We’ve all been there. Holding your breath for days, weeks (feels like forever!) until you see those results on the screen. You want them, you don’t want them. You don’t want anyone else to see them first, but you don’t want to be the first to see them either! Dilemma! Tough as this is, I’d like you to consider something that’s hard to hear, but important to understand.

CTA – The bigger picture

CTA is long, it’s tough and it’s difficult to see beyond it while you’re in it. However, much as it’s hard to hear… CTA is really a glorified Board Course!

The reason you have to do CTA is because of the academic requirements laid down by SAICA. In order for you to qualify to write ITC, you have to pass CTA. All the knowledge, understanding, application required for the Board Exam is imparted in CTA.

Over the years, I’ve discussed this with hundreds of students. Their focus is on passing CTA, (understandably so!) and I’ve heard thousands of complaints of “…but I was SO CLOSE! I got 48%!…”. In the bigger picture though, that means that you couldn’t quite get to HALF of the required knowledge to write ITC! The lower your marks, the less likely you are to pass ITC.


Take a look at these statistics:

QE1 Statistics 2010 – 2012: https://www.saica.co.za/Portals/0/LearnersStudents/Examinations/QE1%20stats%202012.pdf

ITC Statistics 2013 – 2014:


Notice the following:

  • The first-time candidate pass rate is significantly higher than the repeat candidate EVERY SINGLE YEAR!
  • Even with the ITC now written twice a year, the repeat candidate pass rate has been significantly lower than the first-time candidate pass rate

Why is the repeat Board candidates pass rate lower?

Students desperately want to put CTA behind them. If they can JUST get through CTA, then they’re happy… however, if they fail the Board exam first time, their chances of passing decrease with every attempt. Why is this?

CTA is a structured study year that forces you to consistently work and keep up-to-date with your knowledge. Any Board course for repeat students starts a few months before the exam, and ignores the fact that you haven’t studied the volume of work as consistently. Simply put… you’re out of practice and short on time. You spent a YEAR getting ready for the Board exam the first time (while you studied CTA). You can’t get into the same study-shape in a few months.

What am I trying to say?

Your CA (SA) goal is a long journey, and CTA is a step in the process. When thinking of success or failure, the bigger picture is more important than the short-term:

If you’re not ready to write ITC, then it may be better for your future success to fail CTA than ITC.

It’s ugly, hard to hear, and somewhat nauseating, and I totally understand! I’ve heard so many students bemoan their fate at having to rewrite CTA. Over a year later, after passing the Board exam, I’ve had dozens come back to me and say that it was really for the best that they didn’t make CTA, since they wouldn’t have been ready to write ITC.

As for the results wait… Take a deep breath. Keep your sense of humour. Try not to break anything in frustration, and keep your eye on your end-goal.

That in mind… My thoughts are with you. Not just for these results, but for your entire journey.

If you can relate, or have a query...


  1. Good day Mrs Yvonne

    I would to say this blog has been the most informative information in my hard days of pursuing my career, and i would like to give thanks to you Mrs V for allowing us to access this information for free on the net…

    What I would like to say, is that this journey is hard and it gets harder at each level you go through, but my concern is of the stats that have been listed above.

    I would like to find out from you, in your own personal Opinion: The black student pass rate seems to be lower than of the other race, I would like to know from your vast industry knowledge could the be a reason for these stats, as they are discouraging to the most of us, and I start asking myself am I worthy if so mant thousands are failing at the top while I am here at the bottom…

    I hope you will be able to give me an insight to these stats and maybe your opinion on what we should be doing different to those students,

    Worried accounting student

    • Thank you for your comments, I appreciate the feedback 🙂 I’m so glad I can add some value to your journey.

      You raise a very controversial topic 🙂 If it was easy to solve, I’m sure people would be making more progress! It’s a topic that I’ve looked into myself, discussed with plenty students I’ve come across, and obviously, my observations through my qualification and lecturing.

      Let me first disclaim my comments by saying that this is not an official study, or the gospel truth. Any comments I make come from my knowledge and experience. This is an issue that is extremely sensitive in South Africa, for obvious reasons, and there are as many opinions as there are people.

