ICSA qualifying programme


The ICSA qualifying programme is the benchmark qualification for governance professionals. It builds a unique breadth of technical skills that equip you for a varied career at board level and validates your knowledge with an internationally respected accreditation.

Governance Professionals and Chartered Secretaries hold a range of jobs such as Corporate Counsel, Company Secretary, or Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance. What unites them is knowledge of legal and regulatory requirements, understanding of corporate strategy and structures, and the skills to support and advise, enabling directors and the board to make the right decisions.

Find out more about being a company secretary.

Qualifying with ICSA gives you technical know-how, critical skills and validation of your professional knowledge. There are many routes through the qualifying programme according to your needs and background. Discover which is for you.

The ICSA qualifying programme

The ICSA qualifying programme is a postgraduate-level award that qualifies professionals in company secretarial practice, governance and strategic management. It is recognised across sectors and industries and offers access to a network of like-minded individuals and ongoing development opportunities through membership of ICSA: The Governance Institute.

Whether you are a recent graduate finding your way or an established lawyer seeking to build on your experience and broaden your horizon, our qualifying programme gives you access to a fascinating and rewarding career in governance. See if this programme is right for you.

Many people find themselves studying the ICSA qualifying programme when swapping to a governance role mid-career, often from a legal or accountancy background. Those already in governance roles will develop the technical skills which help them in their daily work and identify opportunities for career progression.

ICSA qualifying programme update

The ICSA qualifying programme syllabus is changing after the June 2019 exam session. If you register as a new ICSA student before 1 April 2019, you will be joining for the final exam session of the current scheme. You would be able to take exams in June 2019, and we would then transition you to the new qualifying programme after your exam results have been released.

If you want to take an exam in June 2019, you would need to choose from the following four, all of which will give you a like-for-like exemption when you transition to the new programme:

  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Law
  • Strategy in Practice
  • Corporate Secretarial Practice

If you are an existing CSQS student and would like more information about transition arrangements, please see our frequently asked questions.

Am I eligible to study?

The ICSA qualifying programme has five main routes of entry. These routes take into consideration previous study, work experience and any significant exposure to the role of a governance professional or company secretary.

Foundation Entry

This open entry route requires no previous experience and prepares students to meet the demands of study at Part One of the qualifying programme. It is for students who do not have a university degree in law or finance or equivalent qualification to be eligible for Part One entry. It is also required if students have a degree but without law or finance content. Discover more about the Foundation Programme.

Part One Entry

This route comprises all Part One and Part Two modules and is for those who have:

  • Completed an HND in Law, Accounting
  • HND, degree or above in Business Management
  • Completed an ICSA Level 5 Diploma in International Finance and Administration (IFA) or Diploma in Offshore Finance and Administration (DOFA)
  • Have a degree (not law- or finance-related) plus five or more years’ experience in a company secretary-related role.

Law or Finance Exemption Routes

  • Degree Route – If you have a degree in law or finance you may be eligible for exemption from specific modules.
  • Professional Route - Qualified accountants or lawyers with up to five years’ professional experience may apply for exemption from specific modules.

Fast Track Route

Fast Track Professional – If you are a qualified accountant or lawyer with more than five years’ relevant professional experience, you may be eligible for our fast track professional route, requiring you to complete just two modules.

If you would like to speak to someone about your route through the qualifying programme, please contact our Members and Students team on +44 (0)20 7580 4741 or email studentsupport@icsa.org.uk


The ICSA qualifying programme is divided into three levels – Foundation, Part 1 and Part 2. These are set at Level 4, 6 and 7 respectively (see what these levels mean compared to other UK qualifications). Detailed information about each module syllabus, sample exam papers, suggested answers and study texts are available here.


One exam covering an introduction to business, law, finance and compliance to prepare you for studying Part One modules.

Part ONE (Level 6)

Students are required to sit the following modules:

  • Financial Reporting and Analysis 
  • Applied Business Law 
  • Corporate Governance or Health Service Governance 
  • Corporate law 

Part TWO (Level 7)

      • Financial Decision Making
      • Strategy in Practice
      • Corporate Secretarial Practice
      • Chartered Secretaries Case Study

Take a look at the qualifying programme study texts that can support your studies

Achieving Chartered status

Once you have passed all the modules required, you will become a Graduate member of ICSA and will be able to use the post-nominal GradICSA, signifying your technical and analytical knowledge. This post nominal is internationally recognised.

