Saica’s exam pass rate increases

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic.
The pass rate for Thuthuka bursary students leapt to 87% from 54% last year. Image: Shutterstock

The pass rate for the first of the two professional qualifying examinations to become a chartered accountant in South Africa rose from 59% last year to 64% this year.

The University of Pretoria is once again the top performer, with a pass rate of 99% compared to last year’s 92%.

The University of Cape Town has seen its pass rate shoot up from 77% in 2020 to 91% this year and the University of North West from 80% to 93%.

University 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Pretoria 99% 92% 94% 92% 87% 92% 92% 97%
Cape Town 91% 77% 84% 91% 83% 81% 91% 93%
Johannesburg 82% 71% 81% 64% 82% 82% 84% 91%
Stellenbosch 95% 79% 87% 93% 85% 90% 79% 75%
Witwatersrand 87% 78% 84% 85% 81% 79% 91% 90%
North West 93% 80% 91% 90% 92% 84% 87% 74%

Source: University of Pretoria

This year 3 887 students wrote the first Initial Test of Competency (ITC) of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) and 2 507 passed. During the 2020 pandemic year 3 657 students sat for the exam and 2 149 passed.

The institute said in a statement that despite the challenges and negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students, many have turned these challenges into opportunities.

“These candidates had to overcome immeasurable odds to pass, and they lived up to the task,” Saica CEO Freeman Nomvalo said in the statement.

The University of Pretoria achieved a 100% pass rate for its first-time writers (169 students).

Madeleine Stiglingh, head of the Department of Accounting, said the pass rate for black, coloured and Indian students was an “unprecedented” 100%.

The overall pass rate for all first-time candidates at the different institutions was 70% – up from 68% last year, but down from 76% in 2019.

The University of Pretoria’s first-time pass rate of 94% on average over 15 years is one of the most consistent over time, the university said.

The national pass rate for this year’s first exam for all black candidates (1 899) was 52%. The overall pass rate for white students was 85%, coloured students 69%, and Indian students 63%.

The institute noted that of the 983 black candidates who passed, 314 are distance learning students from Unisa. The pass rate for the Thuthuka (bursary) students was 87% compared to 54% for the same exam last year.

Top students

The top 10 candidates passed their exam with honours, achieving more than 75%.

Top student Hanne Mertens and four more of the top 10 students are from the University of Stellenbosch. The North West University’s Christi-Ann du Toit was second and Meera Ranchod from the University of Cape Town was third.

Pass rate race gap a concern

Saica says it remains concerned about the gap between the pass rate of black and white students.

It is in the process of procuring the services of an independent researcher who will focus on a review of the full value chain to better understand the possible causes of the gap between different racial groups.

The researcher will, at the end of the research, present a report identifying the possible root causes and recommendations on how these can be addressed.

According to Saica students must obtain an overall pass mark of 50% and a sub-minimum of at least 40% in three of the four professional papers.


Robert Zwane, senior executive at Saica, says its education, training and examination processes are in line with international best practice, as outlined by the education and training standards of the International Federation of Accountants.

“These processes are also reviewed by our peer institutes for reciprocity purposes to ensure these standards are being met and maintained,” says Zwane.

Saica is accredited by the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (Irba), which undertakes regular and detailed reviews of the institute’s qualification process.

Zwane says Saica engaged one of its members and a representative of one of the international professional bodies during the course of last year to perform an independent review of the ITC and the second exam, the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) standard.

Of the 1 066 repeat candidates in April this year, 51% passed.

Nomvalo said candidates who will be rewriting the exam later this year should persevere and encouraged them to continue working hard and not to give up.

The sitting for the second exam is September 1 and 2 this year.



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You really don’t have to wonder why SAICA’s membership fees are among the highest in the world. Most of your R8k per year gets poured into an elaborate bursary scheme and the balance is spent on this:

“It is in the process of procuring the services of an independent researcher who will focus on a review of the full value chain to better understand the possible causes of the gap between different racial groups.”

yip-when everything else fails in Africa you lower the standards and play the race card.

Wow, that’s pessimistic! If you were one of the people that actually paid these membership fees, you’d know how much more SAICA offers its members, and our country at large.
If you don’t have the information to express a valid opinion, rather keep your opinion to yourself, please.

I would suggest SAICA’s AFS over the last couple of years as some good bedtime reading. Then for some added fun, take the total spent on Thuthuka and divide that by CA only membership fees and prepare to pick your jaw up from the pavement.

