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The finance exams with a 70% pass rate that earn you £100k+ in banking jobs

If you're looking for exams that are a) comparatively easy to pass, that b) will get you a job in banking and finance and that c) will enable you to earn £100k+ quite quickly, it seems there's one particular qualification you should be pursuing: the ACA qualifications from the UK's ICAEW. 2019 pass rates are out today, and they're impressively high.

Overall, the 8,000 students sitting the ACA's Advanced Level exams to become fully qualified chartered accountants this summer achieved a pass rate of nearly 70% in all three papers when they sat them together. When each paper (strategic business management, corporate reporting and a case study) was taken individually, pass rates were higher still - at 83.9% for strategic business management, 79.6% for corporate reporting, and 76.7% for the case study.

The Advanced Level Exams represent the highest level of the ACA qualification to become a chartered accountant. Students take the exams while they're working. Some of the highest grades were achieved by students currently employed at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. 

The extravagant pass rates are, needless to say, very different to the pass rates achieved by students of the CFA exams. As we reported last month, only 41% of people taking CFA Level I in June 2019 achieved a pass, a five year low. 

As with the CFA exams, the ACA qualifcations are typically taken while students are working. However, while the CFA exams are usually students' personal endeavour, the Big Four accountancy firms support employees in passing ACA qualifications.

Students with ACA passes can either work for the Big Four as auditors, or move into banking and industry. According to the most recent salary survey from recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, newly qualified accountants in London typically earn an average salary of £55k in banking. This rises to £90k+ when they become a vice president after a few years, and to well over £100k if they reach director-level (which isn't that hard as banks have plenty of directors).

Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
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  • Bi
    Big4Auditor
    13 February 2020

    Just a few points on this...

    To say these are comparatively easy to pass suggests you did very little research into these exams. They are technically incredibly complex, with a very large spectrum of content, and gruelling examinations of 3.5-4 hours each.

    Also your comment that it is a relatively quick route to £100k+ is frankly laughable. In the Big4 as an ACA qualified accountant this would take a minimum of 10 years to become a director, at which point your salary may hit 6 figures. For the most part, ACA qualified accountants don't go and take banking jobs in the city like you claim is the norm, they move into corporate finance roles in industry where they work in financial accounting or management roles. These are also not six figure salaried jobs, they are better paid than other management roles normally due to the technical expertise and experience, but those salaries are only accessed by directors and beyond. A recent study shows that in 2020 the average entry age for a CEO for example, a role that many ACA qualified accountants in industry can aspire to, is 56. Not exactly walking in to senior management.

    The reason for the high pass rates are not 'easy exams', they are incredibly driven and hard working people sitting them. These are some of the top UK graduates and apprentices working long days and very late nights to get these results, using up their annual leave to try and maximise their time to prepare and revise.

    Please don't write this kind of article with as little knowledge on the subject as you have, it reflects badly on yourself as a journalist.

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