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FAQs for the new Pathways Scheme

This page answers your frequently asked questions (FAQs) for Pathways to Membership.

Applicant eligibility

Who can apply

Eligible applicants must be able to fully meet all of the required six eligibility criteria:

1) You must be a current and fully qualified member from one of the bodies below:

* Individuals who joined HKICPA as members from the Association of International Accountants (AIA) before 01 June 2008 are not eligible to apply for Pathways.

2) AND you must have gained membership of that professional body through the normal education and training route (as opposed to through any kind of reciprocal membership agreement or advanced credit / full exemption arrangement),

3) AND you must have at least five years of full membership (completed in full by the relevant submission deadline date). Any time you spent as a student or affiliate (part-qualified) member of that body cannot be counted towards the five year requirement as you would not have been fully qualified during that time,

4) AND you are fully compliant with the continuing professional (CPD) requirements of your professional body,

5) AND that you are a member in good standing with a good disciplinary record and no outstanding complaints against you,

6) AND your application is supported by an eligible sponsor. This must be a fully qualified individual who holds full membership of a professional body that is an International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) full member body, and who is in good standing, is compliant with the CPD requirements of that body and who has a good disciplinary record with no complaints outstanding against them.

Do the five years of membership have to be consecutive?

Applicants need to have a minimum of five years’ full membership (completed in full by the relevant submission deadline date) but this does not necessarily have to be consecutive. This means that if you are a current fully qualified member but have taken a recent career break, you are still able to apply for Pathways as long as you meet the required criteria and have sufficient recent experience to be able to answer the Examination of Experience questions. However, if you have had an extended career break (eg, over the last 10 years), then you are unlikely to be able to answer the Examination of Experience questions as your experience will not be ‘recent’. Please contact us at pathways@icaew.com if you have any queries about career breaks.

I am a student/affiliate – can I apply?

Pathways is only available to fully qualified members from certain bodies who have at least five years of full membership. If you are a student or part-qualified member (often called ‘affiliate’) of one of those bodies, you are not eligible to apply as you are not a fully qualified member. See the Pathways website for full criteria.

I am an ACA student already with ICAEW – can I apply for Pathways?

If you are a fully qualified member of one of the eligible bodies, and also registered with ICAEW as an ACA student, then as long as you meet all of the required Pathways criteria, including having an eligible sponsor to support your application, then you are eligible to apply for Pathways. You will need to apply for Pathways using your existing ICAEW student number. It does not affect your ACA student status in any way.

However, you will need to think carefully about whether stopping your ACA studies and applying for ICAEW membership through Pathways is the right decision for you. You may need to consider:

  • The view of your employer
  • If you gained membership of your professional body through any kind of reciprocal membership agreement or full/advanced credit or exemptions – then you would not be eligible to apply for Pathways
  • If you do not have at least five years of full membership with your professional body as a fully qualified member – then you would not be eligible to apply for Pathways
I have an ICAEW student/member number already – can I still apply?
If you already have an ICAEW student/member number (eg, you are an ICAEW General Affiliate, student or holder of one of our qualifications such as the Corporate Finance Qualification or the ACA, and you meet the full Pathways eligibility criteria then you can apply for Pathways. You must use your existing ICAEW student/candidate/member number to apply for Pathways.
If I am not eligible for Pathways, how can I become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant?

Depending on your professional body, there may be other options for achieving ICAEW Chartered Accountant status, including the normal ACA study route. Please visit Join us as a member of another body for full details.

Why aren’t members from all bodies eligible to apply?

Eligible bodies are those where its qualification has been assessed and approved by ICAEW for at least 10 exam credits against the ACA’s 15 exam papers.

If a qualification does not meet these academic criteria, then it is not an eligible body for the Pathways route.

I gain membership of my professional body next year. Can I apply for Pathways then?

No. A key eligibility criteria is that candidates need to have been fully qualified with their professional body for a minimum of five years (completed in full by the relevant submission deadline date). Candidates are not eligible to apply for Pathways until they can meet all of the required eligibility criteria.

