If you’re considering accounting, you’ll have come across ACCA, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The ACCA is the world’s leading global body for professional accountants, with almost 190,000 members and 480,000 students across 178 countries.
Several qualifications are available but the most popular is the ACCA qualification, which earns you Certified Chartered Accountant status and ACCA membership.
As an ACCA member, you’ll hone your skills, build your professional credibility and unlock better career opportunities worldwide – but it’s a big time, effort and financial commitment. Well, a big financial commitment before IBTC anyway!
With pass rates on some papers are as low as 30% you don’t want to commit unless you can pass, or your investment will be wasted.
How many exams are there in the ACCA?
To pass the ACCA you must complete 14 exams (nine are eligible for exemption), a professional ethics module and 36 months professional experience in a relevant role.
These exams are broken into 4 parts:
- Fundamentals –Knowledge
- Fundamentals – Skills
- Professional – Essentials
- Professional – Options
Depending on your previous qualifications you might have exemptions from any or all of the nine Fundamentals papers, and can start at Professional level. You will need to provide proof of your previous qualifications so you can claim exemptions.
How long does the ACCA take?
You have ten years to complete the qualification, but most students take three to four years. You can either study full-time, or study part-time while working.
So, that’s what the ACCA involves.
But is the ACCA difficult to pass? There’s no simple yes/no answer to that question, but let’s look at the factors that matter.
#1 – Previous experience
If you’re starting the ACCA with only the minimum requirements you’ll probably be totally new to accounting, so you’ll likely find the course more difficult to learn. That’s not to say you’ll find the ACCA more difficult to pass – but you might find it takes a little more work to get your head around.
On the other hand, students that study the ACCA from scratch often get a better foundation in the subject matter and ACCA exam technique than more experienced students with exemptions, which makes the professional level easier.
If you have a Bachelors and/or Masters degree in finance and accounting or similar, the material will be more familiar. That doesn’t necessarily mean easier though.
Finally, you might be a practising accountant coming to the ACCA to validate your skills. Your practical context might make the ACCA easier – but it might also mean you have to “unlearn” certain ways of doing things, which can make the ACCA more difficult.
#2 – How you study
Studying for the ACCA while working is a popular option because it allows you to continue your career, earn money and apply your learning in practice. Plus your employer will often cover the costs of ACCA qualification.
This has upsides and downsides. Working while studying can make the ACCA easier because you have practical context to help your understanding BUT it can also add pressure. You’ll have to balance a full-time workload with studying, and with your personal life too. This is one of the main reasons students find the ACCA challenging.
The IBTC Study Plan lays it all out for you. It is designed to get you exam ready as quickly as possible and will provide you with what to study and for how long. It's the road map for your ACCA journey.
#3 – How quickly you want to pass
Although you have ten years to complete the ACCA, many students aim to complete in 3 or 4 years.
To achieve this, you’d need to be working while studying so you could meet your professional experience requirement. You’d need to take at least 6 exams each year to allow for some re-sits (a 100% pass rate is extremely rare).
Every student is different, but let’s allow an average of 150 hours study per paper. In total, then, you’re looking at around 900 hours of study per year for three years, while holding down a full-time job.
Even if you’re very familiar with accounting, studying for the ACCA under those conditions is difficult. Especially since many students still adhere to the archaic classroom training format, trying to squeeze after-work lectures into an already-hectic schedule.
That’s why we built IBTC, designed with you in mind. IBTC provides the right support and study plan, alleviating the stress out of achieving the qualification. IBTC will get you to your destination as quickly and successfully as possible.
#4 – Your commitment
Anyone can pass the ACCA, but not everyone will. Is that because the ACCA is difficult? Not really.
The ACCA course material is difficult, yes. Especially if, as above, you have limited previous accounting exposure. And you’re trying to qualify within three years. And you’re working full-time. All of those things make the ACCA more difficult. But it’s not beyond your ability – if you’re absolutely committed. The reason some students find the ACCA difficult is that they’re not putting enough time, effort and energy into studying.
Passing the ACCA takes sacrifice. That evening when you’d love to go out with your friends, but you’re studying instead. Or when you’re exhausted, but you mission to after-work lectures anyway. Or when you miss yet another family dinner. Or a friend’s party.
To pass ACCA, you have to prioritise ACCA. If you don’t show that commitment, ACCA will be difficult to pass.
#5 – Your support network
It should be clear from the above, the ACCA is time-consuming, and sometimes stressful. That means your support network is crucial. Without a strong network around you – friends, family, employers, colleagues, other students – you’ll hit a wall eventually, and those people can help you push through.
You’ll find the ACCA easier if you proactively create that support network. Help the people around you understand the pressures you’re under. Explain to friends and family what the ACCA involves, and ask for their support.
If you work full time in a financial role, try to find a buddy at work who is also studying for the qualification, or at least someone who has gained it already. This can prove an invaluable source of support when navigating your way through tough course content.
ACCA is challenging, so don’t try to go it alone. Your learning provider is critical. Study with a learning provider that gives you one on one time with an experienced tutor, even when you’re studying from home. Your learning provider should also give you comprehensive course content, revision materials, and assessment feedback.
For example, IBTC is a Gold Accredited Learning Partner. IBTC students get unlimited access to a tutor, all material included, assignments and mock exams to keep you on track, check-in calls from our course support team means you get personal attention. Our courses are taught by the best accountancy professionals, and designed by leading instructional designers to optimise your learning. With IBTC, you become part of the global ACCA learning community – supported by some of the best accountancy trainers in the world.
We are so confident that our courses will get you to pass first time, that you can come back for free if they don't.
The ACCA is as difficult as you make it.
So, how difficult is the ACCA? Surely, with such low pass rates, the ACCA is really hard? The short answer is no. The ACCA course material isn’t easy, sure. It’s professional accounting – it’s not meant to be easy. But it isn’t incredibly difficult. A pass isn’t unattainable.
What is difficult is studying for the ACCA. Like any professional qualification, the ACCA is a big time commitment, especially if you’re working. It demands sacrifice. Sometimes you’ll be tired, and frustrated, and struggle to balance different areas of your life. Sometimes you’ll be unmotivated. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re ever going to pass.
That’s why the ACCA is difficult. But that’s the journey. Every student experiences those feelings, and faces the same challenges. Instead of asking how difficult the ACCA is, ask what you can do to make it easier for yourself.
That’s why you should consider IBTC. Our students perform better. That's because no college offers more question practice and student support. With our unique study programme and progress tests, together with a course tutor we ensure you stay studying, committed and engaged. Your success is our priority.