Level of Difficulty
When it comes to the difficulty of these programmes, it is worth mentioning that the worldwide exams success rate is (on average) below 50% for many professional qualifications such as ACCA, ACA, SHRM, CIA, CFA.
Success rates in countries where professional training is offered are higher because training is provided by specialised lecturers. As to the ACCA 'parts', the CIA, modules' and the CFA 'levels' (see the analyses of the programmes below), one could argue that their difficulty is justified by the following:
They are very practical. Many students have not dealt with many topics in practice. They had rather approached them only in theory in the framework of the university degree;
Many candidates that opt for such qualifications have not yet worked in the industry. A candidate can of course register before completing a University degree, or start before holding any formal title but best practice suggests that it is a good idea to combine work with studying.
Training is in a foreign language (for most countries - English) with new terminology that the students have not come across (e.g. due to the International Accounting Standards/Internal Financial Reporting Standards). In the case of CFA and CIA, the multiple-choice questions require quick analysis of each question and its choices (a few minutes are usually available). Some countries with large populations have justified discussion towards the creation of qualifications being offered in an alternative language (i.e. Russian and Arabic).
Each 'part' or 'module' or 'level' (depending on the programme) equals to the syllabus of approximately two-four university subjects. Some parts require 80-90 hours in order to cover the syllabus, whereas others require 60 hours.
In some professional qualification programmes students do NOT know their evaluators not even by name. In some cases (such as the CFA) they do not even know the pass-rate required.
Worldwide exams are the only evaluation method (many professional programmes do not include the writing of papers). Therefore there is no average mark in the programmes as would be the case with a university degree etc. Those who fail the exam must take it again.
High (or even unknown) pass rates. In the case of ACCA (British system) the threshold is 50% (see the glossary for differences in rating), in the case of CIA it is 75% and in the case of CFA the threshold is not disclosed, since it is determined on the basis of the worldwide average.
CPD requirement: Most qualifications require Continuing Professional Development credits also called CPUs (Continuing Professional Units) in order to ensure the value of the qualification, raise the standard of the title and update the title – holder’s knowledge and competencies.
In summary, professional qualifications have the following advantages:
• Worldwide recognition
• Harmonisation to international standards
• Distinguishes candidates in the labour market
• Practical use
• High-level specialisation
• Continuous updating/commitment
The question of previous work experience in professional qualification:
In order to obtain the qualification, one must have already worked for the time period set by the institution (usually two-three years, depending on the qualification). In all qualification programmes, work experience can be obtained either before, after or during the programme and it is not necessary to be obtained in a particular sector, as long as it is relevant.