• Which professional options papers should I choose?
  • Which ACCA options papers are best?
  • Which options papers are easiest?
  • Which professional options papers are best for my career?

 

The ACCA options papers you choose can make a big difference to how difficult you find the exam, how quickly you pass and what direction your later career takes. So it’s little wonder this question comes up so often.  

Keep reading to find out our take on choosing your Strategic Professional Options papers.

[We originally published this article on 23.02.2016 but we’ve since updated it to reflect the new exams and latest ACCA terminology]

Which ACCA Options Papers Should I Choose?

The ACCA Strategic Professional options papers are a big undertaking, and it goes without saying that you want to give yourself the best chances of becoming an ACCA member.

You’ve successfully passed your Applied Skills and Applied Knowledge papers, you’ve completed your Ethics and Professional Skills module and just finished Strategic Business Reporting.

Now is the time to move onto your options papers, leaving Strategic Business Leader as your very last exam. Find out more about ACCA exam order here.

You have to choose two papers from these four:

  • Advanced Financial Management (Previously P4)
  • Advanced Performance Management (Previously P5)
  • Advanced Taxation (Previously P6)
  • Advanced Audit and Assurance (Previously P7)

The ACCA Strategic Professional options papers you choose could have a big impact on how likely you are to pass. The problem is, how do you decide which options papers you should take?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ choices here.

Some students might tend to find one paper easier than others, but that is deeply personal. There is no paper that all students find universally more difficult.

Rather, you need to weigh up a number of factors that are unique to you and your learning experience to date.

This will allow you to choose the ACCA professional options papers that are best for you.

There are a number of factors to consider.

Factors Affecting Your ACCA Professional Options Papers Choice

Past Performance

The ACCA options papers correspond to topics covered in the Applied Knowledge papers, examining the material at a more advanced level.

  • (F9) Financial Management -> Advanced Financial Management
  • (F5)  Performance Management -> Advanced Performance Management
  • (F6) Taxation -> Advanced Taxation
  • (F8) Audit & Assurance -> Advanced Audit and Assurance

You can also consider your past performance on Strategic Business Reporting (what was P2) as elements of this are relevant for Advanced Audit and Assurance.

If you have performed well on the corresponding papers, then that could be a good indicator of your success on the professional options papers. Not only will the course content be more familiar to you, but the exam techniques required will often be similar too.

However, don’t take past performance as the only measure. You shouldn’t choose Advanced Audit and Assurance purely on the basis that you did well on Audit and Assurance – but consider all the factors together.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is not necessary to pass the ACCA, but it can be very helpful. If you have practical work experience that corresponds to the options paper, you’ll often find the paper easier. For instance, Advanced Taxation can be a very difficult paper to approach unless you’re getting practical experience of working in taxation regularly.  

Elements of each options paper actually ties back into the performance objectives during your professional experience requirement so look closely at these.

Here’s a table from ACCA Qualifications Manager, Peter Redfern:

ACCA Professional Options Papers Choices

If you’ve had corresponding practical experience, you’ll often find the professional options paper easier. The vast majority of the Strategic Professional paper marks are for applied knowledge so practical experience can be invaluable.

Preferred Technique

As we’ve written before, exam technique is a critical factor to your ACCA exam success. Technical understanding alone isn’t enough to pass Strategic Professional papers.

Exam technique varies hugely from paper to paper – so it’s important to consider which suits you best when choosing your options.

Advanced Financial Management and Advanced Taxation, for example, demand a huge technical understanding and have a lot of rules you’ll need to learn. By contrast, Advanced Performance Management and Advanced Audit and Assurance rely more on applied understanding.

That’s not to say they’re easier, but to say that how well you do will depend on which exam technique you prefer and are better at.

Career Path

When choosing your professional papers combination, you should also consider your future career path. There might be specific papers that are obviously going to be more relevant to your career.

Saying that, this shouldn’t be the most important factor when choosing which options to take. If you find one area particularly difficult or have had poor performance on other corresponding papers, it’s generally unwise to take that paper.

Remember, even if your career path demands a specific options paper – Audit, for example – you can take further options papers once you’re ACCA qualified, as part of your CPD. It’s often more sensible to focus on attaining your qualification first by choosing professional papers you’re more likely to do well on. Gaining your pass is the most important thing here.

Preference

This is something students often forget to consider, but it is an important aspect of choosing which ACCA options papers to take. The fact is, you’ll find it easier to study something you like. Studying your ACCA is difficult and time-consuming and does sometimes take sacrifice. If you don’t enjoy the paper, you’ll be less likely to make the time to study and less engaged when you do.

So all other things being equal, if you can’t decide between two options papers, then choose the one you’re most interested in.

 

Pass Rates

This one is included last as it’s not a good measure of which ACCA options papers to choose – but it’s often the one students look at. It generally stems from wanting to know which ACCA options papers are easiest – but looking at other students’ performance as a guideline simply doesn’t tell you much.

Different people find different things difficult. It’s not productive to look at pass rates and extrapolate to your own chances of success. Although the pass rates can give a general indication of how many people struggled with the paper, there’s no guarantee you’d be amongst them.

Passing your ACCA options papers is the last hurdle to gaining ACCA qualification, and for many students it’s the biggest. There’s no wrong or right answer when it comes to the ACCA. You’ll hear a lot of students talking about which papers are ‘easiest’ based on pass rates, but this isn’t a good indication.

Instead, look at your prior performance, your understanding of applicable foundational concepts and any relevant practical experience you have. Based on that information you should be able to decide which ACCA professional options papers you’ll be best suited to and make the right choice for you.

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