Home Articles APC: Assessment of Professional Competence update June 2014

APC: Assessment of Professional Competence update June 2014

SAICA started the exciting journey of making sure that future CAs(SA) remain relevant back in 2006. The following is a summary of the significant changes made so far in respect of the qualification process over the last few years:

  • Review of the future of the CA(SA)
  • Development and introduction of a competency framework for CAs(SA)
  • Review of the qualification process – which identified principles for how best to educate and equip CAs(SA) with these competencies;
  • Introduction of the 2010 training programme for CAs(SA) (TIPP and TOPP being replaced with core, elective and residual competencies in the training contract)
  • Revision of the Part I exam – changed to the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) and reviewed to ensure its objectives are to assess core technical competence
  • Development of the guidelines for the new Part II exam, the Assessment of Professional Competence (ACT)

The final step in the process of change will be the introduction of the APC in November this year.


The APC replaces the two separate discipline exams, Auditing and Financial Management.

It will take the form of a single integrated and multi-disciplinary case study based on a real-life scenario. The main objective of the APC will be to assess a candidate’s professional competence. This means that there will be less focus on “what you know” and more on “why” and “what to do with the information”. The APC will also focus on pervasive skills and in particular the ability to communicate effectively. Through a simulated case study, this assessment aims to assess the candidate’s ability to use knowledge and skills gained in real life. Real life encompasses integration of all disciplines, critical thinking, problem-solving, identification of relevant versus irrelevant information, synthesis of information, and a direct focus on pervasive skills. Pervasive skills comprise ethical behaviour, professionalism, personal attributes, and professional skills.

There will be less emphasis on technical competence, as this is tested extensively in the first qualifying exam. The case study will be released to candidates five days before the assessment, but they will only receive the actual question(s) together with some additional information when the assessment starts. This emulates real-life scenarios in a business where certain facts are known before a meeting takes place or a proposal is made or a problem is solved.

The APC will focus on the strategic and managerial aspects of the broader accountancy discipline and its aims to assess the professional competence developed during the combination of academic, professional and training programmes.

SAICA is recognised as one of the pre-eminent professional accountancy bodies worldwide when it comes to producing chartered accountants. The cornerstone of this recognition is based on the rigour of the qualification process. It is therefore in SAICA’s best interests to remain competitive and ensure that the quality and standard of the overall qualification process is maintained at the current high standard.

The changes to the qualification process were extensively researched. We have benchmarked ourselves against the other top international professional bodies and consulted with stakeholders such as academics, training officers and members. Their response to these changes has been overwhelmingly positive, leading us to conclude that the APC in its new format would be an appropriate form of assessment for prospective CAs(SA).

In the coming months Accountancy SA will be featuring articles on aspects of the new APC.

For more information, refer to the SAICA website or refer and specific questions to apc@saica.co.za.


Some of the most important changes are outlined in the table below.

Old Part IIAPC
Two exams: Auditing (PPE) and Part II (Financial Management)One exam (assessment) written by all and to be named the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC)
SAICA and IRBA set examsOnly SAICA to set the APC
Case study primarily focused on either Auditing (PPE) or Financial ManagementMultidisciplinary case study
Philosophy of the old exam was to assess specific competence based on where the training contract was being undertaken (public practice versus commerce)Philosophy of the new exam is to assess professional competence irrespective of where the training experience is being acquired
The emphasis on professional skills limited to a case study type written examinationMuch greater emphasis on the assessment of the pervasive skills ethical behaviour, professionalism, personal attributes, and professional skills
Requirements for writing the exam:Candidates must have
Passed the Part I exam, and
Completed 18 months of practical experience, and
Successfully passed the specialist course
Requirements for writing the APC:Candidates must have
Passed the Initial Test of Competence (ITC), and
Completed 20 months of a 36-month training contract, and
Successfully completed the professional programme
Written manuallyWritten electronically (that is, using basic Word and Excel functionality). This requirement will be phased in, however, by way of a pilot group in 2015 with – depending on the outcome – full or partial implementation in 2016 and full implementation no later than 2017
All information provided on the dayInformation will be released in advance of the exam and candidates will have time to prepare and work through the material. Additional information and the required section will be provided on the day
Two papers of 100 marks eachOne multidisciplinary paper (no marks allocated)
Marks allocated within each of the requireds (subsections of each paper)Assessing competence (no marks are awarded)
Marking manual scripts on manual mark plansMaking use of an electronic tool for marking (allows for better collation and analysis of data)
Marks allocated (which often gave an indicator as to time)Principles evaluated with more emphasis placed on evaluating overall competence
Time was limited (three hours per paper with half an hour reading time) per 100 mark paperTime to be a constraint, but not as severely as in the ITC. A full day will be allocated (eight hours) to complete required tasks in line with what entry-level CAs(SA) would encounter in real life

Author: Mandi Olivier CA(SA) is Senior Executive: Professional Development at SAICA