How Challenging is ACCA Qualification?

Feb 7, 2020 by Mohsin Raza

acca qualification

About ACCA

ACCA is a professional qualification that earns learner the status of Certified Chartered Accountant after passing 14 papers (excluding exemptions) and further gaining ACCA membership after a total experience known as professional experience requirement (PER) of 36 months in the relevant field. The following provides the breakup of papers:

  1. Applied Knowledge: Accountant in Business, Financial Accounting and Management Accounting
  2. Applied Skills: Corporate and Business Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit & Assurance and Financial Management
  3. Strategic Professional:
  • Essential: Strategic Business Leader and Strategic Business Reporting
  • Optional (Two Only): Advanced Financial Management, Advanced Performance Management, Advanced Taxation and Advanced Audit & Assurance

ACCA provides a total of 10 years’ time to complete the qualification, however the average time taken by students to complete is around 3-4 years (without exemption).

Why do students find ACCA difficult?

The recent changes in the syllabus and exam patterns have resulted in the global pass rates to decline. This is because examiners have changed their questions to more application-based knowledge to real-life scenarios rather than theoretical knowledge. The following factors would affect the level of difficulty:

Every student comes from a different educational background, so it would depend on the previous knowledge that how much effort would be required. For example: If a student has a medical or science background he/she might find it difficult to understand the basic concepts, further they would also be required to pass four additional foundation level examinations to develop the necessary accounting background. While, on the other hand, students having accounting or business background may find it easier to pass the applied knowledge papers.

The studying methodology is also a factor that needs to be taken into consideration when deciding the level of difficulty of passing ACCA examination. Most of the students take formal classes from experienced teachers which provides additional support during the course coverage. This makes it easier for students to learn the course on time and be fully prepared in terms of past papers practice that helps them to pass the exam in the first attempt.

However, some students might feel comfortable by self-studying the whole course or using the online classroom platforms. This would depend on the individual’s level of understanding that how he/she plans and execute the learning schedule and how much time they would spend in practice.

Time is one of the most important factors to achieve success in ACCA. If an individual is a full-time student, he or she would be able to allocate more time towards studying whereas working or part-time students may not be able to put the same amount of effort due to their work responsibilities. It needs to be well-balanced to complete their qualification as early as possible.

How to tackle these factors?

The Applied knowledge examination is the first stage of ACCA qualification and is based on the basics of business and accounting knowledge. It requires a minimum of two hours per day to complete the syllabus content while a complete practice from the exam kit of either publisher is enough. Each student is advised to complete these papers first and then move on to the next stage because it has been observed that many students complete them at the end of their qualifying attempt.

Applied skill level of ACCA provides in-depth knowledge of the auditing and accounting profession. It requires students to learn basics of MS Word and Excel along with the syllabus content. Student must take at least six month’s time to learn the syllabus along with past paper practice both in writing and on computer to be well prepared for the final examination. It is necessary for students to pass these papers in first attempt because it has been seen that many students take these papers very lightly and do not practice enough which results in failure. If a student fails at these levels, they become demotivated and delays their qualification.

Strategic Professional papers require immense efforts to pass as their difficulty level has been raised in recent years and the pass rates of these remains between 30-40% globally. These papers help you learn unique knowledge that differentiates you from a normal person in terms of accounting background therefore it requires focus and long study hours to understand the concepts. Further, most questions require application of knowledge on scenarios, so the answers are based on judgment and understanding. Students are insisted to take a full course from an experienced teacher either from an institute or online platform to develop the level of understanding and technique to cater to examiner requirements.


ACCA’s syllabus is not that easy as it is a professional qualification therefore it requires hard work; however, it is not impossible to complete within the ideal time. If a student allocates a dedicated number of hours towards learning the course and starts practicing well before the actual exam date all papers of ACCA can be completed in the first attempt with great scores.

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