Ways to compare accounting qualifications

They say there are two certainties in life; death and taxes. For accountancy students, there’s a third – exams!

Each of the professional qualifications comes with their own exam structure and process. While most will cover similar content, there are significant differences in terms of how you will be assessed, when you will sit exams, and how/where/when you will attend classes.

Furthermore, each accountancy body will typically offer accountancy graduates (and students from other relevant business/finance backgrounds) a number of exam exemptions in recognition of prior study. You need to enquire about what exemptions you are entitled to as a result of your prior studies – depending on your background, you could skip a number of exams which could significantly shorten the period it takes to complete the exam process.

Each of the professional bodies provide their own exemption checker where you can input your prior qualifications and find out what exams you are exempt from sitting. Here are some handy links for checking your exemptions and getting some key facts:

  • ACCA:  Key Facts here and exemptions here
  • CAI Key Facts here and exemptions here
  • CPA Key Facts here and exemptions here
  • CIMA Key Facts here and exemptions here

And we have done even more for you….

Below is a quick comparison of the key points about the exam process for each qualification. While there are many different nuances to each individual exam processes, the intention of this post is to give you an overview of the key issues and highlight sources of information where you can dig further. Issues such as location of education provision, study leave requirements, timing of exam sittings etc. are all key factors – we’ll consider these and more in the final core post of our series on how to choose the right qualification for you (read more here).


Exams Compared


Beware! As well as passing exams, students will be required to have a certain period of relevant work experience (and typically prepare a journal that records the experience) before being admitted for membership. You should also review the work experience requirements for each professional body.

Ed Heffernan

Ed's experience spans over 15 years with local and global names. A subject matter expert in, and advocate of, accounting careers.

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