ACCA: I’m done
My journey and all the advice I can give before I forget
Update: On 21st January 2019, I published a follow-up article
On the 15th of January 2017, It’s 1 am ish and I’m still waiting for my final result — P2 — Corporate reporting, P3 — Business Analysis, P4 — Advanced Financial Management, were the last set of exams I wrote in December 2017.
ACCA — Founded in 1904, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is the global professional accounting body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification.
ICAN — The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) is a professional accountancy body in Nigeria. It was formed on 1 September 1965.
My result usually comes shortly after Midnight via email but this time it lingered, I’m not sure why but I wasn’t feeling good due to cold so I was drowsy but because I had slept in the afternoon I couldn’t sleep. I was looking out for a mail and then a text message comes in, I was doing something else on my phone but I saw the notification and it stayed long enough for me to read the message, I had seen my result. I didn’t really see it well but then I saw 3 passes and some figures. So I opened my text message app and walah! I’m done!
I had always known I would write this article because for the last two years, ACCA has been a major part of my life, just like any other professional exam, constant reading and attending classes and writing exams, It was like I was in school again but with more freedom and focus perhaps. I’m glad that when I started in June 2016, I had set the finish date as December 2017, based on my calculation it was fair time span I had given myself, some people tried to talk me into finishing earlier but naah I didn’t want pressure in my life. It wouldn’t really have mattered if I didn’t finish in December, I’d still be glad because things don’t always go the way we plan, actually they didn’t but somehow I still finished when I wanted to.
I decided to take ACCA professional exam after considering a number of factors.
It was ideal step to take since my first degree was in Accounting and I found it fairly convenient understanding the concepts and passing exams, It was a better option compared to ICAN for me ( I would address this later in this write up or you can just scroll to the end if you just want to read that now), I had time — I started during NYSC, I wasn’t going to pay for it (Parents).
I didn’t have to do these because my Bsc. in Accounting exempts me — assumed knowledge, I would have been exempted from two more if the Accounting department of my school had signed an MOU with ACCA but there was some push back from the department which pledged it’s loyalty to ICAN. I’m glad the MOU has been signed now.
F5 — Performance Management
While I liked the flexibility F5 offers, that same flexibility and maybe it was the way it was taught was why I didn’t like the course. The fact that you could see a question and not even know the exact topic it was from was disturbing, It also was part of the first two papers I wrote so let’s just say my preparation technique was still crude. I had to write it twice.
Thank You to Mr. Abel for teaching me.
F6 — Taxation
I wrote this paper 4 times, December 2016 to September 2017, I had to repeatedly write this course till I could pass it, To be honest, I already didn’t like tax from school, the seemingly complexities just didn’t appeal to me, moving forward to UK tax I’m asking myself this isn’t even relevant to what I want to do and then UK tax is more complex than Nigerian Tax, In Uk tax, we tax on a person’s death, tax Co2 emission from cars…
An inheritance or estate tax is a tax paid by a person who inherits money or property or a levy on the estate (money and property) of a person who has died.
I remember the first time I wrote I had 48 (pass mark is 50) it was too painful and annoying that I didn’t open anything related to course for the next 2 weeks after result came out, I wrote again and had 30 something, Lol, I knew I needed help so I took classes for it and really I was all hyped up and I learnt a lot of new things but then when the result came I had 47 ahh lol, I was slightly pained but also indifferent I couldn’t do more than that- I cannot come and kill myself, I knew there was something extra left and then really I hadn’t convinced myself that I was going to use this so a side of me wasn’t interest.
This course defaulted on two parameters, There are many tax rates and rules to remember that it most times got mixed up in my head and I had no plan of utilizing this knowledge. A drawback about being pragmatic is that I couldn’t make myself like the course, it just didn’t come natural to me, at times the joy of learning did help but then after a while as we got into more details I got reminded of the fact that I didn’t really need all these crammed up things in my head to succeed in life — I could always ask google or consult my textbook in real life scenario — now I think I’ve painted a bad image or monstrous image of the course but truth is everything can’t appeal to everyone. My friend Amara loves tax and did well in it in one sitting, so it’s different strokes for different folks.
