Transitions: TC to TPS
TPS Level Controller Lauren O’Brien answers your questions on how the TPS stage varies from TC, and how to make the most out of the level.
The lowdown on TPS
TPS is a substantial part of your qualification in terms of classroom time. We use this time to take your technical knowledge to a high level: a level where your clients will be happy to pay for your professional advice.
The vast majority of your TPS classes consist of your tutor explaining and developing technical concepts, and demonstrating how these are applied to real life situations. We try to replicate real-life as much as we can in the course and exams.
It’s not enough to learn the notes. You need to be able to take your knowledge and provide practical, realistic advice about a range of different technical topics.
There are 4 different TPS subjects: Assurance and Business Systems, Advanced Finance, Financial Reporting and Taxation. Each subject will have different technical learning objectives, but a common theme is the level of these objectives.
If you look at the ICAS syllabus, a number of the TC subject learning objectives begin with words like “describe, explain or calculate”. Compared to TPS, the learning objectives are normally more advanced, for example, asking you to “advise, evaluate and construct”. This helps to demonstrate the increase in skill required for TPS compared to TC.
Exam format and marking
Each TPS exam day consists of 2 papers – a morning paper and an afternoon paper.
The morning paper is 2 hours 30 minutes long, and consists of one 50-mark question. This 50-mark question generally asks you to advise about a range of issues for either a single client, or for a number of different clients.
The afternoon paper is also 2 hours 30 minutes long. The afternoon paper consists of one 25-mark question, and also several short form questions totalling 25 marks. The short form questions can be different lengths, as long as they total 25 marks. For example, you could have 3 questions at 8 marks, 9 marks and 8 marks each.
Please note, sometimes in the question you could be a professional advisor: for example, a trainee tax accountant or trainee auditor. Alternatively, in other questions, you could be working in industry, or working in the financial services sector: for example, you could work for a bank or in the finance department of a company.
The morning paper and the afternoon paper each have 50 technical marks available. As such there are a total of 100 technical marks available in any TPS exam day. You don’t need to pass both the morning and afternoon paper – so long as you get at least 50 marks overall you will pass.
You could have a ‘nightmare’ Taxation morning paper, and score only 15 out of 50 – but as long as you score at least 35 out of 50 in the afternoon paper, you will still pass your Taxation exam.
Also be aware of the communication marks available: between +4 and -4 communication marks are available on each TPS exam day, and these marks will impact on your final TPS exam mark. If you get 51 technical marks, but you have poor communication and get -3 communication marks, this will bring your score down to 48 and a fail.
There is a communication skills module available on CABLE that you should review prior to attending your TPS classes.
How does TPS differ from TC
TPS is at a higher level than TC; not just in terms of syllabus coverage, but also in terms of the exam questions asked. There are no objective test questions at TPS – we expect full written answers from you in the exams.
Not only that, all of our questions are scenario-driven and our 50 and 25-mark questions tend to have several pages of information to absorb, including various appendices containing both financial and non-financial information.
To get an idea of what a TPS exam paper looks like, the last 2 past papers are always available on the ICAS website, and are available for you to review.
How should I adapt my learning style to cover the material?
Question practice is key at TPS. We recommend that you spend at least half of your time practicing questions. Initially, it’s OK to practice questions with your notes in front of you, but try your very best not to look at the solutions until you have finished the question.
Past paper / exam standard questions are the best ones for you to practice, and your tutors will flag these questions to you as you go through the course.
You might have found that at university you tended to take quite a lot of notes. I’m afraid that for most of the TPS classes there simply won’t be time to take many notes (not if you also need to factor in time to practice questions, which is crucial for TPS success).
If you feel that you do still need to take notes, then use the resources available to you – there are summaries available for all of the TPS modules, and annotating these summaries will be much more time efficient than taking lots of notes yourself.
You will also have permitted material that you can take into the TPS exams. The specific rules about how you can and can’t mark up this material will be covered in class. This permitted material can be really useful in the exam, provided that you use it throughout the course and have your own system in place for accessing the most important material. Turning to a blank book you have never opened before during the final exam will be a waste of time!
What study and revision approaches work best for TPS?
Question practice is key; even more so when revising. During your last few days in class you will get out an ‘additional materials’ pack, which contain approximately thirty new exam-standard questions, specifically designed for the final revision phase.
In addition, you will also have access to the 2 most recent past papers. We would recommend that in the final revision phase before the exam, you attempt as many exam-standard questions as you can: use the additional materials pack and past papers as your main source of questions.