Working in Audit and the ACA exam



I have read elsewhere that audit is monotonous, boring and soulsucking. Can anyone clarify this? What is it really like?

What is your real experience of working in audit as a graduate trainee?

What is a typical day like?

What did you do in the first year?

How much time did you spend on the exams?

How much use of technology is involved? ie. time spent staring at computer screens?

How much travelling is involved? And what is the furthest place you have gone?

Any other info is much appreciated. Thanks!


Well from my research and spking to big4 employees i can offer some points. The very nature of an “audit” is refering to checks and assuring everything is working as it should be which by definition isnt going to be as exciting as actually creating/operating the process, whether tht being a business etc. Theres alot of checking invoices, going through company accounts and data, controls in place and evaluating the accuracy of this and day to day you will travel to client sites for a certain amount of time, so alot of travelling, up to 90% when ur not studying. All your other info will differ firm to firm and someone actually working already wil be better placed to confirm.


What is your real experience of working in audit as a graduate trainee?/What is a typical day like?/What did you do in the first year?
Audit is not particularly fascinating. On your first job you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing and if you’re not working with a great team, you’ll find yourself making it up! Very soon, you know exactly what you’re doing and it no longer holds any interest. The above poster is indeed correct. The 2 main areas you will look at are cash an fixed assets. This primarily involves checking bank statements and invoices. Thrilling as you can imagine.

A typical day very much depends upon with whom you are working. Some teams/managers are great. Some aren’t. Most people you won’t have met before so you do not know what to expect on your first day at a job. Some managers tell you up front what they want you to do and leave you to get on with it and time manage yourself. Others will only tell you one step at a time and expect you to update them every time you complete a task.

Some managers don’t care what hours you do as long as you get the jobs done, others expect you to stay late whether you have work to do or not. Further, the client itself makes a massive difference. Some hate the fact you’re there and are uncooperative because of this. This will have a massive impact on you as you often have to work quite closely with the client to gather information and gain an understanding of the infomation provided.

As such, there is no such thing as a typical day but the role you’ll perform does not vary in the first year. First year’s do A, B and C, second year’s do D, E and F and so on. Thus, you will do the same task several times for different clients.

How much time did you spend on the exams?
Each firm has a very different structure for their ACA exams, ours is very intensive. However, regardless of how long you have to do them, a typical day will be about 9 -4/4.30 in college and then maybe 3/4 hours each evening of further work. You will also have to work about 9-4ish on the weekend in order to get the volume completed. You do’t have to do this of course but you will very quickly fall behind if you don’t. I know other firms structure there courses quite differently, often affording more time so perhaps this requirement wouldn’t be so arduous but I cannot comment on that.

You complete 12 exams within the first year. 6 knowledge papers, which are mulitple choice and 6 written papers. We spend a total of 18 weeks in college in the first year to cover all these exams.

How much use of technology is involved? ie. time spent staring at computer screens?
However many hours you work = ours staring at a computer screen. For me personally an average day is about 8.30 - 6.30. No one tends to take a lunch break so an average of 10 hours a day. However, on some jobs you will stick to your 9-5.30 whilst on others I have worked 8-11. Bear in mind that these hours don’t include travel time.

I don’t know what other kinds of technology you might be thinking of but your lap top is the main thing you’ll use.

How much travelling is involved? And what is the furthest place you have gone?
Distance is really not an issue per se as, if it is a certain distance away it will be an away job so you will stay in a hotel close to a client site so there will not be a huge amount of daily travel involved just the journe at the beginning and end if the week.

However, there is generally always an element of travel varying from the city itself to anywhere in the country. It is not unfeasible to spend about 2 hours each way each day travelling, often due to traffic conditions. This is often exacerbated for me as I don’t have a car, which I would say is a must. On average, a client will be 45-60 mins from the city centre, but this also depends upon where you live as most people live out of the centre. AFter very long days this can take its toll and it is really this part that I most vehemently dislike about my roll as some sites are quite awkward for me to get to. Persoanlly, I quite enjoy the away work but I’ve only had one or two away jobs where as some people are practically away all the time and they don’t like that so much. Once again, this is due to personal taste.

I would note that you are very rarely in the office. You are constantly having to adapt to new environments, new people and new teams. This does add a level of interest but can also be arduous as there is no routine and you have to build up relationships very quickly. This is good if you’re with a bad team/client, as you’ll only be there a short time but not so good when you’ve built up a rapport with people who may never work with on another client.

This does sound quite negative I know but personally I feel there are few glaringly obvious good points. No auditor I’ve met is particularly passionate about their job and this makes it difficult also as it sometimes feels like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is a secure job at the moment and the qualification will open doors for you. I love my fellow grad intake and we regulalrly meet up and at the end of the month, you get paid.

I hope that answered your questions. :slight_smile:

  • What is your real experience of working in audit as a graduate trainee?/What is a typical day like?/What did you do in the first year?

