SAICA’s numerous initiatives to transform the profession by building and accelerating the pipeline of prospective African, coloured and Indian chartered accountants are bearing fruit as results from the first sitting of the 2016 Initial Test of Competence (ITC) examination show. Karin Iten reports
In January 2016, 2 561 aspiring chartered accountants (CA(SA)) sat for the first sitting of the 2016 Initial Test of Competence (ITC) examination. Out of these candidates, 76% or 1 943 candidates passed (January 2015: 76% or 1 891 candidates).
‘While the overall pass rate is the same as the January 2015 sitting,’ says Mandi Olivier, Senior Executive: Professional Development at SAICA, ‘the highlight for us is the transformation of the Top 10 candidates. We are extremely pleased to see the transformation of the exam population as we had the highest number of African candidates enrolled for January’s ITC and 40% of the Top 10 candidates are black.’
JANUARY 2016’S ITC TOP 10
Being awarded a spot in the Top 10 is a prestigious achievement. SAICA’s Top 10 consists of candidates who achieved a mark of at least 70% (limited to a maximum of ten candidates). In this sitting, six of the Top 10 candidates also achieved honours – meaning they achieved a score of 75% or higher for the examination.
These candidates are:
The black candidates in the Top 10 comprise two Indian and two African candidates (one of whom comes from outside South Africa’s borders). SAICA last had an African candidate in the ITC Top 10 in 2008.
‘We are especially proud of Azile Nkabinde, the candidate who achieved fourth position. She is the first Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) student to ever make it into the Top 10,’ adds Olivier.
SAICA is also pleased with the variety of training offices these Top 10 candidates are now employed at for their training contract period. This demonstrates that top candidates are attracted to positions across a wide range of practical experiences in both audit and commerce.
THUTHUKA’S FIRST STUDENT TO MAKE THE ITC TOP 10
On the day the results were released, Azile revealed that she first found out about TBF when she attended a SAICA maths development camp at Durban’s Adams College in June of her Grade 11 year. Up until this point, she wanted to be an engineer. But after listening to real-life CAs(SA) explain what their job entailed, she knew she wanted to become a CA(SA). ‘Besides,’ says Azile, ‘my mom always used to say you don’t look like an engineer – you look like an accountant.’
Yet her family could not afford to send her to university – in fact, says Azile, at the time of her final matric exams her mother, a clerk at Newcastle Hospital, had managed to save just enough for university registration but not the first year of tuition. Her only hope was to be accepted for a bursary.
When she received the call to say she had been accepted by TBF and was going to study her BCom Accounting at the University of Pretoria, everything changed. Azile’s dream of becoming a chartered accountant was coming true. Five years later, she is on track to achieving her CA(SA) goal and her exceptional results prove she is up to the challenge. For Azile it is also testament to the fact that you must ‘never be afraid to chase your goals and your dreams. The moment you set goals for yourself, you can start developing plans to achieve them.’
‘We couldn’t be prouder of Azile. Not only did she achieve a Top 10 position but, since she achieved more than 75% in the examination, this means that she also passed with honours,’ adds Chantyl Mulder, SAICA’s Executive Director for Nation Building.
SAICA’S ONGOING INITIATIVES CONTINUE TO TRANSFORM THE PROFESSION
With the March release of the first sitting of the 2016 ITC examination, SAICA’s transformation initiatives have even more reason to celebrate because four of the ITC’s Top 10 candidates are black. Over the past 14 years, the SAICA has embarked on numerous initiatives (such as the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, Thuthuka Light, and Thuthuka ITC repeat programmes) to transform the profession by building and accelerating the pipeline of prospective black chartered accountants, who remain significantly under-represented. Starting from a base of a mere 322 African and 222 coloured CAs(SA) in 2002, today these numbers stand at 3 951 African and 1 351 coloured CAs(SA). This illustrates the impact these projects are having on transforming the profession.
SAICA continues to invest in and support these initiatives with the aim of having a positive impact on transforming the demographics of the CA(SA) profession and promoting skills development within the broader South African economy to promote nation-building.
With this in mind, SAICA confirms that, although the transformation of the profession still has a long way to go, initiatives that assist African and coloured candidates in qualifying as CAs(SA) are yielding positive results. In this sitting, 941 African students wrote the ITC examination (up from 850 in last year’s January sitting). This is the largest African ITC examination cohort in the past five years.
Despite this, pass rates in the ITC for some universities and from specific SAICA transformation initiatives were lower than expected. SAICA believes that this could possibly be attributed to the disruptions in university examinations around the time of the #FeesMustFall campaign. However, candidates who failed in January will have a second opportunity to write the examination in June 2016. Since introducing a second sitting in 2013, the number of successful ITC students has increased, as this gives them additional time between March and June to consolidate their knowledge.
WHAT IS THE ITC AND WHAT DOES IT MEASURE?
The ITC examination is the first of two qualifying examinations university graduates must pass in order to become CAs(SA). Written in either January or June each year, the examination’s primary objective is to test the integrated application of technical competence that candidates should have developed through the academic programme. To assess this, the examination tests a candidate’s ability to:
- Apply the knowledge specified in the subject areas set out in the prescribed syllabus Identify, define and rank problems and issues
- Analyse information
- Address problems in an integrative manner
- Exercise professional judgement
- Evaluate alternatives and propose practical solutions that respond to the users’ needs, and
- Communicate clearly and effectively
The examination consists of four papers. To pass, candidates must achieve an overall pass mark of 50% and must get a sub-minimum of at least 40% in three of the four professional papers.
Overall comments on the papers from universities and examiners indicated that while challenging, the January 2016 ITC examination was fair and at appropriate level for the ITC. Comments also revealed that, in this sitting, ITC candidates struggled to apply their answers to some scenarios and the information at hand. As such, candidates often disregarded the context of the scenario and the answers addressed aspects outside the scope of the scenario. This was especially true of Paper 2 – which dealt with accounting and external reporting on the application of IFRS as well as management decision-making and control in respect to budgeting, break-even analysis, identifying variances that would be useful to calculate, capital budgeting, and risk identification.
These comments are significant, reveals Olivier, ‘because the most important competence the process is trying to develop in prospective CAs(SA) is becoming a life-long learner and therefore being able to respond, once fully qualified as a CA(SA), to a rapidly changing environment. While a certain amount of base technical accounting knowledge is important, CAs(SA) must be able to continue to learn and develop in their respective roles post qualifying.’
Detailed examiners comments can be found on the SAICA website (http://tinyurl.com/j9y6exs).
OLIVIER CONGRATULATES ALL CANDIDATES WHO PASSED THEIR ITC EXAMINATION
To all successful candidates, Olivier has the following to say: ‘Well done, ITC candidates. May the success that has come your way today lead you to a bigger achievement in the ensuing years.’
She also reminds them that chartered accountants are leaders; and leaders never quit.
‘Your CA(SA) goal is a marathon. In a marathon, everyone starts out equal and ordinary, but only those who cross the finish line at the end of the long journey can claim legendary status. Having passed the ITC exam, you have run more than half the race, but you are not done yet. SAICA believes that if you stay the course and complete your training contract, as well as the professional programme and pass your final qualifying examination, the Assessment of Professional Competence, you will realise your dreams.’
AUTHOR |Karin Iten is Project Manager: Communication at SAICA