If only becoming ACA qualified was as ‘simple’ as passing all the requirements and automatically receiving the formal certificate. In order to become officially ACA qualified, you must submit your ICAEW training file yourself. Although I had met all requirements of the Level 7 Apprenticeship early in September, it was only a few weeks after until I actually went in and submitted my ICAEW training file. This meant I did somewhat delay the process. In this blog, I will talk you through exactly what I did to submit. If you reading this blog and you are at this exciting stage in your journey, congratulations. There is not long left now!

When is the ICAEW Training File Ready to Submit?

The below image shows the four key pillars of the ACA qualification and there is clearly much more to the qualification than passing the 15 ACA exams (bottom left). I will continue this article on the basis that you are familiar with each of these pillars. If not, this article is for you. It also states the additional steps to qualify via the Level 7 Apprenticeship route.

level 7 ACA apprenticeship route

The ICAEW training file itself is the place which pulls all of the above together and is where you will officially document completing the above. What is good about the training file is that there is a sign-off checklist at the top of the summary tab that shows you your progress. After passing all my exams in November 2020 and completing all requirements, I thought I would be good to go after meeting the end date of my training agreement (after 3 years).

Note: you should actually submit your ICAEW training file after your training agreement is up regardless of exams progress. More details can be found here. It is in fact strongly recommended you submit your training file as soon as you complete your training agreement even if you have not completed your exams.

Can you Submit Prior to the End Date of your Training Agreement?

There have been questions around whether you have to wait until the end of your training agreement to submit your ICAEW training file. By April 2021, I had completed the practical work experience requirement of 450 days, completed the Ethics Learning Programme with at least three ethical reviews and passed all exams. I had also met all requirements for the Level 7 Apprenticeship and therefore, completed the ICAEW Project Report. However, based on my employer and colleagues who were already qualified, I was under the assumption I would have to wait until the end of my training agreement.

Looking into this further, the ICAEW website specifically states that you cannot submit your ICAEW training agreement before the end of your training agreement. You can in some instances (ACCA/AAT students or affiliates) potentially reduce the length of your training agreement. In order to do this, yourself and your employer would need to submit a form to do so. This ICAEW FAQ also answers other interesting questions too.

When I went to submit my ICAEW training file, my sign-off checklist looked like the below:

icaew training file
ICAEW sign-off checklist training file

To reiterate, exams are not mentioned in the sign-off checklist so therefore you can submit before passing all exams if this takes you longer than your training agreement. Additionally, the unticked circle of not recording the practical work experience days to the date of my training agreement confirmed that you do need to wait the full duration before you can submit your ICAEW training file. I had completely missed this aspect so I had to log my last few months of time.

How to Log ICAEW PWE/Working Days in the ICAEW Training File

This is actually much more simple than you may think if you have not recorded any time yet. If you are a pro at this already feel free to skip this section. Good practice is to log your time every six months and this time can be approved by your reviewer at your six month review. Below are the steps that I would take:

factors sitting three ACA professional level exams
  1. Export your timesheet for the time period you wish to log – this should be six month periods in line with the six monthly reviews
  2. Identify all hours that qualify as practical work experience (accounting, audit and assurance, tax, financial management, insolvency and information technology)
  3. Divide the hours by 7 as a working day is based on 7 hour working days
  4. Send this export to your approver
  5. Log the time in the ICAEW training file

I foolishly did not take any screenshots of the process where you actually log the time in the ICAEW training file – please save the disappointment as I am disappointed in myself for this one. Taking the second option and talking you through, it is actually very straightforward. All you need to do is:

  1. Click on the practical work experience tab of the ICAEW training file
  2. Add practical work experience
  3. Enter the dates using the calendar (remember you should not be recording more than six month periods)
  4. State the number of days worked which you should have calculated following the above (step 3). You can either enter this into “primary ATE” (authorised training employer), “on secondment at another ATE” or “on secondment at an unauthorised employer”
  5. State the name of your reviewer
  6. Select from the dropdown who can confirm this information
  7. Confirm a regular mandatory review takes place and the information is accurate

Audit Qualification (AQ)

When the ICAEW training file is ready to submit (when all sign-off checklist boxes are ticked), the summary tab will update and will look something like the below:

ICAEW Training File Submission

The ‘audit qualification’ tab is applicable to those who have worked on audit engagements and wish to sign Audit Reports in the future. This tab is therefore not required to be completed to become ACA qualified and I had the opinion I was not going to fill this in due to the extra admin. However, after reading that I would essentially lose this time if I did not log it now, I felt it would have been a waste especially as I work as an external auditor. Therefore, I decided I would log my audit experience. See the images below for details required to log time that needs to be done in six month periods.

Regarding the nature of the audit work, I wrote 4-5 lines for each client explaining key details about the client and the industry. This is actually probably more than what is needed and a short sentence may suffice. Fortunately as I keep my own activity log, I was easily able to recall what I did on each job and wrote this up as audit experience. This was not difficult but it was very time consuming. In hindsight, I should have logged this audit time at the same time as PWE. Fortunately only 240 days are required for the AQ rather than 450 but 120 must be statutory audit days.

Common AQ Mistakes

This subheading may actually be misleading as I really am not sure if these mistakes are actually common. I just know these are errors I made so I would assume others may do it too or perhaps I am on my own with these.

  1. Accidently selecting ‘yes’ for work performed outside of the UK
  2. Recording Public Sector audit work such as NHS/University/Council audits as statutory audits when they should have been recorded as ‘other’ audit work. The difference can be found on this FAQ page here.

Your reviewer may flag these and they will get sent back to you to amend or you may have to email aq@icaew.com if not.

ICAEW Training File Final Submission

Once I was finally happy I had documented everything I wanted to, I was finally ready to submit my ICAEW training file! This was as simple as selecting the appropriate reviewer from the list provided of senior staff members at my firm and then pressing submit. I did get the following notification of submission:

This is now with my employer and at this stage my reviewer could quiz me on my submission before giving it the greenlight.

Email Acknowledgment from ICAEW

Once my training file was signed off by my employer, I instantly received the most exciting email from ICAEW with the subject “your training file has been signed off by your employer”. It is happening!!! The email does state that ICAEW will now verify my training records and will contact me directly if they have any queries. Hopefully it is as easy as pointing towards my blog if there are any questions. Apparently I will be invited to apply for membership via email (eek).

The email also states processing times are a minimum of 12 weeks and can be significantly longer if my submission is incomplete. Assuming all goes to plan and after waiting a few months, I will officially become ACA qualified. Hopefully it is not long now until I can add these three letters to the end of my name!

If you found this blog helpful, feel free to join my journey so you do not miss a post.

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