Here’s a look at the ACCA optional papers in a little more detail:
Advanced Performance Management
In this paper, you’ll build on the topics covered in Performance Management and Financial Management but will also need to draw on what you’ve learned as part of your Management Accounting course. The paper overlaps with Strategic Business Leader in part.
The exam requires a mix of written analysis and calculations and is a good choice for those wishing to work in management accounting or who require a broad business analysis paper. It’s great for those who can link elements of a story together and who are both practical and commercial.
This paper mixes well with other papers at this level as it requires technique to pass rather than an understanding of a wide technical syllabus.
Advanced tax is exactly what it says on the tin. It is tax at an advanced level.
All knowledge from the skills paper is assumed and your examiner will expect your knowledge to be full and detailed
You must be completely familiar with the way a calculation is carried out – so that when information is given to you in a different format you are able to use in effect a proforma to untangle the content from the question
With the skills level Taxation exam, whilst you have a large syllabus, it’s very proforma-based with clear questions tackling one tax at a time.
Advanced tax however examines tax in a different way.
In Section A questions you can be given a number of pages worth of information covering 3,4 or 5 different taxes
If you view the paper as learning a new language this can help.
It takes time to learn how the examiner words questions to enable you to understand when the examiner says this you need to do the following.
You must be able to do the calculations, explain what has happened, explain relationships and give advice.
The closer you do this paper to the Taxation paper the better.
If you have had long gaps between your Taxation paper or equivalent and Advanced Tax start revising your Taxation knowledge way in advance of the course starting.
Ability to assimilate large quantities of information
Writing key points in a succinct manner
Seeing the big picture
If you work in a small accountancy firm you may find this paper easier than someone who works in a larger organisation or in Industry.
Advanced Audit and Assurance
If you’re considering taking on this paper, then you’ll need to have built a solid knowledge from both the Audit and Assurance paper and SBR. The exam is based on practical scenarios and deals with real-life challenges in the context of being an Audit Manager often responding to Audit Partners.
Whilst you can sit this paper and not be based in an audit practice, the paper is more relevant to those who conduct audits and are familiar with the process.
Unlike Audit and Assurance, questions incorporate high level SBR knowledge, discussions of the risks that arise and the resulting audit approach to mitigate the risk.
There are crossovers to Strategic Business Leader in terms of business risk identification and control but in this paper viewed from the impact on the financial statements.
An up to date knowledge of SBR
The ability to think practically and demonstrate scepticism in your interpretation
The ability to take a step back and identify what’s happening in an organisation
Advanced Financial Management
This paper builds on the knowledge previously gained within Financial Management (FM). It suits those who work in corporate finance, treasury functions or banking.
To succeed in this paper you will need strong maths skills and a high level of technical competence with the techniques introduced in FM.
This is a specialist paper so unless you work in the industry sectors above it may be worth taking a good look at the other options first.
We offer Advanced Financial Management at our London centre and as an online option.
You can read more about why some students struggle with paper in our article Four Reasons why students struggle to pass AFM and here’s what to do about it.
Our top tips on choosing the right optional ACCA paper for you.
Think back to your Skills papers (or prior learning) to identify papers that you found interesting. Often, we perform better where the subject matter is relevant to us.
Studying for ACCA is a big commitment, so choosing the subjects that you enjoyed and performed well in for your option choices is one way to make your life a little easier.
Your Current and Future Career
Which of the optional papers most suits the work you do currently?
Having relevant work experience in an area can provide a context for the paper and help you to perform well. It’s also worth thinking about where you’d like to go in the future. If you know there is an area of accountancy that you’d like to work in, it’s worth factoring this in for your plans for the ACCA optional papers. For example, if you’ve got aspirations of becoming an Audit Partner, then studying Advanced Audit and Assurance is a must.
Your Skills and Learning Style
Do you find it easy to remember details or are you better at using your knowledge to analyse, evaluate and discuss? Some of the optional papers are more about detailed technical knowledge whereas others will ask you for written analysis and discussion. Work out which style suits you best.
Your ideal combination of papers
As we said at the beginning, you need to sit two of the four papers. Use the advice above to help you select the two papers that offer the best combination of suiting your skills, helping your future or current career, and containing subjects that you’ve been comfortable and successful with at the other levels.
You might also like our article on Scaling the ACCA mountain which offers advice on how to plan your journey through the qualification.
Find out more about the ACCA papers we offer, click here
You can get an overview of the whole ACCA programme here