IES 6 IES 6:
Assessment

Introduction

Scope of this Standard
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. IES 6 specifies requirements for the assessment of professional competence, while
  5. 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).
Explanatory Material
  1. 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.
  2. 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 stakeholders may provide substantive input into assessment activities.
  3. 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).

Effective Date

  1. IES 6 is effective from July 1, 2015.

Objective

  1. 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.
Explanatory Material
  1. 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
  1. 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.
Explanatory Material
  1. 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 configuration of the assessment activities during IPD may vary, and may include, but are not limited to:
    1. A single multi-disciplinary examination conducted by the end of IPD;
    2. A series of examinations that focus on specific areas of professional competence, conducted throughout IPD; or
    3. A series of examinations and workplace assessments conducted throughout IPD.
  2. 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:
    1. Written examinations;
    2. Oral examinations;
    3. Objective testing;
    4. Computer-assisted testing;
    5. Workplace assessment of competence by employers; and
    6. Review of a portfolio of evidence on completion of workplace activities.
  3. The types of assessment activities selected may depend on factors specific to each IFAC member body, which may include, but are not limited to:
    1. The remoteness and spread of geographical locations where aspiring professional accountants are based;
    2. Available educational and other resources of the IFAC member body;
    3. The number and backgrounds of aspiring professional accountants being assessed; and
    4. The availability of learning and development opportunities provided by employers.
  4. Factors relevant to determining an appropriate level of professional competence to be achieved by professional accountants may include, but are not limited to:
    1. The complexity and variety of tasks undertaken by professional accountants;
    2. The expectations of stakeholders (such as the public, employers, and regulators) relating to the nature and extent of professional competence;
    3. Specialized knowledge required by professional accountants working in particular industries;
    4. The level of professional judgment required to undertake an assignment or complete a task;
    5. The varied roles of professional accountants, such as the preparer of financial statements, tax advisor, or management accountant; and
    6. The complexity of the working environment.

 

Principles of Assessment
  1. IFAC member bodies shall design assessment activities that have high levels of reliability, validity, equity, transparency, and sufficiency within professional accounting education programs.
Explanatory Material
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. There are many ways that assessment activities can be designed to increase reliability. For example:
    1. The reliability of a written examination may be increased by avoiding the use of ambiguous wording in examination questions or instructions;
    2. 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
    3. 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.
  5. 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:
    1. Face validity--An assessment activity has high face validity if the assessment activity is perceived to measure what it is intended to measure;
    2. 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
    3. 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.
  6. There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase validity. For example:
    1. 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;
    2. 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
    3. Content validity may be increased if an examination covers more, rather than a few, aspects of the particular area of professional competence being assessed.
  7. 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.
  8. There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase equity. For example:
    1. Equity may be increased by ensuring that assessment activities rely only on computer-based technologies that are available to all aspiring professional accountants; and
    2. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. There are many ways to increase the transparency (of assessment)of assessment activities. For example:
    1. 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;
    2. 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
    3. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. There are many ways to design assessment activities to increase sufficiency. For example:
    1. 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
    2. 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.

 

Verifiable Evidence
  1. IFAC member bodies shall base the assessment of the professional competence of aspiring professional accountants on verifiable evidence.
Explanatory Material
  1. 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.
  2. Examples of verifiable evidence include:
    1. Certificates of successful course completion;
    2. Recorded outcomes of successful achievement in examinations; and
    3. A record of achievement provided by employers on competence achieved by aspiring professional accountants.

 

Tools for Implementation

Overview

IFAC

FAQs - Implementing a Learning Outcomes Approach Based on the International Education Standards

General Information; Design-related; Assessment-related; Governance-related.

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

The Value of Implementing a Learning Outcomes Approach

Learning Outcomes Approach: Purpose and Benefits.

IFAC

Guiding Principles for Implementing a Learning Outcomes Approach

Describes the guiding principles on design, assessment, and governance for a learning outcome approach.

IFAC

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.

IFAC

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.

IFAC

Information Paper, Development and Management Of Written Examinations

Developing the Examination; Management the Development of the Examination; Approval of Candidates; The Examination Writing Center.

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.

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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.