CIPFA Test of Relevant Expertise Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently asked questions about the CIPFA Test of Relevant Expertise (TRE) pathways route

The following questions and answers will provide you with all the information you need to know about the Test of Relevant Expertise (TRE) pathways route to ICAS membership. Currently, this route is only available to CIPFA members with more than seven years of post-qualification experience.

1. Why should I apply?

  • The ‘CA’ designation from ICAS is globally recognised as a leading accountancy qualification.
  • The pathways route is for individuals who are looking to develop their careers beyond their current role.
  • Your employer may be looking to you to lead the firm in a new direction.
  • Your employer may be looking to expand your role and field of experience.
  • The CA qualification may open up new fields of work for you and your employer.
  • The CA qualification can broaden your existing role and open up new global opportunities.
  • As a CA you will have access to ICAS services including training, CPD, mentoring, practice support and technical guidance.

2. Am I eligible?

  • You must be a full member of CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy).
  • You must be in Good Standing with CIPFA.
  • You must have been admitted to CIPFA via the standard entry route on the basis of the normal qualification requirements for that body including its final examination.
  • As a member of CIPFA you must have completed the FULL UK qualification (“bye-law 4”) through CIPFA’s approved examination route.
  • You must have maintained the membership of the approved professional body since the point of qualifying.
  • You must have at least SEVEN years’ post-qualification experience (excluding career and maternity/paternity breaks).
  • You must provide two sponsors who are either members of ICAS or a body with a reciprocal membership with ICAS (ICAEW, CAI, CPA Canada, CAANZ, HKICPA, SAICA).

3. What if I have a break in my post qualification experience?

  • If you have been on a maternity/paternity break or career break but have seven or more years of post-qualification experience in total, you meet the eligibility requirements.

4. Do I have to maintain my membership of my original qualifying body?

  • Yes, you must commit to retaining your membership of CIPFA

5. What do I need to do to make an application?

If you are eligible you should register your interest in the TRE pathway. We will send you updates and notify you when the application window opens.

When the application window opens, you should:

  1. Submit your completed application pack, which must include:
    1. your completed application form with a letter of Good Standing and confirmation of qualification;
    2. your primary sponsor's completed form (who verifies your entire application pack, including the answers to your reflective essays);
    3. your secondary sponsor's completed form;
    4. your CV of no more than four sides of A4.

    As part of your application, ICAS will confirm with CIPFA that you are in Good Standing. To receive your confirmation letter of Good Standing and confirmation of your qualification route, please email quoting 'ICAS Pathways'.

  2. Make a payment of £1,055.20. On receipt of your payment you will be sent a candidate number. Please note that it can take up to 5 working days for your candidate number to be released.
  3. Upload your five reflective essays for examination on the Turnitin system using your unique candidate number. ICAS will register you on the Turnitin system and provide you with login details.

Please note that the Turnitin login details will be provided a week after the Application window has closed and you will have a minimum of seven days to submit the five reflective essay questions once you have been registered on Turnitin. Further information about the essay submission process will be provided when ICAS has received your completed Application pack and fee payment.

Sponsor forms are available for download now and the application form will be made available when the submission window opens. To receive a notification message when the Application Form is available, please register your interest here.

What should I prepare before submitting my application?

  • Write up your reflective essay answers to the five questions. The essay questions you must answer can be found here.
  • Send your sponsors your application, including your reflective essays, and ask them to complete and return to you along with their completed sponsor form.

6. How much does it cost?

  • You will pay a one-off fee of £1055.20 (incl VAT).
  • This fee will cover your application, assessment admission to ICAS membership, and your first year of ICAS' Annual Subscription.
  • The re-sit fee is £281 plus VAT (£337.20).

7. Will my application fee be refunded if I am unsuccessful?

  • If your application is unsuccessful at any stage of the process, your application fee will not be refunded.
  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria before making the application.

8. Why do I need a candidate number?

You need a candidate number so your examination content is anonymised.

  • When we receive your application pack and payment, we will send you your candidate number and information on how to submit the reflective essay questions.
  • You will need to submit the five Reflective Essay questions as a single Word document to Turnitin.
  • Full instructions will be given to you when the full application pack and admission fees have been received.

9. What do I have to do for the examination component of my application?

The TRE Pathway includes an evaluation which you complete in your own time and submit your responses by a set deadline. The purpose of the evaluation is to allow you to demonstrate your professional skills based on your own personal work experience.

There are five questions, with each question being connected to one TRE learning outcome.

The questions are released well before the submission window to give candidates time to write up their reflective essays and have them verified by both sponsors.

Five questions will be released on the following dates for the respective diets and essays for all five questions must be completed and submitted by the deadline.





1 March 2019

8 April  - 25 April 2019

6 May - 17 May 2019*

May 2019 Diet

1 October 2019



November 2019 Diet

*Please note that applicants will receive their Turnitin login details a week after the application submission window closes.

Further dates will be announced here.

Applicants are asked to submit a short reflective essay based on their professional experience. Each reflective essay must be based on your own professional experience and, as far as possible, demonstrate direct involvement in the scenario(s) described.

