ACCA vs CIMA: Choosing Your Accounting Path

by Eduyush Team

A Comprehensive Guide to ACCA vs CIMA

Deciding between ACCA vs CIMA? Explore key differences in qualifications, career paths, exam structures, and global recognition to make an informed choice

The accounting and finance industry is rapidly evolving and becoming more complex daily. As a result, the demand for qualified professionals with an in-depth understanding of the industry is increasing. This has led to the emergence of two leading professional qualifications – the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Both qualifications are globally recognised and provide excellent career opportunities for those pursuing a career in the accounting and finance industry. But what are the differences between the two qualifications? Let’s take a look at a comprehensive guide to ACCA vs CIMA.

Overview of ACCA and CIMA

Understanding ACCA

ACCA is a globally recognized qualification that comprehensively understands accounting principles, financial management, auditing, taxation, and business ethics. It offers a broad range of career prospects, including public practice, audit, taxation, and financial management roles. With its widespread recognition and accreditation, ACCA opens doors to diverse opportunities in the global market.

Exploring CIMA

Conversely, CIMA specializes in management accounting, strategic management, risk management, and business analysis. It equips professionals with the skills needed to excel in strategic decision-making and performance management roles. CIMA offers a structured pathway for those aspiring to pursue careers in management accounting, business analysis, and strategic leadership positions.

ACCA vs CIMA, which should I choose

When comparing ACCA and CIMA, several factors come into play. While ACCA offers a broader scope covering various aspects of accounting and finance, CIMA provides a deeper focus on strategic management accounting.

We break down on the following factors and give you a comparison on each so that you can make a meaningful decision

  • Career objectives
  • Levels
  • Exams and pass rates
  • Skills I want to learn
  • Career Paths


Career objectives of ACCA vs CIMA

Factors to Consider ACCA CIMA
Career Focus Public practice, audit, taxation, financial management Management accounting, business analysis, strategic leadership
Areas of Expertise Accounting principles, financial management, auditing, taxation, business ethics Management accounting, strategic management, risk management, business analysis
Global Recognition Globally recognized, varies by industry and region Globally recognized, varies by industry and region
Flexibility Flexible exam structure and study options Flexible, focused curriculum
Networking Opportunities Extensive professional network and resources Extensive professional network and resources
Personal Fit Choose based on interests, values, and career objectives Choose based on interests, values, and career objectives


ACCA vs CIMA Levels

This table provides an overview of the qualification levels for both ACCA and CIMA, outlining the progression from foundation to final levels in each qualification.

Qualification Levels ACCA CIMA
Foundation Level Applied Knowledge Certificate in Business Accounting
Intermediate Level Applied Skills Operational Level
Advanced Level Strategic Professional Management Level
Final Level Ethics module and PER Strategic Level


ACCA vs CIMA exams and pass rates

This table provides an overview of the exam structure and pass rates for both ACCA and CIMA qualifications, highlighting the differences in exam format and pass rate variability.

Exam Structure Series of exams divided into different modules Exams testing management accounting, financial strategy, and business management
Pass Rates Range Around 30% to 50% Around 40% to 60%
Variability Pass rates vary for each paper and sitting Pass rates vary for each paper and level
Historical Trend Historically slightly lower pass rates compared to CIMA Historically slightly higher pass rates compared to ACCA
Considerations Rigorous examination process, high level of difficulty Challenging exams, comprehensive coverage of management accounting and business management
Importance Highly regarded qualification in accounting and finance Highly regarded qualification in management accounting and business management

What Skills do I want to learn

This table provides an overview of the key skills learned in both ACCA and CIMA qualifications, highlighting the areas of focus within each qualification.

Skills Learned ACCA CIMA
Financial Accounting ✓ Understanding accounting principles ✓ Management accounting
✓ Financial reporting ✓ Financial planning and analysis
✓ Preparation of financial statements ✓ Budgeting and forecasting
✓ Financial analysis ✓ Cost accounting
Management Accounting ✓ Cost accounting ✓ Management accounting principles
✓ Budgeting and forecasting ✓ Strategic planning
✓ Performance management ✓ Risk management
✓ Performance evaluation
Strategic Management ✓ Strategic business management ✓ Strategic planning and implementation
✓ Corporate strategy ✓ Strategic risk management
✓ Business ethics ✓ Business leadership
✓ Corporate governance
Business Analysis ✓ Understanding business environment ✓ Business analysis techniques
✓ Data analysis techniques ✓ Performance evaluation
✓ Decision-making frameworks ✓ Business process optimization
✓ Risk management ✓ Change management
✓ Project management
Audit and Assurance ✓ Audit planning and risk assessment
✓ Internal and external audit
✓ Assurance services
✓ Corporate governance


Career paths for both ACCA and CIMA qualifications:

This table provides an overview of potential career paths for individuals holding ACCA and CIMA qualifications, highlighting various opportunities in public practice, industry, public sector, and consulting roles.

