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How to Pass the ICAEW ACA Case Study Exam

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

This article offers advice on how to pass the ACA Case Study exam. Written by a multiple prize-winning ACA tutor who scored 92% in the Case Study exam and won the ICAEW prize for the highest score in the world, this is essential reading for any student preparing for their Case Study exam.

How to Ace the ACA Case Study Exam

The Case Study is unlike most other ACA exams as there is very little technical content to learn. Therefore, students who are used to memorising technical concepts and then ‘smashing out the question bank’ will be perplexed when they are presented with 40+ pages of advance information and a Case Study exam paper seemingly testing nothing they have learnt in their other 14 exams.

However, the Case Study is actually very similar to the other ACA exams in that the three exam requirements are always the same, as are the mark schemes. By appreciating the consistency in the exam requirements and the mark schemes, you can develop your exam technique to ensure that you tick all the 'boxes' on the mark scheme and complete your ACA qualification in style.

In light of this, we believe that there are 5 steps to Case Study success:

1. Understand how Case Study is marked

2. Understand what each of the three requirements involve

3. Understand what information is provided in the Advance Information (AI) and what is provided in the exam

4. Learn the Case Study exam technique which ensures that you hit all the boxes on the mark scheme

5. Practice mock exams to master your exam technique

Step 1: Understand how Case Study is marked

The Case Study marking process is objective: there is a set marking key for each requirement and if a student’s report includes a point which is on the mark scheme, they will get the mark. This is not like an academic essay where the examiner forms an overall opinion of the piece of work and then decides whether it is good enough to pass; the Case Study marking grid is rigid. Whilst it can be frustrating that making a valid point which is not on the mark scheme does not score a mark, it does mean that the marking process is very transparent and easy to navigate. Below is an example from a Case Study mark scheme to illustrate what I mean by points and boxes.

icaew case study results day

Step 2: Understand what each of the three requirements involve

As explained above, the three requirements are broadly the same in each Case Study exam.

R1: Analyse the financial performance of the company

R2: Evaluate a financial proposal

R3: Evaluate an opportunity or issue

The mark scheme for each requirement is also the same. This makes the exam fairly predictable.

By having a look at recent past papers, you will soon start see the consistency in the requirements and build an understanding of what each requirement involves.

Step 3: Understand what information is provided in the AI and what is provided in the exam

In addition to the exam requirements and mark schemes being in the same format every time, the AI is also in the same format every time (albeit a different business with different issues).

By working through past Case Study exams, you will soon start to see that the AI always has the same exhibits with very similar types of information e.g. industry background, prior year accounts, key customers / suppliers, strategic goals and risks. Similarly, all the exams include the same exhibits with very similar types of information.

Having completed the exam, it is important to mark it and reflect on what information came from the AI and what came from the exam exhibits. You will soon start to see that the majority of mark scoring points come from the exam exhibits rather than the AI. You will also learn which types of information in the AI tend to be rewarded in the mark scheme and where in the mark scheme they are rewarded, i.e. which box.

Step 4: Learn the Case Study exam technique which ensures that you hit all the boxes on the mark scheme

Having understood what the exam requirements are and how they are marked, you need to develop an exam technique which ensures that your report includes the points which are included on the mark scheme. Fortunately for you, we have developed an exam technique which does this and it has resulted in two students winning the prize for the highest mark in the world (90% and 92%), another winning a prize for the highest mark in their region (88%) and another achieving the highest mark in their firm (81%)!

Given the practical nature of exam technique, it is not possible to explain this in text so you can watch a free class here which teaches you exactly how to ace Requirement 1 and get a prize-winning mark.

Step 5: Practice mock exams to master your exam technique

By this stage in your ACA journey, you will already know that question practice is key to success. Having learnt the prize-winning technique, you then need to practice mock exams on your case study business under exam conditions so that you master the technique and sign off your ACA in style!

Need Help Passing the ACA Case Study Exam?

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About the Author

Kieran Doe is a Senior ACA Tutor at ACA Masters. Kieran won ICAEW prizes for his performance in Financial Accounting and Reporting, Tax, Financial Management, Audit, Business Strategy and Case Study. This is in addition to winning several prizes at university for various Accounting, Management, Business and Economics subjects.

Kieran’s tuition is based around the learning techniques and exam strategies which enabled him to win prizes for all the subjects he teaches. Under his guidance, several of his ACA students have also won ICAEW prizes.

