fit-for-purpose, updated learning material is available on time, given syllabus cut-off dates), distribution (to ensure all of ACCA’s students, wherever they are based, have access to the materials), pricing and of course – and most importantly – quality control.

Michael Smith, Kaplan Director of Learning Solutions, and Alison McHugh, ACCA Director of Education Development

Michael Smith, Kaplan Director of Learning Solutions, and Alison McHugh, ACCA Director of Education Development.


There are have been a number of developments to the ACCA qualification recently, including the move to four exam sessions and the introduction of computer based exams for F5 to F9. How has Kaplan supported ACCA with these developments to ensure they are made for the benefit of students?

When ACCA makes changes to the qualification, we ensure that we consult with and engage key stakeholder groups, and get their thoughts and views on initial ideas, more concrete proposals and final implementation, and Kaplan has been involved in all the consultations over the last couple of years.

Kaplan tutors also took part in what we call trialling, for the F5 to F9 computer based exams (CBE), which means that they tested and commented on various components of the new-style exams. Their participation in the consultations around the introduction of four sessions has helped us ensure that you can progress through the qualification at a speed most suited to your needs and requirements. And their input on the move to CBE for F5 to F9 means those new-style exams will provide an excellent user experience, and test the technical knowledge and workplace skills and competencies that employers are looking for.

How is the ACCA Qualification seen by the employers in the UK and globally?

Employers value the ACCA qualification for a variety of reasons but the one thing that keeps coming up is that it’s truly global. For example, Veolia knows it’s recognised worldwide and respected as a business qualification everywhere they do business. That international recognition is extremely important to brands which rely on their own brand impact across international borders.

For brands with a slightly more local footprint, it’s also the content of the qualification itself which is important. Take feedback we recently received from Dyson for instance – a big employer of ACCA graduates. Dyson particularly likes the fact that the breadth of the syllabus means those they hire are versatile and can work across a variety of areas. That makes ACCA qualified employees so useful to the business, which is really what matters most to employers.

Alison McHugh, ACCA Director of Education Development, and Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy.

Alison McHugh, ACCA Director of Education Development, and Zoe Robinson, Kaplan Director of Accountancy.


How has the ACCA Qualification moved with the times, to meet the challenges of and changes in the global economy, and the new demands from students and employers?

The current ACCA syllabus was introduced in 2007 but the syllabuses and exams certainly don’t look the same as they did then.

We review our syllabuses every year and update them (adding and removing content) to ensure that they remain relevant and that newly-qualified ACCA members have the skills and knowledge employers are looking for. Over the last few years additions to the curriculum have included shared services, outsourcing and off-shoring, the integrated reporting framework, public sector governance, big data and Islamic finance. If you are studying for an options exam, take a look at the current syllabus for one of the first Skills exams you sat and see how much it has changed.

The exam formats have of course also changed. Since June 2013, all seven of our Professional Level exams use case studies in their assessments. The use of in-depth practical scenarios in these exams means that you have to demonstrate skills which are highly sought after by employers, and relevant for advisory and consultancy roles say, such as the ability to develop and use ideas, solve problems, make recommendations and communicate findings to clients, experts and other stakeholders – skills that make you more employable.

Hopefully you are aware that we are also launching session computer based exams for F5 to F9 from the September sitting this year. These CBE will help us more closely reflect in our assessments how modern finance professionals work – making you more valuable to employers.

And then there is our introduction of four exam sittings a year, which provides you and employers greater flexibility to schedule exams at a time and pace to suit your needs.

Where is the most exciting place you have visited on behalf of ACCA?

I’ve been really lucky to visit lots of our markets during my time with ACCA – Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Kenya, Dubai, Malaysia – and every single one of them has been exciting. And they’ve been exciting because I’ve had the opportunity to meet with our learning providers and hear stories about their students, their struggles, their successes, and how ACCA is helping them help their students realise their dreams and ambitions to become professional accountants.

To find out more about studying ACCA visit www.kaplanfinancial.co.uk/acca.