Difference between ACCA and CIMA

ACCA and CIMA qualification are both qualifications in the area accountancy and are highly regarded by employers across the globe. Both the qualifications have a rewarding career in spheres of finance, audit, budgeting, revenue and taxation, industry, commerce, banks and such other setups.

What is the difference between ACCA and CIMA? This question haunts the minds of students intending to pursue studies and career in accountancy. This article highlights all the differences in the both qualifications as well as extends guidance about choosing ACCA or CIMA for their academic career.

The contrasting and matching aspects of both programs are as follows:


ACCA program is administered by Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) UK. Its head office is in London UK and national office in different countries.

CIMA Program is administered by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) UK. Its head office is in London UK and national office in different countries.
ACCA Exams are conducted by ACCA, UK. CIMA Exams are conducted by CIMA, UK.
ACCA has 14 papers.

CIMA has 14 papers and 3 case-study exam.

The first four papers of ACCA are attemped as Computer-based exam which has objective type question. The remaining papers of ACCA are basically paper-based exams which has objective type as well as explanatory/descriptive questions. These papers can also be attempted as computer-based exam.

All papers of CIMA can be attempted as computer-based exam which mainly include objective type questions.

ACCA program does not required gaining any practical work experience as a compulsory part of its program.

Practical training experience for 3 years is a compulsory part of CIMA. After completion of all the papers of CIMA, students have to gain training experience in approved organizatins.

The computer-based exam for first four papers of ACCA can be attempted in any month of the year. However, the exams for remaining paper (whether paper-based or computer-based exam) can only be attempted in March, June, September and December. . 

Each paper of CIMA has a computer-based assessment and can be attempted in any month of the year. The case-study exams are held in February, May, August, and November.


Eligibility for admission in ACCA
  • A-Level with 2 passes and O-Level with 3 passes in subject including English and Mathematics
  • or American Higher School Certificate with alteast 50% marks
  • or Graduation, B.A, BSc, B.Com or equivalent bachelor qualification
  • or Foundation Diploma

Eligibility for admission in CIMA
  • O-Level or Matriculations
  • or A-Level or Intermediate
  • or Under-graduation or graduation degree in any discipline (i.e. Bachelors or Master degree)
  • or ACCA or MBA degree – these degrees makes you eligible for fast tract entry to CIMA by giving you exemptions from the first 11 papers of CIMA and enrolling you direct into the strategic level of CIMA.
  • or other professional qualification – for other relevant professional qualification students are given exemption from some papers according to the rules devised by CIMA.
Exemptions of Papers in ACCA
Students, seeking admission in ACCA, are given exemptions from upto nine papers of ACCA depending upon the relevancy of student’s past qualification such as MBA, M.Com and so on.

Exemptions of Paper in CIMA
Students, seeking admission in CIMA, are given exemption from papers of CIMA. Students having MBA or ACCA are given exemptions of first 11 papers and are directly enrolled into strategic level of CIMA. Similarly, for other relevant qualifications exemptions for some papers can be availed.

As mentioned earlier, the ACCA and CIMA program are run by its administrative bodies (ACCA & CIMA, UK) through its head offices in London, UK and national offices in different countries. Colleges in different countries affiliated with these administrative bodies (ACCA & CIMA, UK) offer tuition for ACCA and CIMA in their respective countries.

   Differences in Program structure

Program Structure of ACCA is as follows:

1 Business and Technology 2 Hours
2 Management Accounting 2 Hours
3 Financial Accounting 2 Hours
4 Corporate and Business Law 3 Hours
5 Performance Management 3 Hours
6 Taxation 3 Hours
7 Financial Reporting 3 Hours
8 Audit and Assurance 3 Hours
9 Financial Management 3 Hours
10 Strategic Business Leader 3 Hours
11 Strategic Business Reporting 3 Hours
Papers to selected from following optional papers.
12 Advanced Financial Management 3 Hours
13 Advanced Performance Management 3 Hours
14 Advanced Taxation 3 Hours
15 Advanced Audit and Assurance 3 Hours

Program Structure of CIMA is as follows:

Certificate in Business Accounting
BA1 Fundamentals of Business Economics
BA2 Fundamentals of Management Accounting
BA3 Fundamentals of Financial Accounting
BA4 Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance and Business Law
Operational Level
E1 Organisational Management
P1 Management Accounting
F1 Financial Reporting and Taxation
  Integrated Case Study
Management Level
E2 Project and Relationship Management
P2 Advanced Management Accounting
F2 Advanced Financial Reporting
  Integrated Case Study
Strategic Level
E3 Strategic Management
P3 Risk Management
F3 Financial Strategy
  Integrated Case Study
3 Years of practical work experience

   Fee structure - Difference

The fee structures for ACCA and CIMA are given here for comparison of the fees of the program. These fees are for Pakistani students for the year 2021 and can vary slightly from country to country as well as with the year of admission.

The fee structure of ACCA is as follows:

Description Fee 2021
Registration Fee £ 45
Annual Subscription Fee £ 58
Paper fee (Applied Knowledge) £ 100 per paper
Paper fee (Appliedl Skills)  £ 111 per paper
Paper fee (Strategic Professional) 
- Strategic Business Leader £ 190 per paper
- Strategic Business Reporting £ 140 per paper
- Optional papers  £ 140 per paper

The fee structure of CIMA is as follows:

Description Fee 2021
Registration Fee (once) £ 77
Annual Subscription fee                £ 120
Exam Fee
Certificate in Business Accounting (per paper/exam) £ 85

Operational level (per paper/exam)

Integrated case study (per exam)

£ 100

£ 180

Management level (per paper/exam)

Integrated case study (per exam)              

£ 115

£ 180

Strategic level per (paper/exam)

Integrated case study (per exam)

£ 165

£ 255