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How to Master the ICAEW ACA Case Study Marking Key

Four blogs into the ACA Case Study and you might just start to think that I am slightly obsessed with this exam. The ACA Case Study is so different to any other of the 15 ACA exams that I feel there is so much to discuss for this exam. I was not planning to go into detail about the Case Study marking key. However, I have recently realised many who are independently studying or who are taught by different providers may not have all these details or the same level of understanding. In order to pass the ACA Case Study, you do really need to understand how it is marked . Today this is exactly what I will delve into.

You may also want to refer to the other three ICAEW ACA Case Study blogs:  ICAEW Case Study Made Easy ,  ICAEW Software Testing  and How Much Preparation is Enough? .

Table of Contents

Aca case study marking key terms, maximum marks and marking, different ways to fail the icaew aca case study, overall assessment criteria, executive summary (es), requirements – generic aca case study marking key, marking yourself, aca case study wrap up.

If you are unaware of the exam structure for the ACA Case Study exam, I would recommend reading the Made Easy blog before reading details about the Case Study marking key. You essentially need to know the report you are required to produce is split into an executive summary and three equally weighted requirements .

This will overlap with the ICAEW Case Study Made Easy blog where I have briefly touched on the marking key. The ACA Case Study marking key can be explained using the following terms: “ boxes ” and “ diamonds “, where boxes are skills assessment boxes (SABs). The meaning of these will get clearer as we go on but to give a quick explanation, the Case Study marking key is split into 40 boxes :

  • The executive summary has 6 boxes (2 for each requirement)
  • Each requirement (r1, r2 and r3) has 11 boxes
  • There is one final box for the overall assessment criteria

Within each box, there are diamonds /bullet points that you need to hit to get marks. The maximum mark for each box is 6 marks . Each box will have up to six “diamonds” that are up for grabs from your answer. For example, one diamond could be met by stating revenue increased by x amount/(y %) based on the case study numbers. This will make more sense once you start looking at mock exams for the ICAEW ACA Case Study.

The Case Study marking key is not completely straight forward. It is not one mark per one diamond. Here is how it works:

From the table above you can see you do not benefit from getting more than four diamonds as you will be capped at 6 marks . You may be in fact wasting time and time is definitely of the essence in the ACA Case Study even if it is 4 hours . However, it is difficult to know whether a point you make is a valid diamond or not so it is perhaps best to aim for 5 diamonds at most in each box of the Case Study marking key. 

What makes the ACA Case Study very different from the other exams is that there are  no predetermined correct answers . I have been told only after assessing the first say 100 papers are the diamonds and the marking key put together. You need to write what everyone else writes so state the obvious and work together when preparing beforehand! This ACA Advanced Level Telegram group (essentially WhatsApp without phone numbers) where you can connect with other students may help.

The maximum marks for the ACA Case Study is 240 marks . Remember, there are 40 boxes and the maximum mark is 6 per box. You may think as the ICAEW ACA Case study exam is 50% to pass , you just need 120 marks to pass. Again, the Case Study really is not that straightforward. 120 marks across the whole paper will not cut it. You actually need 50% in each requirement (including the executive summary) to pass. Getting 66 marks in requirement 1 but 20 marks in requirement 3 is a no go. However, this is not the only way to fail the ACA Case Study…

The below ways to fail which I will touch upon are less black and white than the 50% in each requirement criteria. This is a very grey area and is not nice for anybody in this position. I have come across candidates who have achieved 50% in each requirement and still failed. Below outline the other potential reasons why one could fail the ACA Case Study exam:

  • As mentioned, achieving  less than the overall 50%  pass mark.
  • Achieving  less than 50% in each individual requirement  and being deemed incompetent often. You really need to show you can produce a strong report to be on the safe side. In each requirement, you should ideally be getting over 50% competent grades (CC or SC) which means six or more boxes. Five SCs (30 marks) and the remaining ID/IC grades (6 marks) would get you above 50% in the requirement (33 marks) but may not be enough to pass.
  • Missing out parts  of the report. If you score above 50% in all requirements but have missed out 4-5 skills assessment boxes, you are likely to fail. There cannot be gaps in the report. A fail could also be for writing poor conclusions and recommendations throughout.
  • This exam is all about balance . If you have too many NA and ID grades, this could also be a factor of failure.

