The Institute encourages perseverance for unsuccessful candidates and reminds them of a second opportunity.
We would like to congratulate the 2 149 (of the 3 657) aspirant chartered accountants (CAs(SA)) who passed the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) in January 2020. Those candidates who were unsuccessful will have another opportunity later in the year to test the application of their technical competence. The ITC, which serves as the first of two SAICA qualifying examinations, is a standard-setting examination. It assesses how well a candidate is able to apply the technical theoretical competence they have acquired at university by analysing and evaluating specific scenarios presented in the exam.
Commenting on the results, Freeman Nomvalo, SAICA CEO said: ‘SAICA would like to acknowledge all those candidates who wrote the ITC and extend a special note of congratulations to those who passed. We trust that those candidates will hold themselves to the same high standards of excellence as they progress towards their final qualifying exam, the Assessment of Professional Competence.’
The decline in the overall number of candidates to 59% who passed the January 2020 exam compared to 71% in 2019 can be attributed to the large increase in the number of repeat candidates and the performance of candidates from historically disadvantaged institutions and distance learning institutions. Repeat candidates comprised 26% of the total population in January 2020 compared to 12% in January 2019. The overall pass rate for first-time candidates was 68% (2019: 76%). Broken down further, 55% of African first-time candidates were successful versus 84% of white candidates. A detailed breakdown of the ITC statistics can be found on the SAICA website (www.saica.co.za/examinations).
‘A primary objective of SAICA is to grow the pipeline of relevant and representative talent for the profession. It is therefore encouraging to see the overall number of candidates steadily growing. However, we note that despite significant efforts to address transformation in the profession through a variety of initiatives, pass rates by race group remain largely differentiated. This is extremely disappointing given the resources and efforts put into making a difference. Nonetheless, we remain resolute in developing a professional and appropriate profession,’ added Nomvalo.
January 2020’s ITC Top 10
To pass the ITC, candidates must obtain an overall pass mark of 50%. However, at each sitting of the ITC, the exam’s Top 10 candidates are recognised for their excellent performance. To be listed among the top performers, candidates must obtain a pass mark of 70% or more. In this sitting of the ITC, all 10 candidates achieved a pass with honours – meaning they passed with a result of 75% or higher.
1. Hayley Ward – PwC Nelson Mandela University
2. Andre Van Staden – EY University of Pretoria
3. Adrian Rathbone – EY University of Pretoria
4. Charis Du Plessis – PwC Nelson Mandela University
5. Daniela Cronje – PwC North-West University
6. Andre Meyer – PwC University of Pretoria
7. Christine Butters – PwC University of Pretoria
8. Janaless Moyle – Deloitte University of Pretoria
9. (Tied) Elizabeth – Bell Deloitte University of Pretoria
9. (Tied) Sumaiya Jeewa – Deloitte University of Pretoria
‘The role that universities play in the development of CAs(SA) cannot be under-estimated. SAICA would therefore like to extend its congratulations to the University of Nelson Mandela, the University of Pretoria and North-West University for the role they have played in supporting these top 10 candidates. The University of Pretoria, in particular, has done an outstanding job in registering seven of the top 10 candidates,’ said Nomvalo.
Expectations of the overall cohort and support programmes’ role in transformation
When analysing the results of this year’s cohorts, SAICA would also like to reiterate the importance of the second sitting of the ITC exam, which was offered for the first time in 2013. This second sitting generally consists of a candidate population that comprises only repeat candidates, those who either elect not to write in January or whose supplementary results have not yet been released before the ITC exam registration date closes.
As the ITC is a standard-setting examination, SAICA sets expectations (through its monitoring and accreditation criteria) that 80% of universities’ postgraduate cohort should pass the ITC over their first two exam sittings (January and June in the year following the completion of their postgraduate programme). Prior years have shown that this yields very positive outcomes. For instance, the cohort for the 2018 postgraduate students who wrote in January and June 2019 was 75,4%, with only four universities not achieving the 80% expectation in 2019. Most universities’ cohort pass rates ranged between 89% and 97%.
Calling on repeat candidates not to be disillusioned and to persevere with re-writing the ITC, Nomvalo added: ‘SAICA encourages candidates who are required to repeat the examination later this year to continue to work hard and not to give up. As prospective CAs(SA) you have several opportunities to pass the exam and there are support programmes available to assist you.’