Thank You to Mr. Udoh, Miss Dami and Mr Yinka for teaching me.
F7 — Financial Reporting
A good understanding of Debit and Credit principles helped here, it was an introduction to learning the accounting standards, for me one of the best ways to know the standards is by understanding what each is about and not just memorizing them. Also looking back Group accounts was quite straight forward, the adjustments have always been where the problems came from but oh well knowing everything isn’t necessary to pass.
Thank you to Mr. Etienne and Dr. Umoren for teaching me.
F8 — Audit and Assurance
I find theoretical courses easy to read and pass, for me there’s so much flexibility and room to understand it your own way and write it in your own words of course using some keywords. I didn’t take classes for this course because it was majorly theoretical and many said I could read on my own and pass so I said why not. It was a struggle at times because there was much to read and at times I wished I had attended classes. I was in Uyo, Akwa Ibom then so I didn’t have the links for tutorial videos, having those would have fulfilled my craving for someone to put the knowledge in my head. I passed this in one siting.
One key thing I learnt was that Audit was put in place to ensure that the owners of a business can trust the financial statement that the managers of the business present to them by having external knowledgable parties ( Auditors) inspect and give them an opinion on the state of the financial statement prepared.
F9 — Financial Management
All my life I had known F9 to mean Failure until now, but then that was just my mind playing tricks with me, Mr. Faleye made like the course because he taught it well, I was familiar with the concepts taught here because in University I took a course titled Banking & Finance for 4 semesters that introduced these concepts to me but then I never really understood what I was learning, I never got to understand the “why” like I did here, Working Capital Management, Business valuation, Risk management…It was an interesting course.
Thank you to Mr. Faleye and Mr. Udoh for thank you for teaching me.
P1 — Governance, Risks & Ethics
Corporate governance is the system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled
Similar to audit, structures had to be put in place to ensure that managers of a business were doing what the owners of the business wanted, structures had to be put in place to ensure that the managers of a business are not misleading the owners of a business, This course explains all the systems and processes in place to ensure that companies are compliant and we have less causes of
Ensuring that a company has a Board of Directors made of different people representing different stakeholders thereby creating a healthy balance of diverse interests so views are almost never one sided. Board of Directors put the management team in check.
Separation of power, ensuring the CEO is separate from the Chairman of the board of Directors. You can’t be both without a really good reason which even at that people might not care.
Ensuring that financial statements are audited annually to ensure transparency and accountability.
These principles/rules mostly apply to public companies and serve as best practice that could be adopted by private companies. Another purely theoretical course, read for it and passed it.
P2 — Corporate Reporting
I remember the morning of the exam, It was my first paper of the last 3 papers I wrote in December, It was on a Tuesday, I hadn’t printed my docket- a document used as a pass to enter the exam hall. On that morning there was an unusual traffic delay, then I got to two shops to print in Ikeja and they wasted my time, by the time I had printed my docket it 5 mins to 10am ( exam starts by 10 am) I was 20 minutes away from the exam hall, I was sweating and trying not to panic . I got to the exam hall 30 mins after the exam had started, I had to use 15 minutes to settle down and read through the questions, I saw somethings I didn’t know. On one side thoughts of failure were creeping in but then I was like naah there’s still time, so I started from the explanation questions, I find it easier to answer theoretical questions so I just started writing and explaining. I actually did more writing than calculation, In the number 1 question, the calculation question, I just drew the format of the financial statement — Group Profit or Loss statement, did the basic computations put in the default figures and just kept on filling the financial statement till I was done, I was sure I was writing rubbish but then the marking guide doesn’t mark for correctness but display of understanding so I tried to show that I understood how this statement is supposed to look like, It felt wrong computing wrong figures but then I knew my passing depended on displaying effort.
On one hand I was grateful I passed but on another hand I felt like without the whole docket sage I would have done better because I put in a lot of effort in learning the course, I even went as far as reading Man City and Man United’s Financial statement — I was trying to verify on how players were to be treated in a financial statement.
