Exam failure in the accountancy profession
INTRODUCTION Every year approximately 7000 graduates enter three-year training contracts with chartered accountancy practices, with the wish to become members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. This figure represents about 10 per cent of the graduates seeking employment in the United Kingdom. Of these approximately 70 per cent will eventually become members of the Institute, the majority taking longer than three years to do so. To be eligible to apply for membership the student has to have completed a prescribed amount and type of work experience and, during the same period of time, has had to pass a series of examinations, these being Conversion (for the large majority who have not taken an accountancy degree) and Professional Examinations 1 and 2 (known as PE1 and PE2). The examinations are devised so that all of the subjects must be passed at the same sitting, although a marginal failure in one paper means that only that paper need be retaken. (This is known as a referral.) The student cannot move on to the next stage until the previous examination is passed, and there are time limits within which the examinations must be passed. Individually neither the examinations nor the work requirements are onerous; the difficulty lies in passing examinations while in full-time employment. Coping with these dual pressures means a period of considerable hardship for all students, however bright, and whether eventually successful or not.