I do not currently work as an accountant. Can I apply?

An applicant must be able to meet all of the required criteria. This does not exclude a non-accountant from applying. As an example, you may be a lecturer or business manager. The key is that you must be a current member with an eligible professional body and be able to meet all of the required eligibility criteria. Full criteria can be found on the main Pathways website at icaew.com/pathways.

I gained membership of my eligible body through reciprocal membership, can I apply?

No. To be eligible to apply for ICAEW membership through Pathways, you must have gained membership of your professional body through the normal education and training route. This is a key eligibility criteria of the scheme.

If I fail the Pathways Examination of Experience four times, can I go back to studying/start studying for the ACA exams or will I be excluded from any further ICAEW study?

You would be able to start / continue your ACA studies.

I am a member of an eligible body listed but became a member using exemptions can I apply for Pathways?

You would need to go back to your body and ask them whether your route into membership was gained via ‘their normal education and training route’.

If I gain ICAEW membership through the Pathways route, can I gain reciprocal membership of one of ICAEW's reciprocal membership bodies?

You will need to check with the relevant body on whether they recognise ICAEW members who join ICAEW through the Pathways route for reciprocal membership as this may vary from body to body.

General questions

How long will it stay open / when will it close?

Pathways will remain open until further notice. It will be subject to an annual review to establish if it should remain open for the following year and if there should be any changes to the criteria.

Sponsor criteria

What does a sponsor have to do?

The role of the sponsor is an important one and they have several key responsibilities:

  • To confirm they know the applicant
  • To confirm that the applicant is of good character and there is no reason that they are aware of, why the applicant should not be admitted to ICAEW membership
  • To verify to the best of their knowledge that the information provided by the applicant in the application and in the Examination of Experience answers are a true and accurate representation of the work of that applicant.
  • In giving this undertaking, the sponsor acknowledges that ICAEW may report them to their professional body if it has grounds to doubt the validity of this statement.

To achieve this, the sponsor is required to:

  • Read the completed Examination of Experience answers of the applicant.
  • Review all/any other relevant supporting application documents.
  • Use their professional judgement to satisfy themselves that the information and answers that have been provided are true and accurate, and that the applicant is of good character.
  • Complete and sign the Sponsor Form (which the applicant needs to provide to the sponsor).

Anyone acting as a sponsor who is found to have testified in an inappropriate manner will be liable to investigation and will be reported to their professional body.

Who can be a sponsor?

Your application must be supported by one person who meets all of the required sponsor criteria. If you do not have a suitable sponsor to support your application, you are not eligible to apply for Pathways. See full sponsor criteria.

How can I tell if my sponsor belongs to an IFAC full member body?

A sponsor must meet all of the eligibility criteria including that they hold full membership of a professional body that itself is a full member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). You can check which professional bodies are full members on the IFAC website at https://www.ifac.org/about-ifac/membership/member-organizations-and-country-profiles.

My proposed sponsor is from an associate IFAC member body – can they sponsor me?

No. A sponsor must be a member of professional body that is a full member of IFAC. Any individual from a body that is an associate IFAC (International Federation of Accountants) member cannot serve as a sponsor for a Pathways applicant. View the IFAC website.

Do all sponsors need to provide a letter of good standing

All sponsors, except ICAEW members, must provide a letter of good standing containing all of the required points (see website for points that must be contained within the letter of good standing). ICAEW members acting as a Pathways sponsor do not need to obtain a letter because we can check on our existing records when they joined ICAEW, whether they are CPD compliant etc.

The letter of good standing must be submitted as part of the completed application of the applicant. The letter must be issued and dated within the three months before the submission deadline that the applicant is submitting at.

As an ICAEW member serving as sponsor do I need a letter of good standing

No. As your governing body we will check your eligibility internally so a letter of good standing is not required for the application. Our existing records will show the date you were admitted to ICAEW, whether you are CPD compliant etc.

