Gareth Owen, ACCA qualifications manager, explains the structure of the Foundation level qualifications and offers advice on appropriate entry points to offer better employment opportunities, higher exam success rates and promote stronger foundations for further study

The Foundation level consists of the following seven qualifications:

  1. Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting
  2. Intermediate Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting
  3. Diploma in Accounting and Business
  4. Certificate in Foundations of Audit
  5. Certificate in Foundations of Taxation
  6. Certificate in Foundations of Financial Management
  7. Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) Qualification.


There are 10 Foundation level exams in total and you can select the exams you wish to take, each of which leads to the award of certain certificates and diplomas. All of the exams – except the foundation specialist awards in Audit, Tax and Financial Management – are available as computer-based exams. This means they can be taken on demand at any time of the year in ACCA licensed exam centres.

The flexibility of this structure gives you the widest possible choice about which qualifications to register for, the level of the programme at which to register and also about when, how often and in which order to take exams. In theory, regardless of your general education, your level of vocational skills or work experience, you can register directly for any of the seven qualifications above. However, with this choice must come a responsibility for you as a potential student to make an informed decision about what to register for and at which level.

This is important for two main reasons:

  • First, and most importantly, it is vital that you register at a level adequately supported by your general or vocational educational background and on the relevant experience you may possess, including your general maths and English language skills.
  • Second, the choice should be determined by where you are currently working or want to work and the specialism of work you are in or wish to be involved with.


Firm foundations for the ACCA Qualification

Apart from being suitable for specific vocational roles or specialisms, as indicated in Table 1, these qualifications offer valuable and relevant standalone certificates to recognise and validate specific knowledge and skills gained as a student progresses.


Table 1: The Foundation level qualifications and associated employment roles

QualificationAssociated employment roles
Introductory Certificate in
Financial and Management
Accounting
Aimed at those aspiring to employment – or already employed – as a junior accounts clerk or junior bookkeeper of an SME, or someone in a range of junior accounting administration roles within an accounting department of a larger organisation, or a business process outsourcing organisation, or a financial shared service centre.
Intermediate Certificate in
Financial and Management
Accounting
Aimed at those aspiring to employment – or already employed – as a bookkeeper or cost clerk in an SME, or someone in an accounting administration role within an accounting department of a larger organisation, or a business process outsourcing organisation, or a financial shared service centre.
Diploma in Accounting and
Business
Aimed at those aspiring to employment – or already employed – in a wide ranging and responsible accounting role in an SME, or those involved in financial reporting and/or in financial decision-support roles, possibly in supervisory roles in the accounting departments of larger organisations. In financial shared service centres, or business process outsourcing organisations, this qualification would suit those performing financial supervisory or management roles in accounts payables and/or receivables, or a financial role in fixed asset accounting.
Certificate in Foundations
of Audit
Aimed at those wishing to specialise in audit or to add an audit specialism to a wider accounting qualification.
Certificate in Foundations
of Taxation
Aimed at those wishing to specialise in personal and business taxation or to add a taxation specialism to a wider accounting qualification for business or practice.
Certificate in Foundations of Financial ManagementAimed at those wishing to specialise in financial and credit management or to add a financial management specialism to a wider accounting qualification for business or practice.
Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) Qualification
Aimed at those learners carrying out a wide range of accounting technician roles in commercial organisations with formal internal training programmes, requiring the assessment of off-station knowledge and understanding to balance this training programme. It is also aimed at those aspiring to work – or already working – as team managers and with supervisory responsibilities.


The Foundation level qualifications are also designed as pathways or stepping stones towards the ACCA Qualification for those who aim to achieve ACCA membership, but who do not currently have the minimum academic qualifications to apply directly to the ACCA Qualification. 

Depending on the level at which you register, you can gain valuable qualifications as you progress, which in turn leads to recognition and reward for the knowledge and skills you gain. The qualifications also provide you with good underpinning knowledge to help you better prepare for the ACCA Qualification exams.


Pass rates and entry points

Candidates who have progressed to the Diploma in Accounting and Business level from previous levels of study (within the Foundation level route) tend to experience better pass rates and faster completion rates than those who enter the Diploma level directly, possibly without adequate underpinning knowledge or experience. This is illustrated in
Table 2.