There are a variety of additional measures repeat candidates can take to improve their chances of passing the ITC on their second attempt. For example, we run a Thuthuka ITC Repeat Programme to help assist candidates who failed the January sitting better prepare for the June sitting. This programme – one of many programmes to facilitate transformation within the profession – is one we are particularly proud of as the results obtained by these candidates tend to dramatically outperform candidates who do not seek additional support when preparing to tackle the ITC for a second time as is evident by last year’s Thuthuka Repeat Programme candidates who scored an overall pass of 66% against the average of 38% in the 2019 June ITC sitting.
Hayley Ward (22)
Academic Trainee at Nelson Mandela University
I was shocked by this result and honestly didn’t believe at first that I had made the Top 10 for the ITC board exam, let alone that I was placed first. I am so happy to have achieved this result and grateful that all my hard work in my honours year has paid off.
My recipe for success would be my hard-working ethic and consistently working throughout my honours year to set up a good base for the ITC exam. Another thing I relied heavily on was repetition, meaning going over the work until I knew it well and, when needed, doing a specific paper multiple times to fully grasp the concepts.
Two people influenced me to achieve these results: first, my Collegiate High School Accounting teacher, Mrs Scholtz, who sadly passed away from cancer. She was always pushing her students to do their best and her favourite saying was that we must not be mediocre − it has stuck with me ever since. Secondly, it would be my mother who also encouraged us to do our best and instead of saying ‘good luck’ before the exams, always said, ‘no mistakes, Hayley’. It became our ritual and somehow managed to make me feel better about the imminent exam.
I would also attribute my achievement to the professors and lecturers at Nelson Mandela University who not only were brilliant in lecturing but also had an open-door policy allowing me to go ask the many questions when I did not understand something. I also want to thank my friends in my CTA class, as we pushed each other to be better. I wouldn’t be here without your support. I would also like to say well done to my fellow ITC candidates on passing the ITC exam.
With regard to lockdown due to COVID-19, I have learned that one must draw up a schedule and stick to it and work on your self-discipline in order to achieve the task at hand.
André van Staden (23)
Audit Trainee at EY
Upon receiving my results, I was truly surprised by the outcome. At the time it was unbelievable − a fact that remains true to today. I am humbled by my ranking in the qualifying exams but I am also filled with pride as to what all the candidates have achieved.
This is definitely the dominant emotion that I experience when the topic of the exam is a discussion point.
It is easy to forget just how challenging the journey toward becoming a qualified CA(SA) is. There will be many challenges that one may face along the way. Failure is one of the best things that may happen to you. You learn from it, and it will teach you something invaluable. Perseverance. There will be times where you will question the decisions that you have made. In the moments when you feel like you are not enough, remind yourself of who you are and how far you have come. Up to this very moment you have achieved what once appeared to be impossible.
You will be able to do the same going forward.
Throughout my journey I have met many different people. From each of these individuals, I have learned something. Everyone has something extraordinary about them and that is where I find my inspiration. I have received tremendous support from people who are close to me, but also from lecturers, fellow students, and academic trainees. My accomplishments would not have been possible otherwise.
EY as a firm has been very supportive throughout my journey. Through communication provided and the interactions that I have had with them, they were constantly motivating me and this led me to believe that I will be able to achieve my goals. The EY staff that I have met have left an everlasting impression. Knowing that I will be surrounded by exceptional people lead me to strive to become a better version of myself.
Working remotely may pose challenges, but it provides us with the opportunity to grow. You will improve your ability to communicate effectively through different platforms and you can use the time to discover different forms of technology and programmes. What is evident is that times like these will serve to remind us how important the fundamental principles are that set apart our profession, whether it is providing exceptional service even though only you can truly see your efforts or maintaining client confidentiality in a space where you likely feel comfortable.
Charis du Plessis (22)
Academic Trainee at Nelson Mandela University
I must have stared at my results for about a full minute before actually comprehending anything. I was honestly not expecting to be placed in the Top 10: I just wanted to do my best. When I received the news, I was thinking, ‘No, that’s not me.’ I still have not fully comprehended it. I feel blessed and humbled to have been able to make it this far.
My success is not something I could have achieved alone: I must give credit to God. The year did nevertheless require a fair amount of elbow grease. Your CTA year is like a marathon and ITC is that final kilometre. All the little bits of hard work that you sow every day, and each little bit of knowledge that you collect along your journey, all add up to you passing the ITC. CTA is where all the hard work happens. By the time you get to prepare for the ITC, you will have studied the content so many times that all you will need to do is practise new questions.
I was inspired by all those who had walked before me. I recognise the level of commitment demanded by this journey and I admire anyone who can walk it successfully. I was particularly inspired by those who were able to walk it with the knowledge that academic success was not necessarily the pinnacle of their identities, and who were confident that, regardless of academic success, they were still valuable.
