Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels.
Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels.
  • The pass rate for the chartered accountant exam is the worst in six years, with only 57% of candidates passing the exam. 
  • 56 fewer candidates passed the exam compared to the previous exam, despite 523 more people writing the exam. 
  • Deloitte, however, delivered the most top performers, double the number than its closest competitor. 
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa's home page.

Only 57% of the candidates who wrote the South African chartered accountant evaluations, or  Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), in November 2019 passed the exam, compared to 68% in 2018. 

One audit firm, however, delivered the highest number of top-performing students, nearly double the number than its closest competitor. 

The November 2019 APC results are the worst pass rate in six years, even worse than the 2018 results which were considered one of the poorest results in recent years. 

Only 2,024 of the 3,560 candidates who completed the exam passed, compared to 2,080 out of 3,037 candidates in 2018. 

Freeman Nomvalo, South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) CEO, explained that the exam requires aspirant chartered accountants (CAs) to apply their technical academic knowledge to a complex real-life business case study.

“To pass, candidates must demonstrate high levels of the skills employers have told us they want in the next generation of CAs,” Nomvalo said. 

He said the exam requires advanced levels of critical thinking, the ability to work with technology, and the capacity to assimilate new information under pressure over a five-day period which culminates in one eight-hour assessment. 

“It’s gruelling but it’s exactly the kind of challenge successful candidates will soon face as qualified CAs,” Nomvalo said. 

Auditing firm Deloitte delivered four of the top twelve candidates who wrote the exams, compared to its closest competitors E&Y and PwC who both delivered two top candidates. 

KPMG, who delivered the most top candidates in 2018, only produced one top candidate in the 2019 exams. 

KPMG has been implicated in various auditing scandals for work relating to Gupta-related entities, the South African Revenue Service and VBS.

Nomvalo said while the SAICA is encouraged to see more black male and female completing the APC examinations, it is concerned about the decline in the overall pass rate. 

Only 43% of the 1,639 black candidates who wrote the 2019 exam passed it, compared to 48% of the 1,219 candidates in 2018. 

The number of successful black graduates, however, increased from 638 in 2018 to 934 in 2019. 

73% of the 1,216 white candidates passed, compared to 86% of the 1,142 white candidates in 2018. 

Nomvalo said the SAICA transformation efforts have seen black membership under the age of 35 increase significantly from 3% in 2002 to 25% in 2020.

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