to ask if anyone here has done the ACA qualification?

(23 Posts)
Attethersend43 Fri 19-Aug-16 00:29:26

And if so how much studying you did for each exam (more or less)?

I am starting a training contract next week from a non-accountancy background and although im excited for a new challenge, I'm aware that it will be fast-paced and tough...

Realistically, how many evenings/weekends need to be blocked out to study per exam...? I am starting with the 6 certificate level exams, which I'm assuming will be over before Xmas (big 4 firm) crossing fingers for passes

JellyBelly89 Fri 19-Aug-16 07:45:40

I don't have ACA but another CCAB qualification.

Accountancy qualifications are typically done over three years. I would be surprised if you sat and passed six between now and Christmas having no accountancy background (or exemptions, I assume). Top grad schemes condense the time you do them to 2-2.5 years but that's still quite fast. Most don't do more than 2-3 in one sitting.

CIMA do on demand papers but I'm pretty sure ACA is only four a year and September will be closed by now.

My grad scheme gave us time out to study but nearer exams all weekends were still consumed with study. Largely because of the two fails and you're out rule.

Voodoobooboo Fri 19-Aug-16 08:33:40

I did mine from a non-relevant degree back in old days of PE1 and PE2 when it was 5-6 papers sat in each go and two failures and your training contract was terminated. Honestly it was brutal and probably the toughest exams I sat during a pretty long academic run. BUT no one in my year or the years around me failed. If you are in a Big 4 they run it like an exam factory as it is massively in their interest to get you through. There is little or no independent thought needed, just go on the courses, work through the training packs, do endless past papers and mock exams then sit the real thing.
My advice is to buckle in for the next few years and just do everything you are told when you are told and you will pass. It is made easier by the fact that Big 4 training groups tend to be very sociable so you end up with a lot of friends in the same boat which means at people around you are sympathetic and won't pressure you to leave the books. Also all your bosses have done it so they understand too. It is bloody hard, but essential to the job and absolutely worth it.

user1471594659 Fri 19-Aug-16 09:30:13

You will always feel like you needed more time to study. Don't bank on having any weekends off! Studying for chartered involves putting your life on hold for three years.

If you have any medical issues that you haven't declared (e.g. dyslexia), don't be dismissive of your own need for extra support, apply for the extra time now. You'll need it.

2016Bambino Fri 19-Aug-16 09:34:19

Another ACA here from a big 4 background. They are the toughest exams I've ever done and when you have exams you need to prioritise them over everything. Every evening and all weekend was spent studying but it's so worth it when you pass.
Question practice to exam time pressure is the key.
Good luck.

trilbydoll Fri 19-Aug-16 09:39:34

ACA has changed since I did it - my understanding is they've split out the knowledge and application. So you have the certificate level then the exams whereas mine were combined for each topic.

I did the Professional Stage exams two at a time. They weren't difficult in that there weren't any hugely complicated or technical concepts to understand - I think a Maths degree would probably be harder in that respect. However, there is HUGE volume of information to learn and the exams are time pressured. Practice exam technique from the beginning, there's no point producing the perfect answer if it takes hours.

I've got a good memory, and I was working in practice so everything was fairly relevant. I did an hour or two of multiple choice questions a couple of week nights and 3-4 hours at a weekend.

For Advanced Stage I didn't do so much during the week, because I couldn't practice short form questions which are quick and easy to mark, but spent literally all weekend studying.

Question practice question practice question practice. Don't waste time creating beautiful revision notes or whatever - you've got to be able to get your point across in 1.8 minutes per mark.

VesperMartini Fri 19-Aug-16 09:41:39

I did ACA way back when and am still in practice. The structure these days does have a lot more exams and yes it is standard for pretty much all ACA training firms to start in September on a grad training course and your employer will have scheduled you to do the first six e-assessments before Christmas.

While I never sat the e-assessments as they've only come in in the last few years, general perception is that they are the basic papers and will take a lot less work than the written ones (especially the Advanced stage), hence getting through six in the first three months. Increasingly the perspective at my firm is that more than one fail at Certificate level without extenuating circumstances is probably an indicator that this may not be the career for you.

