Test of Practical Competence Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about the Test of Practical Competence (TPC) pathways route.
The following questions and answers will provide you with all the information you need to know about the Test of Practical Competence (TPC) pathways route to ICAS membership. Currently this route is only available to CIPFA members with less than seven years’ post-qualification experience.
1. Why should I apply?
- The ‘CA’ designation from ICAS is globally recognised as a leading accountancy qualification.
- The pathways route is for individuals who are looking to develop their careers beyond their current role.
- Your employer may be looking to you to lead the firm in a new direction.
- Your employer may be looking to expand your role and field of experience.
- Your new qualification may open up new fields of work for your employer.
- The CA qualification can broaden your existing role and open up new global opportunities.
- As a CA you will have access to a range of ICAS services including training, CPD, mentoring, practical support, technical guidance and events.
2. Am I eligible?
- You must be a full member of CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy)
- You must be in Good Standing with CIPFA.
- You must have been admitted to CIPFA via the standard entry route on the basis of the normal qualification requirements for that body including its final examination.
- As a member of CIPFA you must have completed the FULL UK qualification (“bye-law 4”) through CIPFA’s approved examination route.
- You must have maintained the membership of the approved professional body since the point of qualifying.
- You will normally have less than SEVEN years’ post-qualification experience (excluding career and maternity/paternity breaks).
3. Do I have to maintain my membership of my original qualifying body?
- Yes, you must commit to retaining your membership of CIPFA
4. How do I apply?
- Register your interest in the TPC pathway by completing the TPC enrolment form.
- Confirm you are in Good Standing with confirmation from your original qualifying body.
- Include a Transcript of Exams from your original qualifying body.
- You must state the date you joined your original qualifying body.
5. How much does it cost?
- To enrol in TPC, you must pay the current training contract fee (£596), class fees (£1547 or London £1935) and exam fee (£292).
- Upon successful completion of TPC, you must pay the admission to membership fee and the ICAS/CIPFA annual subscription rate to be admitted into ICAS membership.
6. What does the TPC pathway involve?
- The TPC pathway to membership combines an exam element and practical experience. The exam element is called Test of Practical Expertise (TPE) and the practical experience involves a two-year training contract with an approved firm and requires a minimum of 300 days relevant practical experience. This experience is evaluated in an online ICAS achievement log.
7. TPE class dates
- You'll find the TPE class dates here.
8. What does the exam involve?
- You will need to pass the TPE exam.
- The aim of TPE is to ensure that a newly qualified CA will have developed the necessary technical knowledge and skills combined with professional skills in judgement, analysis, communication and ethics to deal with a wide variety of complex and often unpredictable issues and situations.
How much technical knowledge will I need?
- TPE brings together the technical knowledge and skills acquired at TC (Test of Competence) and TPS (Test of Professional Skills) along with the professional skills introduced at TPE (Test of Professional Expertise) in order to provide professional advice to business people in real life situations. Professional skills build on commercial awareness.
- Technical knowledge and professional skills gained through CIPFA will be transferable to TPE and relevant however there may be gaps, for example in relation to Financial Reporting, Assurance and Business Systems and Taxation which will need to be filled before coming to TPE.
- You will be required to use your technical knowledge to analyse issues and, from that analysis, provide an acceptable professional judgement in a given situation. You will also need 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 user of the information.
I did not do TC and TPS – how do I make sure I know this material before coming to classes?
- Some of the technical knowledge gained through your CIPFA qualification will be transferable to TPE. However, there will be gaps for example in relation to Financial Reporting, Assurance and Business Systems and Taxation, which will need to be filled before coming to TPE.
- Although there may be some gaps to fill before you are ready for TPE, once you have enrolled with ICAS you will have full access to the Test of Competence and Test of Professional Skills material. We recommend that you self-study this material to prepare for TPE classes and allow sufficient time to do this before attending TPE classes.
How can I prepare for TPE classes?
- Prior to attending classes, you will receive pre-course guidance to advise you how to prepare for classes with the aim of be being technically up-to-date.
- You will be advised to concentrate on revision of assumed knowledge as this will provide you with a sound technical base upon which to build your professional skills. The guidance contains a high-level study plan for TPE. This includes timing for reading the TPE technical modules which supplement TPE classes. The modules do not contain substantial quantities of new technical material, but rather serve to place your assumed knowledge into a commercial context, broadening the horizon of your knowledge and aiding your approach to tackling case studies.
- Having sound technical knowledge is essential at TPE to allow you to identify and deal with the client issues you will face. It is therefore very important to work on your technical revision before attending classes.
How is the course structured?
- The TPE course is structured into two eight-day teaching blocks. The two blocks of tuition run from a Monday to the following Wednesday. The course is predominantly case study based with some smaller lecture sessions including case study skills and tax-planning. This is carried out through face-to-face tuition.
