Which ACCA exam is the hardest?

Which ACCA exam is the hardest?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a global professional body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification. To attain the ACCA qualification, one must pass a series of exams. These exams are widely regarded as challenging, with each module testing a different set of skills and knowledge. But, amongst all these exams, which ACCA exam is considered the hardest?

Different Stages, Different Challenges

The ACCA exams are divided into three main levels:

  1. Applied Knowledge: Basic introductory level. It consists of three exams: Business and Technology (BT), Management Accounting (MA), and Financial Accounting (FA).
  2. Applied Skills: More in-depth exploration of key accounting and finance topics. It has six exams: Corporate and Business Law (LW), Performance Management (PM), Taxation (TX), Financial Reporting (FR), Audit and Assurance (AA), and Financial Management (FM).
  3. Strategic Professional: Advanced level comprising two essentials – Strategic Business Leader (SBL) and Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) – and four options, out of which students pick two: Advanced Financial Management (AFM), Advanced Performance Management (APM), Advanced Taxation (ATX), and Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA).

It’s important to note that the perceived difficulty of an ACCA exam can vary based on an individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal experiences.

Which ACCA Exam is the Hardest?

While it’s challenging to determine universally which exam is the hardest, based on student feedback and pass rates, some observations can be made:

  1. Strategic Business Leader (SBL): Many students find the SBL to be particularly challenging due to its case study-based approach. This paper requires a combination of technical, professional, and ethical skills, and students must showcase their ability to make decisions at a senior level.
  2. Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA): The AAA can be daunting for those not working in an audit environment. The exam tests in-depth and detailed knowledge of auditing and assurance topics and requires practical application of this knowledge.
  3. Advanced Financial Management (AFM) and Advanced Performance Management (APM): Both these papers are seen as tough by many due to the depth and complexity of the topics covered. AFM involves intricate financial management scenarios, while APM covers various advanced managerial topics.

Factors Affecting Perceived Difficulty:

  1. Preparation Time: Not spending enough time on studies and practice can make any paper feel very tough.
  2. Relevance to Job: If a student is working in an audit environment, they might find AAA easier than someone who has never been exposed to auditing.
  3. Personal Strengths: Some people might be naturally better at numerical subjects, while others excel in theory-based ones.


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to which ACCA exam is the hardest. Different students have different experiences based on their backgrounds, preparation, and strengths. However, the Strategic Professional exams, especially SBL, AAA, AFM, and APM, tend to be highlighted often as challenging by many students. Proper preparation, understanding the exam format, and consistent practice are key to conquering any ACCA paper.

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