ACA Exams



Can anyone give me some information as to when you will take your ACA exams? Is it laid out like University with 3 around Christmas and then 3 in the summer? Also if I wanted to get a headstart in studying for some of these exams where can I find information regarding this?


If you’re gonna be doing your ACA, I wouldn’t bother trying to get a headstart! You’'ll have so much work to do when you do start that I’d just enjoy the “free time” now. Plus all the information you require will be provided during the classes for the ACA. If you try to prepare before hand, it is very likely you’ll end up reading outside the scope of what is required of you.

Also, the exams (depending on the firm) tend to be laid out such that you complete most in your first year and a few in your second year and the third year is spent “time-qualifying”.


jungle_boogie is correct. You’ll do 12 exams in your first year, then 3 in your second year. (This is how PwC and Deloitte do it anyway).


Here is a typical big 4 study schedule:

The study set up is pretty much identical for all big 4. Almost straight after joining you go on a three week course with Kaplan (or BPP) in London to study the first three knowledge modules. Some of this work is self study and some is in college BUT they spoon feed you a very precise timetable even for the self study days. So you do chapters x-y, lunch break, chapters x-y tea break, Evening, online test. etc etc. You spend about one week per subject. After the three weeks you take the three exams . These are e-assessment. You get the results the next day. You then spend maybe a month or two working on audits or internal training course and then have another 3 weeks college doing the next three knowledge modules. Back to the office for a couple of months then you go on a 6 week course at college. In college every day 9 til 4 to study the first three application exams. This is a very intensive, all in college course with lots of mock exams and timed practice questions. You sit these exams in an exam centre at the end of your 6 weeks. The results are published 5-6 weeks later. After another 2 or 3 months you do the next 6 week course for the next three application exams. SO, after one year, give or take, you should have completed the Professional Stage of ACA. 12 exams in total. Over the next year you’ll sit two Advanced stage and one Case study paper,Total 15 exams plus 3 years working in accountancy and then you are an ACA. Big 4 will also put you through a lot of internal training. You will get fantastic training for sure. It’s hard work at college because you get homework every evening and weekends but worth it.


Hi that is great thanks for the information. Just to clarify when you finish your 3 weeks of studying do you do your exams straight after that or do you get some time to read over stuff it just seems to be really intense to do that many exams in such a short space of time!


PwC do three weeks study then you take the three exams on the following Tues/Wed or Mon/Wed. So, basically you finish studies on a Friday and take the exams in the beginning of the following week. But you will have done loads of progress tests and mock exams. Last year Deloitte did one subject per week with the exam at the end of each week.
You will be very well prepared if you keep to the study plan and work hard.
Should you fail ,you re-take the exam pretty quick, say a week or 10 days later.
Yes, it is very intense, especially the first three weeks when you don’t know what’s hit you. But be assured that the selection to employ graduates ensures they select the graduates who can cope with it. And, everyone feels exactly the same. (Girls been known to cry…) After the first three weeks you get used to the nature of the beast.
For those with no previous knowledge the first time you do accounting it’s pretty difficult. Debits and credits etc. Are you an accounting graduate, abcarson22?


Thanks Tutor for the information been really helpful. I was a business graduate so have a decent knowledge of accounting subjects. It does all seem intense looking forward to having a go at it though!


Littlelegs, it’s good to have your input. I presume that you are not with PwC? Deloite Reading certainly seems to follow a study program similar to the one you describe, ie more broken up with a bit of a breather in between when you are back at office work but rivising in the evening. There are pros and cons for this method as opposed to the Pwc all intensive approach. Obviously you get more time to assimilate and absorb the topic your way but on the PwC plus side is the fact that putting all the effort into a program for 6 weeks then sitting the exam immediately keeps you on your toes and you don’t have a month to let the first three weeks work go rusty.

At the end of the day (horrible catch phrase) whichever route you take, the success rate is high and the college seems to do a good job. Well, they’d be in deep sh1t and loose a lot of business if they didn’t deliver.

Good luck with the exams. Tax is a bit of a b****r, so much detailed legislation to learn. By all accounts (bad pun) the next three application exams are “nicer”
Are you related to the poster “LilShortie” ?


I was wondering if anyone could explain the following please:

If someone joins in September, when do they take their first exams? Does everyone take the above exams or PwC has its own timetable to follow?

