IES 1 IES 1:
Entry to a Program

Introduction

Scope of this Standard
  1. International Education Standard (IES) 1 prescribes the principles to be used when setting and communicating educational requirements for entry to professional accounting education programs, while requirements relating to entry to the profession are covered by:
    1. IES 2, Initial Professional Development - Technical Competence (2021),
    2. IES 3, Initial Professional Development - Professional Skills (2021),
    3. IES 4, Initial Professional Development - Professional Values, Ethics, and Attitudes (2021),
    4. IES 5, Initial Professional Development - Practical Experience (2015), and
    5. IES 6, Initial Professional Development - Assessment of Professional Competence (2015).
  2. IES 1 is addressed to International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) member bodies. IFAC member bodies have responsibility for setting and communicating entry requirements for professional accounting education programs. In addition, IES 1 may be helpful to educational organizations, employers, regulators, government authorities, and any other stakeholders who deliver and support delivery of professional accounting education programs.
  3. IES 1 explains the principle of allowing flexible access to professional accounting education programs under the auspices of an IFAC member body, while ensuring that aspiring professional accountants have a reasonable chance of successful completion of professional accounting education programs. IES 1 explains: (a) reasonable chance of successful completion, (b) the suitability of entry requirements, and (c) different forms of entry requirements.
  4. IES 1 recognizes that entry requirements may vary by jurisdiction, due to (a) different pathways through professional accounting education programs, and (b) differences between various jurisdictions in governance and regulatory arrangements. IES 1 also recognizes that completion of a full, professional qualification is just one of a range of exit points from a professional accounting education program.
  5. Definitions and explanations of the key terms used in the IES and the Framework for International Education Standards for Professional Accountants and Aspiring Professional Accountants (2015) are set out in the Glossary of Terms International Education Standards (2021).
Explanatory Material
  1. Professional accounting education programs are designed to support aspiring professional accountants to develop the appropriate professional competence by the end of Initial Professional Development (IPD). They may consist of formal education delivered through degrees and courses offered by universities, other higher education providers, IFAC member bodies, and employers, as well as workplace training. The design of professional accounting education programs during IPD may therefore involve substantive input from stakeholders other than IFAC member bodies.
  2. IFAC member bodies have varying levels of control over entry requirements to professional accounting education programs. For example, in some jurisdictions entry requirements may be set by universities or governments. There are various pathways into the accountancy profession. For example, (a) traditional degree level entry, (b) gaining experience by working in industry, and (c) entry from the secondary education level. Moreover, different jurisdictions and IFAC member bodies will have different labor market challenges.
  3. There are a number of steps an IFAC member body may take to seek to meet its membership obligations. For example, this might be illustrated by a situation where a university rather than the IFAC member body sets entry requirements to a professional accounting education program. Here, the IFAC member body might work with the university to explain the purpose of the IES and communicate that compliance with its requirements would enable students more easily to be considered for membership in the IFAC member body.

Effective Date

  1. IES 1 is effective from July 1, 2014.

Objective

  1. The objective of IES 1 is to establish educational entry requirements to professional accounting education programs that are fair, proportionate, and protect the public interest.
Explanatory Material
  1. All IESs are designed to protect the public interest. IES 1 does this by dealing with entry requirements to professional accounting education programs, which are important to help individuals considering a career as a professional accountant make informed decisions about their education choices. These entry requirements also provide that access to professional accounting education programs is limited to those likely to succeed. Entry to the accountancy profession is safeguarded by IES 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, which cover technical competence, professional skills, professional values, ethics, and attitudes, practical experience, and assessment, and which are designed to ensure that members of the accountancy profession achieve an appropriate level of professional competence.
  2. IES 1 serves the public interest by addressing issues relating to the provision of sufficient numbers of high-quality aspiring professional accountants. It does this by setting out principles for entry requirements for professional accounting education programs that are neither too high (causing unnecessary barriers to entry to the profession), nor too low (causing individuals to believe falsely they have a likelihood of completing the education successfully). Such entry requirements may help with the efficient use of resources and assist individuals considering a career as a professional accountant to make informed career decisions.
  3. IFAC member bodies can contribute to efficient and effective career decisions by informing individuals considering a career as a professional accountant of the (a) technical competence, (b) professional skills, and (c) professional values, ethics, and attitudes expected of those successfully completing professional accounting education programs. Individuals are only able to make informed decisions when provided with the necessary information. IFAC member bodies may collect and analyze the data on an ongoing basis so that advice to individuals considering a career as a professional accountant can be based on reliable information. The information to be provided by IFAC member bodies may cover:
    1. Varying entry points to professional accounting education programs;
    2. Encouraging individuals considering a career as a professional accountant to commence a professional accounting education program only when they have considered their chances of successful completion;
    3. Pass rates relating to the qualification;
    4. Transparent information regarding the expectations and costs associated with professional accounting education programs; and
    5. Self-diagnostic tools such as competency maps setting out the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be acquired on successful completion of the professional accounting education program.

