From Failing CA Exams to Taking a Gap Year to Pursuing CFE and Eventually Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant

Do you know an inspiring story of a Chartered Accountant who has not given up?

In fact: In today's article we are sharing the journey of Sedzani from Limpopo, South Africa who traveled 100 Kms to school daily, worked really hard and completed her Chartered Accountancy overcoming many failures.

Presently Sedzani is working at BDO, South Africa as a Forensic Consultant. 

She is also a qualified CFE and has done her articles from Grant Thornton, South Africa

Here is her story.

Deciding to Become a Chartered Accountant

My name is Sedzani Tshirangwana and I grew up in South Africa, in the Limpopo province Bordering Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

I grew up in a village whcih was not surrounded by good schools so I used to travel 100 km every day to school.I matriculated from Khanyisa Education Centre, a school amongst many great private schools in Limpopo.

I was not a brilliant student but I was a hardworking student.

I was raised by very strict parents who allowed us to visit friends on supervision.

My dad did not allow us to roam the street of our neighbourhood and always encouraged us to work hard for a bright future. He always would say “you are what you put in, and make of yourself”.

If I remember correctly in grade 8, I wanted to become an engineer and specialize in electrical engineering. However, as I became matured and knowledgeable, this changed.

At some stage, I wanted to be a tour guide which stemmed from a passion for travelling.

So to help me get more clarity in my career, my dad arranged a job shadow for me in Finance and Banking after class 10.

A job shadow is a program in which school learners are able to shadow/learn about a specific job that they would like to do/ become once they completed matric.

During my job shadow, the bank manager gave me a brief background of what this job entails. This short experience got me interested in banking.

My mother also arranged another job shadow for me at PwC in Louis Trichardt (South Africa).

During my job shadow at PwC, South Africa, I met a friend who told me about becoming a Chartered Accountant from SAICA and from there on I never looked back.

My Journey becoming a CA(SA)

To become a CA(SA) one needs:
  • To have a Bachelors degree in Accounting or equivalent
  • Honours Post Graduation qualification (CTA 1, CTA2)
  • 3 years articleship (this depends whether it is a part-time study or full time so it can vary from 3-5 years) and Give two written board exams (ITC and APC)

Being raised by a mom who is a teacher and father who is a businessman I passed class 10 with good marks to gain entrance to do my B.Com Business science at Monash University SA.

After completing my bachelor’s in business science in June 2011, I continued with my studies at Unisa in 2012 where I studied a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Accounting Sciences (also known as CTA Level 1).

As I was not yet employed, my parents continued to fund my studies as I was not awarded a bursary or financial aid.

While studying I began job hunting as I wanted to gain experience in my chosen career path, that when I started working at Nikilitha Consulting a small audit and advisory firm.

Taking a Gap Year and Pursuing CFE

After not clearing CTA level 1, I was disappointed and decided to take a gap year in 2013.

During my gap year, I decided to do a certification on fraud examination (CFE) from ACFE since I had gained some experience in forensic.

After a gap year and having completed CFE, I went back to Unisa in 2014 to do my Honours (postgraduate) in Advanced Accounting Sciences (CTA level 1) which I successfully completed that year.

Starting my Articles at Grant Thornton

While I was at Nikilitha Consulting I happened to be a subcontracted consultant to Grant Thornton where I later received an employment offer which I accepted.

After my CTA level 1, I was still working at the audit and advisory firm (Nikilitha Consulting).

Luckily I happened to be a subcontracted consultant to Grant Thornton. After a year of working as a subcontracted consultant, the partner at Grant Thornton negotiated with my then employer that I join them so I can also do my articles.

That's how in 2015, I started my article clerk training at Grant Thornton.

Finally Qualifying as a CA(SA)

During my article training in 2016, I continued with my studies where I registered for a Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Accounting Sciences (known as CTA level 2) which I failed.

I felt so depressed and demotivated. I had failed 1 (one) subject and we were required to pass all 5 subjects in one sitting.

I used to study late nights and security knew me by name and when I wasn’t there studying the following day they would ask why didn’t you come.

I was blessed to have a supportive family who reminded me of how close I was to the finish line and how much I wanted this.

I remember my mom said this time focus on the one you failed more while putting less hours on the others. That’s was the best advice I got and that weekend I picked myself up started studying and boy did I make it that year 2017.

I had passed CTA Level 2 and completed my Postgraduate. It was one of the happiest days of my life

Now I had two board exams to complete in order to qualify as a CA(SA).

I started studying for board 1 examination in December 2017 and wrote in Jan 2018 which I failed at first attempt. I was so disappointed but I knew that I was not prepared well.

I then prepared for the June board 1 examination which I passed after attending a UCT board course and practicing SAICA passed papers.

I then prepared for UJ board 2 examinations in November which I passed. I was over the moon when I received the results in Feb 2019.

I was now a qualified CA(SA). 

Pursuing a Career in Forensic Accounting

After completing my articles in Jan 2019, I decided I wanted to go back to forensics as it is more strategical. I then received an offer from BDO in their Forensic Division, where I work as a Senior Forensic consultant and analyst.

I am more of a forensic accountant and analyst as I analyze accounting fraud e.g. who committed the fraud, why and how much is involved.

Likely I never really had to look for work because I work hard that my work speaks for itself but if you are looking for job opportunities in South Africa: Company websites, LinkedIn and PNET are great platforms to look for work.

Before attending an interview, research the company. Google common interview questions and prepare for those. Keep calm and take like a discussion with your friends

Before submitting your cv, ensure it is clear and well written. There are many cv templates which can be found online. It is just important to use a template that works.

To Conclude

  • Know what you want and that should be motivation enough to keep you going.
  • Keep an eye on the ball.
  • Visualize yourself already achieved.
  • Listen to affirmations for motivation and to stay positive. A positive mindset is a key to success.
  • Never dwell on something you can’t change. Like I mentioned I had a supportive family. I decided to not give up on what I wanted.
  • It is okay to take a gap year and pursue a course which will add value at a later point. Pursuing CFE helped me in my career and gave me confidence.
  • I would recommend those reading this to do a job shadow or a short internship at different places to discover what you want exactly. 

                                                Now It's Your Turn!!!


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