How long does a sponsor need to know the applicant?

There is no time requirement for the amount of time that the sponsor and applicant need to have known each other. The sponsor must be able to confirm that the applicant is of good character, that to the best of their knowledge they know of no reasons why the applicant should not be admitted to membership of ICAEW, and is required to use their professional judgement to verify the information provided by the applicant within their application and in the Examination of Experience is true and accurate. Clearly, for a sponsor to perform these requirements and to countersign their name as part of the application, the sponsor will have to know the applicant well.

Can a family member be my sponsor?

A family member can serve as your sponsor – as long as they meet all of the required criteria.

Can a non-accountant be my sponsor?

If this individual is in a non-finance role (eg, lecturer / business development / procurement) but still meets all of the required sponsor criteria, then they can serve as a sponsor. If they do not meet the required sponsor criteria then they cannot serve as a sponsor.

Someone has approached me to be their sponsor – do I have to agree?

You do not have to serve as a sponsor just because an applicant has asked you to. The role of the sponsor is to confirm that the applicant is of good character, that to the best of your knowledge you know of no reasons why the applicant should not be admitted to membership of ICAEW, and you are required to use your professional judgement to verify the information provided by the applicant on the application form and in the Examination of Experience is true and accurate.

If you feel you do not know the applicant sufficiently well to be able to verify any of the above or are not comfortable with undertaking any or all of these requirements, you do not have to agree to act as sponsor.

Can I act as a sponsor for my friend? I have no working relationship with them, but can I sponsor them thanks to my personal relationship with them?

A sponsor does not necessarily have to have worked with the applicant or know the applicant in a professional context. However, the role of sponsor is an important one, and the sponsor is required to use their own professional judgement and confirm that the answers to the applicant’s Examination of Experience and any / all of the other relevant documents relating to their application are a true and accurate representation of the work of that applicant. If a sponsor does not feel able to confirm, or using their personal judgement, cannot satisfy themselves, that the application and Examination answers are true and accurate, then the sponsor should not serve as sponsor.

Anyone acting as a sponsor who is found to have testified in an inappropriate manner will be liable to investigation and will be reported to their professional body.

Is there a limit as to how many applicants a sponsor can sponsor?

In theory, a sponsor can support a number of different applicants. Where it is obvious that a sponsor is sponsoring multiple people (eg, within their team, within their organisation etc), then it would be acceptable for one sponsor to support a number of different applications. However, if a particular sponsor is seen to sponsor multiple individuals, and in which there is no obvious link between the candidates and the sponsor, then ICAEW can seek further clarity as part of the application verification process and investigate further. Any misrepresentation by sponsors and/or applicants is taken very seriously and individuals may be reported to their professional body on possible grounds of misconduct.

Can a Pathways applicant also be a sponsor for someone else?

Yes, as long as both meet the required criteria. However, if ICAEW suspects any form of collusion or misrepresentation in such a situation, it will conduct further investigations as part of the application verification process and can seek to inform the relevant professional bodies of the applicant and/or sponsor.

Examination of Experience

What is it?

The Examination of Experience is a series of questions that you complete in your own time and submit (along with your completed application and supporting documents) ahead of the specified deadline.

You need to complete the Examination to demonstrate that you are qualified by experience, and meet the appropriate standards for membership of ICAEW. You need to demonstrate the same professional skills as those that are examined in the ACA Case Study – the final exam taken by ACA students before being invited into membership.

The questions assess your past achievements, planning and analytical skills, ethical awareness and professional judgement, quality of thought and awareness of current and technical issues.

How long does it take to complete?

