In this ACCA FAQ blog article we answer some of your frequently asked questions around the order in which you should take your ACCA exams.
- In what order should I take my ACCA exams?
- Which options papers should I take, and in which order?
- Which professional paper should I take after my fundamentals papers?
This is part of our ACCA FAQs series, where we answer the questions hundreds of you have asked us. Learnsignal also run regular webinars addressing your questions live and often refer to your frequently asked questions on our popular podcast show – Forget the Numbers: The Student Accounting Show.
You can submit your own questions here.
In what order should I take my ACCA exams?
The ACCA rule that “exams must be taken in modular order for the ACCA qualification, however you can attempt the papers within each module in any order”.
This means you must take the fundamental papers before taking the professional papers. Let’s address your fundamental papers first.
The first thing for every ACCA student is to pass the fundamental papers. Aside from this, it’s your choice which order you choose depending on your own strengths and weaknesses.
Saying that, we do recommend students alternative between calculation-based and theoretical papers where possible. So if you’re taking F5, for example, maybe look at adding F8 the next time as a break for yourself. So you’re thinking in a different way.
Other than that, there’s no benefit to taking the fundamental papers in any particular order. They don’t have any strong relationship to one another.
Which ACCA paper should you take first? Lots of students have asked us that, and our answer is this. The first ACCA paper you should take should be the paper you think you’ll be most comfortable with.
There’s lots of overlap between papers at this level, which might affect which papers you choose and which order you take them in.
We’ve written an in-depth analysis of the relationships between every ACCA paper previously, so we’ll keep this short and sweet.
- P1 links to F8*
- P2 links to F7
- P3 links to F7 and F5*
* As of September 2018, papers P1 and P3 are being replaced by the new Strategic Business Leader exam. If you haven’t already passed P1 and P3, this affects you and you should check out these:
- Strategic Business Leader: What, Why, How
- The New Strategic Business Leader Exam: What you Need to Know
Plus, here’s the official page from ACCA Global:
If you’ve got the SBL paper ahead of you, we recommend you leave this until the end. Learnsignal’s Head of ACCA, Alan Lynch, took the SBL paper in exam conditions recently, and felt you’d pick up knowledge in other papers that would prove very helpful.
- P4 links to F9
- P5 links to F5
- P6 links to F6
- P7 links to P2
In terms of which professional paper you should take first, it again depends on your preferences and strengths. Here’s what Alan had to say:
“If I were you, I would probably pick P2 as my first professional paper. It’s a very detailed paper with a very large syllabus but it’s closely related to F7, which you’ve probably done fairly recently”.
Which options papers are easiest?
That’s another question students ask us often, and it really does depend where your strengths lie. They all have advantages and disadvantages.
For example, you could say that P5 is an easier option paper – but then you’ve probably taken F5 a long time ago. If at all, if you had exemptions. Which means the fundamental knowledge might be lacking.
One important thing is not just to pick papers because you like them. We often hear from students that failed P6, which they took on the basis they enjoyed tax or have always been good at it.
But if you’re not actively working in tax every day, it’s going to be a very difficult paper for you. Even if you enjoy it and were good in the fundamental paper. Because you really need to be working in that industry on a daily basis to tackle P6.
So that’s an important lesson. Don’t just take papers because you like them. Really look at what’s on the course, and your past performance on other papers. Sometimes the paper you least want to do is the one you might naturally be best at.
The order of your ACCA exams isn’t as important as you think. Lots of students get really caught up in this question, of which order to take the ACCA exams in.
The fact is, it’s not hugely important.
On one hand, the options papers you choose do matter – and students can make their lives more difficult by choosing papers like tax when they don’t need to, and don’t work in tax.
So you do need to put thought into that equation, and look closely at the syllabus and your performance on previous papers that relate.
But in terms of the order you take your ACCA exams in, you can’t go too far wrong. The most important thing is passing your ACCA, and getting that qualification. That’s what employers care about.
Employers don’t look at which papers you took or which order you took them in, unless you want to work in a highly specialised area. They don’t even really care about your mark. What they do care about is whether you passed. Whether you’re ACCA qualified.
So think about that end-game, and try not to sweat the smaller details. Instead, invest your energy into studying more effectively and efficiently for whatever papers you’re taking – and you’ll pass the ACCA more quickly.
Learnsignal helps global finance and accounting professionals pass the ACCA faster, to unlock higher earnings and accelerate career progression. If you haven’t joined us already, discover why hundreds of thousands of ACCA students trust learnsignal to help them pass with a learnsignal basic plan – no credit card required.