Previously known as “Part I of the Qualifying Examination” or “QE1”, the Initial Test of Competence (ITC) is the standard setting exam written after you’ve completed a SAICA-accredited CTA (postgraduate year of study). The ITC assesses the core technical competencies - knowledge and skills - that you should be able to demonstrate at the point of completing your four year academic studies.
What is important to keep in mind is that the ITC is the culmination of your academic qualification process - which aims to develop your technical knowledge and skills - and the ITC assesses your ability to apply yourself using this acquired competence. This exam integrates the pervasive skills and qualities with these specific technical competencies developed through the academic period. The pervasive qualities you are being tested on include ethics and professionalism, personal attributes and professional skills, which are then integrated with specific technical competencies in:
• strategy, risk management and governance,
• accounting and external reporting,
• auditing and assurance,
• financial management,
• management decision making and control, and
• taxation.

“Acquiring and being able to demonstrate these competencies relate directly to SAICA’s vision of the CA (SA) being a responsible leader with a professional accounting background,” explains SAICA’s Senior Executive: Professional Development, Mandi Olivier. “The most important competence this process is trying to develop in prospective CAs (SA) is becoming a life-long learner and therefore being able to respond to a fast-changing environment. While a certain amount of base technical accounting knowledge is important, CAs (SA) must be able to continue to learn in their respective roles post qualifying as a CA (SA).”

The ITC can now be written twice a year, in January and June, with the second sitting being introduced for the first time in 2013. The additional sitting has resulted in a marked decrease in the number of repeat candidates, simply as a result of allowing exam candidates to write it sooner - and in some cases with additional support being offered.

There have been a number of changes over the past 7 to 10 years to various aspects of the ITC examination process, which have contributed to a better examination. Other changes include:
• Introduction of the open book policy, which allows candidates to underline and highlight as well as consult their reference books (Accounting and Auditing standards as well as Tax legislation) during the examination. This change moved the exam from one which favoured rote learning and repetition to one where application of embedded knowledge is essential.
• The introduction of half an hour reading time at the start of each of the four papers, which allows candidates to properly read and understand all the facts of the case study before being given the required section. Essentially candidates are able to re-read the scenario once they have received the required section, in addition to providing a written answer to the question.

Applying to write the ITC needs to be done online before the closing date. All information related to the exam is published on the SAICA website in the examinations section, along with a helpful step-by-step guide on how to register. This must be completed at least three months before the date that the exam is due to be written otherwise additional penalties are incurred. All information on entry fees is also published on the website. Late applications are usually allowed, subject to a penalty up to 14 days before the exam.

In order to pass the ITC, you need to display competence across all the technical competence areas, making the overall pass mark of 50% subject to getting a sub-minimum of 40% in three of the four papers. Should you fail, it is possible to request a copy of your answer book – within 140 days of the official publication of results, as all scripts are destroyed after five months – in order to assist with preparation for the re-write.

Once you have successfully got the ITC under your belt, it is important to remember that you are well on your way towards becoming a fully-fledged CA (SA), thereafter needing to fulfil your training contract requirements, complete a professional programme and pass the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

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