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SAICA and its education committee (EDCO), after consulting with its various stakeholders and after careful deliberation, have decided to change the timing of the
Part 1 of the Qualifying Examination (QE).

As from 2010, the exams will be written at the end of January with the results being released in April each year. The QE1 exam is currently written in March with the exam results being released on the last Friday of June of each year. The current timing will apply in 2009.

The QE1 is a standard setting examination which assesses the core technical competence of prospective CAs(SA) at a benchmark considered appropriate by SAICA. It is important that this examination is set independent of the universities as the examination results are one of the measures used by SAICA in its process of accrediting programmes that lead to the qualification of CAs(SA) at universities.

The reason for changing the timing is because QE1 (being part of the overall learning process towards the qualification of CAs(SA) is currently considered to be too long after the current Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) exams, which is written in October/November each year. SAICA considers the time gap between the CTA exams and QE1 to be too long because trainees who start their training contracts in January are often required to work significant hours in this period, thereby neglecting their studies until they go on study leave. At this point many QE candidates report that they need to go back and “re-learn” many aspects of the material. In addition this period of study leave is seen by many firms as being disruptive to their work schedules.

SAICA therefore embarked on a project during which it consulted its many stakeholders’ views and also looked at the educational rationale behind the QE1 and timing of the exam in order to find a more appropriate time to schedule the QE1. The most appropriate time was considered to be a time long enough after the CTA exams in November but also within a reasonable time so that whatever knowledge prospective CAs(SA) retained for the CTA exam was not “lost”. Indeed, it is critical that some time is given in the learning process to reflect on and consolidate this knowledge. The QE1 exam is considered to be part of the continuous learning process. We believe that some period of consolidation and reflection is therefore required prior to the writing of QE1.

The outcome of this project was that the end of January was found to be the most appropriate time for the QE1 given the role it plays in the qualification process. Although a December exam was mooted it was not considered to be a viable alternative particularly because of the logistical difficulties the bigger universities would face in submitting exam results to SAICA at a much earlier date in order to accommodate this earlier exam date.

SAICA and EDCO maintain that the new timing will be advantageous for all stakeholders:

  • Training offices will have the choice of either starting their training contracts on January 1st or after the exam has been written. It is expected that even if firms start the training contract on 1 January, candidates will be given immediate study leave so that they will be able to focus on their studies without having to worry about work stress. This would equate to the study leave currently being given by training offices.
  • Exam candidates will have a short, uninterrupted time in which to reflect on and consolidate their knowledge in preparation for the QE1 at the same time affording them a short break after their CTA exams.

For more information on the change in the timing of the QE1
exam visit www.saica.co.za or email Mandi Olivier on

Nazeer Wadee CA(SA) is Chief Operating Officer, SAICA.