More about the CTA papers

You can choose to sit all the CTA written papers together, or to sit them separately. That decision, along with the order you choose, can be crucial to your exam success. The papers you choose should reflect the areas of taxation that you currently (or wish to) work in. Here are some typical combinations:

Area of Tax

Advanced Technical (AT) Papers

Application & Professional Skills (APS) Paper

General Practice

Individuals and Owner-Managed Businesses

Owner-Managed Businesses

Personal Taxation

Individuals and Owner-Managed Businesses

Taxation of Individuals

Human Capital

Individuals and Human Capital

Human Capital

IHT, Trusts & Estates

Individuals and IHT, Trusts & Estates

IHT, Trusts & Estates

Major Corporates

Owner-Managed Businesses and Taxation of Major Corporates

Taxation of Larger Companies and Groups


Domestic Indirect and Cross Border Indirect

VAT and Other Indirect Taxes

Tolley Exam Training recommendations

Computer Based Examinations (CBEs)

We recommend you pass your CBEs first.

For all routes, the CIOT requires you to pass the CBEs before the closing date for entry for when you wish to take your last written tax paper.

Take your CBEs before you start studying for your tax papers. This way, you can focus first on the specific requirements of the CBEs, and then on the written tax papers. Usefully, the credits for the CBEs last longer than the credits for written tax papers.

Written papers

There are several factors to bear in mind when planning the sitting of your written papers although not all of them can necessarily be achieved together. Some of these are as follows:

  • There is often syllabus overlap across two Advanced Technical (AT) papers so taking these together can be beneficial
  • The Application and Professional Skills (APS) should be the last paper you sit as it is effectively a “sweep up” of all the technical knowledge (and more) you have studied to date
  • The technical content for your APS paper comes mainly from the related AT paper and students usually either sit these two papers together or sit the APS paper the sitting immediately after the related AT paper
  • You might also consider planning your exam sittings to avoid having to update your knowledge to a new Finance Act. The exams for each calendar year test the Finance Act for the previous year (e.g. in 2022, the exams test Finance Act 2021)
  • If you are waiting for previous results before starting your next paper(s) this will reduce the amount of study time available to you

Depending upon how quickly you wish to qualify and the time available to study, various combinations of the three papers are possible. You may of course also have to bear in mind the requirements of your employer.

Here are some suggested ways of timing your Advanced Technical (AT) and APS papers, based on our experience with students.


Sitting 1

Sitting 2

Sitting 3

Option 1




Option 2

AT1 + AT2



Option 3




Awareness (AW)

If you are a direct entrant into CTA and are not exempt from Awareness (or haven’t already taken it as part of the Tax Pathway) you will have four written papers to attempt. As the Application and Professional Skills (APS) paper can also test elements from AW, we advise you to sit your AW paper before, or at the same time as, your APS paper. Choose your two AT papers first as this will determine which three AW modules you should do.

We are always prepared to discuss your options with you before you apply to sit the exams especially if your choice is not one of the typical combinations above.