Table 2: Table showing the difference in pass rates between students registering directly for the Diploma in Accounting and Business exams and students who progress from the Introductory and Intermediate Certificate levels

Diploma in Accounting and Business paperPercentage improvement in
pass rates obtained at the
Diploma in Accounting and
Business exams by registering
for Introductory or Intermediate
Certificates in Financial and
Management Accounting exams
before registering for the Diploma
Paper FAB, Accountant in Business+40%
Paper FMA, Management Accounting+71%
Paper FFA, Financial Accounting+53%
Mean Diploma exams Pass rate+55%


As can be seen from the statistics on the left, students who enter for the Diploma in Accounting and Business exams after progressing from the Introductory and Intermediate Certificates have, on average, approximately 55% more chance of passing their Diploma exams than those who enter for the Diploma directly. The latter group takes longer to complete the qualification than others who have entered the Diploma with adequate prior learning and or experience.


Key guidance on suitable entry points

Someone with no previous academic qualifications or knowledge, understanding or experience of accountancy will find it very difficult to succeed at the Diploma in Accounting and Business level and is strongly advised to enter at the Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting level. To underline this point, it should also be recognised that the Diploma level is equivalent to the first level of an undergraduate degree programme and students should only enter at that level with the requisite underpinning knowledge and/or experience.

Someone with adequate experience of working in a bookkeeping or accounting environment may be able to enter at the Diploma level, depending on the level of experience gained, but if that experience is only limited, they are strongly advised to enter at either the Introductory or Intermediate Certificate level, depending on that level of experience.

Those possessing only academic or vocational qualifications, but having no relevant experience, should enter at the appropriate point, depending on the overall intellectual level of those qualifications. Table 3 gives a quick guide to suitable entry points for students with different backgrounds.


Table 3:  Entry point criteria for the Foundation level

QualificationExperience and/orAcademic/vocational
qualifications
Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management AccountingNone or very limitedNone* or GCSE in non-related subject areas
Intermediate Certificate in Financial and Management AccountingUp to one year of data processing, admin and bookkeeping in any organisationGCSE or equivalent academic or
vocational qualification
Diploma in Accounting
and Business
One or more years of accounting and clerical work in an accounting context in any organisationA-level or equivalent academic or
vocational qualification
Certificate in Foundations
of Audit
Working in – or aspiring to work in – auditA-level or equivalent academic or
vocational qualification
Certificate in Foundations
of Taxation
Working in – or aspiring to work in – taxationA-level or equivalent academic or
vocational qualification
Certificate in Foundations
of Financial Management
Working in – or aspiring to work in – financial managementA-level or equivalent academic or
vocational qualification
Certified Accounting TechnicianWorking as a technician in a bookkeeping, junior accounting or finance role in any sector
None* if prior experience already gained, but A-level or equivalent academic or vocational qualification if registering directly for Diploma level with no prior experience


* Check local country rules in Malaysia and Singapore


English and maths self‑check modules

Other key factors that must be considered when deciding the level at which to register is your level of English language and numeracy skills. To help you with this assessment, ACCA has developed online self‑check modules that allow you to check your levels of ability in maths and English.


Typical job roles associated with each qualification

The qualifications within the Foundation level are suitable for a range of students and it is important that you make your study choices based on the level you are at, building up to the level you aspire to reach.

Table 1 shows the main purposes of these qualifications and the types of roles that you could undertake.


Summary

If you enter at a point or level beyond your academic or technical capability, or experience, you are more likely to fail, you will take much longer to complete your qualifications, you will pay more in exam fees and find yourself less well prepared for later studies.

You will also miss out on an opportunity to gain valuable certification to validate your accountancy knowledge and skills at different levels as you progress.

Therefore, to significantly increase your chances of success, you must ensure that you enter at the right level for you, reflecting your general academic or vocational background, your level of accountancy knowledge, experience and taking into account your English language and numeracy skills. Having considered these factors carefully, your decision should also be made taking into account where you are currently employed or where you want to work, as your experience or work readiness is also a key factor.

Always prepare adequately and take exams only when you are ready to and progress steadily rather than take too many too quickly. Also, leave sufficient (but not too much) time between exam attempts to ensure that any gaps in your knowledge have been properly addressed through focused learning or revision.

Last updated: 10 Feb 2017