Career Paths ACCA CIMA
Public Practice ✓ Auditor ✓ Management Accountant
✓ Tax Consultant ✓ Financial Analyst
✓ Forensic Accountant ✓ Business Analyst
✓ Financial Controller ✓ Finance Manager
✓ Partner in Accounting Firm ✓ Risk Manager
Industry ✓ Financial Analyst ✓ Management Accountant
✓ Financial Controller ✓ Financial Manager
✓ Management Accountant ✓ Business Analyst
✓ Internal Auditor ✓ Finance Director
✓ Financial Planning & Analysis Manager ✓ Risk Manager
Public Sector ✓ Government Accountant ✓ Management Accountant
✓ Public Financial Management ✓ Financial Analyst
✓ Internal Auditor ✓ Financial Controller
✓ Tax Examiner ✓ Finance Manager
✓ CFO ✓ Risk Manager
Consulting ✓ Advisory Services ✓ Management Accountant
✓ Financial Consultant ✓ Business Analyst
✓ Risk Management Consultant ✓ Strategy Consultant
✓ Mergers & Acquisitions Consultant ✓ Project Manager
✓ CFO ✓ Change Manager



Cost of ACCA and CIMA Qualifications

The cost of ACCA and CIMA qualifications varies depending on the country where the student is studying. Generally, ACCA and CIMA qualifications are more expensive in countries where the qualifications are widely recognised, such as the UK, USA and Australia.

  • In India, the ACCA qualification costs approx INR 150,000 to INR 300,000 depending on the exemptions you get.
  • In the UAE, the ACCA qualification can cost upto 14300 AED for all training materials and exams.
  • In Australia, the ACCA qualification costs AU$ 7,200 for the written exams and AU$ 7,400 for the practical exams. The cost of the CIMA qualification is AU$ 7,800 for the written exams and AU$ 8,000 for the practical exams.

Expansion of ACCA and CIMA Qualifications

ACCA and CIMA are continuously expanding their qualifications to meet the changing needs of the accounting and finance industry.

In recent years, ACCA has introduced new qualifications that focus on specific areas of accounting, such as financial management, auditing, taxation and risk management. These new qualifications have enabled ACCA to become a more comprehensive accounting body.

CIMA has also introduced new qualifications that focus on specific areas of management accounting, such as financial planning and analysis, corporate finance, business strategy and performance management. These new qualifications have enabled CIMA to become a more comprehensive management accounting body.

ACCA and CIMA Exam Preparation Tips

Preparing for ACCA and CIMA exams can be a daunting task. Here are some tips for preparing for ACCA and CIMA exams:

  1. Understand the exam structure: It is essential to understand the exam structure to know what topics will be covered in the exam.
  2. Make a study plan: It is essential to make a study plan to make sure you have enough time to cover all the topics.
  3. Take practice tests: Taking practice tests is a great way to familiarise yourself with the exam structure and to identify areas that need to be improved.
  4. Set realistic goals: It is essential to set realistic goals to stay motivated and focused.
  5. Get help: If you are struggling with any topic, it is essential to seek help from an expert.


ACCA and CIMA are two globally recognised professional qualifications that provide excellent career opportunities for those pursuing a career in the accounting and finance industry.

Although both qualifications are similar in many ways, there are critical differences between them. It is essential to understand these differences to make an informed decision about which qualification is best suited for you.

If you would need study resources for ACCA and CIMA. Do browse our ACCA books section & ACCA online courses.

If considering taking the ACCA or CIMA qualifications, follow the exam preparation tips outlined in this article. This will ensure that you are well-prepared for the exams and increase your chances of success.

Are you ready to discover the difference between ACCA and CIMA? Take this comprehensive guide to ACCA vs CIMA and start your journey towards becoming a qualified accountant or management accountant today!

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ACCA Exam dates. Questions? Answers.

The ACCA exam time in India is typically around 1:30 PM local time for centre based exams. In some cities, exams can also be offered at 9:30 AM

For remote exams, there are multiple slots during the day at 15 minute intervals.

There are four exam sessions per year for the ACCA qualification: September, December, March, and June.

Candidates have the opportunity to sit exams in any of these sessions.

Students must go to their myACCA login and book the exams directly.

As all exams are Computer based, students will be redirected to the Pearson exam booking window, where they will need to select their centre or remote times.

Exam dockets are sent via email and also available for download on your MyACCA login three weeks prior to the exam dates.

The ACCA exams are typically multiple choice or objective test questions, although some exams may also include written case study questions. The exams are usually held in a computer-based format, although paper-based exams may be available in some locations.

Yes, you can change the exam session or location after you have registered, but no changes can be done after the exam booking deadline date

If you miss an exam, you will need to re-register and pay the exam fees again. ACCA marks you as absent.

You will also need to wait until the next exam session to sit for the exam.

Yes, you can request a refund if you decide not to take the exam and have cancelled the exam booking prior to the exam deadline.

The refund will be credited to your ACCA account which you can use for your next exams.

If you need a refund back to your credit card, you will have to contact ACCA team.

The syllabus of ACCA does not materially change every year.

All amendments are done basis the September to June exam cycle.

As an example, in order to keep up with the latest changes in the accounting industry and business world, the syllabus is reviewed and updated on a regular basis. So although there may not be any major changes each year, there will likely be some minor amendments made.

It is best to review the latest syllabus on ACCA site prior to starting your studies.