I can't really help with how much work the e-assessments take but our trainees generally have a bit of down time between September and Xmas and therefore have time to study in the office as it's our quiet time. The time to start needing to block more time for study is when you get into the written phase (I would have expected next June?) - you'll have study leave to attend revision courses before those but will need to spend time in the evenings to prepare. Going back to my study days (nearly ten years ago now...) I remember studying a few hours most weekends to keep my knowledge up but not really spending ages in the evenings until I got into the last week before exams. Disclaimer - this was a long time ago and while I counsel students now it may be all different from their perspective...

LittleBearPad Fri 19-Aug-16 09:41:55

Studying for chartered involves putting your life on hold for three years.

That isn't true so don't worry. But the exams are hard. In the run up to them you will work bloody hard. Then between finishing and then starting the next set of college you'll be busy in the office.

The approach your firm is taking is intensive which will likely help as you won't have too much other actual work to worry about between going to college and study leave.

LittleBearPad Fri 19-Aug-16 09:42:11

Studying for chartered involves putting your life on hold for three years.

That isn't true so don't worry. But the exams are hard. In the run up to them you will work bloody hard. Then between finishing and then starting the next set of college you'll be busy in the office.

The approach your firm is taking is intensive which will likely help as you won't have too much other actual work to worry about between going to college and study leave.

justjuanmorebeer Fri 19-Aug-16 09:51:02

My SIL is doing it. She has failed a few of the exams (however lost her Dad around the time of one) so is retaking. She has found it REALLY tough going. She works full time in an entry level accountacy job with a commute so evenings and weekends are for study really.
She said it isn't the content as such that is hard but the volume, there is no corner cutting to be had, you have to know it all.

ClashCityRocker Fri 19-Aug-16 09:58:41

Changed loads since I did it, so not so much help on that front.

Who's the course provider? They're generally quite good at given guidance on recommended hours of study. They usually have forums too which are useful.

Agree with pps that question practice is the key to success. I seem to recall doing a couple of hours two or three evenings a week, with half a day on Saturday and an hour or two Sunday.

I was with a smaller firm though so was less intensive, and had exemptions from sitting AAT - is certificate level pretty much like AAT then?

It does take over your life in the run up to exams, but not for the full three years. I did my cta a few years ago and that bastard did take over my life!

TattiePants Fri 19-Aug-16 10:03:22

I started my training contract 20 years ago this month (that makes me feel old) so my experience will be different from yours. I had a slightly relevant degree (business) so was exempt from 2 of the 6 exams in year 1. There were then 5 or 6 exams at the end of years 2 and 3. Like a previous poster said, you could only fail one paper marginally otherwise you had to resit all 5-6 papers together - don't know if that is still the case.

The exams are hard but I disagree that your life will be on hold. Yes you have to study and certainly in the run up to exams it is intense but a couple of nights per week and one day at the weekend is enough for most of the year. I worked for a top 10 firm rather than a Big 6 (as it was then) so they were more flexible than the larger firms that took on lots of graduates with the expectation that some would fail. Good luck

Enidblyton1 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:29:02

Well done on your training contract! You'll get a range of answers on here about how much studying you need to do, simply because everyone is different. I did fairly minimal study at weekends (too many weddings/parties at that stage in my life!), but remember spending lots of evenings doing a bit. It certainly never seemed like too much work or stopped my social life - but I had maths a level and genweakly found the exams ok (except anything tax related which could just never get!). Other spent more time revising. However I only ever scraped a pass, unlike some friends who got high marks.
ACA at a big 4 firm was the worst 3 years of my life - not because of the exams - because of the mind numbingly dull work. Most of my friends felt the same. Although a few loved it and are now on course to be partner.
Just remember that it's only for 3 years and you can leave as soon as you have your ACA (if you want to!). I've had some brilliant jobs following the ACA so it's definitely worth it. Good luck!

YelloDraw Fri 19-Aug-16 10:39:06

I started my training contract 8 years ago, big 4. I had a non relevant degree.

