- International Education Standard (IES) 6 prescribes the requirements for the assessment of the professional competence that aspiring professional accountants are required to demonstrate by the end of Initial Professional Development (IPD).
- IES 6 is addressed to International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) member bodies. IFAC member bodies have a responsibility to assess whether aspiring professional accountants have achieved the appropriate level of professional competence by the end of IPD. In addition, IES 6 may be helpful to educational organizations, employers, regulators, government authorities, and any other stakeholders who support the learning and development of aspiring professional accountants.
- Within the IES, assessment is the evaluation of professional competence developed through learning and development. IPD is the learning and development through which aspiring professional accountants first develop competence leading to performing a role as a professional accountant. Learning and development is, however, an ongoing process of developing and maintaining professional competence throughout the career of a professional accountant, and so continues through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). During IPD the focus is on the achievement of professional competence. During CPD the focus is on the development and maintenance of professional competence.
- IES 6 specifies requirements for the assessment of professional competence, while
- IES 2, Initial Professional Development - Technical Competence (2021), IES 3, Initial Professional Development - Professional Skills (2021), and IES 4, Initial Professional Development - Professional Values, Ethics, and Attitudes (2021), specify assessment requirements relevant to their areas of focus within IPD; and
- IES 5, Initial Professional Development - Practical Experience (2015), specifies requirements for the assessment of practical experience.
- Definitions and explanations of the key terms used in the IES and the Framework for Professional Accountants and Aspiring Professional Accountants (2015) are set out in the Glossary of Terms for International Education Standards (2021).
- Professional competence can be described and categorized in many different ways. Within these IES, professional competence is the ability to perform a role to a defined standard. Professional competence goes beyond knowledge of principles, standards, concepts, facts, and procedures; it is the integration and application of (a) technical competence, (b) professional skills, and (c) professional values, ethics, and attitudes.
- During IPD, assessment may be undertaken by a range of stakeholders, including the IFAC member body, employers, regulators, licensing bodies, universities, colleges, and private education providers. Although the assessment of professional competence during IPD is the responsibility of IFAC member bodies, other substantive input into assessment activities.
- Professional accountants continue to engage in lifelong learning to develop and maintain professional competence relevant to their role during CPD. Changes in the working environment, career progression, or new roles may require that professional accountants increase their level of professional competence and acquire new competences. This is covered in IES 7, Continuing Professional Development (2020).
- IES 6 is effective from July 1, 2015.
- The objective of IES 6 is to establish whether aspiring professional accountants have demonstrated an appropriate level of professional competence by the end of IPD in order to perform a role as a professional accountant.
- Establishing whether aspiring professional accountants have demonstrated an appropriate level of professional competence by the end of IPD serves several purposes. It protects the public interest, enhances the quality of the work of professional accountants, and promotes the credibility of the accountancy profession.
Requirements and Explanatory Material
Formal Assessment of Professional Competence
- IFAC member bodies shall formally assess whether aspiring professional accountants have achieved an appropriate level of professional competence by the end of IPD, drawing on the outcomes of a range of assessment activities that are undertaken during IPD.
- To formally assess whether professional competence has been achieved, the IFAC member body may draw on the outcomes of one or more assessment activities that take place during IPD. The during IPD may vary, and may include, but are not limited to:
- A single multi-disciplinary examination conducted by the end of IPD;
- A series of examinations that focus on specific areas of professional competence, conducted throughout IPD; or
- A series of examinations and workplace assessments conducted throughout IPD.
- Assessment activities are those activities designed to assess specific areas of professional competence. During IPD, assessment activities can be selected to match the particular aspect of professional competence being assessed. Examples of assessment activities may include, but are not limited to:
- Written examinations;
- Oral examinations;
- Objective testing;
- Computer-assisted testing;
- Workplace assessment of competence by employers; and
- Review of a portfolio of evidence on completion of workplace activities.
- The types of assessment activities selected may depend on factors specific to each IFAC member body, which may include, but are not limited to:
- The remoteness and spread of geographical locations where aspiring professional accountants are based;
- Available educational and other resources of the IFAC member body;
- The number and backgrounds of aspiring professional accountants being assessed; and
- The availability of learning and development opportunities provided by employers.
- Factors relevant to determining an appropriate level of professional competence to be achieved by professional accountants may include, but are not limited to:
- The complexity and variety of tasks undertaken by professional accountants;
- The expectations of stakeholders (such as the public, employers, and regulators) relating to the nature and extent of professional competence;
- Specialized knowledge required by professional accountants working in particular industries;
- The level of professional judgment required to undertake an assignment or complete a task;
- The varied roles of professional accountants, such as the preparer of financial statements, tax advisor, or management accountant; and
- The complexity of the working environment.
Principles of Assessment
- IFAC member bodies shall design assessment activities that have high levels of reliability, validity, equity, transparency, and sufficiency within professional accounting education programs.
- Professional accounting education programs are designed to support aspiring professional accountants to develop the appropriate professional competence by the end of 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 the professional accounting education programs during IPD may therefore involve substantive input from stakeholders other than IFAC member bodies.
- The principles of assessment apply to individual assessment activities that are conducted during IPD. However, it may not always be possible to achieve high levels of reliability, validity, equity, transparency, and sufficiency for each individual assessment activity.