Understanding International Financial Reporting standards is everything really, well you should know Debit and Credit too. It was interesting getting to understand the motive behind certain standards, the level of subjectivity that was still present and how imperfect many standards were because the business world was changing and humans were of course always looking for loopholes.
Thank you Mr. Jide and Mr. Ola for teaching me.
P3 — Business Analysis
The mini MBA of ACCA, pretty much the most exciting course for me, I was happy to learn this course partly because of my interest in Business. I opted for taking lessons for this as opposed to reading because I wanted to be in a class setting and get to interact with other people. A down side of liking a course and it being theoretical is that I sometimes didn’t feel the need to read more. The exams were scenario based and I was sure having understood the course content I would be able to interpret and apply the knowledge to the scenario.
Thank you Ikenna and Nse for teaching me.
P4 — Advanced Financial Management
I liked F9 - Financial Management so it was a no-brainer that I would pick this as an optional. Learning about business valuation, International Investment appraisal, Capital restructuring and reconstruction and Risk Management was very enlightening. Ahhh! Segun Jimoh did a good job.
I had issues understanding Risk management especially Interest, it was partly due to the fact that I missed two classes that set me off balance and then I was gambling that it wouldn’t come out as Question 1 which is a 50 marks question, funny thing is the 3 times I wrote it Risk management wasn’t Question 1 and it didn’t need to be before I realized that the other topics could be bloody and Risk Management was many times the simpler of the 4 questions. I finally passed and yeah it was Risk Management that most definitely saved me because I didn’t calculate anything reasonable in the Question 1.
A number of people have quipped that I do CFA because of the interest I showed in class. It’s not on the list. Stay off 😑
Thank you Segun Jimoh and Mr. Patrick for teaching me.
P7 — Advanced Audit and Assurance
Audit! I decided to not read by myself for this because I felt I was missing out on class interaction and additional lecturer knowledge. Well it was pretty interesting seeing how the emphasis was on understanding the accounting standards. I like the knowledge of audit but the practice doesn’t interest me.
P5 — Advanced Performance Management
Naah, I don’t like you 🌚
P6 — Advanced Taxation
- Motivation. It’s a tough journey and you have to be motivated by the right reasons to begin this. A first degree in Accounting isn’t enough reason when you’re interested in something else. 💪🏾
- Different strokes for different folks: know what works for you and do it. I went for classes because I prefer knowledge been poured into my head than wasting time trying to understand or figure out something that could be easily explained, you might prefer to read by yourself. It’s up to you 🙃 I used tutorial videos sometimes. They helped when reading was getting boring 💤
- Understanding the concepts is the first step after that comes solving questions, or it could be the other way around, sometimes I get to understand a concept better when I attempt a question and read the answer — I’m like what have they been trying to explain in the textbook since 🤷🏾♂️
- Solving Questions is too important to ignore. You can understand the concepts and still fail. To show you how bad it was, sometimes I read a question with the intention to answer the question, when there was nothing reasonable coming to mind, I went to the answer read it and wrote it out word for word. I did this partly because it helps me internalize the answer better and it would be easier to revise since the answer is in my note. In times like that I had to console myself that at least I learnt something new or I understood a concept better even if I couldn’t or didn’t know by heart.
- I believe in Grace and Favor but please try to cover the syllabus, that’s really what helps differentiate between what is easy or difficult.
- Do the easy stuff first, Everyone needs encouragement in a tense exam situation, based on numerous feedbacks it’s been said that there are 50 easy marks and 50 difficult marks in the exam, Easy and difficult are relative, irrespective of how you mix it up the end goal is to reach or exceed 50! I wrote more than I calculated in P4 because explaining concepts come more natural to me than calculations, if I had started with calculations I would have been demoralised by the time I got to the writing part.
- Keep writing: Don’t stop, Don’t stop writing. Well stop to think then keep writing. Remember P2 exam, I keep thinking about how if I had given up I wouldn’t have passed. A narrow escape that saved me some 100 something pounds of exam fee and extra reading.
ICAN vs ACCA
In the 1990s ICAN was dominated by members holding qualifications from the London-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Although the ICAN claimed complete independence of the ACCA, it was under attack for defending the status quo in accountancy practices and for suppressing changes to address local requirements.
