The final part to the 15 ACA exams breakdown is the three ACA Advanced Level exams. These consist of the three exams outlined below. The Case Study exam as mentioned in Part 1 has to be sat last of all the exams. The three Advanced Level exams can be sat in one exam sitting (during either July or November) but essentially the Case Study must be attempted last. I sat exams 13 and 14 together in July (postponed to August due to Covid-19) and 15 in November 2020.
Spoiler alert: one of the below ACA Advanced Level exams is the exam I ranked as the most difficult ACA exam.
Good news: the Advanced Level ACA exams allow unlimited attempts! Again as started in Part 2 ACA Professional Level exams for further details regarding credit for prior learning and access arrangements, please refer to Part 1. As with the Professional Level exams, these ACA Advanced Level exams also include ethical requirements incorporated into them.
Open Book Exams
As with BPT as stated in Part 2, any material can be taken into these ACA Advanced Level exams. There are a range of topics and a lot to remember so being completely open book is helpful. However, this does not make them easy. Application is key for these exams. The time pressure also adds difficulty to the open book aspect of the exams. Find out my tips for BPT and how I put together my open book for BPT here.
Please note that these exam do not tell you how many marks each subsection of a question is worth. Take a 40 mark question for example. If it has five different parts totalling 40 marks, the marks are not usually split equally. The question could be split 11, 8, 15, 2 and 4 for example but you will not be told this. With practice, you will need to use judgement to know where the marks are and how to split your time. This is also the case for the BPT Professional Level exam.
ACA Advanced Level Exams (50% pass mark – thank god, I needed this!)
13) Corporate Reporting (CR)
The CR exam is 3.5 hours in duration and 2.1 minutes per mark. CR is a combination of the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) and Audit and Assurance (AA) Professional Level exams. As I work in Audit, the 30-40% AA aspect of the exam was usually quite nice. However, as mentioned in ‘What is the ACA? …’ the ACA cover a range of roles so others may struggle. That being said, you can prepare for it in the same way as AA.
The exam consists of three written questions. The marks are usually split 40, 30 and 30. Questions 1 and 3 are integrated questions that test a variety of financial reporting (including consolidation) and assurance topics. Question 1 now also includes some Advanced Information (AI) and this is to do with the use of new data analytics software. My ACA calendar will help you to keep track of when this is released for your sitting.
Regarding the financial reporting and AA split in one question, the questions vary paper to paper. You could have a question all around AA. Alternatively you could have a question more mixed between financial reporting and AA. However, question 2 will be purely financial reporting. Depending on the standards tested, question 2 can be good to secure marks as with practice is straightforward. Your open book if prepared well can help you with this.
Although I did not find the content too bad for this exam at the time, this exam was the closest I had been to failing an ACA exam. I will be writing a blog shortly to outline where I went wrong with this exam so join the journey to find out more. I found this exam to test accounting standards more heavily and paper to paper this can massively vary. One paper could have a whole question on IFRS 9 (mine did) or another could not mention it at all. Usually papers include group reporting but mine did not. It is luck of the draw. However, if you prepare thoroughly you should be fine for 50%.
Click here to read my tips how to pass ACA Corporate Reporting, the hardest of all ACA exams let alone ACA advanced level exams.
14) Strategic Business Management (SBM)
The SBM exam is also 3.5 hours in duration so also 2.1 minutes per mark. If you already have had enough of CR from reading the above then please look away. SBM also includes 15-20% of CR but this does actually work quite nicely if you sit the exams together. Up to 10% additionally covers assurance. However, the majority of SBM is mainly a combination of Financial Management (FM) and Business, Strategy and Technology (BST) (Part 2). This exam can be quite difficult if you have not sat FM due to credit for prior learning/exemptions. If you have not sat FM, you can of course recap the content.
The exam consists of two written questions, usually split around 60 and 40 marks. Given the variety of topics covered in this exam, these questions can also vary paper to paper. FM wise, a lot of the content is all still relevant and can come up. This includes investment appraisal, raising finance, business valuations and financial risk management. An example of where CR commonly ties into a financial risk management question is to do with the financial reporting of hedging and IFRS 9.
With a good open book and question practice, I feel by time you get to SBM it is a fairly passable. My tips to pass SBM can be found here.
15) Case Study (CS)
This is one part of the gateway if you are completing the Level 7 Apprenticeship route to becoming ACA qualified. See my earlier blog outlining the details of this route. I will be releasing a blog specifically about the second part of the gateway (the project report) shortly so join the journey.
Click here for my ICAEW Case Study Made Easy blog post for in depth details. Join my journey to get free Case Study ‘help sheets’ within a few days of joining. You may also want to refer to How Much Preparation is Enough, ACA Case Study Marking Key as well as ICAEW Software Testing for more help on the ACA Case Study exam.
ACA Advanced Level Exams Wrap Up
That is a wrap. Thank you for reading my take on the 15 exams. If you missed Part 1 Certificate Level or Part 2 Professional Level, ensure to check these out. You can also find further details of the ACA Advanced Level exams on the ICAEW website. If you would like to see how I ranked these exams in terms of ACA difficulty from hardest ACA exam to easiest, click here.
Please remember that the ACA exams are not the only aspect to becoming ACA qualified. Although these exams are a huge chunk of becoming ACA qualified there are other components too. My upcoming blogs will give further details of the other components but I would like to help you to pass these exams too. I will provide more guidance, tips and notes going forward as well as provide some useful exam statistics. You do not want to miss this so join the journey.
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