Test of Relevant Expertise (TRE) Reflective Essay Questions

Pathways route to ICAS membership

The pathways route allows members of an approved accounting body the opportunity to become a member of ICAS and use the exclusive ‘CA’ designation. The Test of Relevant Expertise (TRE) route provides highly skilled professional accountants with seven years post-qualification experience with a competency based route to becoming a CA. Currently this route is  available to CIPFA members.

CIPFA members who have at least seven years of continuous membership post-qualification of CIPFA can become a CA through completion of a competency based self-assessment consisting of five questions that use a holistic, attribute based model set as outcomes.

Test of Relevant Expertise:

November 2017 Diet essay questions

All applicants are asked to submit FIVE short reflective essays based on their professional experience.

With reference to your professional experience since your admission to CIPFA membership, evaluate scenarios where you:

  1. Applied the code of ethics for professional accountants to a business situation;
  2. Applied the concept of lifelong learning;
  3. Used your technical knowledge and skills to make recommendations for alternative strategies to a client (internal or external);
  4. Integrated managerial and leadership skills to influence others to work towards organisational goals;
  5. Evaluated contradictory information to make informed and balanced judgements in the absence of consistent data.

Format of submission

For each of the five requirements, eligible candidates are required to submit a short, reflective essay based on their professional experience since admission to membership of CIPFA. Each essay has a minimum word limit of 700 words and a maximum word limit of 1,000 words.

Each reflective essay must be based on a candidate’s own professional experience and as far as possible, direct involvement in the scenarios described. Candidates are asked to ensure that, at a minimum, their reflective essays are structured to include:

  • 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; and
  • A critical examination of the lessons learned by you and the organisation from the experience.

Please note that normally a different scenario should be used to address each requirement. If a candidate chooses to refer to the same scenario in two different sections, then care should be taken to avoid repetition and to ensure that the scenario is relevant to the essay question. To enable applicants to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their experience in relation to the assessment requirements, responses will by necessity require confidential information to be provided. ICAS will respect the confidentiality of the application. Applicants are advised that they should not name their employer or any clients in their five Reflective Essays. Applicants should make reference to generic bodies or companies, for example a “Health Trust”. This is to ensure the application process is anonymised and that there is no unintentional bias in the marking process. To ensure the necessary depth of evaluation and critical reflection within each essay, candidates are advised to consider whether it is appropriate to reflect on multiple scenarios.

Once you have completed your five reflective essays, make sure you have passed these to your sponsors for verification.

All candidates are also required to submit a detailed CV (no more than four sides of A4) in support of their reflective essay submissions. Prior to the marking process, all applications will be anonymised.

Grading of assessments

ICAS has established a method for grading the assessments based on the approach used at its Test of Professional Expertise multi-disciplinary case study. Each reflective essay will be graded across the following categories:

  • Highly competent;
  • Clearly competent;
  • Competent;
  • Approaching competence;
  • Not competent.

ICAS will derive descriptors for what an assessor might expect to observe within a reflective essay under each of these 5 categories. These descriptors will be used to evaluate the submitted responses. The competency level identified will then be converted into a mark and this will determine the pass/fail decision. All reflective essays will be assessed independently on at least 2 occasions.

Submitting your application

Full details on submitting your application will be made available nearer the time. In broad terms though, when the Submission Window opens, your application for the TRE pathway has three steps:

  • Submitting to ICAS your completed application pack (Remember you will need to have sent your answers to the five essay questions to your sponsors in order for them to complete their part of the application)
  • Making payment
  • Using your candidate number which will be provided to you to upload the five Reflective Essays for the examination component (this will be made available on receipt of the above)

Please note it can take up to five working days for your candidate number to be released to you.


  • Become a Chartered Accountant

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