Essentially, the examiner wants to see that you can write a  complete and balanced  report. If you do not do as ICAEW say in this exam you will be punished and you will fail. This really is a grey area , especially as for those marginal scripts there is re-moderation to decide which scripts pass and which fail. It does seem quite harsh as surely getting 50% would be enough but examiners will only want to pass a good quality report. Further marking details can be found here from ICAEW and is definitely worth a read.

ACA Case Study Marking Key

This one box will look as follows (imagine the dashes are diamonds):

If you meet all four diamonds, you will show you are clearly competent and should get 6 marks.

The executive summary is essentially meant to summarise each of the three requirements and provide the conclusion and recommendations. It is at the start of the report so if somebody did not have time to read the full report, they would be able to understand exactly what is covered by reading the ES. The Case Study marking key for the ES is as follows. Note this is very generic and may differ case study to case study:

ICAEW in recent years have been very clear that you cannot simply copy and paste the report into the executive summary. The two must differ otherwise you will not score any marks and this could result in failure! Spot the difference below…

I will keep this much more generic and do all three requirements in one. Through these boxes you will need to demonstrate  that you can: assimilate and use information; structure problems and solutions; apply judgement and form conclusions and recommendations.

If you have not started any mocks yet, this may all look like gibberish to you. Trust me on this one, once you have been through a mock or so, you will be very grateful for the above tables. For the requirements, you essentially get two boxes for the appendices, two for each of the sub-requirements stated in the question and then two for the conclusions and recommendations. Keeping this in mind when you write your report is crucial to doing well.

If your ACA Case Study is marked by somebody else, I would highly recommend going through this yourself afterwards. This will really help you to understand what kind of points scores diamonds and which do not. You can also see where you are perhaps going overboard or not writing enough .

What I think is very beneficial about going through the Case Study marking key is that you will spot where things are in bold. You may have noticed this above. If “and figures” is written in bold, it means you cannot get the diamond without any numbers. Where I slipped up initially is that I was not including figures or sometimes comparative figures that were needed. You also sometimes must write the £ and % change to get a diamond. It really is worth going through this to maximise your diamond potential.

Hopefully this blog has stressed to you the importance of timings . If you get too many NA boxes, you are likely to fail. This means you cannot just miss areas out and move on but you do need to do it all . If you want help with your timings as well as planning sheets and help with requirement 1’s appendix, join my journey. I will be sending these out to you for free within a few days of joining.

Understanding the Case Study marking key is essential to do well in this exam. I can recall going through this for a full morning in college to make sure we really understood the marking key. If you do not have a solid understanding of this, as well as the different ways to fail, you may just do so. Hopefully this blog has been insightful and helped in some way. I would even suggest taking those generic marking keys into the exam with you so you do not miss anything out.

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Tax news in brief

Published: 14 May 2024


Hmrc publishes more guidelines for compliance (gfc).

GfC were announced in November 2021 as part of the review of tax administration for large businesses . They offer HMRC’s view on complex, widely misunderstood or novel risks that can occur across tax regimes. HMRC has published GfC5 to help taxpayers and agents manage risks in making a claim for CAs for expenditure on P&M. The guidelines identify areas where errors are commonly made, and set out a recommended approach for making a claim and keeping records. HMRC states that the guidelines do not represent a change in the law or HMRC policy.

IFS suggests ways in which IHT could be reformed

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published an article on options to make inheritance tax (IHT) fairer and to raise more revenue. The IFS notes that, despite a headline tax rate of 40%, the availability of reliefs and exemptions means that the effective rate of IHT peaks at 25% for estates worth between £3 million and £7.5 million, and declines to just 17% on estates worth £10 million or more. The article considers the possible impact of removing the special treatment of AIM shares, imposing a cap on agricultural and business reliefs and ending the tax-free passing-on of pension pots.

Exporters must move to the Customs Declaration Service

Businesses that export goods from the UK have less than three weeks left to move their export declarations from CHIEF to the Customs Declarations Service (CDS). Export declarations must be submitted through CDS from 4 June 2024. CHIEF will be closed from this date. Exporters not yet registered for CDS can do so here . Businesses already registered for imports do not need to register again for exports.

