Life as an ICAS CA Student

My 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. After moving into accountancy training, I’ve worked with many Audit Scotland trainees and some are now in quite senior roles at 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.

Test 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.

This is all explored through an extended case-study scenario, with your answers being produced on a laptop. A significant portion of class time involves facilitated practice with past case studies. You’ll get further practice under exam conditions, with one-to-one feedback.

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