The exams are hard and there is a lot to learn, but if you out the study time in they are completely fine. I actually even enjoyed some of them! It was a big step up for me than other exams, I had usually been able to coast thru with minimal revision.

At my firm there is now way less classroom time and more self study - so you're going to have to be dedicated. In the run up to exams you will be studying every night and weekend. For the first two multiple choice exams we did 2 weeks in college the. 2 weeks at work - and in those 2 weeks back at work I was probably doing 2 hours every night and maybe 4 to 6 hours each weekend day.

For the first lot of exams - go big on study. You don't want to be the one who fails their first accounting exam...

For the multiple choice ones, I perfected my revision tecnique - study through the book once making sure you understand it (and keep going back to earlier chapters to refresh) and do the question bank twice. For the firs accounting multiple choice there are shit loads of little formulas and things to learn - I made flash cards and then could run through those whenever I had a spare few mins.

Good luck and well done OP

I loved the training and have stayed in the big 4, although I moved out of audit and into corporate finance I still use a lot of my basic accounting skills!

Attethersend43 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:56:54

Thanks everyone! Some great advice! Yeah I will not be in CF too, really looking forward to starting smile

So general consensus is a couple of hours a night maybe 3/4 nights a week, half a day on Sat then an hour or two on Sun? I did what was for me a challenging degree (involved learning a hard language from scratch) so didn't find finals very easy; I'm aware that this will be a challenge but also REALLY want to do well/not fail!

Attethersend43 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:57:22

Sorry that should say "I will be in CF too" smile

user1471594659 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:59:13

Depending on your training contract, you may be one a 'one fail and you're out' policy. So, yes, life on hold. No one wants to be fired, and when you're new to accountancy (non-relevant background), it can take a while before your lightbulb moment where everything clicks. Some of the mid tier firms actually have tougher policies re exam fails than the Big 4...

Attethersend43 Fri 19-Aug-16 10:59:33

Have also just found out my firm will send us to college for the first two papers but not the other four - self-study for those, oh dear!

YelloDraw Fri 19-Aug-16 11:10:21

Attethersend43 if you're in CF for training it is slightly harder because CF take less grads and so don't have the 'oh all the grads have study at the moment' mentality so you may have more issues balancing work and study than grads in audit.

Studying for chartered involves putting your life on hold for three years.
Like PP said this is totally not true. You just have to plan round exam dates.

I did what was for me a challenging degree (involved learning a hard language from scratch) so didn't find finals very easy; I'm aware that this will be a challenge but also REALLY want to do well/not fail!
If you are used to 'learning' and revising you'll be fine. Just go big on the first lot because (not only does it look bad to fail) they are the building blocks for the professional stage and if you are scoring 85%+ on these it sets you up well for the professional exams.

Practice questions is the key to the multiple choices, and working to time.

For Professional stage, not getting mega stressed about questions, showing all workings and time management is the key.

For TIs well, they are actually fucking hard. They need a lot of work and practice.

Case study is kinda fun but very different.

YelloDraw Fri 19-Aug-16 11:11:57

one fail and you're out
We had 2 fails and you're out and probably lost 4 out of the 30 I started with to exam fails over the 3 year contract.

Attethersend43 Fri 19-Aug-16 13:24:14

Really great advice, please keep it coming smile

user1471492624 Fri 19-Aug-16 14:53:49

I completed my ACA with one of the big 4 back in 2001. I also did a non relevant degree. I agree that the firm is very focussed on supporting you to pass, as they are investing a lot in you, however I didn't really feel the pressure, I loved having peers who were in the same boat and are still my close friends all these years later. It didn't take over my life for 3 years, I probably socialised more than at Uni, but definitely some cramming around the exams. And I'm so glad I did it as I've had a great career on the back of it (outside practice as I moved as soon as I had the ACA) and very financially rewarding too.

LittleBearPad Fri 19-Aug-16 14:57:43

Make sure you book study time you are entitled to and use it for studying. Don't agree to do project work when you're on SL.

PP are right. It's the volume of info that's challenging. But you'll be taught to pass the exams. A massive part of the ACA is exam technique and a speedy calculator technique wink.

Enjoy your new job!

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