Is the CPA exam more difficult than the ACCA exam? In terms of the exam questions themselves and the preparation. Also for either qualification, do we need to sit periodic exams to maintain the certification?
Both CPA and ACCA are premier accounting degrees from the USA and UK, respectively. The Key difference between CPA and ACCA is the GAAP they specialize in. CPAs are considered experts in USGAAP (used by companies listed on NYSE), while ACCAs work with UK GAAP (used by companies listed on LSE).
Both accountants are considered equally well versed with IFRS (widely used in Europe). Another major comparison point is the number of exams, while ACCA has up to 16 subjective style exams, CPA only has 4 objective style exams.
ACCA may take multiple years to complete, whereas most people can complete CPA in one year. However, this difference in style of testing doesn’t result in a difference in salary.
Not sure about CPA, but with ACCA the quickest you can qualify is 3 years because as well as passing all the exams, you need three years experience in a relevant finance role.
In terms of exams, you need to do 11 mandatory papers (you might get exemptions from some of the lower papers if you have other relevant qualifications). You also need to do a further two exams out of four available (these are called the 'options' papers).
On top of all the exams and three years experience, you also need to complete 9 performance experience requirements - five essentials and four from several options. These are pre-defined and need to be signed off by a qualified accountant who can vouch that you meet the objective requirements. You can get these signed off as you go along, so you can be working on those at the same time as you're going through the exams.
Once you've done all that and are admitted as a member, you don't need to do any further exams, but you need to do CPD (continuous professional development) every year. It's a recommended 40 units (or hours) per year, but you need to be able to prove that you've done at least 20.