- There are three TPE mock exams which will allow you to assess how you are progressing with the TPE course. Two of these mocks have face-to-face feedback sessions with your marker to give you personalised feedback.
What is the TPE exam format?
- The TPE examination is a multi-discipline case study. The examination lasts for 5½ hrs, split into a morning and afternoon session. The TPE syllabus is used to set the exam and this can be found in the CA syllabus.
What is the pass-mark for the TPE exam?
- The pass mark is 50%.
When are the exams?
- There are two exam sittings a year; May and November.
Where are the classes held?
- For the May examination, we have classes in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London.
- For the November examination we have locations throughout the UK in: Aberdeen; Birmingham; Bristol; Cambridge; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Jersey; Leeds; London; Manchester; and Reading.
Laptops are compulsory for the TPE exam – how does this work?
- As it is compulsory to use a laptop for the exam, laptops will be used for all TPE mock exams to provide practice. You will also be able to use your laptop during class time to gain extra practice.
- ICAS do not provide laptops. You will need to find out whether your employer is willing to allow you to use your firm’s laptop. If not, you can use your own personal laptop.
The TPE exam is open book – what does this mean?
- The TPE exam is a practical exam and designed to mirror real life where possible. This is why the exam is open book.
- At TPE an ‘open book policy’ operates for classes and exams, allowing material to be taken into the exam hall. This includes both paper and electronic documentation (as you can take material in on your laptop) and you are permitted to prepare your own notes or annotate documents you have.
- You may refer to this material throughout your exam but you will not be permitted to access the internet in the exam hall.
- The expectation is that the material will be used by students as a genuine reference material. This will require your material to be well indexed and logically laid out. The expectation is that students should tailor their answer to the exam case study rather than producing generic answers.
How many attempts do I get?
- If your first attempt is unsuccessful, ICAS allows three further attempts.
Is there a time limit to complete the TPE exam element?
- Yes, it is three years from the date you complete the TPE course and become exam eligible.
What is the appeals process?
- There is no appeal against a result issued by ICAS.
9. What does the training contract and achievement log involve?
What are the practical experience requirements?
- Completion of this pathway route will be subject to completion of a two-year training contract period with a minimum of 300 days of relevant practical experience and competency recorded within an online ICAS achievement log.
How do I access the achievement log site?
- Once you are enrolled, you will be able to access the ICAS achievement log site.
How do I demonstrate that I have achieved specific competencies?
- You are competent when you can carry out the skill to the level of a newly qualified CA. In other words, you should be able to show you have reached a standard whereby a client would be happy.
What sort of competencies do I need to demonstrate?
- There is a requirement to meet certain fixed competencies in non-technical areas. There is also a requirement to achieve a certain number of technical competencies but the full range of competencies is wide and applicants select these based on their practical experience
Do I have to achieve a specified number of days in particular areas of the achievement log?
- While at least 300 days of relevant practical work experience have to be met there is no requirement that these have to be achieved in a certain area. For example, there is no requirement for a certain number of audit days to be achieved.
Who can sign off my relevant personal experience?
- A member of CIPFA, ICAS or ICAEW who is more than three years post-qualified and is a member in Good Standing.
Who reviews my achievement log?
- Your achievement log is reviewed by your sponsor and by ICAS.
When is my achievement log reviewed?
- Your sponsor should review your achievement log on an annual basis; it is reviewed by ICAS after the end of the two-year period.
How can I get further information on the achievement log system?
- Further information about the achievement log system can be found here.
Is there a time limit to complete the relevant practical experience requirements?
- It is expected that relevant practical experience requirements will be completed alongside study and exams within the pathway in line with syllabus timetable and employer requirements. However, in line with existing membership routes this can be extended if necessary subject to agreement with the training contract provider and ICAS.
10. If I pass am I a CA?
- No, not quite yet. In order for the process to be complete you need to be formally admitted to ICAS. Your name will be added to the next available Admissions Agenda. This is when the ICAS Council approves all new prospective members into membership.
11. Can I call myself a CA when I am admitted?
- Yes, when you have been admitted you will be able to use the designation CA.
12. Am I allowed to work in audit when I become a member through this route?
- In order to obtain statutory status, there are further training and practical experience requirements that must be met. A separate Fast-track Audit Route is available for CIPFA members looking to obtain ICAS membership and statutory auditor status.
13. Do I get a member certificate?
- Yes, you will get a member certificate.
14. Can I attend the admissions ceremony?
- Yes. ICAS holds an Admission Ceremony every year, usually in March.
15. Are there any ongoing fees after I become an ICAS member?
- Yes, you will pay the joint ICAS/CIPFA subscription fee on an annual basis.
16. Are my fees pro-rated if I join half way through the year?
- No, the full annual subscription fee is payable if you join part way through the year.
17. Do I need to do two different CPD processes after I am admitted?
- No, you will only need to complete the CPD process for your original qualifying body.