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Study Zone

Professional level changes are afoot

Rebecca Evans outlines the options available to ACCA PQs affected by new syllabus changes

November 2017

From the September 2018 examination ACCA’s Professional level is changing, most significantly at the Essentials level. Governance Risk & Ethics (P1) and Business Analysis (P3) will be removed from the qualification and replaced with Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and Corporate Reporting (P2) will be replaced with Strategic Business Reporting (SBR). For more information on this go to http://future.accaglobal.com/changes-to-the-qualification/the-qualification-journey
As the standard exam entry date for the December exams draws near (30 October), with ­just two exam sittings remaining before these changes come into force, students must plan what papers they should sit when and in what order to ensure they don’t get caught out by the transition arrangements ACCA have in place.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of those transition arrangements. If you have passed both P1 and P3 you will be exempt from the new SBL exam when it is introduced in September 2018. If you have just passed one of the two subjects then, in effect, you lose that pass as there is no equivalent exemption and no further opportunity to sit those papers after the June 2018 sitting. If you have passed P2 you will be exempt from SBR.
So, should you sit P1 and P3 before the changes or wait for the new SBL exam in September 2018? P1 and P3 are established examinations, there are lots of past papers and resources on the ACCA website so it is unlikely that you are going to get any major surprises in their final few sittings.
However, you have to sit two three-hour-and-15-minute exams rather than one four-hour examination. SBL, on the other hand is relatively unknown, although ACCA have provided lots of resources to prepare both you and your tuition provider, it is only one exam, but it is four hours long with lots of information to assimilate on the day. It is also a different style of examination to those you may be used to and will test professional skills.
Similar arguments can be made when deciding between P2 and SBR; however, the changes to the exam format are less significant, as SBR will be a three-hour-15-minute exam. There is a change in focus in the syllabus and style of questioning to allow ACCA to test your professional judgement, interpretation of financial statements and ability to communicate to various stakeholders.
A key deciding factor will be how far through the ACCA qualification you currently are, so let’s consider a few typical scenarios.
• You have passed P1, P2 and P3: You can breathe a sigh of relief as you have no major decisions to make. Sit your Options in December 2017 and March 2018 or March and June 2018 and the changes will have no impact on you.
• You’ve passed P1 and P3 but not passed P2: My recommendation would be to attempt P2 in March or June 2018. Sitting in March has an added benefit of not only of the potential for a resit if needed, but also it would allow you to sit P7 in June under the same accounting standards. If you’re more risk averse, or have struggled with Financial Reporting in the past, you may prefer to sit an Option paper in June instead. Although there is much crossover between P2 and SBR, students who have attempted P2 but are required to resit under SBR will find they have more work than usual (when resitting) as they will need to familiarise themselves with some new areas of content and the new exam style.
• You’ve sat and passed P1 or P3 but not attempted or passed the other paper: You should sit the outstanding paper at the next available sitting to avoid losing your exemption. Remember, you must have passed both P1 and P3 to be exempt from SBL.
So what if, by the end of 2017, you haven’t attempted P1, P2 or P3? This is a more difficult decision and will to some degree depend on your level of exam confidence.The most important thing is that you sit two exams in the first half of 2018 to keep your studies on track and don’t delay qualifying by six months.
Option 1: You could choose to sit P1 and P3, either together in March to give you a resit if things don’t go to plan, or one to March and the other to June – although as I’ve said above, this is a risky strategy should things not go to plan.
Option 2: You decide to sit P2 in March 2018, to gain your exemption from SBR and then an Option paper in June. You would then aim to sit SBL in the December sitting following your final Option in September.
Option 3: You study only for Option papers in March and June and leave both SBL and SBR until the second half of the year.
If you are choosing to wait to sit SBL it is essential that you sit ACCA’s new Ethics and Professional Skills module, available from 31 October 2017 prior to your SBL course. In fact, ACCA recommend you attempt it prior to sitting any exams at the Strategic Professional level. This module will introduce you to the professional skills that are required at SBL – basically increasing your chances of passing. If you have completed the existing Professional Ethics module ACCA will give you access to the new module so you can brush up your knowledge and develop your professional skills prior to attempting SBL. For more details visit the ACCA website http://future.accaglobal. com/changes-to-the-qualification/what-do-the-changes-mean-for-me/ethics-and-professional-skills-module
Just a final reminder that any part qualified student who has not completed the existing Professional Ethics Module by the end of October will have to complete the new Ethics and Professional Skills module.
• Rebecca Evans is Kaplan’s Head of ACCA and CIMA

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