ACCA – One of the largest professional accounting bodies

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

If you are interested in pursuing your career in accounting, an accounting degree is not enough for you to move upward in the so-called ‘career ladder’.

A professional qualification is generally a proof of your skills and competence with an expected standard.


However, what should you choose among different professional institutes offering qualifications? In addition to your local professional accounting bodies, such as AICPAs in United States and CA in England, another great choice is ACCA.



Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, or ACCA, is an UK-based professional accounting body. Founded in 1904, ACCA is a global professional association with more than 200,000 members and 500,000 students in 179 countries.

In terms of members and students, ACCA is one of the largest professional accounting bodies which is comparable to AICPA (American Institute of CPAs).


By choosing which professional qualification to study for career development, questions on how long should I take to complete and how much should I earn after qualified are popular.


In this article, I try to answers those popular questions –

  • What is ACCA qualification

  • ACCA Exam Structure

  • What is exemption in ACCA

  • ACCA Exam fee

  • How long can ACCA be completed

  • ACCA or CIMA

  • ACCA vs MBA

  • How much does an ACCA newly qualified member earn



What is ACCA qualification

The first question about ACCA qualification is what is the minimum entry requirement.

ACCA is a very flexible in its exam structure, which will be discussed below. It is no need to have a bachelor degree to start the professional journey.

If you would like to know the entry requirement for your country, just click HERE for details. (Note)


Note: Don’t worry if you find you cannot meet the entry requirement to start ACCA qualification as you can still enrol ACCA Foundation exams, which give you the necessary knowledge to prepare you for the next step – the ACCA Qualification. See More.



ACCA Exam Structure


As said, there are three levels in ACCA exams which you have to pass 13 papers. Three levels are Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills and Strategic Professional.

Applied Knowledge provides you with a broad introduction to the world of finance and develop your essential understanding and techniques in accounting. It consists of 3 papers and the exam format is divided into multiple choice questions and short answer case-based questions.

You have to complete all 3 papers either by passing them or being granted exemptions from the association (will be discussed below).


Applied Skills builds your existing knowledge and understanding and develop strong, broad and practical finance skills required for future strategic professional accountant in any sector or industry. It consists of 6 papers and the exam format is divided into multiple choice questions and short essay questions.


Strategic Professional is divided into essential papers and optional papers. It helps you to prepare for future leadership positions, develops your strategic vision using your unique blend of technical, ethical and professional skills (2 essential papers). You can also specialise in areas that best suit your career ambitions (passing 2 optional papers out of 4 in total).

In addition, you have to complete Ethics and Professional Skills Module (EPSM) during your ACCA exam journey.



What is exemption in ACCA


ACCA accepts students with various background in different countries. Before joining ACCA as a student, if you have already had some qualifications you may not have to take all of the exams in the ACCA Qualification.


These are called exemptions and mean that you will start your studies at the level matching your knowledge and skill.

In the current exemption policy, maximum of nine papers in Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills level exam. ACCA has the final right to approve which papers requested for exemption by student.


You can check what exemptions are entitled based on your qualifications by ACCA Exemption calculator.


You will need to pay exemption fee for each exam exemption awarded and the fees are charged at the early exam entry fee.


If you are a student studying in university and will be graduated at a date in future, you can check whether your program is offered conditional exemptions by ACCA. Upon graduation, you are only required to submit documentary proof to ACCA to confirm.


With exemption policy, you can start your ACCA journey based on your past study while you no need to study all subjects from the beginning level.


If you are offered exemption with the maximum number of exams, that is 9 exams, you are only required to complete 4 exams in Strategic Professional level, plus EPSM and three years required working experience.


If you are still having questions on exemption, just check ACCA FAQ on Exemption.



ACCA Exam Fee


In my opinion, it is one of most complicated part to many new joiners.


First question is how many types of fee that you need to pay?


There are four types of fee which are –

  • Initial registration fee (one-off)

  • Annual subscription fee

  • Exemption fee

  • Exam fee


The first three types of fee are self-explanatory, but the exam fee is very complicated which you need to pay differently subject to when do you apply for exam. In addition, different levels of exams are charging differently.


In short, there are three rates applied in exam fee, namely, early entry, standard entry and late entry.


As the exam fee is different from each country as well, you have to check clearly how much you need to pay and plan well before enrolling any exam in order to avoid any unnecessary costs in late entry (late entry fee is more than double of standard entry fee.


Check ACCA Fee and Charges page for more details.



How long can you complete ACCA Qualification

It depends!

You are probably graduated with an accounting degree recognized by ACCA and exemptions are granted on nine exams. Then, you only need to complete 4 exams and EPSM to become an affiliate member.


Once you have three years relevant working experience, you can put the four letters, ACCA, after your name when the membership certificate issued to you.


If you are not having any qualification that is recognized by ACCA to be granted exemptions, you have to complete 13 exams and EPSM in 7 years (i.e. 7 years rule).


Generally, three years to complete all 13 exams are many students’ goals, either ACCA or journalists claim.


Therefore, three years to complete ACCA qualification is considered the realistic target for many of you.

ACCA vs CIMA