Frequently asked questions about TPE

studying man

You've successfully completed Test of Professional Skills and you have made it to Test of Professional Expertise. But what does the course involve, and what's expected of you to ensure qualification?

What is TPE all about?

Test of Professional Expertise (TPE) brings together the knowledge, skills and techniques acquired at TC and TPS, along with new topics introduced at TPE in order to provide professional advice to business people in real-life situations.

The CA Student needs to be able to use their knowledge to analyse a given problem, and, from that analysis, form and explain an acceptable professional judgement in a given situation. The CA Student also needs to be able to present information in a clear and logical format and to prioritise communication such that it addresses the major issues from both an objective professional viewpoint and the specific viewpoint and background of the reader.

After TPE, what's expected of me as a newly qualified CA?

As a newly qualified CA you will have developed the necessary technical knowledge and skills combined with professional skills in judgment, analysis, structure and communication to deal with a wide variety of complex and often unpredictable business issues and situations. You will be able to formulate and communicate professional solutions which are appropriate to the circumstances.

In addition, you will have developed the necessary professional and ethical values to deal with and make informed judgements on complex, ethical and professional issues.

How much TC and TPS technical knowledge do I need to pass TPE? Should I study all the modules?

Would it be too much to say all of it? You should be at your technical peak just after completing TPS.

However, at TPE you will not be assessed on the same types of questions. TPE takes it to a higher level and you will need to use your TPS knowledge to help business make strategic decisions.

You will not always be guided as to which technical knowledge you will need to use. For example, you may have a scenario with a client starting up a new business as a sole trader and they have come to you for advice. Part of that advice will focus on the tax implications of their business structure. They do not know anything about tax so you will need to guide them as to what taxes are key for them to know about. The paper will not tell you the exact taxes to discuss – you will need to consider the taxes that you know and pick out the relevant ones for example: Income tax, National Insurance.

We recommend that you begin by using the syllabus for each TC and TPS subject to consider the different topics covered on your courses. You can then use a blank sheet of paper for each topic to identify your current knowledge and find where the gaps are. This will help you to identify weaker areas in your technical knowledge, rather than starting from the beginning of each course.

You need to have a good basic overview of all of the subjects. Once you have completed your overview, we would suggest focussing on the summaries at the end of modules and basic calculations rather than going back and reading through each and every module and doing all the workshop exercises.

Will I have time to complete a case study in 5.5 hours?

Yes – if you manage your time well. Case studies are designed to have a number of issues in them – some more important than others. In order to complete the paper you need to prioritise the key issues and focus your work around these points.

Think about a client coming into a meeting – they never come in for a full day – it may only be an hour - you need to get across the key points to them in that time frame.

What do you mean by commercial awareness?

Everyone refers to commercial awareness, but I’m not sure I understand what is meant by this?

Commercial awareness is about understanding what’s going on in the world of business, looking at situations from a commercial perspective and thinking about the impact.

Commercial awareness also refers to your general knowledge of business, your business experiences and your understanding of your client’s business.

In class, we provided you with some tips on how to improve your commercial awareness:

  • Keep up to date with industry by reading:
    • Business press
    • Professional bodies
    • Social media – blogs, networking groups
  • Know the client organisation:
    • Values
    • Read the annual report
    • Internal communications
    • Customers
  • Know competitors
    • Check how they are performing
  • Understand the economic environment:
    • Changes impact customers and or supplier spending habits
  • Understand changes in society:
    • Impacts what products or services market wants

What's the difference between analyse and explain exam marks?

Analyse marks refer to all the financial and non-financial work you undertake to arrive at your final recommendations and conclusions in your answers. Think of these marks as providing the evidence to support your recommendations and conclusions. This would include exploring alternatives and considering implications of each.

Explain marks refer to the actual recommendations and conclusions. However, this needs to be developed by further considering the impact of these conclusions. Think of these marks as HOW should the business implement what is being suggested, HOW does that impact the business, for example the risks and rewards?

How do I study for TPE?

At TPE we expect you to have your technical knowledge up to date.  It is likely you will still need to work on some areas of this. Make sure you do this from a TPE perspective and avoid slipping back into TPS study patterns. For example, you may need to analyse some financial information – you might calculate some ratios to do this, however, this is not the TPE perspective. You need to interpret what the ratio work is telling you about the business performance and think beyond this to consider the impact it is having on a business. This leads you on to make recommendations on how to improve the situation, if this is needed.

Practice writing using your laptop. This can be done with short sections. We did not cover all requirements from every case study during block 1. This is intentional to leave areas that you can work on as part of your revision. One of the best revision techniques is to write out sections of a case under timed conditions. You are practising both writing skills and time management. Make sure you review your work - you can learn a lot from reading over what you have written and re-attempting.

What should I take into the TPE exam with me?

The aim is to have easy access to key elements of assumed knowledge so can apply easily in a time-pressured case study. You should think hard about the value of the material you include.

You will need to be very familiar with the content and structure of your material. The exam material guidance document issued as part of your pre-course reading provides examples of the type of material you may wish to include in your exam material for example: pro-forma layouts, calculations and TPE technical modules.

Consider the case study skills 2 exercises on business scenarios. These exercises will help you to organise/index assumed knowledge to deal with various business scenarios. They can be included in your exam material as reference tools.

Remember that lifting technical material from any source to put into your script must always be relevant to the case and enhance your script.

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