The ACCA 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 P1, P2 and P3 – and now you have to choose two final papers out of four:
- P4 Advanced Financial Management
- P5 Advanced Performance Management
- P6 Advanced Taxation
- P7 Advanced Auditing and Assurance
The ACCA 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
The ACCA professional options papers correspond to topics covered in the fundamental papers, examining the material at a more advanced level.
- F9 Financial Management -> P4
- F5 Performance Management -> P5
- F6 Taxation -> P6
- F8 Audit & Assurance -> P7
You can also consider your past performance on the first professional papers. Elements of paper P3 are foundational for P5, while elements of P2 are foundational for P7.
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.
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.
As above, there is also a correspondence between elements of the options practical experience requirements and the professional papers.
Here’s a table from ACCA Qualifications Manager, Peter Redfern:
If you’ve had corresponding practical experience, you’ll often find the professional options paper easier. The majority of the professional paper marks are for applied knowledge, so your practical experience can be invaluable.
As we’ve written before, exam technique is a critical factor to your ACCA exam success. Technical understanding alone isn’t enough to pass the professional papers.
Exam technique varies hugely from paper to paper – so it’s important to consider which suits you best when choosing your options.
Papers P4 and P6, for example, demand a huge technical understanding and have a lot of rules you’ll need to learn. By contrast, papers P5 and P7 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.
When choosing your professional papers combination, you might want to 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.
This one is included last as it’s really not a good measure of which ACCA professional options papers to choose.
Many students look to pass rates as a guideline for their own performance, but different people find different things difficult. It’s simply 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 the ACCA professional options papers is the last hurdle before 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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