Data analytics software is here to stay

July 2021

ICAEW has introduced data analytics software into some exams, enabling students to interrogate ‘real’ client data and so demonstrate their interpretive skills.

Technology is and will continue to be critical to the work that chartered accountants do. The introduction of data analytics software is one way in which ICAEW is ensuring that ACA trainees are fully prepared to embrace the opportunities that technology can provide, while at the same time being mindful of the possible challenges and risks.

This move by ICAEW also helps to strengthen the link between the real world and the exam world; using tools and techniques which are used day in day out by chartered accountants globally.

The introduction of this software also helps to develop students’ core professional skills. When interrogating ‘real’ company datasets comprising many thousands of transactions, students will learn to focus attention on risky areas, question and interrogate data and interpret visualisations.

Embedding these techniques within exams ensures that ICAEW exams continue to reflect the current and future workplace and will help to develop judgement, professional scepticism and critical thinking skills.

“Data analysis has always been one of the key aspects of what chartered accountants do,” explains Adam Birt, Head of Qualifications, Strategy and Development at ICAEW, “and so we are enhancing this in our exams by providing students with the data analysis tools that they use in the workplace within the exam platform.

“In doing so, we can further train and assess them on exercising skills like professional scepticism and judgement. In addition to having to manipulate the data, they’ve also to question the origins of that data and be able to tell their client – or in this case the examiner – the story of what that data is telling them. So it broadens that whole skillset, and brings it much more up to date within the exam framework.”

Data analytics software now features in the Professional Level Audit and Assurance and Advanced Level Corporate Reporting exams. ICAEW has developed a suite of resources for students sitting these exams which can be found at including practice questions and datasets, walkthrough guides and videos.