As per the examiner guidance document, at least two or three full days would not be an unrealistic amount of time to allocate to completing your Examination questions. It can however take significantly longer than you may originally expect. As an example: The Examination of Experience asks you to reflect on your achievements and experiences over the last five years and to use examples from this timeframe to answer the required questions. The act of reflection and the ability to select (and subsequently describe) suitable recent examples which sufficiently answer the questions can be quite a time-intensive exercise for many. With marks also awarded for effective writing style and good use of grammar as well as good presentation style, past candidates have told us that they felt they needed to revisit questions a number of times before they felt happy to submit their final application. However, for others, they may have suitable examples they want to use that are already documented as part of their annual work appraisal process or from a recent competency-based assessment process.

Each application also requires a number of essential supporting documents. This includes a letter of good standing from your professional body (and in most cases a letter of good standing is also required from your sponsor’s professional body too) – these letters can often take some weeks to obtain. Details of what is required on these letters can be found on applicant and sponsor sections of the Pathways website.

What do the Examination questions look like?
Eligible applicants need to complete the Pathways Examination of Experience. This is a series of questions which you complete in your own time, and they are based on your achievements and experience over the last five years. You can have a look at the questions, sample scripts and examiner guidance before you apply. Access the questions, templates and guidance.
Is there any advice on how to approach the Examination?

Yes, there is plenty of free advice available. This includes the Examination questions, the Examination template you need to follow, comprehensive examiner guidance, sample scripts and much more. You should make full use of these resources – those who do tend to perform better in their Examination of Experience.

How to approach the Examination - access the free guidance now

Confidentiality: Do I have to use a company name in my work example?

All answers are treated as confidential. However, if you prefer not to use (or are limited by a non-disclosure agreement or similar) to naming a particular company or client in your work example, then you can simply refer to them as client XX or company YY. However, if you intend to do this, you should add some context to assist the examiner. As an example, you could say: ‘Client XXX, a market-leader in the international automotive trade’ or Company YY, a local family-run business in the retail sector’ or similar example.

Attempts and re-submissions

How many attempts am I allowed?

All eligible applicants are entitled to a maximum of four attempts to pass the Examination of Experience.

If you attempted the Pathways Examination of Experience under the old scheme (at any point before December 2016), then these attempts will be counted as part of your maximum four attempt allowance. As an example, if you attempted three times (at any point before December 2016, you will now be eligible to submit just once at the new Examination of Experience scheme as this attempt would be your fourth and final permitted attempt at the Examination of Experience).

I reached my maximum of four attempts at the old Pathways scheme – can I now re-apply for ICAEW membership under this new scheme?

No. If you have already reached your maximum number of attempts at the Pathways Examination of Experience, (ie, up to a maximum of four attempts), then you are no longer eligible to apply for Pathways as you have already reached the maximum number of permitted attempts.

I attempted the Examination of Experience at the old Pathways programme – once in 2011 (as example). How many attempts do I now have?

All eligible candidates are entitled to a maximum of four attempts at the Pathways Examination of Experience. If you have already applied once before under the old scheme in 2011 (as per the example above), then as long as you are still eligible to apply, you now have three attempts remaining to pass the Examination of Experience under this scheme – as long as it remains open.

If you have failed twice before at the Pathways Examination of Experience under the old scheme (and are still eligible to apply at the new Pathways scheme), you have up to two attempts remaining at this new Pathways – as long as it remains open. If you failed three times before at the Pathways Examination of Experience, you have only one attempt remaining at this new Pathways – as long as it remains open.

What do I need to do for a re-submission?

Every time you re-submit, you will need to make a full re-submission, pay the exam administration fee of £260 and answer the questions you have previously failed at the Examination of Experience. Please note that all your supporting documents must be issued and dated within the three months before the relevant submission deadline date. You cannot use any previous or old supporting documents for a re-submission.

Late entries will not be processed. The submission deadline is 4pm (UK time) on the relevant submission deadline date. To avoid disappointment therefore, we strongly advise that you aim for your completed application to arrive with us no later than one full week before the specified deadline.

What’s involved in a re-submission is explained fully on the re-submission area of the Pathways website.

