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Changing the Way to Assess Accountants' Professional Competence

April 28, 2011

The International Accounting Education Standards Board is proposing changes in how the professional competence of accountants should be assessed.

The IAESB, which operates under the auspices of the International Foundation of Accountants released a proposed revision of International Education Standard 6, Assessment of Professional Competence. The revised version if IES 6 aims to help IFAC member bodies and other professional accountancy organizations understand both the learning and development requirements for areas of assessment of professional competence, and their obligations in upholding the standards. The American Institute of CPAs is one of the member bodies of IFAC, for example.

IES 6 was originally drafted in 2004 and is probably due for a change, considering all the changes in the accounting profession in recent years. Currently the standard sets forth a number of requirements for a final assessment of a candidate’s professional capabilities and competence before that candidate is considered qualified. The revised standard also addresses elements that IFAC considers essential to assessing professional competence over the career of a professional accountant.

Mark Allison

Specifically, the new standard proposes a principles-based approach, detailing the requirements for the assessment of professional competence across the initial professional development and continuing professional development of an accountant;

It also proposes some principles of individual assessment that member bodies like the AICPA can use to assess professional competence—applied across various career stages—that should be considered “reliable, valid, equitable, transparent, and sufficient.”

Lastly, there’s a requirement that IFAC member bodies undertake a formal evaluation of the adequacy of competence of aspiring professional accountants prior to their admission to the profession and have a systematic process to verify whether professional accountants meet CPD requirements.

IAESB chairman Mark Allison put it this way in announcing the proposed standards. “An overall assessment of the competence of aspiring professional accountants before qualification is essential in sustaining public trust,” he said. “Professional accountants must engage in development and assessment activities to maintain competence throughout their careers due to a constantly changing work environment. The IAESB believes that the features of these proposed revisions, which demonstrate our desire to move to a more principles-based approach in standard setting, will be more useful to IFAC member bodies and other professional accountancy organizations, educational institutions, regulators, and other interested parties than the current approach.”

Comments on the exposure draft are supposed to be sent by July 28.

All in all, it sounds like the IAESB is taking a pretty competent approach in modernizing the standards for assessing professional competence.

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