Limited success with applications - Minimum academic requirements


Hey guys,

I am having very limited success so far in securing an ACA Training contract for 2009. Prior to going to university my ambition was always to be a professional footballer and I was lucky enough to have had this opportunity in the years following my A-Levels. However, I do not believe that I did nearly as well as I could have at A-Level, mainly as I focused strongly on football at the time, as I played with a football league club whilst at school. Therefore I do not seem to meet many firms’ requisite UCAS criteria although since being released from football I have been to university and gained a First Class Honours degree in Economics and a Postgraduate Distinction in Global Business from a top UK business school and therefore my A-Levels are not nearly a true reflection of my academic ability. Most firms are holding my A-Level performance against me though and it is now quite disheartening as I do not want my recent hard work to go to waste. Does anyone know what I could do etc?? Doors are closing fast for me now.


Fully understand, there is not much you can do, maybe try to meet with the recruiters of the firms you are trying to apply to at campus events and explain your situation to them. Or even get a supporting document form a tutor at your university, call the relevant department at the firm and ask to attach this document to your application. It is very difficult as recruiters are looking for any excuse to not take you due to competition. Best of luck!



If you’re willing to work in Industry instead of Prof.Services, there are quite a few finance training schemes that provide CIMA training, that pay the same if not more than the Big 4 type schemes. Companies like GSK, BT, Mars etc.

If you’re willing to make the switch, there is plenty of well paid schemes, with excellent progression prospects.

I have the same issue BTW - 2:1 degree and a Postgrad from Top unis, but crap A-Level grades.


I understand the problems you are facing. Most of the graduate schemes I have seen want either 300 ucas points (BBB) or 280 (BBC). This isn’t a problem for me as I meet these requirements. However, a few companies will not take me because of my GCSE results. For example, Ernst & Young want candidates to have a B grade in GCSE Maths and English Language. I only got a grade C in English as I wasn’t very focused on my education back them. I spent approx. 4 hours filling out the EY application form only for it to be rejected because I didn’t meet their minimum entry requirements. The same happened with Grant Thornton. I was almost tempted just to put down that I had a B anyway, but I decided it would be pointless as I know that these large accounting companies have forensic teams that do thorough checks on you prior to offering you a contract.

My advice for you, phnelson2008, would be to have a look at the list of accountancy firms on this website and find some from the list that do not have such rigid A Level requirements. Most of the larger ones ask for 280 or 300 UCAS points, but some of the smaller ones do not have a UCAS requirement.
Also, some firms have lower requirements if you want to join on an ACCA contract. For example, Grant Thornton want 300 UCAS points for you to join and study ACA, but if you are willing to join as an ACCA trainee, then they only want 240.


Thanks for your replies guys. It just gets annoying when you spend so much time planning careful answers to questions on the applications forms and then you are rejected the next day so it is clearly due to not having met their UCAS criteria. I do find that I get some success if I contact the relevant HR team or even a higher level person such as a partner to explain my situation but I just think there needs to be some room for exception although I know the competition is obviously fierce and they receive huge numbers of applications. There are always going to be some cases of ‘late developers’ in academic terms so I wish they could be taken into consideration.


I agree it is a bit annoying, many of these companies have computerised algorithms which will automatically reject your application if you don’t meet their requirements. So, your application may even be rejected without a human even looking at it. Some of the academic requirements do seem a bit strict. I guess they have to draw the line somewhere as the professional exams are hard, but I wouldn’t have thought someone with your academic credentials would have any difficulties passing the accountancy qualifications.
In my case, I sat my GCSE’s in 2003, and it is infuriating that my performance 6 years ago is still being held against me now that I am making applications in 2009! But its not something you can really do much about. If getting into a big 4 firm or even a big 10 firm is that important to you, then I guess you could always take a year to retake your A-Levels, however, there are plenty of smaller firms who would be more than happy to take on someone with a 1st and a postgrad distinction regardless of their other qualifications.

Good luck and hope everything works out for you.
Let us know if anything comes up.


I have even contemplated re-taking A-Levels at times but I then realise that would sort of lessen my recent performance though and I shouldn’t really have to do a re-take as I am conficent that I can get through the ACA exams. I unfortunately got a C in GCSE English as, again, I was far from my best back then and some firms have even quoted that to me although it’s clear that after completing a master’s degree I have a certain degree of English with all the report writing it entails etc. Nevermind, I will plod on :slight_smile:


I agree with Reg, that if you are willing to go in-house then you possibly stand a better chance. The numbers of candidates involved will be a lot less and companies may be more inclined to bend the rules as they will be looking for a cultural fit as well as academics.
I would find a couple of companies you like the look of, phone the head office and ask to speak to the recruitment manager. I say phone because you will have a much better chance of selling yourself than if you email (way to easy to press delete or ignore!)
Personally I don’t believe anything is set in stone.
Good luck and let us know how you get on!


some smaller firms who are outside of the big4 and big10 will accept applications from people with lower grades at A level, I have seen some accountancy firms with 260points and many make exceptions for people with other qualities that stand out.


RSM bentley jennison only requires 2.2 check them out


yes smaller firms would take u on but u have almost missed the boat with regards to 2009 entry, although a few of the big4 still have places. however rather than a small accountancy firm (and there is a huge gap between the top 4/6/10 and the rest) id look to go into industry finance schemes which will sponsor u to do the ACCA then if u want u can get into the big4 after qualification and for experienced hires they are ALOT more lienient and w/e matters more than gcse’s. Alternatively u can stick in industry, do more exciting work and get paid more!