The global financial environment is constantly and rapidly shifting. This has resulted in changes to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). In support of the developments in the global business environment and the swift changes in IFRS, the local financial regulators have had to follow with supporting changes in national regulations. Taking the above factors into consideration, the auditing and accounting professions all over the world face various challenges, and South Africa (SA) is no exception. Thus, it was imperative for these professions in SA to make the same radical alterations. One of the areas demanding attention was the process of becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA). Inter alia, one focus area was the final examination in the qualifying process. The Chartered Accountant Qualifying Examination Part One (QE Part 1) has been changed from a closed-book assessment to an open-book assessment. This change is relevant because of the importance of the examination itself and the apparent lack of intensive research on students’ perceptions of this type of assessment. In my research I explored the perceptions of taxation students on open-book assessment in the QE Part 1. My study commenced with a focus group (consisting of students that had no previous open-book assessment exposure). I used Interactive qualitative analysis (IQA) as qualitative research method. During this focus group, the students identified ten perceptions (also referred to as affinities) on open-book assessment. For each affinity the focus group provided a descriptive name and an explanatory definition. These affinities were: good preparation, back-up, encourage, general advantages, improve quality of answers, negative symptoms, negative environment, personal experience and hindrance, different approach and time management. This group of students also identified relationships between these different affinities. These relationships were summarized and reflected in a system interrelationship diagram (SID). Findings from this SID indicated that students perceive good preparation as the strongest driver for successful completion of an open-book assessment. The SID indicates three primary outcomes namely negative symptoms, a different approach and time management. The affinities as identified by the focus group were then used during the interviews (conducted with students who had previous open-book assessment exposure). During the IQA interviews, the students were asked to comment on the posed affinities and the possible relationships between them. These findings were summarized and reflected in an interview SID. This SID indicated that these students perceived the primary driver in the system to be a different approach with two primary outcomes - negative environment and improvement in quality of answers. The IQA method is in essence a theory–generating tool that assisted me in my understanding of a group and individual students’ perceptions, before and after exposure to an open-book assessment.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2011.