Almost a member

Exam success is only one step on the way to gaining ACCA membership. Student Accountant looks at how to stay focused after you’ve taken that final exam paper

ACCA students are well aware that ACCA membership is made up of three components: exams, ethics and practical experience. It sounds straightforward, but with so much focus on ACCA exams it can be easy for students to lose momentum after taking the final paper. ‘We know students work long and hard to pass their exams, and having reached this stage they are so close to reaching their goal of ACCA membership,’ says Catherine Edwards, ACCA head of qualifications. ‘It’s so important that they don’t give up after completing their exams, and ACCA is ready to give affiliates as much help as possible to get through this final phase, including online support and a regular affiliate ezine.’

Some post-exam rest and relaxation may be well deserved, but keeping your eye on the prize is crucial – preparing an ‘affiliate strategy’ is a good way to start, but to do this properly you need to understand the challenges that lie ahead.

Practical experience – start as early as you can

Gaining and recording three years’ relevant experience is an essential requirement for ACCA membership, and it’s a good idea to start gaining this experience as soon as possible; this may be easier for part-time students already in an accountancy role, but full-time or career-change students can also consider volunteering, internships or part-time jobs. Whatever you do, remember to formally record all the experience you’ve gained. ‘Don’t wait until you are ready to transfer to membership to start recording your achievements in My Experience,’ says ACCA member Edna Msiska from Malawi, who worked for both a small family practice and a Big Four firm on her route to membership.

‘This is the only thing I wish I had done differently as I would have been able to gain my membership sooner. I also advise students who are working while taking their exams to record their experience in My Experience simultaneously – it makes transferring to membership much simpler and quicker.’

ACCA’s Catherine Edwards agrees: ‘If you are continuously achieving your practical experience requirement (PER) but not recording it, this can create a burden further down the line, especially if the key staff who can sign off on your performance objectives leave your organisation before you’ve asked them to do so.’

Keeping track of practical experience is an excellent discipline for all students, especially as some new affiliates worry that their progress to membership may be slower because their records aren’t up to date, or because they didn’t formally log experience from different stages of their career, which can be a real loss.

‘There’s no problem referring back to previous experience to claim a performance objective, even if the experience was gained before you registered as an ACCA student,’ says Edwards. ‘It is important that your workplace mentor from the previous employment reviews and signs off the answers to your challenge questions where possible.

You may also have to consider how the profession has developed since you gained the experience, especially if it was completed more than five years ago. Alternatively, your current workplace mentor can sign off a performance objective you may have attained through previous experience if you have had the opportunity to work in that area under their supervision and they are satisfied that you have reached the necessary level of competence.’

Different challenges for full-time students

Full-time students can face a particular challenge on finishing their exams, as they have to find the job that will give them the experience they need. ACCA recognises the uncertainty that this can bring and has some useful advice.

‘Full-time students nearing the end of their exams should speak to their tuition provider, as they are often well placed to advise them on the next steps to take,’ says ACCA’s Catherine Edwards. ‘In addition, as they move towards their final exam, they should also focus on gaining a job which will give them the necessary experience. They can prepare by making sure their CV is ready, practising their interview technique, identifying the skills they can offer an employer, and starting to look for jobs.’

Full-time students will soon discover that advanced preparation enables a quick response when the ideal job opportunity appears. While working your way through the recruitment adverts, you can also (as mentioned earlier) start to gain relevant experience through temporary or part-time work, or volunteering – as long as you remember to record your experience and, once again, get it signed off by a workplace mentor if the experience you gain is in-depth enough to enable you to achieve a performance objective.

The benefits of membership

After the euphoria of passing your final exam, you need to remember how close you now are to gaining ACCA membership and all it represents.

ACCA member Jana Krakorova comments: ‘I consider ACCA membership an important step in my career – it will help progress my career and increase employment opportunities, working abroad in the future for example. It will also help me attain other certifications, such as CIA or a local auditor licence.

‘Being an ACCA member gives me the chance to participate at ACCA events and conferences, to meet new people, face new challenges, share knowledge and experiences.’

ACCA member Edna Msiska adds: ‘Becoming an ACCA member has earned  me respect from my employer and it has given me recognition among friends. When I was finally admitted to membership I was very excited. It was the best thing that happened in my career – finally I was part of the fastest-growing global accountancy body and I could use the ACCA letters after my name!’

Maintaining momentum is vital – tempted though you may be to sit back after your last exam, remember that being an affiliate is not necessarily the time to reflect and slow down. Your focus will shift to work experience and ethics – but also remember that ACCA is here to help you with any worries you may have  about your progress towards ACCA membership.

Plan proactively for PER

Forward planning can really help your PER progress, especially if you are gaining work experience without formal employer support – for example, if you do not work for a gold or platinum Approved Employer – trainee development stream. If you haven’t already done so, take time to read through all the performance objectives, and consider which of the four optional objectives you might go for. If your employer is not very aware of the PER requirement, read up about it and pro-actively approach someone to be your workplace mentor. Give them the literature they need to familiarise themselves with how they can support you and be ready to explain how it will further benefit the company when you are fully qualified.

Gaining PER might require a more proactive approach to your career path, as ACCA member Jana Krakorova of the Czech Republic explains.

‘I would highly recommend, especially to young students or students with no employment history, that they consider obtaining experience with a range of employers,’ she says. ‘This will broaden your view, and working for small companies often gives you the opportunity to work on aspects of the job that you would have to wait several years to do in a big employer.’

"Becoming an ACCA member has earned me respect from my employer and it has given me recognition among friends"

Edna Msiska ACCA

"Don’t wait until you are ready to transfer to membership to start recording your achievements in My Experience"

Edna Msiska ACCA