Transitions: TPS to TPE

Picture of stepping stones
By TPE Level Controller, Catherine Devaney

1 August 2016

TPE Level Controller Catherine Devaney explains how the level changes from TPS, and what you are expected to complete when achieving your qualification. 

The lowdown on TPE:

The aim of TPE is to ensure that a newly-qualified CA has developed the necessary technical knowledge and skills to provide professional advice in real-life situations.

Our CA students will already have the relevant technical knowledge necessary for an entry level professional accountant. TPE will therefore focus on:

  • how to tailor the technical advice to be specific to the real-life situation in hand;
  • how to ensure commerciality is taken into consideration; and
  • developing skills in the areas of; judgement, analysis, structure, communication and ethics.

The level is taught primarily using business case studies that explore the difficulties involved in making real-world decisions. As a result, students are encouraged to contribute as much of their own ideas and experiences as possible and to actively participate in class through discussion and presenting your ideas.

Students will also be given the opportunity to evaluate computational and report-writing competencies through short, timed exercises in class. These skills will be further evaluated through mock examinations.

Most of the course consists of TPE case studies, which are past exams. We use a lot of different case studies to illustrate the range of different topics covered in a particular case study. For instance, on a Monday you may be discussing how to deal with declining memberships in a health club scenario, before moving on to advising on the valuation and acquisition of a subsidiary company on a Tuesday. These topics are not an exhaustive list so there’s always lots of variety at TPE!

You will encounter a wide variety of commercial aspects, for a mixture of business perspectives which need to be factored into your decision-making.

Exam format and marking:

There are some key differences in the exam format. The TPE examination is:

  • Completed using laptops: you will prepare your exam response using Word/Excel or equivalent. There will be no handwritten submissions; and
  • Open book: this means you can take any material you feel will help you in the exam into the exam with you. This can be taken in as hard-copy or as a digital copy on your laptop.

This exam style is designed to replicate the working environment, as much as possible. In the workplace, CAs will be using computers to prepare work for clients, managers and partners. Handwritten documents are very rarely prepared now: if you have a business issue to deal with you, will have access to a range of resources which can be referred to for help.

The TPE examination is:

  • A one-day multi-discipline case study exam: you could have taxation, financial reporting, business management and finance, for example; and
  • One paper that lasts for 5½ hrs, and is split into a morning and afternoon session.

There is no prescribed format for the exam, but it is likely that the morning session will provide background information in the form of a case scenario, and specific tasks will be given for completion. In the afternoon, further details relating to the case scenario are provided for which final business solutions need to be produced.

The TPE examination is marked on two elements:

  • application of technical knowledge; and
  • professional competence.

The TPE Exam panel is looking for students to demonstrate that they can use their technical knowledge to analyse issues and provide advice on how best to solve these issues/problems, adding value to the client. This requires students to have developed competencies in:

  • using judgement,
  • application of relevant methods of analysis,
  • structuring written responses; and
  • communicating for a wide range of users of the information provided. 

How should I adapt my learning style to cover the TPE material?

In the lead up to the commencement of the TPE course your focus should be on revision of technical material, which is assumed knowledge at TPE. You need to have a sound technical base for building your professional skills upon and revision of assumed knowledge will help this.

When revising TC/TPS material, you should be focusing on gaining a broad overview of the subjects. That’s because TPE is about solving business problems, and focusing on the practical advice eg pros/cons of bespoke systems, payment dates for tax and implications of defaulting on bank finance, rather than just the mechanics of calculations.

The ability to perform quick, high-level calculations is very important at TPE, so students don’t go into too much detail and re-perform detailed TPS workshop exercises. As TPE tests knowledge application in a real-life situation; identify possible gaps in your existing knowledge – it will be relevant if it has been some time since you studied a particular topic or you are not currently using this knowledge in practice.

There are open learning technical modules which supplement the TPE classes. The modules do not contain substantial quantities of new technical material but help to place your assumed knowledge into a commercial context. Guidance on how to tackle these modules is given during the TPE pre-course briefing and pre-course material.

You will find a lot of time is spent learning how to harness the professional skills needed to be a newly qualified CA such as; the ability to prioritise key issues (using judgement). You’ll develop a logical approach for tackling case studies and structuring answers, which you will need to practice. 

Best practice revision styles?

The best way to approach TPE study is to:

  1. Revise TC/TPS technical material - students would benefit from addressing areas of technical weakness from a TPE perspective. Think beyond just calculation: interpret them, and decide how best to utilise the information;
  2. Practice case study skills (Effective reading, effective planning and concise business writing) learned during the TPE course. Case studies can contain as many as 17 pages of information (morning paper only!), and having an approach for collating your thoughts will help answer the final case study exam;
  3. Read and prepare, where possible, documents in the workplace such as reports
  4. Keep up-to-date with commercial issues; business and economic issues
  5. Practice writing short sections (using a laptop) covering:
    • Case studies - sections not covered in class and also re-working sections to develop style; and
    • Technical areas

Topics

  • CA Student blog

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