      All that being said, here’s some of my ‘insight’:
      – The CA journey cannot be looked at in isolation. By this, I mean that you can’t look at University pass rates and ask what’s gone wrong, or why black students are more likely to fail etc. Your entire educational journey up to the day you qualify is part of the puzzle. From a student’s first day at school, until their last. If a student has not had sound foundational teaching early in life, it catches up with them later. They may get through school, but it bites back in University. The government didn’t do the country a favour by bringing in Outcomes Based Teaching in schools (and it has been proven a failure in other countries too!). Here’s why: Outcomes Based Education (OBE) basically focusses on what you need to do to get to the answer. It’s formulaic, and teaches students that in order to get to XYZ, they must do ABC. It’s a programme. The student know that ABC will get them to XYZ. Now University hits. All of a sudden, everything is application-based. Now, the exam says they want VWX. The student only has ABC, and only knows that it will get them to XYZ. How do they get to VWX? They’re not taught HOW to solve problems, they’re taught the answers to problems. How many times have you heard students come out of exams complaining “We’ve never seen questions like that before in the study material?”. It’s because they weren’t taught early on the value of application-based learning.
      Ok… but then this should apply to black and white students equally? Because they go to the same schools? Perhaps the private schools make a difference? Are there more white students than black in Private schools, and that’s what’s giving them an advantage? (I don’t know the answer to this… I’m only raising this as a question!) Are there statistics on whether CA’s came from private schools?!

      – Same topic as above… Foundational education (Meaning the first 7-odd years of school). One of the challenges facing a lot of black students is language. The CA qualification requires a very high level of communication. If English is your second language, and your foundational learning was in a different language, then you’ve got a problem. When you change language, you lose time, because while others are perfecting their language and learning new concepts, you’re starting afresh and have to catch up. You lose the terminology you knew in your language, and the comfort with the information etc. Now you’re learning new concepts, terminology, complicated theory, in a language you’re not entirely comfortable with. When do you catch up? High school? University? Those words may be building pictures in the heads of the students around you, because they understand the language well, but you take longer to process the terms and concepts, because the transition between languages isn’t strong and smooth. For most of my black students, Auditing and Man Acc are the biggest problems. Both of these come down to communication. For Auditing, you are required to assess a lot of information quickly, understand the problem, create and communicate a solution in a clear, concise, brief, terminology-heavy way. If your language-levels aren’t seriously strong, this is a nasty challenge. If even the English students battle to communicate stuff in Auditing properly… what do second language students do?! These students don’t battle with Fin Acc and Tax as much, because it’s numbers and formulae. Once you know what the format should be, and what the formulae are, the language levels aren’t as crucial. Then you get discussion questions in Tax and Fin Acc… and the marks drop back down again.
      For me, communication levels are a HUGE factor in this discussion.

      – My last thought on this for now is community and support. This is a discussion I’ve had with hundreds of students (90% black), because I want the answer to the same question as you! Obviously, these discussions stir up anger and frustration at the past, and the impact that politics and our country’s history still may have on students and people in general. Interestingly though, the key issue that kept coming up when we discussed this more was the lack of community support for a lot of them. Their families and friends and general community don’t truly understand and respect the size of the task they’ve taken on as a CA student. They may want them to have the benefits of the qualification, but can’t support them for the actual, long, journey it takes to get there! Financial stress; concerns over studying rather than earning money; lack of support for the daily struggles and needs that students have; mentors or role models; an environment that doesn’t support a study culture (no proper space to study, too many responsibilities that don’t leave time to study; no peace and quiet at home; travelling very far to campus / work that’s tiring and time-consuming etc), and in some cases (especially for female students) the resistance from family is more aggressive, because a woman’s place traditionally is in the home, not studying to take over the world! For a lot of students I’ve chatted to, this lack of community support is a massive issue for them. You cannot underestimate the impact of these ‘intangible’ things in this journey.

      Are we still paying the price for our country’s history? I think so. There’s no question that a disadvantaged background will haunt students well into the future, for all sorts of reasons. Is it because South Africa is still skewed in favour of the white student? Maybe! I don’t know the full statistics for this! I do know I was denied bursaries because I’m white many times and I’ve been told not to bother applying for positions because I’m white. 🙂 I do think though, as I’ve said above, that the foundations for these types of qualifications go much further back and beyond just University.

      🙂 Anyhow, those are some of the thoughts I have in my head at the moment, since you asked.
      For those reading, take it in light of my disclaimers, and feel free to comment and debate… but keep it respectful, insightful and with a view to upliftment and unity, not division and anger 😉

      • I know for me another issue was that I moved into res (because I’m from another province) and so I had a lot more responsibility than white classmates in terms of having to make time to do my laundry, clean, make my own lunch etc whereas some of them lived at home and had someone to make lunch for them and food was always available.

