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Didn’t Get the ACA Results You Wanted - What’s Next?

Posted by Kate Green

So, you didn’t quite get the ACA results you were looking for – what do you need to do now?

Well, if you are working for a firm with a strict exam policy and you expect your contract will be terminated, try not to worry as you do have plenty of options! Many top firms have been known to try and work around the policy for exemplary employees - there are several ways they do this:

  • Offer to keep you on without study support
  • Offer to keep you on but switching to the ACCA
  • Offer you another chance but without support for the resit(s)

I must say, this is very rare in my experience and it’s likely you could be on the lookout for a new role.

A common misconception is that you will easily jump from a Top 10 firm to another firm within the Top 40 but unfortunately, most of the firms within this bracket do hold similar policies. If they take you on, they will be massively contradicting the termination of many other contracts for previous employees – it just doesn’t work!

At this point, you need to re-evaluate where you are heading with your career because there are many paths before you that you may not have even considered before.

Heading to Industry

So, you have left a pure audit role within one of the largest brands in accountancy. This is the main key to industry because you now have the large brand on your CV to get you in the door. The very best thing you can do at this point is to move to a mid-tier or small firm, where you can pick up varied experience rather than just auditing a tiny part of a huge organisation. This is a very good place to be for you! If you're unsure whether a practice or industry role is right for you, we have provided everything you need to know to make this decision in Finance Practice vs. Industry: The Big Debate!

Running a Practice

If the practice life is your choice long term and you want to either become a Partner or start your own firm, realistically, it’s unlikely to be Partner at the Big 4 for 99.9% of auditors/ accountants. Your best path to Partnership is again moving to a mid-tier firm or a small firm and becoming more rounded.

Smaller client experience is essential when you are going out to pitch to work with smaller clients! I have advised candidates who have left a Big 4 firm to start their own practice to prepare to answer the questions - as a small independent retailer what can you do for me? You haven’t prepared a set of accounts before? Become varied.

If Partnership is your goal, read our 6 Top Tips for Making Partner!

Big 4 or nothing at all!?

Many candidates simply say to me that their dream is to work for the Big 4… Well, if that is genuinely the case, your dreams are not hindered by working for a mid-tier firm or better yet, a specialist boutique! 

Smaller firms are usually more progressive, if you move up quickly and specialise in a niche area – you still have a great chance of moving to the Big 4 providing the clients are sizeable and you have IFRS experience under your belt. 

Even if you go into a heavy accounts position, we are regularly moving strong accounts candidates from the mid-tier into Top 10 and Big 4 outsourcing divisions.

Corporate Finance or Advisory

Great news for those wanting this kind of experience - the mid-tier is the best ticket in!

Firms with Corporate Finance divisions at this level can provide you with experience on an ad-hoc basis and shape you for a move into a boutique or a large division in a top firm, as opposed to waiting for years internally for a move that may never happen! It’s the best possible outcome for you! If Corporate Finance is a route you are considering, read our specialist advice on what to expect and how to get there!

You just want to qualify!

Not decided what you want yet but want to qualify in a supportive environment? Well, good news! I have clients who shape study support to your preferences, let you postpone exams when needed and make it their mission to get you qualified. They do not treat you as a statistic that could be walking out of the door. We can get you qualified!

In Summary

Take a breath – some of the best candidates/ Partners/ Finance Directors I have met or worked with have had fails on the ACA. It’s an incredibly tough qualification and when you are leading a listed audit out in Basingstoke whilst sitting your finals – it’s a pretty tough gig!

Your career is not over, it’s only beginning and it’s time to go and get that experience you need to get anyway. If you would like to have an informal chat about what to do next or discuss semi-senior vacancies, I am always available to help!

For more information about this article, or to speak to Kate about your recruiting needs or Finance jobs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 02072696363 or



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