Requirements and Explanatory Material

  1. IFAC member bodies shall specify educational entry requirements for professional accounting education programs that will allow entrance only to those with a reasonable chance of successfully completing the professional accounting education program, while not representing excessive barriers to entry.
  2. IFAC member bodies shall explain the rationale for the principles to be used when setting educational entry requirements to stakeholders, including relevant education providers and individuals considering a career as a professional accountant.
  3. IFAC member bodies shall make relevant information publicly available to help individuals assess their own chances of successfully completing a professional accounting education program.
Explanatory Material
  1. Determining a reasonable chance of successful completion is a matter of judgment, depending on a number of factors. The intention is to (a) help individuals considering a career as professional accountant be as fully informed as possible when deciding to embark on professional accounting education programs, and to (b) encourage those providing professional accounting education programs to share as much helpful and relevant information as possible. The phrase may be understood differently by each IFAC member body as regards different professional accounting education programs. IFAC member bodies may set out the key factors for reasonable chance of successful completion, such that the entry requirements for any professional accounting education program provide individuals considering a career as a professional accountant with the necessary foundations to enable them to develop the required competence of a professional accountant. This may involve taking into account factors such as (a) the economic, business, and regulatory environment, (b) the prerequisite knowledge required, (c) the expected learning to be acquired, (d) the role of the accountant, and (e) any other relevant factors.
  2. The entry requirements may be justified with reference to the (a) technical competence, (b) professional skills, and (c) professional values, ethics, and attitudes needed to successfully complete a professional accounting education program. This does not preclude requiring a university degree, or the qualifications needed to commence a university degree. When setting entry requirements, the IFAC member body may consider whether they are appropriate in each case, and are neither excessive nor trivial. An excessive barrier to entry may include prescribing specific subject qualifications from certain institutions, or a minimum length of specific work experience. The purpose of avoiding such excessive barriers is to allow flexibility of access to professional accounting education programs, not to dilute standards either of professional accounting education programs themselves or of the accountancy profession. Rather, there is a range of entry and exit routes for professional accounting education programs, and different ways of achieving IPD.
  3. IFAC member bodies may adopt different entry requirements, because professional accounting education programs vary by jurisdiction and type. For example, some professional accounting education programs may have as entry requirements only a good level of numeracy and literacy. Conversely, the entry requirements of professional accounting education programs for certain specialized roles may specify that an individual must hold a university degree or equivalent.
  4. Aspiring professional accountants may have developed their (a) technical competence, (b) professional skills, and (c) professional values, ethics, and attitudes through various pathways, including work experience, study, or qualifications. The flexibility of pathways to professional accounting education programs in no way dilutes the rigor of that education, nor of the standards required of aspiring professional accountants to complete IPD. IFAC member bodies may reflect these different pathways by adopting flexible entry requirements that accommodate all those with a reasonable chance of successfully completing a professional accounting education program. The purpose of this flexibility is to allow broad access to professional accounting education programs; it is not intended to create different categories of professional accountant. An example of this flexibility can be found where an IFAC member body specifies a prequalification entry requirement (e.g., a university degree or equivalent), but allows direct entrance to its professional accounting education program for those without a university degree if they have, for example, a period of relevant practical experience.
  5. An IFAC member body may prescribe specific criteria used to determine that individuals meet the entry requirements to a professional accounting education program. These may include qualifications, courses, entry tests, or experience. Entry requirements may include the assessment of one (or a combination) of qualifications, experience, or other requirements deemed appropriate by the IFAC member body. This information could be made widely available by, for example, publishing it in the brochures for professional accounting education programs; or by including it on the website of the IFAC member body.
  6. IFAC member bodies can help individuals considering a career as a professional accountant consider their chances of successfully completing a professional accounting education program by encouraging them to consider the content covered, its level, and methods of assessment of the program.

