The Exam Review Board meets within two weeks of the examination session and comprises Platinum Approved Learning Partners (ALPs) for Content and Tuition, and ACCA staff responsible for the development of the exams and the relationship with Students and ALPs. ACCA obtains and responds to feedback from Platinum ALPs both in attendance and those not attending (through feedback received in advance). The results of the student survey, which collates students’ thoughts and comments on the examinations, is also reviewed by the board. This feedback is given to examiners and assists them in finalising the agreed marking process for the session.
A summarised version of the feedback relating to F4 to P7 for the December 2011 session is detailed as follows
Overall the paper was fair and well balanced and a good candidate would have been able to easily manage the time.
It was considered that the mark allocation in question 1 may have been unbalanced.
Question 6(a) was considered tough as there is not a lot of detail in the syllabus on this, and question 9(a) was considered difficult.
ACCA responded that the marks in question 1 were deliberately split 6/4 for parts (a) and (b) as part b) asked about legislation, including delegated legislation and theses were awarded 2 marks each. Question 6 was very well answered and this was broken into 4 parts so that candidates did not require a lot of detail to answer each part. Question 9(a) was actually well answered but in part b) candidates missed marks for explaining the basic company law principles of separate personality.
A majority of candidates found this to be a fair paper, set at the correct level (83%). 94% of candidates agreed that the questions were clear and 91% found the syllabus was covered adequately.
Overall this was considered to be fair, consistent with past papers and with good syllabus coverage examining areas that have not been tested before.
Tuition providers thought that question 2(b) would be considered vague from the students perspective. Feedback from the standardisation meeting revealed that a wide range of appropriate answers are receiving credit.
It was felt that candidates would struggle with question 3 as it was wholly written. ACCA stated that this was not the first wholly written question for this paper.
Question 4(a) was considered heavily numerical with unclear requirements and part (c) contained a requirement that was taken out of the syllabus. ACCA stated that the calculations were simply adding numbers together. ACCA also acknowledged the syllabus issue with part (c) of the question and markers were giving full credit for discussion of benefits and up to 2 marks for merely describing life cycle costing
Question 5 tested ABC variances for the first time and members felt this would unsettle candidates. ACCA responded that all areas of the syllabus are examinable and candidates must be prepared.
74% of candidates found the syllabus was covered well and that the questions clear. 53% felt they had little time to complete the paper. Some candidates claim question 4(c) (on life cycle costing) was outside of the syllabus scope.
Overall the paper was fair and balanced, covering the syllabus well by covering a wide variety of concepts, being a good test of knowledge and good preparation for paper P6.
Question 1 was felt to be very fair and provided opportunities to score well on parts (a) and (b), however there was potential to waste time on part (c) if income tax liabilities were recalculated instead of thinking about marginal calculations, although credit was still awarded for this approach.
Question 2 was felt to be fair, although complex and rather long, and question 3 was felt to be fair, covering core areas, although including some difficult calculations. Good exam technique would help to score some easy marks, as there was potential to spend too long allocating time periods for the principal private residence.
Question 4 was felt to be easier than previous papers, providing candidates were prepared for a question on property income and question 5 was felt to be unusual in that it contained 3 different topics within the question, and some were disappointed that there were relatively few marks on inheritance tax.
85% of candidates felt the syllabus was covered adequately. 79% agreed the exam questions were clear. Comments from candidates indicate that they struggled with the questions on VAT and Inheritance Tax.
Paper F7 was found to be a fair and achievable paper with lots of easy marks.
Good syllabus coverage with clear written questions.
The questions were fair, within syllabus and at the appropriate level of difficulty. Question styles were all similar to those seen previously.
The paper was lengthy but easier when compared to past attempts. However Question 2 was tricky and time-consuming due to a lot of IAS adjustments. This question also included a new concept, the detailed presentation of the breakdown of cost of sales but many candidates were gaining the easy marks allocated to this.
Question 4 may have thrown candidates, with part (b) felt to be demanding with the requirement to distinguish between the treatment of the loan in the single entity and consolidated financial statements.
70% commented that paper F7 was set at the right level. 97% found the questions clear and 91% agreed the syllabus was covered adequately. There were a significant minority of candidates who felt questions 1 to question 3 were time demanding and affected their ability to complete the paper.
The paper was considered to be fair and reasonably well balanced, and should have been easily attempted by well prepared candidates. It was felt that there was good application of the core knowledge of the syllabus. However 15 marks were considered to be a lot on corporate governance in question 4.
ACCA responded that the main part of question 4 was in line with questions previously asked and candidates were in fact doing very well on this question as there were a lot of basic points in the scenario for them to pick up on.
92% of candidates found the syllabus was adequately covered. 83% felt the paper was set at the right level and 60% agreed they had enough time to complete the paper.
Paper F9 was found to be a fair paper, covering most of the key areas of the syllabus with clearly constructed requirements and had a good mix of discursive and calculation questions.
Although question 1 was fair the wording in part (d) was thought to be not clear enough.
Question 2(c) and (d) was fair but examined factoring which most candidates find a bit challenging. It was pointed out that alternative approaches are possible with question 3(d). ACCA confirmed that markers have been instructed to give full credit for alternative approaches.
It was felt that 11 marks allocated for question 4(d) for a purely discursive requirement, may have been challenging.
82% of candidates found the exam questions clear which thoroughly covered the syllabus and 66% felt they had enough time to complete the paper.
This was a well balanced paper testing the three key areas contained within the new title of the examination: governance, risk and ethics
The examiner has remained consistent in his style and approach and by setting a relevant ‘real world’ case scenario for the first compulsory question and in seeking some evidence of professionalism and professional language with candidates required to write a statement for a committee.
