The journey to becoming a chartered accountant


Applications for Audit Scotland’s Graduate Trainee Scheme are now open.  Our four-year scheme provides training and development, with plenty of hands-on work experience and support as you complete your Chartered Accountant (CA) qualification with ICAS. So what’s the teaching element of the scheme like? What would you study and what exams would you take? We asked Graham Foster from ICAS to tell you a bit more…

GF croppedMy name is Graham Foster and I’m one of the in-house lecturing team with ICAS. Much of my early career involved auditing Scotland’s public services, giving me some early insights into the work of Audit Scotland.

I joined the ICAS team in 2016 and deliver training across all three levels of the CA qualification. Let’s look at each of three levels in turn. They differ quite a lot in terms of what you learn, how you learn it and how you will be assessed.

AS_Graduate_sm_banners3Test of Competence

First of all, there’s the Test of Competence (TC), which gives you a foundation for the rest of your learning journey. We take a blended approach to learning across all three levels, but TC has the strongest emphasis on e-learning, and we are also moving increasingly towards computer-based assessment.

If you’ve never studied accountancy before, don’t worry. Yes, it’s a steep learning curve but you’re not alone. We won’t assume any prior technical knowledge and there is always plenty of support available from the in-house lecturing team.

Test of Professional Skills

A lot of students find the Test of Professional Skills (TPS) quite a big step-up. This is partly because the technical standard ramps up, but also because assessment is far more applied, being based on your ability to use your knowledge and skills to respond to specific scenarios in written exams.

Exam technique becomes more important, but there will be plenty of chances to practice and get feedback. There is much more time in the classroom away from your offices. Although we don’t have tutorials, we try to keep the lecturing team for each class fairly consistent which means you can get to know your lecturers a bit better. See this as a chance to really pick our brains and build your confidence before your exams.

Test of Professional Expertise

TPS is all about developing your technical expertise, but the Test of Professional Expertise (TPE) aims to develop and assess other aspects of being a professional. Can you put everything you’ve learned, including your awareness of professional business ethics, into practice?

At this level we want to focus more on your ability to apply some key ‘real world’ skills like prioritising, critical evaluation, adding value and communicating effectively to a client or employer.

The TPE level has two exams. Firstly, there is an extended case-study scenario, with your answers being produced on a laptop. The second element is the Public Trust and Ethics exam, which reflects our emphasis on placing ethical behaviours at the heart of the profession. The exam assesses your ability to analyse and respond ethically to a scenario and is also answered on a computer. A significant portion of class time involves facilitated practice with past case studies and ethical scenarios. You’ll get further practice under exam conditions, with one-to-one feedback.

What’s it like to study at ICAS? At times quite intense, especially when exam time comes. Hard work, certainly. But ultimately very rewarding and with ICAS and Audit Scotland behind you, you’ll have excellent support all the way through your journey to becoming a CA.

Applications for the Audit Scotland Graduate Trainee Scheme close on 13 January 2020. Full details, including how to apply can be found here.


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