You can’t do CTA again, what now?

Table of Contents

UNISA’s CTA ‘Three attempts’ rule

UNISA’s 2019 CTA information

UNISA – Repeating CTA

Note: Point 1 in the link above states “In terms of the academic progression rules there is no so-called revert-and-repeat option”

2018 is the first year that UNISA has instituted the ‘CTA Three Attempts’ rule, you’re out” rule for students studying CTA. That means that 2019 will be the first year that they apply this. Whether they will strictly adhere to this rule, or ‘bend’ it for different circumstances, or even change it in the future… no one knows. I wouldn’t rely on this as a ‘plan’ though.

In the information UNISA has given they do state that this doesn’t mean that other universities won’t accept you for their CTA programme, so there is the option of applying to other CTA-accredited institutions. Whether these institutions will accept your application, (if you’ve failed three times at UNISA) is the question. Some of them may adopt policies to deal with this, others may consider applications based on individual circumstances, or accept applications if they need to ‘fill numbers’. Keep in mind that each CTA-accredited institution wants to make sure that their CTA pass rates are up to SAICA’s expectations, and that their CTA candidates are able and prepared to write ITC, so you may be a little further down the list of ‘desired’ students if you’ve had three unsuccessful attempts already. Your only option here is to apply, if you really want to, and wait for their response!

If you don’t successfully register for CTA, then yes, your CA(SA) dream has probably come to an end. You have to write ITC, which means you have to have passed CTA. If you can’t write CTA, you can’t pass CTA.

Why I’m proud of my students who fail

You can’t do CTA, now what?

‘Chartered Accountant’ is a qualification, not a job title

A lot of accounting students don’t really think about the fact that CA(SA) is a QUALIFICATION… NOT A JOB TITLE! This is HUGELY important, and for you, it’s crucial that you start really thinking about this. Students always dream of being CA’s… but “Chartered Accountant” isn’t a job description. You don’t ‘do’ Chartered Accounting! There are tons of jobs that CA’s are QUALIFIED to do… which is where the appeal of the CA qualification lies… BUT… for someone who knows what they want to DO… there are generally other ways to get to their dream job.

So… now is the time for you to ask “What do I want to DO?!”; “What’s my dream JOB?” “What do I want to spend my days working on and with?!” THIS is a seriously broad range of skills and jobs… bookkeeping, accounting, financial reporting, management accounting, taxation, financial management, finance and investment, corporate finance, consulting, internal auditing, external auditing, entrepreneurship… the list is endless! And very few of them have CA(SA) as the ONLY qualification requirement. (External Auditing being an exception… but I doubt that many people want to be auditors, seriously few CA’s want to practice Auditing beyond their qualification).

So… with your work, life and study experience that you’ve collected so far… what do you feel drawn to? What are you passionate about doing? What do you love? Hate? What interests you? What do you want to build on, stay away from?

Have you really thought of your dream ‘job’ before now?

What do you want to DO with your career?

This is a question you’ll be facing the day you qualify anyway. You’re moving the question and challenge forward… but you’ll be faced with the same thing. Once you have those letters behind your name… you’ll have to decide what ‘job’ you want to do, where you want to work etc. THIS needs to be the basis of any decision you make next.

You’re alone in that decision, and there’s no ‘guarantee’ that you’ll make the ‘right’ decision to guarantee success. People cling to the CA route like a security blanket. “As long as I get those letters behind my name, I’ll get great jobs and be successful”, but that’s ridiculous, because you still have to be the one deciding WHICH jobs to pursue, which industry, which specialisations, which levels, with or without those letters.

Don’t make ‘rebound’ qualification decisions

So, you may have had your ‘security blanket’ ripped away from you, the time has come for you to look at the ‘real world’, and decide for yourself where you want to go, what you want to do… and then work back from there to the qualification / studies / work experience you’ll need in order to make that happen.

You may not need to study anything else, or not right away.

In fact, I’d advise you not to jump into another qualification path too soon. It’s like ending a long-term relationship. There’s a really big risk of rebound decision-making. You’re so used to having a formal path to qualification, to having an ‘organisation’ tell you what to do to become successful, that you may want to find another ‘security blanket’ as soon as possible. We know we shouldn’t jump into another relationship too soon after ending one. You need to find yourself again, reassess your priorities, stage of life, emotions etc, in order to make good decisions going forward. This is the same. You’ve been HEAVILY invested in this process for a lot of years, you need some time and perspective before rushing into something else.

Until you’ve done some soul-searching, job research and qualification research, working BACKWARDS from what you actually want to do… you probably shouldn’t be committing to anything. Pick your studies based on what will get you to your goal.

CA(SA) students aren’t used to making decisions like this

These are incredibly tough questions for accounting students. Interestingly… for all the dedication and ‘goal-driven’ traits that CA(SA) students show… they’re not actually great at setting their own goals.

The Chartered Accountant requirements are very narrow to follow. Your subjects, work experience are all decided for you, and most see the qualification as a guarantee of success. So you’re safe in your decision, and you don’t need to constantly interrogate this.

The process is extremely tough, but there is a sense of comfort from the fact that the choices about WHAT to study, and whether it will be a good decision, are pretty much made for you. You ‘just’ need to get through the tough process of passing!

Once you qualify… or if you move off the CA(SA)-route… only THEN are you left to yourself to decide what you WANT to pursue. That’s a whole new set of challenges that a lot of newly-qualified CA(SA)’s find, that they’ didn’t expect!

Most other less-defined careers force you to choose your own majors, areas of interest and jobs way earlier, so you’re forced to set your own study goals, choose your own route (for better or worse!) and job opportunities way earlier.


If you have an idea of what you’d like to do as a job… then it’s time to start exploring how to get there, and sure, you might have to do things a little differently than if you walked into it with a Chartered Accountant qualification… but that can be both a good or bad thing… and how you deal with it will be the differentiator for your success.

Some basics? Don’t panic. Don’t give up on a successful career. It may look different to what you’ve pictured, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse. You’ve got grit and determination, you wouldn’t be at this point if you didn’t! Time to dig deep and face your next challenge.

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