We do not recommend that applicants leave it too long between one re-submission and the next. Pathways is subject to an annual review on whether it remains open, so to avoid any disappointment, we recommend you re-submit at the earliest opportunity. Equally, if you leave it too long, you and/or your sponsor may fall out of the eligibility criteria.

I can’t remember which questions I previously failed. Can you help?

Yes. Please send us your name and candidate number (and if known the date of your last submission) – we can then email a copy of your previous Examination of Experience results and your examiner feedback letter. Just email us at pathways@icaew.com.

Do I have to use the same examples as before in my re-submission?

It is entirely up to you. The examiner feedback letter from your previous Examination of Experience attempt will contain information on which question(s) you failed and why. Most applicants, therefore, choose to revisit the same examples they have previously submitted and address the points that the examiner feedback has raised. However, it is entirely up to you. If you believe there is now a different example from within the last five years which better answers a particular question, then you are of course free to use a different example(s).

Can I get an extension to the submission deadline?

No. The online exam system closes immediately after the stated submission deadline. Applications that are received after the specified deadline will not be processed.

What does a re-submission cost?

Every time you attempt an Examination of Experience, you need to pay an exam administration fee of £260. This is non-refundable. This is payable when you submit your re-submission.

If I am successful at Pathways, do I have to retain membership of my previous professional body?

Under the Pathways scheme, ICAEW does not require you to retain your home body membership after you have become an ICAEW member. However, if you relinquish your home body membership, you need to ensure you are aware of the implications. You will need to take appropriate action where necessary. The implications could include:

  • Loss of your home body practising certificate – this may affect your need to acquire an ICAEW practising certificate before you engage in, or continue to engage in, public practice;
  • Loss of your audit qualification (AQ) this would affect your ability to act as a ‘responsible individual’ for audit and/or count towards the control percentage in a firm of UK/EU registered auditors;
  • Difficulty and/or delays in regaining home body membership should you require this in the future; and
  • Requirement to sit additional or entry exams with your home body should you need to regain membership of your home body in the future.

Submitting your application online

How do I submit my application?

This is done via the online exam application site using your existing (or newly created) ICAEW candidate number - see Pathways registration webpage.

Do not email or post your application to us as it will not be accepted.

Important: You must submit all the relevant documents in one go. There is no option to attach a few documents today, and then go back into your application and attach the missing documents on a different day. The system needs you to attach and submit all of the required documents together at the same time. To avoid disappointment therefore, we strongly advise everyone to submit their application at least 7 days before the scheduled deadline.

 
When can I submit an application?

You will need to submit all of the relevant documents in one go before the specified deadline. The system does not allow you to submit parts of your application on different days, or even at different occasions on the same day. You need to ensure all your application documents and payment have all been submitted together by 4pm (UK time) on the relevant submission date. The system cannot accept any late entries.

What do I have to include?

Each time you submit your Examination of Experience and related documents through the online exam application process, you must include:

  • Examination of Experience (part 1 and 2) – as  normal WORD document. Please do NOT attach scanned or PDF versions 
  • Letter of good standing – applicant
  • Letter of good standing – sponsor (where relevant)
  • Sponsor form – signed by sponsor
  • Pay £260 examination admin fee – payable online only
  • Any other relevant documents

Important: All of these items must be attached and submitted in one go. The system does not allow you to attach some items on one day and then go back into the system on another day (or even later in the same day) and attach the remaining documents. You need to attach all items in one go. You will not be able to submit an application without payment. The system cannot accept any late entries.

Timings and costs

How many opportunities to submit will there be each year?

The number of submission deadlines each year may vary. In most years, there are likely to be two submission dates, but this may be subject to change without notice.

In addition, Pathways is subject to an annual review including the consideration of whether the scheme will remain open for the following year.

If I miss the deadline, is it possible to apply for the Pathways scheme at a later date?

There are currently two submission deadline dates each year. 

Deadline is 4pm (GMT) on the submission deadline date. Late or incomplete entries will not be processed. Pathways is subject to an annual review regarding any changes to eligibility and also whether it should remain open.