 

Tools for Implementation

Overview

IFAC

Video - The Importance of Entry Requirements to Professional Accounting Education Programs

Why entry requirements are important? What needs to be considered? Relevant factors; and How professional accountancy organizations can help those considering a career in accountancy?

IFAC

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions on IES 1, Entry Requirements to Professional Accounting Education Programs

What are educational entry requirements? Why should IFAC member bodies set educational entry requirements? How are educational entry requirements set? What could an IFAC member body communicate and how?

IFAC

Video - The Importance of Professional Accounting Education and the Impact of IESs

What is professional accounting education and how does it differ from an accounting education program offered by a university? Why is professional accounting education important? How do the revised International Education Standards impact professional accounting education?

IFAC

Video - An Overview of the International Education Standards

What are the International Education Standards and what do they regulate? Who is the target audience for International Education Standards? What is their level of authority?

Implementation Support

IFAC

Guidance Paper On IES 1, Entry Requirements To Professional Accounting Education Programs

Recognizing the Context: Defining a Reasonable Chance of Success;  Determining the Explanatory Factors for Success; Informing Individuals Considering a Career as a Professional Accountant.

Perspectives

IFAC

What Do We Know About The Factors That Influence Success Or Failure Within A Professional Accounting Education Program?

The Eco-systemic Framework; Factors that Contribute to Success; Applying Holistic Thinking when Establishing Entry Requirements.

IFAC

Maintaining the Relevance of Initial Professional Development in a Changing World

The IAESB Personal Perspectives Series shares insights from board members, technical advisors and other key stakeholders.

Case Studies

IFAC

Illustrative Example on IES 1, Entry Requirements to Professional Accounting Education Programs

Illustrative example of a fictitious member body which highlights the factors that an IFAC member body may take into consideration when setting educational entry requirements.

Glossary

Aspiring professional accountant

An individual who has commenced a professional accounting education program as part of Initial Professional Development.

Assessment

Evaluation of professional competence developed through learning and development.

Assessment activity

Those activities designed to assess specific areas of professional competence.

Combination approach

A combination approach combines elements of input-based and output-based approaches.

Competence area

A category for which a set of related learning outcomes can be specified.

Content validity (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether an assessment activity provides adequate coverage of the particular aspect of professional competence being assessed.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Learning and development that takes place after initial professional development, and that develops and maintains professional competence* to enable professional accountants to continue to perform their roles competently.

Cooperative education

A program of education, generally leading to a degree, which includes alternating periods (e.g., terms, semesters, trimesters) of academic study and full-time work experience. This will generally result in additional time required to complete degree requirements.

Education

Systematic process aimed at acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, and other capabilities within individuals, a process that is typically but not exclusively conducted in academic environments.

Equity (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether an assessment activity is fair and without bias.

Face validity (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether an assessment activity is perceived to measure what it is intended to measure.

Financial statements

A structured representation of historical financial information, including disclosures, intended to communicate an entity’s economic resources or obligations at a point in time or of the changes therein for a period of time in accordance with a financial reporting framework. The term “financial statements” ordinarily refers to a complete set of financial statements as determined by the requirements of the applicable financial reporting framework, but can also refer to a single financial statement. Disclosures comprise explanatory or descriptive information, set out as required, expressly permitted or otherwise allowed by the applicable financial reporting framework, on the face of a financial statement, or in the notes, or incorporated therein by cross-reference.