As for the advantage of training at a big firm like PwC, I always welcome the opportunity to learn. I believe that the knowledge which can be offered by a large, established firm like PwC is invaluable.
I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has given us all a chance to re-examine our priorities. We have been forced to acknowledge that none of us is completely immune to adversity. I hope that this pandemic causes companies to acknowledge that true value can only be fully realised by human contribution. Companies should nurture people rather than productivity. Companies that come out on top will be those who actively choose to look after their people during this time, and who use this time as a period to reflect on whether their current practices are fair and necessary.
Daniela Cronje (23)
Associate at PwC
Just passing ITC would have already been a great achievement to me but making it to the Top 10 was the cherry on the top. It once again proved to me that hard work pays off.
Consistency and persistence were the keys to my success. I had a routine that I followed day in and day out during my CTA year as well as when I was studying for the ITC. I had set myself daily and weekly goals to make what I wanted to achieve more measurable and to hold myself accountable to the goals I had set.
Having a balance between studying, doing things I enjoy and spending time with friends and family also contributed to my success. I am a firm believer in well-deserved breaks.
I think what inspired me most was knowing that there are a lot of people that do not have the opportunities that I had and that motivated me to give it my all and not waste my opportunities. Previously successful candidates also showed me that it is possible to pass CTA and ITC.
The advantages of training at a big firm like PwC is that the exposure and opportunities are limitless.
PwC has a culture of excellence and that motivates each of us to be the best that we can be.
The lessons and experience from the lockdown period are that a working environment does not consist of the building itself but rather of the people inside it, and working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrated that a positive working environment is still possible even though we have to communicate to each other virtually. Another big lesson for me was that good communication with your fellow colleagues and our clients is the key to a successful audit.
Andre Meyer (23)
Associate at PwC
How do you feel about this achievement?
After all the effort, hype and stress surrounding the ITC, this feels like a dream come true. Some days I still pinch myself to make sure I am awake and still in the Top 10! Honestly, this is the greatest achievement of my life so far.
What is your advice for the ITC exams?
The ITC is such a big exam and covers so much material that it is almost impossible to get a fool proof recipe for writing it. I always studied with the purpose of understanding the work. Secondly, one must try and study for the long term. When studying a new concept or accounting standard, try and study as if you will never be able to look at the work again. The month before ITC you won’t be able to go through everything again, so this deeper understanding is critical. My last tip would be to practise, practise, practise. You are going to be writing a test under extreme time pressure, so to try and create this pressure situation in every question you do. And never do any question without a stopwatch!
Who have inspired you to achieve these results?
Like the sub-four-minute mile being run by many athletes soon after Roger Bannister did it, seeing other students older than me at the same university achieve a Top 10 ITC result really made me believe that I can do it and motivated me to work very hard. Other notable people include the unbelievable lecturers I had at university.
Especially Lizette Kotze, my first- and third-year accounting lecturer, who gave us life lessons as well as accounting. Then of course my family, especially my CA parents who introduced me to accounting and helped me fall in love with it. I also must give credit to my high school, Hoёrskool Randburg, for instilling in me the belief that it doesn’t matter where you come from; if you really want something you will be able to achieve it.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will impact small businesses going forward?
This is an immense setback for small businesses. Many small businesses don’t have the liquidity to survive a prolonged stint of weak consumer demands due to lockdown restrictions, which will really knock the South African economy. We seem destined for even higher levels of unemployment and I really hope that the government has a plan to kickstart the economy and provide relief to small businesses.
Christine Butters (23)
Assurance Division, PwC
I am really proud of my achievement in the ITC. My goal was not to be in Top 10 but to do the best of my ability, whatever that may have been − I honestly believe this made all the difference. The lack of pressure enabled me to feel calm and competent and I think this is the greatest advice I can give to other candidates.
My advice to future ITC candidates is that once you make it all the way to the doorstep of the ITC exam, it is well within your ability to pass and do well. Remember that you are equipped with the tools for success. Leading up to the exam, I did not study and cram for days without sleeping. The key is to work consistently throughout your four years at university. I then had a restful December holiday and spent time in January on the sections I still struggled with.
The biggest inspiration in my journey has been my parents. They have given me everything to make this a reality, including paying for all my studies, surrounding me with love and family, and continuously encouraging me. They have been my biggest cheerleaders for my whole life. However, the biggest honour has to go to my wonderful husband. We got married at 21 while we were both still studying, and he has worked tirelessly to make sure that my dreams have never taken a back seat. He has created a stable and loving home for me, reassured and supported me, and wiped away many tears.
