ACCA Exam Order: Which Papers Should you Take First?

Posted by: Andre Post Date: 11th September 2014

ACCA is one of only two qualifications that allow you to legally sign off accounts for organisations around the world. Because of its prestige, the exams are a challenge, and it’s wise to decide on your ACCA exam order in good time before the start of your course.

The first three papers

You have to take the Applied Knowledge AB, MA, FA papers before any other papers. This is because these units act as an introduction to the ACCA qualification. You can, however, take them in any order.

ACCA Exam Order: Which Papers Should you Take First?

Some people are exempt from these first three papers if they have relevant previous qualifications. For example, if you’ve achieved the full AAT qualification at Level 4, you will be able to begin with the papers in the Applied Skills Level (LW, PM, TX, FR, AA, FM).

Life after AAT: building on previous units

Many ACCA learners have previously studied AAT. Some of the papers in these two qualifications have corresponding topics, and AAT lays a lot of the groundwork for the more complex material that makes up ACCA.

So, if you are AAT qualified, what is the ideal ACCA exam order for you?

AAT Business Tax or Personal Tax: if you’ve taken one of these units, you might find Taxation a relatively easy unit to take early on. You’ll build on your previous knowledge, going into complex forms of tax including income tax, corporation tax, national insurance, and VAT.

AAT External Auditing: having this unit under your belt will help you understand the content of Audit and Assurance. You’ll learn about carrying out audits within the professional regulatory framework, while considering ethical issues.

AAT Cash Management: With the knowledge from this unit, you’ll be ideally placed to start with Performance Management, where you’ll look at management accounting techniques to drive better performance, and Financial Management, which will develop your understanding of topics from inventory control to investment appraisal.

Leaving the hardest for last

Many learners find that Financial Reporting is the most difficult paper out of the Applied Skills papers, and decide to leave it until the end of the module. This will enable you to build up your knowledge, so that you’ve covered as much as possible before you start studying the complex topic of preparing, analysing and interpreting financial statements.

Saving Financial Reporting for last will also help when you progress onto the Corporate Reporting paper, as both papers cover IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards).

Optional Professional Papers

When you reach the Professional part of the course, you will be able to choose two out of the five papers. Let’s take a look at what the four optional papers are.

Advanced Financial Management: this unit will teach you to make strategic financial decisions, and implement structural change to meet business goals. This unit would be ideal for those aiming for a management role within a company.

Advanced Performance Management: you will develop your ability to assess and apply management strategies that will have a large impact on the performance of an organisation. Again, this suits those who want to take on a management position, and advise from within the company.

Advanced Taxation: in this unit, you will look at how to supply the most appropriate information to organisations about their taxes, depending on their individual circumstances. You might choose this unit if you’re planning on going into practice.

Advanced Audit and Assurance: in this unit, you will cover topics such as the regulatory environment and ethical considerations. Again, this unit is more relevant to those who would like to be based with an accounting firm.

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