The financial statements subject to audit are those of the entity, prepared by management of the entity with oversight from those charged with governance.

Firm

A sole practitioner, partnership, corporation, or other entity of professional accountants.

Formal education

The non-workplace based component of an accounting education program.

Good practice

Those elements considered essential to the education and development of professional accountants and performed at a standard necessary to the achievement of professional competence.

Information and communications technologies (ICT)

Established and emerging technologies, techniques, and processes used to capture, manage, transform, or communicate data and information.

Initial professional development (IPD)

Learning and development through which aspiring professional accountants first develop competence leading to performing a role as a professional accountant.

Input measure

An input-based measure focuses on the investment made in learning and development, for example, the number of hours an individual is expected to attend a course or the subject areas covered.

Input-based approach

An approach that establishes an amount of learning activity required for professional accountants to develop and maintain professional competence.

Intellectual skills

Skills relating to the ability of a professional accountant to solve problems, to make decisions, adapt to change, and exercise professional judgment.

Interpersonal and communication skills

Skills relating to the ability of a professional accountant to work and interact effectively with others.

Learning and Development

An ongoing process of developing and maintaining professional competence throughout the career of a professional.

Learning outcome

The content and the depth of knowledge, understanding, and application required for a specified competence area.

Monitoring

Systematic process of collecting, reviewing, and confirming the evidence that demonstrates professional competence has been developed or maintained.

Organizational skills

Skills relating to the ability of a professional accountant to work effectively with or within an organization to obtain the optimal results or outcomes from the people and resources available.

Output measure

An output-based measure focuses on whether the professional accountant has developed the specified competence.

Output-based approach

An approach that requires professional accountants to demonstrate, by way of achieved learning outcomes, that they develop and maintain professional competence.

Personal skills

Skills relating to the personal attitudes and behavior of a professional accountant.

Practical experience

Workplace and other activities that are relevant to developing professional competence.

Practical experience supervisor

A professional accountant who is responsible for guiding, advising, and assisting aspiring professional accountants in acquiring sufficient practical experience.

Predictive validity (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether the content of the assessment activity relates to the particular aspect of professional competence that it is intended to assess.

Professional accountant

An individual who achieves, demonstrates, and further develops professional competence to perform a role in the accountancy profession and who is required to comply with a code of ethics as directed by a professional accountancy organization or a licensing authority.

Professional accounting education

Education and training that builds on general education, and imparts (a) professional knowledge, (b) professional skills, and (c) professional values, ethics, and attitudes.

Professional accounting education program

Programs designed to support aspiring professional accountants to develop the appropriate professional competence by the end of initial professional development. They may consist of formal education delivered through degrees and courses offered by universities, other higher education providers, IFAC member bodies, and employers, as well as workplace training.

Professional competence

The ability to perform a role to a defined standard.

Professional judgment

The application of relevant training, knowledge, and experience, within the context provided by auditing, accounting, and ethical standards, in making informed decisions about the courses of action that are appropriate in the circumstances of the audit engagement.

Professional knowledge

Those topics that make up the subject of accountancy as well as other business disciplines that, together, constitute the essential body of knowledge for professional accountants.

Professional skepticism

An attitude that includes a questioning mind, being alert to conditions which may indicate possible misstatement due to error or fraud, and a critical assessment of evidence

Professional skills

Intellectual, interpersonal and communication, personal, and organizational skills that a professional accountant integrates with technical competence and professional values, ethics, and attitudes to demonstrate professional competence.

Professional values, ethics, and attitudes

The characteristics that identify professional accountants as members of a profession. They include the principles of conduct (e.g., ethical principles) generally associated with and considered essential in defining the distinctive characteristics of, professional behavior.

Qualification

Qualification as a professional accountant means, at a given point in time, an individual is considered to have met, and continues to meet, the requirements for recognition as a professional accountant.

Reflective activity

The iterative process by which professional accountants, at all stages of their career, continue to develop their professional competence by reviewing their experiences (real or simulated) with a view to improving their future actions.

Relevant ethical requirements

Those ethical requirements to which professional accountants are subject, which ordinarily comprise the International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants’ International Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (including International Independence Standards) (IESBA Code) together with any national requirements that are more restrictive.