I disagree with quite a few things above. Yes the jobs are varied and you have a fair bit of flexibility when it comes to which jobs you are booked onto so if you find that you are getting bored because you understand what you’re doing well then you can ask for something more challenging and trust me, you’ll always get it. All the teams I have been in have always been eager to challenge me and give me new opportunities to learn.

I also disagree with fixed assets and cash being the 2 main areas you look at. They were probably 2/10th of all areas of work I was responsible for and I have never been on a job where all have done is fixed assets and cash. It is a bit of an unreasonable generalisation.

Yes, I agree with you on the variety of each day. Its client oriented work so no two days are ever the same and a fair bit of the work you do can rely on the clients. I must have been pretty lucky but all my managers have been great. The managers I had have categorically said that they didn’t want working any late nights and the latest I have had to work is 5.45pm. My clients have all been great (so far). They know what you’re there for and have been helpful though I think you’re right about how this can vary from client to client. I have heard of some clients haven’t been helpful…

  • How much use of technology is involved? ie. time spent staring at computer screens?

Once again, I agree with the above. You will have meetings sometimes and have to go speak to the clients but generally you will spend a good portion of your time working on your laptop. A typical day for me is 9.00 to 5.30 and we get to take the full hour for lunch. It’s entirely up to you if you chose to work through your lunch or to go off to town for some shopping. It’s your own time and no one has any expectations for you to work through it. As you through your qualification you will probably start to gather up other bits and bobs e.g. secure USB drives, wireless internet cards…etc

  • How much travelling is involved? And what is the furthest place you have gone?
    I think the above post is spot on regarding travelling. (i.e. If you have to travel over a certain distance/time, then you get to stay in a hotel. You get your expenses back for travel over a certain distance from the city/town you work in). You are barely in the office and can be out of the office for months at a time.

With regards to how far people have to travel, you could be working anywhere in the UK, Manchester, Aberdeen, London, Cardiff… etc. You might also get the opportunity to work abroad as some people have though it’s trickier to do this in your first year because you are at college for a considerable amount of time in the first year

I disagree about not meeting auditors that are passionate about their jobs. I know some people who just cant get enough of their jobs. The grad intake (your year) and in years above are always good fun though!

I know I didn’t touch on all the points but I didn’t want to duplicate some of the stuff in the post above. I just wanted to provide a different insight into some of the points.


I hope this helps. Email me if you have any more questions.

1) What is your real experience of working in audit as a graduate trainee?

Varied. My time is split between college, training and audit. I’ve spent a month in college, three weeks on training courses and five weeks living in a hotel (the novelty wears off after a day). The clients are varied. It changes every two weeks and the audit work is never the same.

Most companies have a 31 December year end, so the bulk of the work runs from January to March. It’s is known as “busy season”. I’ve audited the simpler areas of cash, fixed assets and trade debtors. I’ve done some controls work (business controls aim to prevent mistakes and fraud). First years deal with a lot of the admin: photocopying, arranging couriers, taxis and clearing up.

The training is necessary but it’s a little tedious and hard to understand until you apply it in practice. You do finish at a reasonable time.

Exams are the other major part of the experience. College is quite intense. Understanding double-entry is like learning a new language. It’s also hard to juggle working and studying. I’ve passed four ACA exams, so I’m not doing too badly!

2) What is a typical day like?

I leave my home with the aim of arriving at the client at 9.30am. The first thing I do is fire up my laptop and try to complete some important tasks. After that, I check my email. I do some more audit work. Then I have a half hour lunch break. The afternoon consists of more audit work with a focus on speaking to the client. I will also help out my superiors. I sometimes work up until the early evening. The client has gone home by then so the time is spent writing things up.

I haven’t gone into any detail about the exact nature of the audit work because it changes day by day. It depends on the nature of the client, the stage of the audit and my prior experience. I’ve described a typical routine but there isn’t a typical day.

3) How much time did you spend on the exams?

The Big Four firms do send their graduates to college for a reasonable amount of time. Plus there is private study leave for each exam. I reckon there’s about a week of college and five days study leave for each exam.

Revision time depends on your style of learning. I found that the most I could do while I was working was one hour per evening. Even that was very exhausting. Studying does take up a lot of your free time in the run up to an exam. I believe that the key is to start early and revise consistently.

Fortunately there are no exams during the busy season. Otherwise, no-one will pass the exams, there would be no accountants and the world would be a better place.

4) How much use of technology is involved? ie. time spent staring at computer screens?

Auditors cannot work (live?) without their laptops and an internet connection. The first two hours of an audit is spent trying (and failing) to network the printer.

5) How much travelling is involved? And what is the furthest place you have gone?

Travelling is the worst part of the job. It’s compounded by living in London. The average commute is an hour on an overcrowded train. Wherever you travel in London, the “one hour commute law” will apply. Although, the firm will put you up in a hotel the commute times is over two hours.

No wonder everyone looks so miserable on the tube. People try to pass the time by reading and permanently damaging their ears listening to iPods.

The furthest commute was London to Watford at two hours each way.