Transitions: University to TC

Making the transition from university
By Joanne Lloyd-Jones, TC Level Controller

18 March 2019

TC Level Controller, Joanne Lloyd-Jones introduces the TC level for new students and discusses how to navigate the course to your best advantage.

The Test of Competence (TC) is the first stage of the CA qualification, covering the fundamental technical skills in several business and accounting subjects.

What is the TC level and how is it assessed?

The objective of TC is to provide you with the key concepts and core knowledge in the areas of audit, accountancy, tax, finance, law and business management. TC is important as it forms the foundation for all further learning.

The TC courses are delivered in a variety of formats. Some elements are delivered in the classroom and others by supported, online learning. There are six subjects at TC, these are all taught individually and are examined separately. The exam format is standard for each subject.


Exam format

Exam length

Financial Accounting (FA) Provides a knowledge of the mechanics of double-entry bookkeeping and then progresses to the production of financial statements. The course also covers the principles of accounting concepts.

24 objective test questions and 1 x long question totalling 40% of the paper

2 hours

Finance (FIN) Provides knowledge of the various tools that management use on a day to day basis to operate a business, including budgeting, pricing, costing and strategy.

40 objective test questions

2 hours

Principles of Audit and Reporting (PAR) Provide knowledge of how a business operates and is controlled. The course takes candidates through the process followed to perform an effective external audit of a company.

40 objective test questions

1.5 hours

Business Law (BL) An introduction to the key areas of law which affect businesses. The focus of the course is on contract law and company law.

40 objective test questions

1.5 hours

Business Management (BM) Provides knowledge of the various tools that management use on a day to day basis to operate a business, including budgeting, pricing, costing and strategy.

40 objective test questions

2 hours

Principles of Tax (PoT) Provides a working knowledge of the main UK taxes and how these are calculated, assessed and collected. The course covers basic calculations for income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and VAT.

40 objective test questions

2 hours

Students prepare for the exams through completion of the course and sitting a mock exam, similar to your school ‘preliminary’ exams.

Typically, the exams are held at the end of the course and are designed to test the learning outcomes of each of the subjects. This ensures that our students have a solid enough understanding of the fundamentals in each subject to continue onto TPS.

How does TC differ from University?

As the first stage of a professional qualification, students will find TC different from their previous study experiences. Classroom courses are intensive, with tutors teaching the material over a six-hour period, five days a week.

The online study sessions are also planned as full study days, so you will be expected to be concentrating for long periods. It is important that you pace yourself – you need to keep up-to-date with the workload but don’t burn out before the end of the course.

ICAS provides you with all study materials. Again, this is different from university, where you were likely to have made your own notes.

It is really important that you don’t waste study time rewriting the ICAS material, instead, focus on question practice. This usually means that students change the way that they study for ICAS exams.

You may also find that there are larger differences in student performance within the class – both in terms of the time spent answering questions and in the time taken to understand new concepts.

This is normal as the class will consist of a diverse group who have come from different backgrounds and will have a variety of strengths and weaknesses. It is important that you do not place extra stress on yourself by comparing yourself with others.

Your final exams will count 100% of your final mark – there is no course work, and any tests or mocks sat during the course are for practice only and will not count towards your final mark.

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

The key is to keep up-to-date and ask questions if you are confused. There is often not any time to catch up, so any issues you have identified need to be addressed immediately. Your tutors are there to answer your questions and get you through the exam; they will be happy to help you.

The study material should be reviewed again each evening to ensure that you have understood the day’s class, but once this review is complete, you should use your evening study time to practice questions.

This is not the same as reading the question and then the solution. This makes all questions look easy and you will be trapped into a false sense of security!

Attempt each question yourself without looking at the solution and then review the solution once you have completed the question. Take time to understand where your answer was inadequate, incorrect or incomplete. If you are still confused, ask the tutor for help.

Tests and mocks should be used as revision tools. Again, spend time reviewing the tests and mocks you have completed to understand where marks have been lost.

Learn everything! Do not waste time guessing what will/won’t be asked in the exam. The aim of TC is to achieve a solid foundation, and gaps in your knowledge will cause problems at TPS and TPE levels.


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