AAT’s New 2016 Syllabus: Everything You Need To Know

If you’re an AAT student (or are thinking of becoming one), you’ve probably heard about the syllabus change and are wondering what it means for you. We’ve put together a guide to answer all your questions, and help you move seamlessly into the new AAT courses – we know it can be confusing!

What’s happening?

AAT’s changing to a new syllabus, known as AQ2016, as of Thursday the 1st of September. The old syllabus was known as AQ2013.

What’s actually changing?

The content of the courses is much the same, and you’ll gain the same skills as before. However, there are four key changes being introduced in the new syllabus.

The first thing you might have noticed is that the course names have changed. Level 2 courses are now known as Foundation, Level 3 as Advanced, and Level 4 as Professional. That means the new names are:


  1. Level 2 Award in Computerised Accounting: Foundation Award in Accounting Software
  2. Level 2 Certificate in Accounting: Foundation Certificate in Accounting
  3. Level 3 Diploma in Accounting: Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  4. Level 4 Diploma in Accounting: Professional Diploma in Accounting


  1. Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping: Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping
  2. Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping & Ethics: Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping

The other three changes are to do with exams. Firstly, there’s now a synoptic exam at each level as well as computer-based assessments. While the computer-based assessments test what you’ve learned in one specific unit, the synoptic exam tests what you’ve learnt over multiple units. This gives you the chance to show off the full breadth of your knowledge by applying it to a real-world situation.

Secondly, your final result will now be graded either Pass, Merit or Distinction. This allows you to distinguish yourself from other students, and encourages you to work hard to achieve a great grade. The grade boundaries are:

  1. Distinction: 90-100%
  2. Merit: 80-89%
  3. Pass: 70-79%
  4. Fail: below 70%

Thirdly, you might be limited in the number of resits you can take per year during Foundation and Advanced levels. This restriction does not apply to:

  1. Over 19s
  2. Apprentices
  3. Scottish students
  4. International students
  5. Those taking short courses (ie. Awards)
  6. Those taking the Professional Diploma

However, if you’re aged 16-19, are not an apprentice, and live in England or Wales, you’ll only have two attempts to pass each individual assessment at Foundation or Advanced level within a 2 year study period.

Again, the skills you’ll gain on each course have remained pretty much the same.

If I’m on the old syllabus, will I still be able to complete it and take my exams?

Yes. You can still sit AQ2013 exams until the 31st December 2017. We advise that you sit them well before this date so you’ve got time to resit if you need to.

What happens if I miss the December 2017 deadline?

If you don’t complete your course within the 18-month window, you’ll have to transfer to the new syllabus and compete your exams on the new course.

Can I switch to the new syllabus if I’m part way through an old syllabus course already?

If you’d like to switch to the new syllabus, that’s no problem. Most units from AQ2013 are transferable, meaning if you’ve already passed a unit on the old spec, you won’t need to sit the equivalent one when you transfer. You’ll need to pay a small admin fee to AAT to do this.

As the old exams were simply pass/fail and didn’t award Merits or Distinctions, your grade for transferred units will be Pass no matter what percentage you scored. If you’d like to get a Merit or Distinction for those units, you’ll need to sit the exam again under the new syllabus.

If you transfer to the new course and change your mind, you can also transfer back to AQ2013.

What happens if I’m on a combined course?

If you enrolled on a combined course with the old syllabus and you’re still on the first level, you’ll complete that level on the old syllabus and move to the new syllabus for the second level.

For example, if you’re enrolled on the Foundation and Advanced combined course, and you’re currently part-way through Foundation, you’ll complete Foundation on the AQ2013 syllabus and move to the AQ2016 syllabus for the Advanced course.

When can I sit the new synoptic exams?

The Foundation synoptic exam will be available frequently, while the Advanced and Professional synoptic exams will only be available six times per year. We’ll let you know when these are so you can plan your studies accordingly.

Will I be able to see samples of the new exams?

Yes. We’ll give you mock tests for both computer-based assessments and synoptic exams, so you’re well-prepared for the real thing.

Will having an old syllabus qualification disadvantage me when looking for a job?

Not at all. Overall, the new syllabus will make it easier for you to demonstrate your knowledge: the synoptic tests let you apply your skills to a real-life situation, so you’re putting what you’ve learned into practice as you would in an accounting job.

However, the skills you’ll gain through AAT are exactly the same whether you’re on the new syllabus or old syllabus, end employers will recognise this.

Remember, if you have any further questions, just get in touch. Our course advisors and student support team will be more than happy to help!

To find out more about our updated AQ2016 AAT courses, click here.

Ready to advance your finance career?

Request your guide to getting AAT qualified online with unlimited 1:1 tutor support and interest-free plans.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Learn how we keep your data private