Making the best Options choices

The Strategic Professional – Options exams are part of the final exam hurdle before you can become an ACCA member. In this article, we explain how choosing Options exams in areas in which you are most comfortable with will improve your chances of success.

At this point in your studies, it can be a benefit to match the practical experience requirements to the options exams you are considering to take by sharing this information with your workplace mentor or supervisor, this may aid you in gaining the experience that will support your studies.

To complete the ACCA Qualification you must complete the Strategic Professional examinations; two Essentials exams (Strategic Business Leader and Strategic Business Reporting) and two from four Options exams:

  • Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
  • Advanced Performance Management (APM)
  • Advanced Taxation (ATX)
  • Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

The Strategic Professional – Options are specialised exams. They cover, in depth, the specialist areas of professional accountancy, namely: financial management, performance management, tax, and audit and assurance.

Our research has found that you will have a better chance of success if you have really got to grips with the fundamental concepts of these subjects. In addition, if you have gained experience in the workplace which relates to the Option exams you have chosen, it will really help you in your studies and in these exams.

Lastly, studying with an Approved Learning Partner (ALP) for tuition and using the learning materials from our Approved Content Providers, will increase your chances of passing the Options exams.

Applied Skills

Our research proves that if you do well in the underpinning Applied Skills exam, you will have a better chance of passing the Options exam. This is backed up by what students, tutors and examiners tell us: if you have a good grasp of the underpinning knowledge and skills of the Options exams you are taking, then you have a better chance of passing the Options exam.

It is important to remember that the Options exams take the subjects covered in the Applied Skills exams to a more advanced level. This is set out below:

  • Financial Management Advanced Financial Management
  • Performance Management Advanced Performance Management
  • Taxation Advanced Taxation
  • Audit and Assurance Advanced Audit and Assurance

When you choose which Options exams to take, think about how well you did in the Applied Skills exams. If there was a subject you excelled at or felt most comfortable with, then that would be a good choice to take as your option. You may, of course, have been exempted from taking the Applied Skills exam, or it may have been a long time since you studied these subjects. If this is the case, it is useful to look at the materials available for the Applied Skills exams to help you refresh your knowledge.

Table 1: the Options performance objectives

Options exam

Relevant Options performance objectives

AFM

PO9, 10 and 11 on financial management

APM

PO12, 13 and 14 on management accounting and performance management

ATX

PO15, 16 and 17 on taxation

AAA

PO18, 19 and 20 on audit, assurance and advisory and underpinned by PO6, 7 and 8 for corporate and business reporting

Another useful resource for making your Options choices are the “Bringing forward” articles which are available on the technical articles page for each options exam. These articles provide insight into the ways in which knowledge and skills gained from the Applied Skills exams can be tested in Strategic Professional.

It is also worth noting that along with the Applied Skills exams, some of the areas covered in Strategic Business Reporting underpin Advanced Audit and Assurance.

Applying your experience

The ACCA exams are designed to be achievable even if you have no relevant experience. That said, one of the things most students, tutors and examiners say about the Options exams is that you may perform better if you have gained work experience relevant to the Options exams you are taking.

If you are currently working, remember to look at ACCA’s practical experience requirements (PER). You need to complete these requirements to gain the benefits of ACCA membership. They may also help you focus on gaining experience relevant to your Options exams. Part of the requirements is that you need to achieve nine from 20 performance objectives. Like the ACCA Qualification exams, there are some performance objectives you need to take – known as the essentials performance objectives – and there are others where you get a choice of which ones to do – known as the technical performance objectives. The technical performance objectives cover some of the same areas as the Options exams (see Table 1).

It is a great idea to be thinking about how your studies can be applied to your future career prospects. However, be careful. If there is an Options exam subject you find particularly hard, but you feel it would be better for your career prospects, you may be wiser to choose a different Options exam subject which better suits your ability. Remember, you can take the Options exams after you have qualified as part of continuing professional development (CPD).

Whether you have gained relevant experience or not, wider reading will also help you relate your studies to real-life situations which will, in turn, help you in the exams. Remember that the case studies used in the exams are often based on situations that have been in the news. Reading both the financial press, the wider press and the corporate reports of multinational companies, and relating the stories to your studies is a good way to prepare for the exams. It will help you understand the challenges real business face such as ethical issues, environmental issues, strategic decisions, risk management and investment decisions. It will also help you familiarise yourself with the type of scenarios you will find in the exam.

There are a number of ways the ACCA Qualification can be studied such as via a taught course or by self-study. Our research has found that if you study with one of our ALPs, you will stand a better chance of passing the Options exams. You can find out more about our ALPs via the ACCA website which includes a searchable tuition provider directory. If there are no ALPs in your area, you may wish to consider distance learning using the materials from an Approved Content Providers.

Conclusion

The Options exams are part of the final exam hurdle you need to complete to qualify. It is important you make the right choice of which two Options exams to take. You will have a greater chance of success if you chose the Options exams based on what you feel most comfortable with, whether that is because you did well in the underpinning Applied Skills exam or you took the underpinning Applied Skills exam recently or because you have gained most work experience in that area. Lastly, you should consider studying with an ALP to give yourself the best chance of passing the Options exams.