Read an honest review of the ACCA, what makes the ACCA exams more difficult for some students than for others and what you can do to make it easier for you.
If you’re considering accounting, you’ll have come across ACCA, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The ACCA is the world’s leading global body for professional accountants, with almost 190,000 members and 480,000 students across 178 countries.
Several qualifications are available but the most popular is the ACCA qualification, which earns you Certified Chartered Accountant status and ACCA membership.
As an ACCA member, you’ll hone your skills, build your professional credibility and unlock better career opportunities worldwide – but it’s a big time, effort and financial commitment. Well, a big financial commitment before learnsignal anyway!
With pass rates on some papers are as low as 30% you don’t want to commit unless you can pass, or your investment will be wasted.
Which brings us to an important question: how difficult is the ACCA?
First, let’s look at what the ACCA involves. For more detail, check out our article on Becoming a Chartered Accountant: How to Pass the ACCA.
How many exams are there in the ACCA?
To pass the ACCA you must complete 14 exams, a professional ethics module and three years of professional experience. These exams are broken into 4 parts.
- Fundamentals –Knowledge
- Fundamentals – Skills
- Professional – Essentials
- Professional – Options
Depending on your previous qualifications you might have exemptions from any or all of the nine Fundamentals papers, and can start at Professional level.
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How long does the ACCA take?
You have ten years to complete the qualification, but most students take three to four years. You can either study full-time, or study part-time while working.
So, that’s what the ACCA involves.
But is the ACCA difficult to pass? There’s no simple yes/no answer to that question, but let’s look at the factors that matter.
Why is the ACCA difficult?
Different students will find the ACCA more difficult than others, depending on some of these factors:
#1 – Previous experience
If you’re starting the ACCA with only the minimum requirements you’ll probably be totally new to accounting, so you’ll likely find the course more difficult to learn. That’s not to say you’ll find the ACCA more difficult to pass – but you might find it takes a little more work to get your head around.
On the other hand, students that study the ACCA from scratch often get a better foundation in the subject matter and ACCA exam technique than more experienced students with exemptions, which makes the professional level easier.
Many students take the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification as an introduction to accounting, but the ACCA is a significant step-up from this.
If you have a Bachelors and/or Masters degree in finance and accounting or similar, the material will be more familiar. That doesn’t necessarily mean easier though, especially if you claim exemptions and don’t re-cover earlier material in enough depth.
Finally, you might be a practising accountant coming to the ACCA to validate your skills. Your practical context might make the ACCA easier – but it might also mean you have to “unlearn” certain ways of doing things, which can make the ACCA more difficult.
#2 – How you study
Studying for the ACCA while working is a popular option because it allows you to continue your career, earn money and apply your learning in practice. Plus your employer will often cover the costs of ACCA qualification.
This has upsides and downsides. Working while studying can make the ACCA easier because you have practical context to help your understanding BUT it can also ramp up the pressure. You’ll have to balance a full-time workload with studying, and with your personal life too. This is one of the main reasons students find the ACCA challenging.
#3 – How quickly you want to pass
Although you have ten years to complete the ACCA, many students aim to complete in 3 or 4 years.
To achieve this, you’d need to be working while studying so you could meet your professional experience requirement. You’d need to take at least 6 exams each year to allow for some re-sits (a 100% pass rate is extremely rare).
Every student is different, but let’s allow an average of 150 hours study per paper. In total, then, you’re looking at around 900 hours of study per year for three years, while holding down a full-time job.
Even if you’re very familiar with accounting, studying for the ACCA under those conditions is difficult. Especially since many students still adhere to the archaic classroom training format, trying to squeeze after-work lectures into an already-hectic schedule.
That’s why we built learnsignal, so you can study on-the-go, in short bursts, whenever and wherever.
#4 – Your commitment
Anyone can pass the ACCA, but not everyone will. Is that because the ACCA is difficult? Not really.
The ACCA course material is difficult, yes. Especially if, as above, you have limited previous accounting exposure. And you’re trying to qualify within three years. And you’re working full-time. All of those things make the ACCA more difficult. But it’s not beyond your ability – if you’re absolutely committed. The reason some students find the ACCA difficult is that they’re not putting enough time, effort and energy into studying.
Passing the ACCA takes sacrifice. That evening when you’d love to go out with your mates, but you’re studying instead. Or when you’re exhausted, but you trek to after-work lectures anyway. Or when you miss yet another family dinner. Or a friend’s party. Or a lie-in.
To pass the ACCA, you have to prioritise the ACCA. If you don’t show that commitment, the ACCA is very difficult to pass.
#5 – Your support network
It should be clear from the above, the ACCA is time-consuming, and sometimes stressful. That means your support network is crucial. Without a strong network around you – friends, family, employers, colleagues, other students – you’ll hit a wall eventually, and those people can help you push through.
You’ll find the ACCA easier if you proactively create that network. Help the people around you understand the pressures you’re under. Explain to friends and family what the ACCA involves, and ask for their support. Build relationships with other students, either in real life or online, who understand what you’re going through.
Your learning provider is also critical. Study with an approved learning provider who can help you pass the ACCA, or you’ll make life much more difficult.
For example, learnsignal students get anytime, anywhere, any device access to our comprehensive online ACCA course library. Our courses are taught by the best accountancy professionals, and designed by leading instructional designers to optimise your learning. With learnsignal, you become part of the global ACCA learning community – supported by some of the best accountancy trainers in the world.
The ACCA is as difficult as you make it.
So, how difficult is the ACCA? Surely, with such low pass rates, the ACCA is really hard? The short answer is no. The ACCA course material isn’t easy, sure. It’s professional accounting – it’s not meant to be easy. But it isn’t incredibly difficult. A pass isn’t unattainable.
What is difficult is studying for the ACCA. Like any professional qualification, the ACCA is a big time commitment, especially if you’re working. It demands sacrifice. Sometimes you’ll be tired, and frustrated, and struggle to balance different areas of your life. Sometimes you’ll be unmotivated. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re ever going to pass.
That’s why the ACCA is difficult. But that’s the journey. Every student experiences those feelings, and faces the same challenges. Instead of asking how difficult the ACCA is, ask what you can do to make it easier for yourself.
That’s why you should consider learnsignal. Our ACCA course library makes studying easier and more convenient, giving you access to world-class ACCA study materials 24/7 whenever and wherever you want. We can’t make the ACCA easy, but we can make it significantly easier.
Start studying with learnsignal today – no credit card needed.