Comments on the Papers Overall
The feedback from the ERB on the December 2009 examination papers was very positive. Overall the ERB members agreed that the majority of papers were challenging but fair. Some concerns were raised regarding individual papers – these are outlined below.
Comments on Specific Papers
Paper F4 was found to be a well constructed fair paper covering good core areas.
It was suggested that it would have been more interesting to test student knowledge on instantaneous communication in question 2, rather than the postal rule, which is considered to be outdated in the modern world.
There was a heavy emphasis on law of obligations. This was because the examiner wished to examine exclusion clauses in an application style question, which has not been examined before and therefore it was expected that students would find this difficult. To balance out the difficulty there were also two contract knowledge questions on more straightforward topics.
91% of students agreed that the questions were clear and 88% found the syllabus was covered adequately. 82% felt the paper was set at the correct level.
Paper F5 found to be a good overall paper with straight forward requirements. The new format seemed to be working well. Question 3 was found to be the most difficult with a lot of calculations. The students may have struggled with inflation and regression analysis, for example. The markers were advised to give credit for any sensible treatment of inflation.
Question 5 consisted of a lot of information and would put students under time pressure. The marking however did not get any evidence of time pressure as most students were able to finish the questions. 84% of students found the syllabus was covered well. 46% felt they had little time to complete the paper mainly due to the change in format. Question 3 was the least popular.
Paper F6 proved to be interesting, with a good balance of computational and discursive questions, and a good overall paper.
The article published in student accountant advising students about the format of profits adjustments questions should have helped students with question 1. Question 2 was seen to be challenging, and it was felt some students will have had difficulties in calculating the withholding tax and the underlying tax. Question 3 was felt to be narrow in focus, but with sufficient marks available for the question requirements.
Some felt that Question 4 could have featured more of the syllabus, however this did include consideration of carrying on a trade using the badges of trade, and calculations of the income tax, national insurance contributions, and capital gains tax.
Paper F7 was consistent with previous exams and contained wide syllabus coverage. Hence, a well-prepared candidate who had practised many past questions and developed good time-management could readily attain a pass mark within the time constraints of the examination.
Questions 3 and 4 were both technically challenging and time pressured particularly for students with a poor grasp of the specific standards tested (IAS 16, 38 and IASB framework). It was noted there was a higher focus on non-current assets than on some papers. However, this is an important topic area within the F7 syllabus.
It was felt that F8 paper was firm but fair, although the paper may not have been favourable as it contained too many styles. Only four marks was given over to audit reporting, which was less than expected. In all, there were 30 marks on audit procedures alone in this paper.
This is much more than the previous two exam sessions called for Question 4 was considered to be tough on reporting on prospective financial information, which is considered to be more of a Paper P7 topic. 85% of students thought that the syllabus was adequately covered. 73% felt they had adequate time to complete the paper.
However, this exam was produced by an interim examining team. A new examiner has been appointed from June 2010 and she will be producing an Examiner’s approach article
Paper F9 was found to be a fair but challenging paper with good syllabus coverage and some areas being tested for the first time. Each question had a good mix of difficult and easy sections on which to obtain marks.
Question 2 was thought to be less clear on the cost of debt being pre or post tax relief. The mixing of sources of finance and foreign exchange risk in question 3 would have been confusing to students. The marking scheme was amended to give scope for students to get more marks.
Question 4 part b required a preparation of forecast financial statements which was examined for the first time and would not have been expected by the students. The markers meeting reported that students were doing well and gained high marks from this part of the question
Paper P1 was a consistent and fair paper with a good balance across the syllabus, although possibly more time pressured than usual because the scenario for question 1 and question scenarios in Section B was considered slightly longer than usual. A few topics were examined for the first time but these topics were welcomed by tutors.
There were some potential issues around interpretation of requirements in Question 1 and there appeared to be a higher proportion of higher level verb requirements, which may have made the exam more demanding. Student feedback reported 74% found the questions clear and 82% agreed the syllabus was covered adequately. Question 2 appeared to be most popular with students who were performing well in this question.
Paper P2 was found to be a reasonably fair paper on the whole. It was noted that Question 1 was found to be rather lengthy and time pressured, although less technically deep than in previous sittings. Students did not like the numerous calculations required by the question. 66% of students felt there was too little time to complete the paper however, 72% felt the syllabus was covered adequately.
Paper P3 was a fair paper with a good selection of questions and no unpleasant surprises. Feedback from the markers’ meeting revealed: Question 1 did specify Porter’s model. Students were obtaining marks here for the interpretation.
90% of students found the exam questions to be clear and 82% felt the difficulty level was about right.
Paper P4 was a well-set paper which managed to cover all the core areas of the syllabus. The cost of debt in question 2 could be interpreted post tax. Markers were advised to give credit for any reasonable interpretation of the cost of debt. Question 3 part (b) was tricky but a clear way of testing whether students actually understood the numbers put in formula in part (a). The markers were advised to mark generously here as students were finding this part difficult. Question 5 was felt to be significantly more difficult to answer than question 3 and 4 as candidates need sound technical knowledge of swaps and VaR. 56% of students found the question clear and 62% found the difficulty level too hard. 55% agreed the paper covered the syllabus well. Many felt the core areas were not examined.
Paper P5 was a fair and straightforward paper with a good selection of questions. There was concern that section A was split 30/30 this time. It was reported that the examiner has some flexibility in allocating marks to questions in this section depending on the level of demand of each question. The marking guide to question 1 could have been more specific. The detailed and more specific marking guide was provided to markers. 82% of students found the syllabus was covered well. 69% of students felt time pressured.
It was felt that paper P6 was a challenging but well balanced paper and there was a reasonable balance between F6 and P6. Question 1 was felt to be challenging, with six marks for hypothetical de-grouping.
Question 2 was a very specific area of the syllabus, so well prepared students should have been able to cope. Question 4 was found to be a fair question if students studied close companies and implications of employing spouse and part disposals with reinvestment into depreciating assets.
Question 5 was deemed to be predominantly F6 knowledge. Most students felt the requirements were clear and there was adequate syllabus coverage, although some felt that there was some time pressure.
Tutors found paper P7 to be a fair test but moving away from application towards knowledge. There seemed to be less in the scenarios than usual. However, there was very good syllabus coverage across the paper.
Specifically, it was felt that question 4 could have been answered with F8 knowledge. Students found this paper to be fair and balanced (90%) but there were negative comments from almost half the students in relation to time pressure (47%).