HMRC publishes VAT tertiary legislation manual

HMRC has published a VAT manual , which includes all VAT tertiary legislation, or “force of law” guidance, in one place. All of the guidance within the manual has previously been published on gov.uk. If you have feedback on anything that might have been missed or the way the manual is structured, please contact Ed Saltmarsh .

HMRC taxpayer education research

HMRC has updated its guidance on genuine HMRC contact to include a new research initiative. Taxpayers may be contacted by HMRC or People for Research to invite them to take part in a focus group to understand how HMRC can improve education for taxpayers. Taking part in the research is voluntary.

International tax round-up

CFE Tax Advisers Europe’s (CFE’s) news round-up for 6 May 2024 includes a summary of the OECD’s report Taxing Wages 2024 . The report compares labour costs and the overall tax and benefit position for a number of countries. Key findings picked out by CFE include that effective tax rates on labour incomes rose in a majority of OECD countries.

  • Tax Track podcasts
  • Tax news in brief 22 May 2024
  • HMRC consults on a change to the reformed penalty system
  • HMRC should delay plans for employers to provide more data
  • Special tax sites postcode reporting burdensome says ICAEW
  • ICAEW welcomes updates to HMRC’s standard for agents
  • Associated companies: a family affair
  • New tax year, new developments in R&D
  • Capital allowances: the curious case of camping pods

This guidance is created by the Tax Faculty, recognised internationally as a leading authority and source of expertise on taxation. The Faculty is the voice of tax for ICAEW, responsible for all submissions to the tax authorities. Join the Faculty for expert guidance and support enabling you to provide the best advice on tax to your clients or business.

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  • TAXline - monthly magazine
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  1. How to Pass ICAEW Case Study

    icaew case study results day


    icaew case study results day

  3. Case Study

    icaew case study results day

  4. How to Pass the ICAEW ACA Case Study Exam

    icaew case study results day

  5. ICAEW Case Study Nov 2021

    icaew case study results day

  6. The ICAEW Case Study

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  1. How to Pass ICAEW Case Study

  2. ICAEW ACA Case Study Course 2023: Introduction

  3. Efficiency Ratios and Cash Levels (AQA Paper 1 2020 Q19)

  4. ACA (ICAEW) Case Study Orientation July 2023

  5. ICAEW Annual Conference 2023

  6. ACA (ICAEW) Case Study July 21 Exam Debrief


  1. ACA dates and deadlines

    ACA Professional and Advanced Level exam dates, results dates and exam booking deadlines. Visit the Level 4 Accounting Technician page or Level 7 Accountancy Professional page for key dates and deadlines.. Exam system status. Remember to frequently check our dedicated exam system status page for all the latest exam updates which may affect you.

  2. Exam results

    The results of the ICAEW March 2024 ACA Professional Level exams were published here at 12:00 BST on Thursday 18 April 2024. Results are published directly to students. You can view a summary of exam statistics and the Orders of Merit using the tabs above. ... Student results letters are available on your training file from 17:00 BST on 18 April.

  3. Orders of merit

    Financial Management. Joint first place and the Howitt prize. Ewa Glit, Luton (Ernst & Young LLP) Holly Goodrick, London (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP)

  4. Exam statistics

    Exam statistics. The pass rates for the Professional Level exams are shown below. Exam. Sat. Pass Rate %. Audit & Assurance. 1,163. 76.4%. Financial Accounting & Reporting (IFRS)

  5. How to pass the ICAEW ACA Case Study exam

    Step 1 - write down how long the exam is in minutes. We know the exam is four hours long. This converts to 240 minutes in total. Step 2 - Take off 10 minutes from the total which is the time set aside to work out and write down your timings per question. This leaves 230 minutes of actual question-answering time.

  6. ICAEW ACA Case Study

    The ACA Case Study was an exam I had not heard much about in detail before my time came to prepare for the exam. I was always one to book annual leave to ensure I had enough time to revise for the exams, especially as I would sit three at a time.When asking my work friends how much time I would need to book off for the ACA Case Study exam they would state only a day or two.

  7. I got prizewinner for Case Study ACA and i'm so happy!

    Case study tests very little accounting knowledge other than the ability to calculate profit, margins and variances (very basic stuff). The entire exam is mostly based around your detailed knowledge of a 50ish page case study business, its industry , financial performance, wider context and media articles, its recent developments and customer/supplier base etc. Literally everything you can ...