- An assessment activity has a high level of reliability if it consistently produces the same result, given the same set of circumstances. Reliability is not an absolute measure, and different assessment activities may have different levels of reliability. An assessment activity has high reliability if the majority of assessors, acting independently, consistently come to the same judgment, given the same set of circumstances.
- There are many ways that assessment activities can be designed to increase reliability. For example:
- The reliability of a written examination may be increased by avoiding the use of ambiguous wording in examination questions or instructions;
- The reliability of an objective test may be increased by undertaking an internal or external review of the content of the testing before it is finalized; and
- The reliability of a workplace assessment may be increased by selecting assessors who have comparable high levels of ability, and by providing them with suitable training to enable them to assess the task.
- An assessment activity has a high level of validity if it measures what it was intended to measure. Validity is not an absolute measure, and different assessment activities may have different levels of validity. Validity has multiple forms and includes the following:
- Face validity--An assessment activity has high face validity if the assessment activity is perceived to measure what it is intended to measure;
- Predictive validity--An assessment activity has high predictive validity if the content of the assessment activity relates to the particular aspect of professional competence that it is intended to assess; and
- Content validity--An assessment activity has high content validity if the assessment activity provides adequate coverage of the particular aspect of professional competence being assessed.
- There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase validity. For example:
- Face validity may be increased when assessing the competence of aspiring professional accountants to apply a particular accounting standard, if an examination includes a comprehensive and relevant case study rather than a simple case study based on incomplete information;
- Predictive validity may be increased for assessing competence in leadership, by relying on a workplace assessment of how well an aspiring professional accountant leads a team rather than relying on the outcomes of a written examination; and
- Content validity may be increased if an examination covers more, rather than a few, aspects of the particular area of professional competence being assessed.
- An assessment activity has a high level of equity if it is fair and without bias. Equity is not an absolute measure, and different assessment activities may differ in their level of equity. Equity can be improved when those who design assessment activities are aware of the possibility of bias.
- There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase equity. For example:
- Equity may be increased by ensuring that assessment activities rely only on computer-based technologies that are available to all aspiring professional accountants; and
- Equity may be increased by reviewing examination papers to remove assumptions relating to cultural knowledge that are not commonly shared by all aspiring professional accountants.
- An assessment activity has a high level of transparency when details of an assessment activity, such as the competence areas to be assessed and timing of the activity, are disclosed publicly. A high level of transparency is also relevant when considering the entirety of the assessment activities that are undertaken during IPD. Transparency is not an absolute measure, and different assessment activities may differ in their levels of transparency. Clear and accessible communications to stakeholders may lead to achieving a high level of transparency.
- There are many ways to increase the transparency (of assessment)of assessment activities. For example:
- In relation to the entirety of assessment activities that are undertaken during IPD, transparency may be increased by making publicly available a statement that explains the areas of professional competence to be assessed, the types of assessment activities included, and the timing of those assessment activities during IPD;
- Transparency may be increased in a workplace assessment when employers communicate to employees a clearly defined competency framework against which the employees' competence will be assessed; and
- Transparency in the setting and conduct of an examination may be increased by making information relating to the development, scoring, and management of the examination publicly available.
- An assessment activity has a high level of sufficiency if it (a) has a balance of depth and breadth, knowledge, and application, and (b) combines material from different areas applied to a range of situations and contexts. A high level of sufficiency is also relevant when considering the entirety of the assessment activities that are undertaken during IPD. Sufficiency is not an absolute measure, and different assessment activities may differ in their levels of sufficiency.
- There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase sufficiency. For example:
- Sufficiency may be increased across IPD by including assessment activities that assess the required (i) technical competence, (ii) professional skills, (iii) and professional values, ethics, and attitudes (breadth) at the appropriate level of detail (depth); and
- Sufficiency in relation to a workplace assessment may be increased by requiring aspiring professional accountants to demonstrate professional competence across a wide range of professional skills, and professional values, ethics, and attitudes that are applied to many different situations.
- IFAC member bodies shall base the assessment of the professional competence of aspiring professional accountants on verifiable evidence.
- Verifiable evidence is evidence that is objective, and capable of being proven and retained. Basing the assessment of professional competence on verifiable evidence may satisfy the needs of third parties who oversee or regulate an IFAC member body. It will also increase the confidence of stakeholders that aspiring professional accountants have achieved the appropriate level of professional competence by the end of IPD.
- Examples of verifiable evidence include:
- Certificates of successful course completion;
- Recorded outcomes of successful achievement in examinations; and
- A record of achievement provided by employers on competence achieved by aspiring professional accountants.
Tools for Implementation
General Information; Design-related; Assessment-related; Governance-related.
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?
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?
Learning Outcomes Approach: Purpose and Benefits.
Describes the guiding principles on design, assessment, and governance for a learning outcome approach.
Illustrative Example for Designing Learning Outcomes for Curricula that Meet Public Sector Accountancy Needs
The example illustrates the design principle for a learning outcome approach in the context of public sector accountancy and assists in the preparation of related public sector curricula.
Illustrative Example: Setting and Marking Examinations in a Professional Accounting Education Program
The example explains how to use assessment activities in examining learning objectives for a relevant competence area.
Developing the Examination; Management the Development of the Examination; Approval of Candidates; The Examination Writing Center.