In 2015, I was at a seminar organized by ACCA for it’s student envoys — representatives from different Universities. Many questions were asked and one that stood out for me was the question of whether the ACCA exam we write in Nigeria is for Africa alone and how relevant is it to write it ? About 2 or 3 Nigerian members of ACCA present explained and debunked every myths.
In July, 2014, The institute of chartered accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) stated that there are only two chartered accounting bodies in Nigeria that have the authority to license professional accountants. They are ICAN and the association of national accountants of Nigeria (ANAN).
ICAN said it made the clarification due to enquiries from Nigerian students and the general public on the proliferation of foreign accountancy bodies operating in the country without the required enabling act from the national assembly.
A statement from the institute further stressed that students that sit for examinations of foreign professional bodies “cannot practise in Nigeria without being admitted as members of ICAN or ANAN.”
It added: “In the public interest, ICAN will still test candidates in subjects peculiar to the Nigerian market and assure that required experience is obtained before candidates are licensed to practice.
“The training of ICAN is strictly based on three “Es” namely: Education, Examination and Experience.”
It specifically stated that under its 2014 examination syllabus, holders of association of chartered certified accountants (ACCA) and many other foreign professional accountancy certificates would still be tested in business law (bl), advanced taxation (atax) and public sector accounting and finance (psaf).
The battle between ICAN and ACCA is about market share and Quality. If more people choose ACCA as an alternative to ICAN then more exam fees and annual subscription fees go ACCA, now that’s a lot. Also, It’s important to ICAN that trained accountants are taught concepts relevant to the Nigerian market — Taxation.
While I chose ACCA because many people said the course content is richer and ACCA has a wider reach — An ACCA qualification is a passport to working as an accountant in over 170 countries. ICAN to my knowledge is restricted to Nigeria and West Africa, I’ve heard it’s reach is getting wider but then it’s obviously not as wide as that of ACCA yet.
In terms of disparity, Cost is a major differentiator, ACCA is clearly more expensive than ICAN so that could be a good reason to choose to do ICAN over ACCA.
The other major differences are Taxation (I spent my time doing UK 🇬🇧 Tax that’s isn’t relevant in Nigeria 🇳🇬 ) and that you can’t sign off an audited account statement or own an accounting firm in Nigeria without ICAN certification.
If you want to or think you would want to go into Audit practice then it’s important to be approved by ICAN. If you want to own an audit firm or think you would want to then it’s important to be accredited by ICAN.
Now on the flip side, An audit firm is simply a type of business, consulting to be precise. If you want to own one then most audit firms like any type of business are set up and owned by a group of people. You could always partner with someone else with an ICAN certificate.
About signing off an Audited account statement, In most cases you wouldn’t do the audit work alone — it’s usually a lot of work, if the audit work is shared then is the person who signs the audited financial statement anymore more special or more significant than the other person(s) who also did the audit work? Now that’s arguable but for me No she/he isn’t.
Do you want to work in Nigeria or the Abroad ?
The most asked question, most people have the idea that people who want to work abroad write ACCA and if you want to work in Nigeria you write ICAN. I think this line of thought is faulty, few Indigenous firms give preference to ICAN partly because of the battle and many don’t really care because it’s about the same knowledge gained from both exams. Multinational companies are expanding to other countries— duh isn’t that why they’re called multinationals — with many having their branches in Nigeria, you might not need to travel abroad to work for many companies as they are expanding. Of course, If you want to do Taxation then it’s obvious you have to learn Nigerian Tax but that’s all that’s peculiar in terms course content.
In conclusion, You can do both professional Exams and not worry about what is true or not, I just felt it would be nice to address this issue.
- Disclaimer: I haven’t written ICAN exam or read any related material so I can’t compare the quality of course content.
What’s next for me?
No exams in view, I’ve learnt a lot…I would explore a number of learning opportunities, more of practical now.
Thank God for the conclusion of this phase, I would continue living my life! ✌🏾😊
Thanks to Harriet for reading the first draft of this and making helpful recommendations.
Update: On 21st January 2019, I published a follow-up article