Reliability (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether an assessment activity consistently produces the same result, given the same set of circumstances, quality or state describing whether a measurement approach consistently produces the same result, given the same set of circumstances.

Role

A function that has a specific set of expectations attached.

Specialization

The formal recognition by a member body of a group of its members possessing distinctive competence in a field, or fields, of activity related to the work of the professional accountant.

Sufficiency (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether an assessment activity has a balance of depth and breadth, knowledge and application and, combines material from different areas applied to a range of situations and contexts.

Sufficiency (of practical experience)

Whether practical experience has a balance of depth and breadth, knowledge and application and, where appropriate, integration of material from different areas applied to a range of situations and contexts.

The breadth of practical experience is affected by factors such as: nature of role; level of proficiency, prior level of formal education, national or local laws; requirements of regulatory authorities; and the public’s expectation for professional competence.

The depth of practical experience is affected by factors such as: the variety and complexity of tasks; level of supervisory and mentoring support.

Technical competence

Technical competence is defined as the ability to apply professional knowledge to perform a role to a defined standard.

Training

Learning and development activities that complement education and practical experience. Training emphasizes practical application, and is usually conducted in the workplace or a simulated work environment.

Transparency (of assessment)

In relation to assessment, whether details of an assessment activity, such as competence areas to be assessed and timing of the activity, are disclosed publicly.

Validity

Quality or state describing whether a measurement approach measures what needs to be measured.

Verifiable evidence

Evidence that is objective, and capable of being proven and retained.

Work log

A record maintained by an individual of the nature of the assignments and tasks completed, and of the time incurred in completing those assignments and tasks. A work log might also include documentation of competences developed as a result of completing work assignments.

Copyright © 2020 International Federation of Accountants. All rights reserved. Any person accessing this site agrees to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Description of Levels of Proficiency

This description of levels of proficiency supports the use of learning outcomes in publications on professional accounting education such as IES 2, 3, and 4. It provides descriptions of three levels of proficiency. These descriptions, together with the learning outcomes, provide information to help IFAC member bodies design their professional accounting education programs for a variety of professional accounting roles and specializations.

Level of Proficiency Description

Foundation

Typically, learning outcomes in a competence area focus on:

  • Defining, explaining, summarizing, and interpreting the underlying principles and theories of relevant areas of technical competence to complete tasks while working under appropriate supervision;
  • Performing assigned tasks by using the appropriate professional skills;
  • Recognizing the importance of professional values, ethics, and attitudes in performing assigned tasks;
  • Solving simple problems, and referring complex tasks or problems to supervisors or those with specialized expertise; and
  • Providing information and explaining ideas in a clear manner, using oral and written communications.

Learning outcomes at the foundation level relate to work environments that are characterized by low levels of ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty.

Intermediate

Typically, learning outcomes in a competence area focus on:

  • Independently applying, comparing, and analyzing underlying principles and theories from relevant areas of technical competence to complete work assignments and make decisions;
  • Combining technical competence and professional skills to complete work assignments;
  • Applying professional values, ethics, and attitudes to work assignments; and
  • Presenting information and explaining ideas in a clear manner, using oral and written communications, to accounting and non-accounting stakeholders.

Learning outcomes at the intermediate level relate to work environments that are characterized by moderate levels of ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty.

Advanced

Typically, learning outcomes in a competence area focus on:

  • Selecting and integrating principles and theories from different areas of technical competence to manage and lead projects and work assignments, and to make recommendations appropriate to stakeholder needs;
  • Integrating technical competence and professional skills to manage and lead projects and work assignments;
  • Making judgments on appropriate courses of action drawing on professional values, ethics, and attitudes;
  • Assessing, researching, and resolving complex problems with limited supervision;
  • Anticipating, consulting appropriately, and developing solutions to complex problems and issues; and
  • Consistently presenting and explaining relevant information in a persuasive manner to a wide-range of stakeholders.

Learning outcomes at the advanced level relate to work environments that are characterized by high levels of ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty.