frequently asked questions
5. Proficiency expected of CA students
CA competencies are set out in Appendix 1 of the CA Practical Experience Requirements (PER).
Depth and Breadth requirements are set out in Section 3.3.
The purpose of proficiency expectations is to ensure that CA Training Offices understand the profession’s expectations of an entry-level CA related to the development and demonstration of CA competencies and that all CA students use the same levels of proficiency in their self-assessment for admission to the profession. The proficiency expectations define the level of competency expected of the newly qualified CA in his/her chosen areas of depth and breadth on admission to membership in a Provincial Institute/Ordre.
CA students are expected to develop two kinds of competencies during their period of practical experience: Pervasive Qualities and Skills and Specific (or Technical) competencies (See Section 4: Ensuring sufficient quality and quantity of practical experience opportunities to develop the competencies expected of a newly qualified CA).
To qualify as a CA, the CA student must demonstrate the proficiency expectations of the entry-level CA in all the Pervasive Qualities. CA students are also exposed to technical competencies through their professional education programs. As noted in Section 4 above, they are expected to acquire direct experience in ALL the Specific Competencies in their area of Depth and at least half of the competencies in two other Specific Competency areas. For positions offering Depth in Taxation, Governance, Strategy and Risk Management, Management Decision-Making or Finance, one of the Breadth requirements must be provided in Performance Measurement and Reporting, with Breadth defined as a Level 2 proficiency in three specific competencies (see the PER or the RQE for details on these three specific competencies). Achieving these three competencies at Level 2 proficiency satisfies the requirement for one Breadth area.
For the level of proficiency they are expected to demonstrate in these areas of Depth and Breadth during their period of practical experience, the profession defines two levels of proficiency:
- Level 1, at which the CA student has the basic knowledge and skill required to complete the assigned task with supervision and direction; and
- Level 2, at which the CA student can apply the underlying knowledge and skill working independently or as part of a team.
There are a wide variety of training environments available to CA students, with the number of options likely to increase over time. As a result, the competency statements are developed to ensure all CA students are developing the experience required of an entry-level CA. The key barometer for competence is in assessing where an entry-level CA would reasonably be expected to perform within a particular CA Training Office (organization or CA firm). In doing so, one must consider the level of complexity of the underlying task. Counselling Members, who are CAs within the CA Training Office, should be able to assist with this assessment. All CA Training Programs offering a non-external audit path have a customized competency map, which correlates tasks to competencies, and a sample template for CA firms training in the external audit career path is provided in the Resources section (Sample Audit Competency Mapping Tool).
To provide some clarity on proficiency levels, consider these three illustrative examples:
1. The traditional audit-based career path of a national CA firm vs. a small local CA firm.
- The last competency in Assurance describes drawing conclusions, documenting findings, contributing to a summary report and participating in a presentation to stakeholders. Obviously the level of involvement with a presentation to stakeholders varies greatly depending on the size of the client.
- An entry-level CA working at a large national CA firm may be exposed to auditing multinational organizations; as a result, presenting to stakeholders is likely to be limited to meeting with the client to discuss the audit findings.
- On the other hand, the audit engagements of an entry-level CA working for a small local CA firm may include privately held organizations, where the client may be less complex. Presentations by entry-level CAs could include participation with the audit committee and/or board of directors (BOD).
- For CA students, both of these situations could contribute to developing the last competency — Assurance at a Level 2 proficiency. In the first example, because an entry-level CA may not participate in a presentation to the audit committee and/or board of directors, a meeting with the client should and would likely be at a similar level of complexity that would enable him/her to develop the required competencies.
- At the smaller CA firm, due to its size, the client may be less complex but the exposure to the stakeholders is more significant through access to the audit committee and/or board of directors. As a result, this opportunity would enable the entry-level CA to develop the same competency as previously described for an entry-level CA at a larger CA firm.
2. External Financial Reporting for a large publicly traded national corporation vs. a privately controlled regional organization.