If you find R8 000 a year expensive, a mere R667 p.m. expenmsive, then you are a cheapskate. The average hourly fee in a small practice, averaged across all staff, runs @ R850.00 p.h.

Never once mentioned expensive. It is about perceived value. In other parts of the world the hourly rates are even higher but they have lower membership fees.

But do they known that good governance is?

That there is a discrepancy between the pass rate of black and white candidates is a concern. But there is a bigger issue at play with this profession. We are producing professionals who for the most part are overpaid, overrated I terms of their role in the management of a business and importantly, lacking in ethics and morals. How else can one explain the complicity of such professionals at Steinhoff and JCI..? I would support a course in ethics being included in their training as well as more stringent registration requirements.

And while we are at it, Australia does not require the auditing of a company’s financials by an auditor annually. I don’t know if they are any worse off than us when it comes to accounting related fraud..

And they have a shortage of accountants at present, which they advertised. The transition from CA(SA) to CA(AU) is a simple one.

You are wrong, and I quote;

‘According to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), a company (other than a small proprietary company), registered scheme (managed investment scheme) or disclosing entity (a body that holds enhanced disclosure securities) must have its annual financial report audited.”

Very similar to our setup. Companies with a certain public score only need a review done, while Close Corporations get away a simplified review.

Well done to all the newly minted Chartered Accountants!

And it is purely a coincidence that the pass rate improved in the year when we had an extensive ban on the selling of alcohol Well done, CAs:-)

Come on Dude, clearly it was the lack of hot Woollies chickens and the wearing of closed toe shoes that brought this about. And the fact that no smoke breaks could be taken. Honestly, a “researcher” born every day.

They are not yet CA,s : this is only the first exam !
The fact that so much attention is placed on race and that current standards have declined is why despite proudly being a CA(SA) ,U resigned from SAICA years ago.

No longer a serious qualification from a global perspective…

still overly paid… perception in the market is that CAs are good

The best manage to find work in the English speaking world quite easily.

Are we not creating too many CA’s. With the depressed economy, where are they going to find work?

In the 1970’s and 1980’s when you had to pass the board in one year, the two year malarky was introduced to get more through the board, pass rates rarely exceeded 60%.

SAICA controlled the number of CA’s entering the profession to actual number required. Todau we are creating more than we need, but never mind, probably 30% of this lot may just leave the country for greener pastures.

Fewer bean farmers, more bean counters. That’s South Africa today.

I always here how some CA’s are overrated and overpaid. And that some are real greedy crooks.

Which is true , But also true for any profession. You can’t say that because there are bad apples , that all apples are bad. At the same token some great CAs doesn’t mean all are great .

I always laugh when someone with a CIMA or SAIPA think they are at the same level. If you were , then you would have been a CA.

The reality is people fail along the line and the decide “audit isn’t for them” and end up with a CIMA or SAIPA accreditation.

CA (SA) is the worldwide gold standard , BUT our friends at SAICA are trying really hard to stuff that reputation up , by passing people and pushing numbers.

Well done University of Pretoria – impressive!
And well done candidates who passed. May you do the profession proud.

It is a great qualification and shows an ability to work damned hard.

However, IFRS has become a theoretical exercise. I can take the same TB and present three wholly unrecognizably different company AFS wherein all three are fully IFRS compliant.

Most young CA do not comprehend cash flow at all

Sadly that is the truth. I find that I am unable to do a simple du Pont analysis and come up with meaningful numbers on most listed companies.

But when there is gross manipulation of figures, the du Pont analysis, is a great indicator of manipulation. I applied to both Steinhoff and Hullets and garbage came out as well as inconsistencies between reporting periods.

The problem arises with “normal companies” and the obfuscation of IFRS adjustments in an attempt to strip them out.

Makes life difficult for an analyst.

Sounds like you also miss the good old Non Distributable Reserve. Any profit (or loss) that is not backed by tangible assets sits there.

I am very glad not to be an auditor, almost anything seems to go.

I never looked at Hullet but looked at Steinhoff for somebody in 2015/2016. Steinhoff was not a shock, Steinhoff was a trainwreck in slow motion for three years at least before. Simply look at how much of reported earnings in the run-up to meltdown was cash-backed. Most of it was journal entries, and a good portion of that with related parties like Wiese.

End of comments.




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