ACCA or CIMA: Which Course Should You Study in Malaysia?

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What is ACCA & CIMA?

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is the global body for professional accountants, focusing on accounting practices and financial reporting. The organization was founded in 1906 and now it has more than 227,000 members and 544,000 students in 178 countries. Successful ACCA graduates will lead them to a career as a  Chartered Certified Accountant.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the world’s largest professional body of management accountants offering a mix of accounting and management knowledge and skills. It was founded in late 1919 and it now consists of more than 650,000 members and students in 179 countries. 

Video credit: MorganMcKinley

Key differences between ACCA & CIMA





Provides a core understanding of accounting, which includes principles of taxation and external auditing procedures.

A combined study of accounting and management, equipping students with critical decision-making skills in management.

Study Levels

Divided into 3 levels:

– Applied knowledge

– Applied skills

– Strategic professional.

Divide into 4 levels:

– Operational level

– Management level

– Strategic level

– Professional level

Key Subjects

– Accounting & Auditing

– Financial Reporting

– Taxation

– Financial Management

– Ethical & Professional     Standards

– Business Accounting

– Management Accounting

– Information Management

– Finance Management

– Strategic Marketing Management

Exam Structure

2-3 hours exam, based on paper and subject. 

90 minutes of objective tests and 3 hours of a case study


2 – 3 years

2 – 3 years

Pass Percentage

35% to 40%


Number of Papers

13 papers

16 papers

ACCA or CIMA: Which is more difficult?

Both qualifications are equally difficult. However, the demands of completing exams in each qualification may vary. CIMA qualification is slightly challenging as students are required to complete one set of exams at a time to proceed further. ACCA qualification is more flexible in terms of completing multiple sets of exams concurrently. In addition, CIMA exams include case study exams where students are required to present a real-life context. Thus, it can be challenging for students to get through the exams without relevant work experience.

ACCA or CIMA: Which is cheaper?

The cost of study for ACCA is slightly cheaper than CIMA. ACCA costs around RM 8,000 to RM 10,000 depending on the mode of study whereas CIMA can cost around RM 10,000 – 15,000. Both qualifications required to pay membership fees per year. Students may choose to enrol their preferred qualification in either a private tuition centre or self-study through online learning, where they do not have to bear tuition fees or resource fees. 

ACCA or CIMA: Syllabus and Papers



Applied Knowledge

AB: Accountant in Business

MA: Management Accounting

FA: Financial Accounting

Certificate in Business Accounting

BA1: Fundamentals of Business Economics

BA2: Fundamentals Management Accounting

BA3: Fundamentals of Financial Accounting

BA4: Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate 

Governance & Business Law

Applied Skills

LW: Corporate and Business Law

PM: Performance Management

TX: Taxation

FR: Financial Reporting

AA: Audit and Assurance

FM: Financial Management

Operational Level

Paper E1: Organizational Management

Paper P1: Management Accounting

Paper F1: Financial Reporting & Taxation

Operational Case Study

Strategic Professional Essentials 

SBR: Strategic Business Reporting

SBL: Strategic Business Leader

And options to choose 2 out of these 4:

AFM: Advanced Financial Management

APM: Advanced Performance Management

ATX: Advanced Taxation

AAA: Advanced Audit and Assurance

Management Level

Paper E2: Project & Relationship Management

Paper P2: Advanced Management Accounting

Paper F2: Advance Financial Reporting

Management Case Study


Strategic Level

Paper E3: Strategy Management

Paper P3: Rick Management

Paper F3: Financial Strategy

Strategic Case Study

Can you take both ACCA & CIMA?

It is possible to take both ACCA and CIMA qualifications. In fact, obtaining both prestigious qualifications enables students to be full-fledged accountants with a core grounding of business aspects as well. Students will need to complete their ACCA qualification and then continue with CIMA studies, as students can be exempted from 11 CIMA exams upon completing ACCA courses. Furthermore, students who enrol in ACCA and CIMA after completing their degree in accounting will also receive up to 6 exemptions from both qualifications.

The exempted exams include:

  • 4 certificate level exams
  • 3 operational level exams
  • Operational level integrated case study exam
  • 3 management level exams.

Academic Entry Requirement for ACCA and CIMA


A minimum Grade C+ or CGPA 2.50 in any two subjects


2 passes at GCE A-Level (grade range from A-E)


Minimum B in 5 subjects (including mathematics)


A minimum CGPA of 2.50


Pass in diploma in accounting with minimum CGPA 2.50 

*The requirements may vary among universities, for inquiries on other entry requirements, contact Excel Education.

Recommended Colleges/Universities to Study ACCA and CIMA

#1 University of Wollongong (UOW) KDU University

Image credit: UOW KDU University

UOW KDU is awarded the Platinum status by ACCA for its conducive education and excellent student support. The university provides weekend classes for those who are balancing between work and study. Progress tests, mock examinations and examination reviews are often conducted by the university to keep track of students’ learning capabilities.


Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

Intake (2021)

January & July


2.5 years

Indicative Course Fee (2021)

RM 26,150

#2 Taylor’s College

Image credit: Astro Awani

Taylor’s University has been awarded the Gold status for its quality learning facilities and support for ACCA students. Taylor’s offers education in smaller groups, allowing students to interact better with both classmates and lecturers in sharing knowledge and ideas.


Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

Intake (2021)

January & July


3 years

Indicative course fee (2021)

RM 29,450

#3 Asia Pacific University (APU)

Image credit: APU University

APU offers a dual degree award for the BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance programme. Graduates will receive 2 Degree Certificates from Asia Pacific University and De Montfort University in the UK. Upon completion of the programme, students will be exempted from 6 papers out of 16 papers from CIMA. Students will also be entitled to a maximum exemption of 9 papers out of 13 exam papers in ACCA qualification.


BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance

Intake (2021)

March, May & September


3 years (Full time)

Indicative course fee (2021)

Local: RM 87,000

#4 Taylor’s University

Image credit: Taylor’s University

Taylor’s offers students an in-depth understanding in all areas of accounting and finance such as financial accounting, assurance, taxation, corporate finance and financial management. Upon graduation, students will receive accreditation and exemptions from both ACCA and CIMA exam papers.


BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance

Intake (2021)

January, March & August


3 years (Full time)

Indicative course fees (2021)

Local: RM 99,906

Career Options with ACCA and CIMA Qualification

ACCA qualification is ideal for accounting professionals who are responsible for financial reporting. ACCA graduates may find careers in the corporate sector, public sector or in public accounting, audit or consulting firms. 

CIMA prospects tend to be in managerial positions in both public and private sector organizations. CIMA qualified students typically pursue careers in industries that offer management, strategy and operation based roles.

The following table shows examples of job roles for both credentials.




Management Accountant

Chartered Accountant

Business Analyst

Tax manager

Forensic Analyst

Financial Accountant

Finance Manager

Financial Analyst

Project Manager

Which course is right for you?

Both ACCA and CIMA qualifications are respected by various employers and help you reach greater heights in your careers. When it comes to choosing the right course, the decision relies solely on students. Each qualification has its own standards and students may choose one that suits their ambitions. If you ACCA, then you are most likely to develop accounting skills and knowledge and pursue your career as a self-employed accountant or in accountancy firms where you will handle clients. On the other hand, choosing CIMA could sharpen your skills in decision making and open doors for a career in finance or management roles in larger organisations.

Contact us to find out more!

Student enquiries:

Call/Whatsapp: +60182414802

Email: [email protected]

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About the Author

Sasvin Ravi
I am a freelance content writer, writing on a weekly basis while discovering my true passion..

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