        Some argue that they’re also affected because they need to drive to the library but I know my struggle was that I’d need to always make sure that I can include lunch items in my budget so that I can be able to spend roughly 10 hours away from my room. In times when I couldnt, I’d have to study in my room and have to deal with the distractions at res.

      • I agree with your opinion 100%. Would you mind to share with me your email address? I do have additional questions to pose to you? Regards

  2. Wow Mrs V,

    you couldnt have explained and answered me in a broader sense that makes more sense than anything.

    The insight above is true and thank you for not mincing any words or opinion, I believe this topic needs to be tackled further by the government and your sizwe nxasana and the big guys at SAICA.

    The fact that they keep promoting false dreams while the foundation of the students is still a hindering factor, is showing in the stats above…

    I wish I knew about you at the beginning of my journey, you are making a huge difference in my career in this short space, BIG UPS


    • Thanks.
      I agree that more can be done to further the qualifications in South Africa (at all levels!) I also believe, though, that we can’t just leave that to the ‘big people’ in Government, SAICA, firms etc.
      If every one us improves one other person’s journey… just imagine the impact we can have. Sometimes, a smaller, more personal connection can make more difference than a huge bursary, or change in legislation etc. I just think of the impact that my experiences, journey and interactions with students have had over the years. Yes, I’m one person. No, I’ve never been able to hand out bursaries and pay for people’s studies… but I really believe that I’ve added something and provided at least a small stepping stone in their journey forwards. Every student can do that for another student. We just need to create a greater culture of reaching out without money. Money and legislation is not the only way to change the world 🙂
      Let’s change the world together… one person at a time 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for your articles they really help a lot.

    I agree with you about the foundations that some of us had in schools and how they affect how we see things now but if we are really willing to learn we can overcome the challenges and be able to help others coming after us.

    I once heard a radio DJ saying this words “some accounting teachers at schools never met CA`s in their lives so how can they better explain what is expected if they themselves don`t even know what CA`s do”
    This statement made me realize that our education system still lack a lot in order for learners/students to get the basics right.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.

  4. Ms Venter your words are encouraging & inspiring. Wow I feel so motivated. I will print and hang them on the wall as I embark in this CTA journey. I will share this with my daughter who is doing her 1st year at university.CA stream.

    • That is so awesome! Sounds like you and your daughter are going to have a fantastic story of your own 🙂

  5. Hi Yvonne,

    I really want to pass CTA, but I must say this year has taught me a lot about myself. When I was doing my undergrad I did not have problems with certain modules like Auditing and Tax now that I am doing CTA Iam really struggling . I spent a lot of hours sitting trying to improve my marks but I am not winning. I am approaching my exams I feel sad. I have not given up but I wish I had a mentor. Someone who has gone through this journey someone I can tell about my struggles. How do I get mentors who have passed CTA who are now CA’s. Thank you for always talking to us.

    • Hi!
      It’s really tricky to study alone. It’s amazing how much we realise the need for an understanding community and people who can inspire us. I felt the same way 🙂 Finding mentors… that’s a tricky question! Not all mentors are the same, and it also depends on what you’re looking for! Someone who is a CA may be very understanding, but might not be able to communicate what you need. Some students are looking for more academic support than just motivation. It also depends on your situation, where you work, live, your community etc. Genuine mentors can be tricky to find. 😉 Also… I’d like to ask what you think a mentor can do for you that you can’t do for yourself? (Sounds like a strange question, but on this very long journey, you need to get strength from inside.)
      CTA is really nasty, and a lot of students feel that they really need something or someone outside of themselves to help them along! There is SO much motivation out there! Social media these days is really connecting and has a great community… but it’s not the same as someone just for you! My point is… just in case you don’t find that person you’re looking for… I want to make sure your head and heart is enough 🙂

  6. Hi Ms Venter

    I totally agree with this article, Wish I read it earlier. I would have done so many things better. It is so true, it really does getter harder *sighs*…

    I have just written my 5th attempt on ITC and I am left with ONE more attempt…. Please help with advise on what I should do in the mean time (while waiting for results) should I fail this time around as well to make sure I nail it in June (my last attempt)…

    Thank you

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Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

I coach accounting students who are struggling with their study habits and mindset, and want their studies to be as effective as they used to be. See more on my about page

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