  8. ICAEW Case Study Made Easy

    Always state "any changes in the assumptions will affect the results of the model" for any ICAEW case study - it is an easy, guaranteed mark! ... I thought I would also throw in a video of my final ICAEW exam day (Case Study) in November 2020 - I am sure many of you can relate to these feelings! Post navigation. Previous Post. Next Post ...

  9. How to Pass the ICAEW ACA Case Study Exam

    3. Understand what information is provided in the Advance Information (AI) and what is provided in the exam. 4. Learn the Case Study exam technique which ensures that you hit all the boxes on the mark scheme. 5. Practice mock exams to master your exam technique. Step 1: Understand how Case Study is marked.

  10. Insight from the examiners: Case Study exam

    Author: ICAEW Insights. Published: 03 Feb 2022. 2021 saw the first two sittings of the Case Study exam on the new Professional and Advanced Level exam software. The Case Study Senior Examiners tell us how it went and how future students can learn from the experience. For the first two Case Study sessions on the new exam software - House Pride ...

  11. ACA Advanced

    ICAEW workbooks, question banks and permitted texts. In addition to the OnDemand subscription price, you will need to purchase ICAEW's workbook and question bank, which are needed for every subject. The ICAEW's workbook contains all technical content that could be examined. These are available in an eBook format only.

  12. How to Master the ICAEW ACA Case Study Marking Key

    The maximum marks for the ACA Case Study is 240 marks. Remember, there are 40 boxes and the maximum mark is 6 per box. You may think as the ICAEW ACA Case study exam is 50% to pass, you just need 120 marks to pass. Again, the Case Study really is not that straightforward. 120 marks across the whole paper will not cut it.

  13. ACA Advanced Level

    The ICAEW Advanced level exams present real-life scenarios, with greater complexity and wider implications than the Professional Level exams. ... Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management papers are 3.5 hours while the Case Study lasts four hours. Exams are computer-based and have a 50% pass mark. Is your employer paying for your ...

  14. PDF Advanced Level Examinations November 2023

    Total 4,620 One Exam Passed One Exam. Advanced Level Examinations November 2023. Passed All candidates. A total of 5,741 students sat the November 2023 session. 9,417 exams were attempted in total, with 4,277 students passing all the exams they took. Exam combination Total. ALCS ALCR ALSM. First attempt 955 67 Failed all Failed all Two Exams All.

  15. Case study results : r/ICAEW

    Go to ICAEW r/ICAEW. r/ICAEW. I want to make a subreddit dedicated to the ICAEW professional qualification. ... BathroomImaginary696 . Case study results . Hello, does anyone know if there are any indicators on the ICAEW training file to know whether you've passed an exam before results day tomorrow? Locked post. New comments cannot be posted ...

  16. Tips and advice for case study? : r/ICAEW

    These can be useful to practise more exams on your actual case study if you want, but pricey unless you can split it between a few people. Most important thing is learn your case study inside out. Make lists of useful contextual points from it and read the example papers on ICAEW website for past sittings and the examiners comments. 2.

  17. E-marking Case Study

    Download the case study to find out how ICAEW: Moved their exams from a paper-based delivery to a computer-based delivery format without losing the quality of their exams. Ensured that there was no differentiation of structures between paper and computer-based testing during the transition. Achieved seamless integration with existing software ...


    QPRT, counsellor, principal or contact ICAEW. Call +44 (0)1908 248 250 or email [email protected] Getting online PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Provide an example from your day-to-day work experience to show how you meet each professional development skill. You'll need to evidence all 52 skills before the end of your training agreement.

  19. Case Study module study resources

    The Case Study exam will assess your understanding of providing advice on complex business issues in the form of a written report. The scenario may be based on a variety of different organisational structures or operations, and you will be provided with advance information ahead of the exam. The exam is four hours long and will consist of three ...

  20. Approaching the advance information for the Case Study exam

    Published: 15 Sep 2021. This guide is designed to help you understand how to approach the advance information for your Case Study exam. It will cover what the advance information is, what should you do with the advance information before your exam and tips for success. This series of Case Study exam resources will cover everything you need to ...

  21. Tax news in brief 15 May 2024

    The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published an article on options to make inheritance tax (IHT) fairer and to raise more revenue. The IFS notes that, despite a headline tax rate of 40%, the availability of reliefs and exemptions means that the effective rate of IHT peaks at 25% for estates worth between £3 million and £7.5 million ...