You can apply for chartered status once you have completed six years of appropriate professional experience or three years if you also have a degree. This experience can be gained while you are studying the qualifying programme. When you become an Associate of ICSA you are then a Chartered Secretary and can use the post-nominal ACIS.

Find out more about chartered membership.

Exam information

Each subject consists of a final three hour written exam, plus 15 minutes reading time. The pass mark for each exam is 50%. 

Exam sessions

You must register for the sessions by the deadlines below. 

Exam Sessions



1 October


1 April

See the exam timetable and dates for the next exam sessions.

We have exam centres all over the world as well as in the UK and you choose which exam centre to sit at when you enter for the exam. If there isn’t a centre in your country or area, it may be possible to arrange a special centre.

Exam entries can be changed on payment of an administration fee up to the exam closing date for each session. After this date it is not possible to change your entry.

Please check your exam entries carefully to confirm you are entered for the correct session, module and exam centre.

How do I study?

The ICSA qualifying programme is highly technical and set at a high level, so students are advised to commit approximately 150-200 hours of study for each module. Consistent learning practices are strongly recommended and incorporating a study plan allows for comfortable student progression.

Tuition or self-study options are available to all qualifying programme students, and students who register for tuition are more successful in achieving their goals on the course.


ICSA qualifying programme students who study with a tuition provider have a higher chance of passing the exams. This is the recommended study route for the qualifying programme, providing an additional support network for students.

As well as higher pass rates, benefits include:

  • Ability to submit practice papers for continued feedback and guidance
  • Attending sessions with facilitators to help set the pace of study
  • Fast, practical answers to any queries throughout the course
  • Regular contact with an expert tutor

You can purchase tuition from one of our registered tuition providers with options to suit your situation and budget, including distance learning, face-to-face classes and blended learning.

Be sure to also register with ICSA to confirm which modules you need to take and to enter for your exams.


Self-study is also an option, where you prepare for the exam yourself.

We offer dedicated student facilities, designed to support you while you study with us:

  • Access to past past papers and suggested answers are available via MyICSA, the secure area of our website especially for ICSA students and members
  • Access to moduule-specific webinars and recordings, presented by the examiner 
  • A comprehensive study skills eBook

  • Study support webinars in areas such as planning your study and exam techniques
  • Study texts are available to purchase from the ICSA shop.

How much will it cost me?

Registration fees: If you are starting the ICSA qualifying programme, there is a one-off fee to register as an ICSA student.

Subscription fees: Paid annually by all students. The first payment is due upon registration and is calculated according to the ICSA membership calendar.


UK and overseas

Reduced rate countries*

One-off registration



Annual subscription (1 Aug – 31 July)



Half year subscription (1 Feb – 31 July)



Exemption fees: Applicable once your route has been confirmed and payable within six weeks of the date of registration


UK and overseas

Reduced rate countries*

Exemption fee (per module)



Exam fees: Payable when you want to sit an exam (by 1 April for the June exams and 1 October for November exams).


UK and overseas

Reduced rate countries*

Exam fee (per module)



Resit fee (per module)



Postponement fee (per module)



Chartered Secretaries case study fee



The complete list of costs is available here.

Reduced fees

Reduced rates apply for ICSA qualifying programme students living, registered and sitting their examinations in a number of countries. See all countries that are eligible for the reduced rate.

The reduced subscription includes a digital version of Governance and Compliance (G&C) magazine and all other student benefits. Printed copies of the Governance and Compliance magazine are available to students living in these countries for a subscription fee of £30 per year. Please email our friendly Student and Members team at studentsupport@icsa.org.uk to arrange this. 



Apply Online

Complete your registration and start your ICSA qualifying programme student journey today. By completing a few simple questions, we can look at your skills and experience to find the right route for you.  

If you wish to apply for exemptions, you must submit certified copies of your academic or professional qualifications and transcripts and/ or evidence of membership of relevant professional bodies. 

Register now

Students are required to abide by the Student rules and regulations and follow the Code of professional ethics and conduct.

The ICSA qualifying programme has been called the Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme (CSQS) since 2010 and we are changing the name now to prepare for transition to the new modules in 2019. If you have the right qualifications and experience to register on the qualifying programme between now and April 2019, you will be signing up to join CSQS and will transition to new modules in 2019.

Need help?

If you would like to speak to someone about your best options for the ICSA qualifying programme or you're having problems with your online application contact us for support on  +44 (0)20 7580 4741 or use our contact us form.

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