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Study Zone

Strategic changes

Mary Bishop explains changes to the qualification that are due to come into effect during 2017 and 2018

December 2017

Since 2014, ACCA has been designing innovations to the ACCA qualification and on the 10 October we unveiled the next stage of that development. The new innovations come after considerable consultation and research, all to ensure the changes keep the ACCA qualification relevant and support all ACCA students towards rewarding careers.
The latest developments to be announced are at the final level of the qualification, which we are calling Strategic Professional. It includes the introduction of an innovative case study, called Strategic Business Leader. This integrates technical knowledge, professional skills and ethics, ensuring students are prepared for the modern workplace. In the exam, which will be four hours long, students will be presented with a number of exhibits – a company report or a transcript from an interview – and will be asked to analyse, interpret and evaluate, and then communicate the impacts to stakeholders.

Students will be assessed on both their technical knowledge and the way in which they prepare a professional response. As part of our pre-announcement testing we asked recently qualified members to review the new exam and feedback was positive, with respondents saying that the exam focuses on the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’.
A number of employers have also endorsed the exams at launch events around the world, saying these will prepare students for the roles they will play when they qualify. Employers, like ACCA, think this is really important. And another issue we believe is very important is being clear about the journey students and readers of PQ are on during this innovative time.
We’ve always believed preparation is key, so already two specimen exams are available on ACCA’s website and students can see that the syllabus contains areas such as data analytics, mobile technologies, crowdfunding and other real-world topics relevant for finance professionals. Students will also see that the case study draws from the syllabus areas of the existing P1 and P3 exams, both of which will be withdrawn when the case study is introduced.
Students who have passed P1 and P3 before September 2018 will receive a converted pass from the new Strategic Business Leader exam. If students have not passed both P1 and P3 by September 2018 they must sit and pass the new Strategic Business Leader exam. It is also worth remembering that ACCA relaxed progression rules at the top level of the qualification – which will be called Strategic Professional – and students can take their Strategic Professional exams in any order and they should remember this in the run up to 2018.
ACCA is already working with Approved Content Providers, who produce materials for students and teaching resources for tutors, and they are developing resources that reflect the changes to be available in October 2017, in advance of the changes. ACCA and the Approved Content Providers will also provide guidance on how students can demonstrate professional skills in the Strategic Business Leader, including examples of good and weak responses.
Another innovation announced by ACCA includes the introduction of our new Ethics and Professional Skills Module, which will replace the current Professional Ethics module in October 2017.
While the new module still has ethics at its heart, it will also focus on developing the complete range of professional skills employers told us they need. This new module recognises that ethics does not operate as a standalone subject but is part of a broader skill set and so will build in broader communications, commercial, innovation, analysis and evaluation skills that drive career success.
Due to the wider scope of the new Ethics and Professional Skills module, covering a wider range of skills, the module will take students around 20 hours to complete. ACCA recommends that students complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module before attempting the new case study, Strategic Business Leader, as the professional skills introduced through the new module will support students in their exam preparation of the case study.
We believe it’s an exciting time to be an ACCA student. And as these innovations come down the line, we’ll be updating you in PQ and online. You’re on an exciting journey with us, and we’re all part of an innovative future that sets ACCA apart from the rest.
• Dr Mary Bishop is ACCA’s director of learning

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