Student Spotlight: CTA3 Advisory has improved my letter writing skills and ability to present tax advice in a succinct and readable manner



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This month we chatted to Clare Pendlebury, Supervisor, CIB Accountants and Advisers and dux of CTA3 Advisory for Study Period 3 2021 about completing the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law, and how she was able to balance work, life and demanding family commitments during the pandemic.

Please tell us a bit about your tax career.

I started work in 2001 through the cadetship program at Pitcher Partners in Sydney working in Business Services, except for one season working in Audit. After a secondment to New York in early 2008, I moved to CIB Accountants and Advisers. I have worked in Business Advisory since the beginning of my time at CIB, and from 2010 onwards have chosen to work part-time and focus on family life. Twelve years and three children later, including a move to Dubbo in regional NSW, my job is now fully remote so I can maintain a good balance between home and work responsibilities.

In relation to my education, I have a B. Comm in Accounting and am also a Chartered Accountant. I recently completed the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law, having finished the program with the dux award for CTA3 Tax Advisory.

Why did you choose to study the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law? 

I’ve always had a desire to continue further study after my early years of parenting. In 2019, our youngest child was in her final year of preschool and my life was becoming more balanced. I was thirsty for another challenge and looking to increase my skills and qualification base. When looking at course options, the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law was the best combination of technical coverage, study commitment and program fee cost. I could not justify spending $35K in fees for a Master’s of Tax when I was only working part-time. I approached my current employer about supporting me with further study, and they generously agreed to pay the program fees.

What skill or knowledge areas have you gained by undertaking the program?

One skill I have gained in completing the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law is being able to research a tax issue thoroughly using legislation, ATO guidance and other materials. The course forces you to take the next critical step, which is applying your tax research to a case study that mirrors a real-world tax issue. The most valuable subjects were CTA2A & CTA2B as these cover all the major areas of the tax law which I deal with in my Business Advisory role. While I had a good working knowledge of these areas prior to enrolling, it was helpful to study the tax concepts in more detail and look at the application of the tax law from many different angles.

CTA3 has improved my letter writing skills and ability to present tax advice in a succinct and readable manner. It is important for tax advisers to have a detailed knowledge of their subject matter, but they must also be able to communicate that knowledge to clients in a clear and comprehensible way. 

How did you juggle study, work and other commitments and perform so well?

The normal time management plans of balancing study, work and family commitments were turned upside down by extended COVID lockdowns in the second half of 2021. I was spread thin between remote working, home-schooling 3 primary aged children and a husband who was extremely busy as an essential worker. When faced with the prospect of the CTA3 exam in October and school not returning to face-to-face until November, I considered withdrawing from the subject. I could only continue because my mother came to live with us for five weeks and helped with home-schooling the children. This allowed me to work during the day, study at night and then spend time with the family each afternoon.

My main advice is to have a supportive family and ensure you are ready and focused to maximise the time you have allocated to study. Additionally, maintain some life balance through regular activities to help you switch off. For me, it was going for an early morning run, gardening or playing board games with the family.      

What advice do you have for other tax professionals considering the Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law Program?

Even after working in tax for 20 years, there is always more to learn and broaden your knowledge. The Graduate Diploma of Applied Tax Law is a great course for individuals starting their tax career and wanting to gain an excellent grounding in a broad range of tax areas. It’s also a valuable program for experienced professionals who may have had time away from tax and wish to re-acquaint themselves with broad and up-to-date tax knowledge.


When you have achieved success in the CTA3 Advisory exam, you will have satisfied the educational requirements to be eligible to obtain the globally-recognised “CTA” designation. Those carrying this designation have proven themselves to be of the highest standards for Tax Advisers and equipped to provide the best tax advice. On completion of the subject, you may also be eligible for 6 units of credit, of recognition of prior learning, towards a Master of Taxation from UNSW.

Ready to continue your education in tax?