As I continue my journey to become a chartered accountant, I hope to use my skills to contribute to our country by starting a business, designing improved systems, creating jobs, and ultimately caring for those who need it. My dream is completely people focused.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have a detrimental economic effect, but may we all return to work with new perspectives in which we prioritise those we love, live simply and not materialistically, and think of others before we act.
Janalee Moyle (23)
Trainee at Deloitte London
Janalee was born and raised in Gauteng and studied at Benoni High School. She completed her undergrad and post-grad at the University of Pretoria. She is currently signed with Deloitte’s London office, where she is doing her articles after signing a permanent contract with Deloitte London.
When did you realise you wanted to become a CA?
When accounting was introduced in high school, I absolutely loved it and I guess my decision to become a CA was made then.
How do you intend to handle the lockdown?
I am an advocate of work-life balance and I believe the key to maintaining working hard is taking mental breaks such as exercise and reading books.
How have you adjusted from being a full-time student to working full time?
I really enjoyed this transition. I get to work in teams now, which is great! My only tip is to ask lots of questions when you first start working; I have learned so much about auditing since I joined Deloitte.
Key things that landed you in the ITC Top 10?
CTA was a tough year, so I took two months off after my final exam to give myself the mental break that I needed. I started studying a month before ITC, which gave me enough time to prepare for the exam and room to have a few unplanned days off.
The month leading up to ITC was a time to revise, focus on my ‘problem areas’, and work on my exam technique.
Advice for aspiring CAs?
I encourage everyone to never give up, with a lot of hard work, patience, and determination – you can do it!
Suzanne Bell (23)
Academic Trainee at
University of Pretoria
I went to school at Redhill, finishing with nine distinctions and a place on the outstanding achievement list. I then went to the University of Pretoria for my undergrad and postgrad, achieving both with distinction. I stayed in Magrietjie residence until the end of my third year, where I served on the house committee as first-year guardian. Inspired by my stint as a first-year tutor, I am currently working as an academic trainee at UP and furthering my studies.
Why did you decide to choose the CA stream?
My grandfather was the first CA in my family and worked as a professor at Tuks. Many of my family members followed in his footsteps, so I’d seen what incredible opportunities this career could offer me, which made it a natural direction for me to choose.
Key things that landed you in the ITC Top 10?
Apart from the hundreds of past papers and hours of studying, copious amounts of support! Since my first year I have been blessed with committed study and life partner, James Weir, who keeps me motivated, challenged and encouraged. His support along with that of my family and close friends is a huge part of what got me this far − I think they believed in me more than I did!
Advice for aspiring CAs?
Work and play hard. I find that the most productive people are those who are the busiest. Of course, there is a balance to be found − but don’t get so caught up in the degree that you miss out on life! And remember when you go write the ITC, that it’s not just the three or four weeks you studied in January: you’ve prepared for it since your first year.
Motivation for students during the COVID-19 pandemic?
‘Don’t stress, do your best, forget the rest’ – this was my mantra in CTA, though I feel it is more applicable now. You are living through a pandemic, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Do what you can to stay up to date and use the resources offered to you to your best advantage. You can do it!
How do you spend hours that are not spent studying?
I love visiting game reserves and looking for as well as taking photos of birds and animals. Exercise and sport are very important to me in terms of managing stress and general happiness. I also really enjoy water sport, baking, doing arty activities, and spending time with my friends and family.
Sumaiya Jeewa (22)
Academic Trainee at the University of Pretoria
I was born and raised in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, and studied at Middelburg Institute of Learning. I then went to further my studies at the University of Pretoria (UP), where I am currently serving my first year of articles as an academic trainee. I love travelling, the outdoors and adventure.
When did you realise you wanted to become a CA(SA)?
Accounting was a subject I excelled in at school and it prompted me to consider a career in accounting.
About the lockdown?
It’s a challenging time and I think that it’s important to maintain a positive mindset and remember that we will overcome this and go back to working under normal conditions. I want to be ready for that so I will use this time productively to aim for future success.
Learning outcomes to share with aspiring CAs(SA)?
My message to younger students would be that it is necessary to learn how to adapt to change.
How have you adjusted from being a full-time student to working full time?
Embrace the change. Focus on the positive aspects of working.
Key things that landed you in the Top 10?
Success in the ITC can be obtained through working consistently throughout the degree.
Advice for aspiring CAs(SA)?
I have a long way to go before I am a CA and the CA(SA) designation is not easily attainable. However, there are many positive aspects. Focus on the good things, enjoy the journey. Keep the end goal in mind.