Are the first exams on 13-15 December 2010? And the next in March 2011? And the next in June 2011?

Any help from current trainees or those more knowledgable will be greatly appreciated!


Sound advice, littlelegs.

To all new starters make sure you give yourself enough time to do all the pre work. It’s easy before you join to be quite casual or last minute-ish about the pre course work. Believe me if you put some effort into it you’ll reap the benefit because once the actual course starts it goes at a fast pace and you MUST keep up. No pain no gain.


Thanks a lot for the sound advice. The reason I was asking the above was because my brother is planning to get married next year and he has asked me when I am likely to be free…he has two dates in mind…January and June.

Which time do you think there will be no exams and the workload is less at work?



Ank. Presume you’re Joining PwC London in September 2010?

If so and assuming they follow the same pattern as the Sept 2009 intake then you will take the 6 knowledge papers between September and Dec 2010. The first three will be taken in September as they like to get all new grads straight into Accounting, Taxation and Assurance asap. These are the e-assessment papers that you sit in Kaplan’s.

Then you move onto the application exams whose dates you have already seen on the ICAEW (per your link above). This year I believe the trainees are split into two study groups. So, one group sits the first three application exams in March 2011 (21,22 and 23) the other will sit them on June 13,14,15 2010. For the first three exams they had 6 weeks and 1 day study before the week of the exams. So if your’re doing March sitting, study begins on Friday feb 4 , 2011. If you’re doing June exams you’re at college from Friday April 29 2011.
Please check my calendar calculations!!

Hope this helps. In summary you’ll be free in January (you’ll have some pre course reading) and the second half of June. That takes care of study. Office work, I haven’t a clue. Depends what clients you’re on but it shouldn’t be too difficult to book time off when you’re in first year and it’s a family wedding.

Sorry cannot supply a weather forecast too but I’d go for June unless it’s going to be a Carribean wedding when January is best.

Please note this all assumes you’ll pass exams first time. Any fails in March will be re-taken in June.


tutor - once again thanks for your insight (in particular when we are likely to have “free time” between exams!)

do you work for a Big 4 firm?


Quaified with one then moved to another to work in Corporate tax.
bingkk32, as I recall you are going to Uxbridge office PwC. Do they use Kaplan London and use the same study timetable?
You’re going into tax. Their busy periods will differ from audit. Audit are always busy for Dec year ends and March, to a lesser extent


Yes - they use Kaplan London but my study timetable hasn’t been confirmed yet.
So what the busy periods traditionally for tax work? I guess January with the deadline for filing self-assessment returns


@bingkk32, could you please give some advice on partner interview at Uxbridge office, PWC? I have my interview next week for Assurance. How should I prepare and what is that they are looking for in the partner interview? Any Tips…



bingkk32, hello.

Busy periods for tax? Well, certainly for Income Tax, as you have correctly indentified, it’s the self assessment returns deadlines and of course all the payment on account deadlines.

But your area will also cover owner managed businesses (Yes?) so you will also be overlapping with CT deadlines of the owner’s business vis a vis CT returns, payment of dividends, interest on loan accounts, bonuses etc.

Overall I would imagine there will be less stress in your deadlines than in assurance. The main trouble often is that you will sitting ready to act and meanwhile you are on the umpteenth reminder letter to the client to produce the information you need!


thanks for the reply tutor.

keshu (sounds like chinese? - sorry random thought)
my partner interview focussed heavily on more competencies - more like a continuation of the manager interview. Which kinda surprised me because I was expecting more commercial awareness Qs (of which I received none!!). So I don’t think my particular interview is of the “standard kind”. however, I still tried to show my com awareness by mentioning topical issues pertaining to tax whenever the opportunity allowed - e.g. when it was my turn to ask Qs, I asked whether issues you see in the news (such as mass redundancy/ adjustments to work practices to avoid redundancy) has substantially affected their workload (from a HR tax perspective). i also googled the partner who was going to interview me, and found an article written by that partner which I could mentiion at interview :slight_smile:


yes googling senior people in the office is a good idea


Thanks tutor for the incredible insight into the courses and exams structure…much appreciated. Thought you could give me a weather forecast as well…never mind!

The wedding is taking place in the Indian Ocean…so i guess it will be sometime in late June then. :slight_smile: