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Changes to ACCA Professional Level

A woman taking notes next to a laptop.

ACCA are redesigning the Professional Level of their qualification with changes coming into effect from the September 2018 exam sitting. These changes will most significantly apply to the Essentials level. How these changes will affect you will depend on where you are currently up to with your studies.

It’s important that you are aware of these changes and plan ahead to ensure you’re not caught out by the transition arrangements that are in place.

The main changes will be:

  • The Professional Level will be renamed Strategic Professional.
  • Governance Risk & Ethics (P1) and Business Analysis (P3) will be removed from the qualification and replaced with Strategic Business Leader. This will be a 4 hour case study exam, with no pre-seen information.
  • Corporate Reporting (P2) will be replaced with Strategic Business Reporting, which consists of a 3 hour 15 minute exam.
  • The current Professional Ethics Module will be replaced with a new Ethics and Professional Skills module (available from 31st October 2017).
  • Other modules will be renamed.

June 2018 will be your last chance to sit your exams under the current structure, so after the December exams you’ll have just two more sittings before the changes come into play. Consider how you want to use these exam sittings when planning your studies for next year taking into consideration the transition arrangement detailed below.

Transition arrangements

If you have nearly finished your Fundamental papers, or have already started Essentials, it is really important that you are aware of ACCA’s transition arrangements and take them into account when you are considering which papers to tackle over the next few sittings.

  1. If, come September 2018, you have passed both P1 and P3, you will be exempt from the Strategic Business Leader.
  2. If you have only passed one of those papers, you will effectively lose that pass as there is no equivalent exemption and no opportunity to sit those papers after June 2018.
  3. If you have passed P2 then you will be exempt from Strategic Business Reporting.

How should you plan your studies?

There are a variety of things to consider when deciding whether you should sit P1 and P3 before the changes or wait until the introduction of Strategic Business Leader.

  • P1 and P3 are both established exams so there are plenty of resources and past papers to help you to prepare. You would however have to sit two 3 hour and 15 minute exams rather than one 4 hour exam.
  • Strategic Business Leader on the other hand is relatively unknown, but ACCA have provided lots of resources to help you prepare for it. It’s worth bearing in mind that the exam is different to those you are used to, with lots of information to assimilate on the day and will test your professional skills.
  • It’s a similar situation for deciding between P2 or Strategic Business Reporting, although the changes to exam format are less significant. There will be a change in focus in both the syllabus and style of questioning to allow ACCA to test your professional judgement, interpretation of financial statements and ability to communicate to various stakeholders.

Did you know?

ACCA was established in 1904 - they’ve been going for over 100 years, and now have over 175,000 members. And just over half of ACCA members are under 40, making this the time for young ambition to shine.

A key factor in your decision will be how far along you currently are with your ACCA studies, so we’ve outlined a few options below:

You have currently passed P1, P2 and P3: These changes will have no effect on you. Sit your Options in March and June 2018.

You’ve sat and passed P1 or P3 but not attempted or passed the other paper: You should sit the outstanding paper at the next available sitting to avoid losing your exemption. Remember you must have passed both P1 and P3 to be exempt from Strategic Business Leader.

You’ve passed P1 and P3, but not passed P2: You don’t need to worry about the Strategic Business Leader, but you may want to try and pass P2 before the changes come into place so you can move on to Options without delaying your path to qualification. If you’re able to sit in March, there is the added benefit of being able to sit P7 in June under the same accounting standards and this gives you time for a P2 resit if things don’t go your way first time. Although there is much crossover between P2 and Strategic Business Reporting, students who have attempted P2, but are required to resit under SBR, will find they have more work than usual when resitting as they will need to familiarise themselves with some new areas of content and the new exam style.

What if you haven’t passed P1, P2 or P3 by the end of 2017?

You have a more difficult decision to make and one which will depend upon your level of exam confidence. The most important thing is that you sit two exams in the first half of 2018 and don’t delay your qualification by 6 months. Here are a few options:

Option 1: You could choose to sit P1 and P3, either together in March to give you a resit if things don’t go to plan, or one in March and the other in June - although this is a risky strategy as you could find yourself caught in the transition arrangements should you need to resit.

Option 2: You could sit P2 in March 2018 to gain your exemption from Strategic Business Reporting and then an Option paper in June. You should then aim to sit Strategic Business Leader in the December sitting following your final Option in September.

Option 3: You study only for Option papers in March and June and leave both Strategic Business Leader and Strategic Business Reporting until the second half of the year.

Ethics and Professional Skills - get ahead on Strategic Business Leader

If you plan to wait to sit Strategic Business Leader, it is essential that you sit ACCA’s new Ethics and Professional Skills module (available from 31st October 2017) prior to the course. In fact, ACCA advise you attempt it prior to sitting any exams on the Strategic Professional Level.

The module will introduce you to the professional skills that are required at Strategic Business Leader and will effectively increase your chances of passing. Even if you have completed the existing Professional Ethics module, you can access the new module and brush up your knowledge and develop your skills.

For more information, visit the ACCA website. If you haven’t completed the existing Professional Ethics Module by the end of October 2017 you will have to complete the new Ethics and Professional Skills module.

To find out more about the changes that ACCA are making, visit their website: http://future.accaglobal.com/changes-to-the-qualification/what-do-the-changes-mean-for-me/strategic-professional