The answer to each question will have a minimum word limit of 700 words and a maximum word limit of 1,000 words.

The essays should cover as a minimum:

  • Background and context to the scenario(s) identified in the essay.
  • A description of your role and responsibilities in the specific scenario(s).
  • An evaluation of the particular professional skills used and developed in the context of the scenario(s) including where relevant judgement and decision making.
  • A critical examination of the lessons learned by you and the organisation from the experience.

Candidates must also submit a detailed CV of no more than four sides of A4 to support their reflective essays.

10. How does the assessment work?

  • Your paper will be anonymised.
  • Papers will be double marked by experienced ICAS markers.
  • The pass mark is 60%.
  • If your first attempt is unsuccessful, you may have one further attempt.  This a fresh attempt which would require completing a new application.
  • For resits, you resit the five questions which form part of one holistic paper and it is this full set of questions that need to be answered in a resit.
  • There is no appeal against a result issued by ICAS.
  • If your application is unsuccessful at any stage of the process, your application will not be refunded.

11. What are the important deadlines?

  • The essay questions for the May diet are available from now until 17 May 2019.
  • You can submit your application pack between 10am on 8 April  and 4pm on 25 April 2019.
  • You must submit your five Reflective Essay questions to Turnitin before 4pm on 17 May 2019.
  • Do allow time for your sponsors to complete their application forms as they need to see your written reflective essays before you submit them to ICAS.
  • Late submissions will not be processed. If any part of your submission reaches us after the 4pm deadline it will not be processed. To avoid disappointment, it is best to ensure your submission reaches us no later than one full week before the deadline.

12. Who are the sponsors and what do they do?

One of your sponsors acts as a Primary Sponsor. Your Primary Sponsor must have known you for two years or more. The Primary Sponsor’s role is to verify the information provided by you in your application form. 

The Primary Sponsor should be able to verify that the answers in the reflective essay and the CV are accurate and a true representation of your work.

Your Secondary Sponsor must be able to confirm that you have the necessary professional attributes to be admitted to membership of ICAS.

Please find the sponsor forms for download below:

As a sponsor you need to be either:

A) An ICAS member:

  • in good standing with ICAS for the immediate past five years;
  • who has known you for a minimum of two years;
  • who is fully compliant in terms of fees, CPD and Annual Return;
  • who does not have a relationship with you that would otherwise be deemed a conflict of interest.

B) A CIPFA member:

  • in good standing with ICAS for the immediate past 5 years;
  • who has known the applicant for a minimum of two years;
  • who is fully compliant in terms of fees, CPD and Annual Return;
  • who does not have a relationship with the applicant that would otherwise be deemed a conflict of interest.

C) A full member of a body with which ICAS has a current reciprocal membership agreement.

These bodies are currently:

  • CAI - Chartered Accountants Ireland;
  • CPA Canada - Chartered Professional Accountants Canada;
  • ICAEW - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales;
  • CAANZ - Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand;
  • HKICPA - Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants;
  • SAICA - South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Members of these reciprocal bodies must be:

  • a member (in good standing with their home body for the immediate past five years);
  • a member who has known you for a minimum of two years;
  • a member who does not have a relationship with you that would otherwise be deemed a conflict of interest;
  • a member who is fully compliant in terms of fees, CPD and Annual Return.

The Primary Sponsor must have worked with you for at least two years out of the immediate past five years.

Sponsors who have testified inaccurately or inappropriately may be liable to an investigation or disciplinary action as ICAS will report this to the home institute.

You should able to demonstrate that any relationship you have with a sponsor could not be deemed as a conflict of interest.

There must be no remuneration between the applicant and a sponsor.

13. If I pass am I a CA?

  • No not quite yet.  In order for the process to be completed you need to be formally admitted to ICAS. Your name will be added automatically to the next available Admissions Agenda which is when the ICAS Council approves all new prospective members into membership.

14. If I pass and become a member of ICAS will I be able to get a practicing certificate?

  • No, the pathways route does not convey practicing rights.
  • ICAS offers a Fast-track Audit Route which allows CIPFA members to become ICAS members with a UK Audit Qualification. Please contact the Education Team for more information.

15. Can I call myself a CA when I am admitted?

  • Yes, when you have been admitted you will be able to use the designation CA.

16. Do I get a member certificate?

  • Yes, you will get a member certificate.

17. Can I attend the admissions ceremony?

  • Yes.  ICAS holds an Admission Ceremony every year, usually in March.

18. Are there any ongoing fees after I become an ICAS member?

  • Yes
  • You will pay the joint ICAS/CIPFA subscription fee on an annual basis after the first year of ICAS membership.
  • The application to ICAS membership fee does not cover the current years CIPFA membership subscription and you will be required to pay the full CIPFA membership subscription fee for the first year of ICAS membership.

19. Are my fees pro-rated if I join half way through the year?

  • No, the full Annual Subscription Fee is payable if you join part way through the year.

20. Do I need to do two different CPD processes after I am admitted?

  • No, you will only need to complete the CPD process for your original qualifying body.


  • Become a Chartered Accountant

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