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AAT’s New Syllabus: Key Changes 

Gareth John

The AAT’s new syllabus was finally launched at the start of September 2022, moving over from AQ2016 to ‘Qualifications 2022’. This was delayed twice from the original September 2021 date due to COVID and to ensure that the AAT had sufficient time to fully test their new assessment platform ATLAS cloud.

Qualifications 2022, or Q2022 as it is also known, has some key differences from AQ2016 that will impact accountancy trainees and their employers in different ways. Below are some key things to be aware of with the implementation of the new syllabus.

Duplication of content

The new AAT syllabus, Qualifications 2022, is much more robust and challenging compared to AAT AQ2016 and contains less duplication of content and assessment. It is, therefore, more important that trainees have strong baseline knowledge to build upon as some topics will no longer be revised at levels 3 or 4. More than ever, level 2 will set trainees up with a good basic understanding to effectively progress through the rest of their qualification.

Combined papers

Pairs of existing papers have been combined into a single, larger paper at both level 3 and 4. 

  • At Level 3 Advanced Bookkeeping and Final Accounts Preparation have been combined into Final Accounting
  • At Level 4 Budgeting and Decision & Control have been combined into Advanced Management Accounting

The new papers are big syllabuses with lots of content covered by their respective assessments and will require students to work hard and be diligent in their question practice. 

Also, the combining of these papers under the new syllabus makes things more complicated for students who have some passed exams on AQ2016 and plan to transition to Q2022. Students will need to have passed BOTH of the existing papers in order to receive credit from the new combined paper. It’s worth being aware that some of the AQ2016 exams will carry the percentage that students achieved over. However, not all will, meaning students need to be careful of losing credit they have previously earned.

Syllabus themes

Technology, communication, sustainability, and ethics will now form the four key themes running throughout all AAT levels. Students will build on their existing knowledge as they progress through the qualification. Level 2 will introduce a topic, Level 3 will expand on it, and Level 4 will put it into practice. A better understanding of core techniques will make the transition to higher levels easier for students.

These themes and the Qualifications 2022 syllabus as a whole will better reflect the current conditions, priorities and real-world accountancy tasks expected in the accountancy industry. As well as being of huge value for students who transition to more advanced qualifications. 

The business pillar

There are two brand new papers in the Qualifications 2022 syllabus: Business Environment at level 2 and Business Awareness at level 3. These papers introduce some exciting new areas to the AAT syllabus such as commercial awareness, environmental analysis, business acumen and economics which will help prepare finance professionals for the demands of the modern business environment.  

Level 2 relevance

For reasons explored above a good grasp of content covered at level 2 is going to be more important for students starting their AAT studies if they don’t have other relevant academic experience. 

It is also clear that the level 2 apprenticeship standard will likely become a more appealing option for employers to support their trainees under Qualifications 2022. This is because the level 2 apprenticeship offers a great entry-point and lends itself to students whose studies have been impacted by the pandemic. The programme has been tailored to suit those with no previous experience in the workplace. It also has skills development built into the programme, including communication skills, effectiveness, teamwork, and double-entry bookkeeping knowledge to understand initial accounting tasks. Level 2 is therefore a great way to ease young adults back into learning, taking exams, and gaining valuable workplace skills, as well as set trainees up with a good basic understanding to effectively progress through the rest of their qualifications.

Synoptic assessments

The only synoptic assessment that forms part of the new syllabus is in level 2, however apprentices will need to sit an additional synoptic exam at levels 3 and 4 as part of their EPA’s. The Level 2 synoptic will involve a new in-tray task whilst continued use of the current synoptic will remain for apprentices sitting Level 3 and Level 4.


Some of the changes to the new syllabus have been driven by computerisation of the accountancy and finance industry. As seen above technology is now one of the four main themes running through the AAT qualification. Under Q2022 we see the removal of level 2 Using Accounting Software and the level 3 synoptic assessment which contains the use of spreadsheets. However, it is important students still know how to put digital and computer systems into practice so skills will be learned and tested throughout the whole qualification rather than in a limited number of discrete papers. 

Assessment learning objectives

As well as the syllabus content being more challenging than AQ2016, the assessments themselves seem likely to be more difficult for students. There are fewer marks for each assessment spread over an increased number of learning objectives, which means that there will be less credit for ‘easy marks’ and ‘brought forward knowledge’. Students will have to ensure they master the more challenging areas of each paper to ensure they achieve a pass.

Student fees

AAT is moving away from an annual subscription model to a one-off registration fee per level.  So rather than pay £101 per year, someone starting level 3 on Qualifications 2022 for example will have to pay a one-off £225 to register.

If a student has sat one assessment on a level on the full AQ2016 accounting qualification, they can transfer onto the new qualification at a reduced cost of £50, £75 and £100 respectively for level 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

Students on AQ2013

The new syllabus offers no credit for assessments passed under AQ2013 so students who started their current level on that syllabus need to make sure that they complete any outstanding exams under AQ2016 before these assessments are withdrawn in September 2023.

By Gareth John, Chief Executive of accountancy training firm First Intuition

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