Working in a corporate CA Training Office often includes practical experience in financial reporting. Understandably, the specific tasks relating to competencies in Performance Measurement and Reporting could be quite different, depending on the level of complexity of the organization and its financial statements.
In terms of preparing or reviewing financial statements and accompanying notes, an entry-level CA working for a large publicly traded national corporation may be assigned specific accountabilities within the overall financial statements. Since an entry-level CA at a business of this size would not be expected to have overall accountability for the entity’s entire financial statements, the level of complexity of this more specific task could give him/her the experience required to substantiate a CA student developing a Level 2 proficiency.
Meanwhile, an entry-level CA working for a small privately controlled regional organization may be expected to draft the complete set of financial statements and accompanying notes since they are less complex in nature. In this situation, the task could support the same level of competency development as the previously described tasks of an entry-level CA at a larger corporation.
3. Spending one year of practical experience in the external audit practice of a CA firm that is approved to train CA students vs. the internal audit department of a corporate CA Training Office.
Not only do CA students need to be aware of varying degrees of responsibility in the experiences that develop competency, they also need to realize that different CA Training Offices may train students over different periods of time.
For instance, the internal audit department of a corporate CA Training Office may be limited to one industry and may only have a small number of employees. The resulting specialization and exposure may provide these CA students with an active involvement in sufficient aspects of a large number of financial and operational audits to enable them to develop the required number of competencies at a Level 2 proficiency for Assurance to be their area of Depth within one year.
Conversely, within the first year in the external audit practice of a CA firm, students may not receive sufficient exposure to the risk assessment and planning stages in order for Assurance to be considered a Depth competency. In these cases, sufficient experience for the development of competencies expected of an entry-level CA, may not happen until the second or third year.
As a result of these differences, when it comes to competency development, it’s important that judgment is used to understand the CA student’s experiences, progress and needs. While each CA Training Office is approved to develop students in specific competency areas, if the Line Manager is not able to provide appropriate work experience or the CA student believes he/she is not on track because of a lack of exposure to the required experience, the Counselling Member should be notified.
Q: Who is responsible for assessing a student’s proficiency levels?
CA students are expected to self-evaluate their proficiency using the profession-supplied Record of CA Qualifying Experience (see Section 11: The Record of CA Qualifying Experience), and to discuss this assessment with their Counselling Members at least semi-annually (See Section 9: Semi-annual meetings between Counselling Members and CA students). The Counselling Member (who is not expected to become a competency map expert) will review this self-evaluation with the student at semi-annual meetings held throughout the period of practical experience, and will record that the review has taken place, for example, by signing the Record of CA Qualifying Experience, or by making a notation in the CA student’s personnel files. Should there be a significant difference of opinion in respect of the self-assessment, it should also be sufficiently documented by the Counselling Member. At the end of the practical-experience term, the Training Principal will sign-off the Certification Signoff indicating that the CA student has met all the requirements of the CA Training Program, which has been approved by the applicable Provincial Institute/Ordre. A Sample Certification Signoff is available in the PER.
Q: What happens if the CA student’s assessment of his/her proficiency level is not consistent with the CA Training Offices assessment?
While the profession expects the Counselling Member to guide and mentor the CA student in the self-assessment documented in his/her RQE, the RQE and the related signoff are the responsibility of the CA student. The Counselling Member is expected to document any differences of opinion in respect of the CA student’s self-assessment and to inform the Training Principal if the CA student has not met the minimum expected level of progression in the CA Training Office. The Training Principal should sign the CA Training Office Certification Signoff only if he/she is confident that all aspects of the CA Training Program have been met.
Q: If A CA Training Office has a performance measurement tool, such as an internal rating scale, to measure the performance of all staff, does the profession expect that tool to be used to measure “the progression expectations” per the certification sign-off?
Yes. It is the responsibility of the CA Training Office to assess the CA student’s completion of its approved CA Training Program, including the CA student’s progression relative to expectations, using the tools it would normally use for all employees. Every CA student is, however, still required to maintain the Record of CA Qualifying Experience.