Competence-based approaches to the assessment of professional accountancy training work experience requirements: the ICAS experience.
Gammie, Elizabeth Black Anderson
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Most professional accountancy bodies’ qualification processes encompass three components: a prescribed programme of professional education, some form of work experience and a formal final examination to determine professional competence. IFAC (2003a) suggest that purely theoretical and knowledge-based education does not meet the needs of all employers. Thus professional bodies are encouraged to find ways to deliver and assess relevant competences in the most appropriate manner. Despite educationalists suggesting that performance measurements based on direct observation within the work place are more effective at measuring competences than traditional paper based examinations, assessment strategies within the accountancy domain remain conservative. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) was one of the first professional bodies to introduce a competency-based approach to work based assessment in 1999 and subsequently undertook a review of the process in 2004. The data collected for the review was undertaken by way of a questionnaire to authorised training offices, in depth interviews with employers and discussions which emanated from a Working Party which included internal ICAS employees, an academic and a representative from a large accountancy firm. This paper presents the findings of the review, discusses the pertinent issues in relation to work based assessment and outlines the changes that were made to the competency-based approach adopted by ICAS. It concludes with recommendations for future practice.