What does it cost?

Every time you attempt an Examination of Experience, you need to pay an exam administration fee of £260. This is non-refundable. This is payable online when you submit your submission Your Pathways application cannot be completed without this payment.

If you are successful at passing your Examination of Experience, you will be invited to join ICAEW. To join ICAEW you need to pay the required ICAEW admission and membership fee (plus the practising certificate fee where required). View costs.

You are not entitled to use the ACA designation or refer to yourself as an ICAEW member until you have paid the required fees and been admitted into membership. ICAEW treats any misuse of these terms as a serious offence.

If you delay your entry into membership for more than 12 months (which for Pathways is taken as the date your exam results were released), there is an extra £100 (+ VAT where applicable) cost to pay and you need to supply additional paperwork including references from at least two individuals, one of whom must be an ICAEW member. Read more details on delayed membership fees and process.

Exam results

What are the exam results dates?

Please visit the deadlines and costs web page.

Can you tell me why I have failed my Examination?

If you fail an Examination of Experience attempt, the examiners provide you with information on which questions you have failed and why. Reasons for failing a particular question can include (but is not limited to):

  • insufficient evidence of your personal involvement
  • limited relevance of your example to the question being asked
  • the example is not clearly described
  • insufficient evidence of your example being in the last five years

You should use this guidance to help you revisit your failed questions for your future re-submission.

Can I get my exam paper remarked?

No. Each Pathways examination paper has undergone a comprehensive marking process by experienced Pathways examiners, which includes that your Examination will have been assessed by at least two examiners.

Invitation to ICAEW membership

What is the process for being invited into ICAEW membership?

If you are successful at the Pathways Examination of Experience, you will be invited to join ICAEW as an ICAEW member. To join ICAEW, you must pay the ICAEW admission fee and annual membership fee (plus practising certificate fee where required). You cannot refer to yourself as an ICAEW member or use the ACA designation until you have joined ICAEW (ie, paid your fees). ICAEW treats all misuse of these terms as a very serious offence.

How long does it take to get my ICAEW member certificate?

Once you have joined ICAEW ie, paid the required ICAEW admission and membership fees (+ practising certificate fee where required), your ICAEW membership certificate will be posted to you about eight weeks after the date you joined ICAEW. Please ensure ICAEW has an up to date record of your contact details at all times.

Can I delay my membership entry by a few months?

Yes, you can delay your membership entry for up to 12 months without incurring any penalties or extra costs. However, if you delay your entry into membership by 12 months or more (taken from the date your Pathways exam results were released), then you will need to pay an extra £100 (+ VAT where applicable) and submit a series of additional documents which include at least one reference from an ICAEW member who has worked with you for at least two years, as well as other required documents.

You cannot use the ACA designation or refer to yourself as an ICAEW member at any point until you have joined ICAEW (ie paid the required admission and membership fees). ICAEW takes misuse of these terms as a serious offence.

If I am successful at Pathways, do I have to retain membership of my previous professional body?

Under the Pathways scheme, ICAEW does not require you to retain your home body membership after you have become an ICAEW member. However, if you relinquish your home body membership, you need to ensure you are aware of the implications. You will need to take appropriate action where necessary. The implications could include:

  • Loss of your home body practising certificate – this may affect your need to acquire an ICAEW practising certificate before you engage in, or continue to engage in, public practice;
  • Loss of your audit qualification (AQ) this would affect your ability to act as a ‘responsible individual’ for audit and/or count towards the control percentage in a firm of UK/EU registered auditors;
  • Difficulty and/or delays in regaining home body membership should you require this in the future; and
  • Requirement to sit additional or entry exams with your home body should you need to regain membership of your home body in the future.
As an ICAEW member (gained through Pathways route), can I gain reciprocal membership of one of ICAEW's reciprocal membership bodies?

You will need to check with the relevant body on whether they recognise ICAEW members who joined ICAEW through the Pathways route for reciprocal membership as this may vary from body to body.