ACA Assurance Syllabus Information
The ACA, Assurance syllabus, is designed to equip candidates with an understanding of the assurance process and the basic principles of ethics. Learning outcomes should include the ability to contribute to the assessment of internal controls and to effectively manage assurance engagements including the collection or relevant evidence.
The ACA Assurance course is divided into four main syllabus areas with associated capabilities:
1. The concept, process and need for assurance
Candidates will be able to explain the concept of assurance, why assurance is required and the reasons for assurance engagements being carried out by appropriately qualified professionals.
A wide range of relevant capabilities can be assessed within the examinations which are reflected in the syllabus structure. Candidates may be required to:
a) define the concept of assurance
b) state why users desire assurance reports and provide examples of the benefits gained from them such as to assure the quality of an entity’s published corporate responsibility or sustainability report.
c) compare the functions and responsibilities of the different parties involved in an assurance engagement
d) compare the purposes and characteristics of, and levels of assurance obtained from, different assurance engagements
e) identify the issues which can lead to gaps between the outcomes delivered by the assurance engagement and the expectations of users of the assurance reports, and suggest how these can be overcome
f) define the assurance process, including:
1. obtaining the engagement
2. continuous risk assessment
3. engagement acceptance
4. the scope of the engagement
5. planning the engagement
6. performing the engagement
7. obtaining evidence
8. evaluation of results of assurance work
9. concluding and reporting on the engagement
10. reporting to the engaging party
11. keeping records of the work performed
g) recognise the need to plan and perform assurance engagements with an attitude of professional scepticism
h) define the concept of reasonable assurance.
2. Internal controls
Candidates will be able to explain the nature of internal controls and why they are important, document an organisation’s internal controls and identify weaknesses in internal control systems.
The syllabus is designed so that candidates are able to:
a) state the reasons for organisations having effective systems of control
b) identify the fundamental principles of effective control systems
c) identify the main areas of a business that need effective control systems
d) identify the components of internal control in both manual and IT environments, including:
- the overall control environment
- preventative and detective controls
- internal audit
e) define and classify different types of internal control, with particular emphasis upon those which impact upon the quality of financial information
f) show how specified internal controls mitigate risk and state their limitations
g) identify internal controls for an organisation in a given scenario
h) identify internal control weaknesses in a given scenario
i) identify, for a specified organisation, the sources of information which will enable a sufficient record to be made of accounting or other systems and internal controls.
3. Gathering evidence on an assurance engagement
Candidates are expected to be able to select the best methods of obtaining assurance evidence and recognise when conclusions can be extracted from data collected and know when to escalate a problem.
This module should prepare candidates to:
a) state the reasons for preparing and keeping documentation relating to an assurance engagement
b) identify and compare the different methods of obtaining evidence from the use of tests of control and substantive procedures, including analytical procedures
c) recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the different methods of obtaining evidence
d) identify the situations within which the different methods of obtaining evidence should and should not be used
e) compare the reliability of different types of assurance evidence
f) select appropriate methods of obtaining evidence from tests of control and from substantive procedures for a given business scenario
g) recognise when the quantity and quality of evidence gathered from various tests and rocedures is of a sufficient and appropriate level to draw reasonable conclusions on which to base a report
h) identify the circumstances in which written confirmation of representations from management should be sought and the reliability of such confirmation as a form of assurance evidence
i) recognise issues arising whilst gathering assurance evidence that should be referred to a senior colleague.
4 Professional ethics
Candidates will be able to understand the importance of ethical behaviour to a professional and identify issues relating to integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, professional behaviour and independence.
Core capabilities of the syllabus and possible assessment requirements are for the candidates to:
a) state the role of ethical codes and their importance to the profession
b) recognise the differences between a rules based ethical code and one based upon a set of principles
c) recognise how the principles of professional behaviour protect the public and fellow professionals
d) identify the key features of the system of professional ethics adopted by IFAC and ICAEW
e) identify the fundamental principles underlying the IFAC and the ICAEW code of ethics
f) recognise the importance of integrity and objectivity to professional accountants, identifying situations that may impair or threaten integrity and objectivity
g) suggest courses of action to resolve ethical conflicts relating to integrity and objectivity
h) respond appropriately to the request of an employer to undertake work outside the confines of an individual’s expertise or experience
i) recognise the importance of confidentiality and identify the sources of risks of accidental disclosure of information
j) identify steps to prevent the accidental disclosure of information
k) identify situations in which confidential information may be disclosed
l) define independence and recognise why those undertaking an assurance engagement are required to be independent of their clients
m) identify the following threats to the fundamental ethical principles and the independence of assurance providers:
- self-interest threat
- self-review threat
- management threat
- advocacy threat
- familiarity threat
- intimidation threat
n) identify safeguards to eliminate or reduce threats to the fundamental ethical principles and the independence of assurance providers
o) suggest how a conflict of loyalty between the duty a professional accountant has to their employer and the duty to their profession could be resolved.
ACA Assurance, Past Question Sample
A sample of past questions has been provided to give potential candidates a view of what to expect during examinations.
Which of the following best describes the concept of assurance?
Assurance refers to
a) An assurance firm’s high level of satisfaction as to the reliability of an assertion being made by one party for the use of another party
b) An assurance firm’s satisfaction as to the reliability of an assertion being made by one party for the use of another party
c) A user’s satisfaction as to the reliability of an assertion being made by another party
d) An assurance firm’s limited level of satisfaction as to the reliability of an assertion being made by one party for the use of another party
Which of the following is NOT a benefit of an assurance report on financial information?
An assurance report
a) Enhances the credibility of the information being reported upon
b) Reduces the risk of management bias in the information being reported upon
c) Attests to the correctness of the information being reported upon
d) Draws the attention of the user to deficiencies in the information being reported upon
In any assurance engagement there are three parties involved: the responsible party, the practitioner and the user.
In respect of given subject matter state which party
Prepares the subject matter
a) Responsible party
Gathers evidence on the subject matter
d) Responsible party
Q1 = B
Q2 = C
Q3 = A, E
Exams are computer-based assessments and are 1.5 hours in duration.