It was commented that the requirements for question 1 were broad enough to cover three areas of the syllabus contained in the title.
Reviewers commented on the clarity of certain requirements such as questions 2(a) and 4(a). Those were thought not to be as clear as they might have been.
It was felt that Question 4 might have been unpopular, but it was pointed out that Gray, Owen and Adams had been previously examined, but in a different and possibly less challenging way.
It was also commented that there was repetition of some topics previously tested. However ACCA responded by clarifying that in such a paper it was hard to avoid repetition of coverage of key areas between papers. It was also argued that the risk area has not been adequately covered except for the untested topics from the additions in the syllabus. ACCA responded by explaining that there were five part requirements directly or indirectly related to risk areas in this examination.
Time management seemed not to be an issue with this paper.
Candidate feedback reported 75% found the questions clear and 80% agreed the syllabus was covered adequately. 59% of candidates felt they had enough time, but some candidates had some concerns around the length of question 1.
This paper was found to be a controversial paper with mixed comments. Some comments suggested that there was inadequate syllabus coverage with too much on group issues and obscure topics while other comments were that the paper was well constructed and tested different areas of the syllabus comprehensively. Candidates had reasonable time to complete the paper.
There were a few comments that it was a little surprising to see the corridor method’ of IAS 19, given that it has now been outlawed under the revised IAS 19. The revised standard is not examinable until 2012 and the ‘corridor’ was only one part of the pension accounting in the question and marks were available for a range of answers as long as an understanding of the basic principles was demonstrated.
Question 3 on restructuring might have caught many candidates out, but the 13 marks reorganisation requirement was fair provided that candidates could convert text into double entry.
The reorganisation should not have surprised candidates as this was one of the small numbers of new topics added to the syllabus for 2011.
A whole range of accounting standards was included throughout the paper.
While some very specific areas of knowledge were examined, the marking schemes give credit for a wide range of answers where candidates show knowledge of the principles involved.
54% of felt there was too little time to complete the paper and 58% felt the paper was too difficult. 61% found the questions clear and 61% felt the core areas of the syllabus were covered well. There were some comments that the paper focused on obscure areas of the syllabus. Candidates also felt that they were disadvantaged in question 3 due to their lack of knowledge of the football industry – those who were not familiar with it had to base their opinions on assumptions
Paper P3 was found to be a fair paper. The analysis and implementation part of the syllabus were well covered particularly the analysis portion, however, it was felt that the strategic choices portion, which is a substantial part of it was not covered. The paper could have been covered in the given time. Question 2(a) required the use of the cultural web to address the issue. However, it was suggested that the references made to different components of the cultural web in the solution are not very clearly signalled in the scenario. It was suggested that a very high level of imaginative experience is required to relate the facts given in the case study, but this is possible as the scenarios are very rich in information.
Question 1 is almost always about strategic positioning which is a key part of the syllabus. A concern was raised that (resourced based strategy) RBV is never tested to its true depth despite part A4(c) of the syllabus clearly stating. "Discuss the capabilities required to sustain competitive advantage" Part (c) of the question required candidates to differentiate KPIs and CSFs, but most candidates used the terms interchangeably. It was pointed out that in question 1(c) balanced scorecard was referred to in the answer although the examiner said this would not be examined. ACCA responded by stating that P3 builds on F5 knowledge so it would be legitimate to refer to this area in an answer, but it was certainly not a key part of the requirement, which was about CSF and KPIs.
Questions 2 and 3 were thought to be the most popular of the options questions and there were no issues with any of the requirements in these questions.
One reviewer commented that question 4(b) was related to F5, but it was confirmed that the area is in the syllabus under quantitative aspects of forecasting and the revised pilot paper contains a new question which indicates clearly that this kind of analysis is now part of the syllabus, since the new June 2011 changes were introduced.
The examiner has however, reported that question 4(b) was the least popular but although question 4 has not been popular in terms of choosing a question, those who did choose it appeared to answered it well, particularly part a).
84% of candidates found syllabus coverage appropriate, 69% found the difficulty level about right and 65% felt there were few time management issues. Candidates found question 1 too long and complicated. Candidates appreciated real-life scenarios.
Paper P4 was seen as a fair yet challenging paper but time pressured. It adequately covered core syllabus topics.
Members expressed that it was a welcome change to get a question on advanced investment appraisal testing aspects of international capital budgeting in question 1. Although a fairly straightforward question, it was highly computational and may have resulted in candidates being too time pressured.
Question 2 was considered fair and in line with previous exam questions although it would have been better to have broken down part (b) into constituent parts rather than leaving it lumpy at 17 marks. ACCA responded that the requirement is to recommend an appropriate strategy and so would not be ideal to split the requirement.
It was felt question 3 was the least popular question with candidates using too much time in calculations. Although the members commended the article published in September, other articles that followed on in October and November may have confused candidates. ACCA responded that the 3 articles were effectively one article but had to be split for publishing purposes. ACCA further stated that articles should be considered for general learning purposes. No article signals a topic is about to be examined and candidates should use older articles as well as recent ones when preparing for their exams.
Question 4 was considered fair.
It was felt that since the topic in question 5 was minor, it was not expected for a whole question, candidates may have struggled to obtain 18 marks. Feedback from the standardisation meeting reported that candidates are doing fairly well on this question.
74% of candidates found the questions clear and 47% found the difficulty level too hard. 76% agreed the paper covered the syllabus well. Many felt they had too little time to complete the paper (77%).
The paper was considered fair covering the syllabus well, although the questions were set on comparatively less focused areas. The paper was also considered time pressured with a lot of information to absorb.
Question 1 part (i) and (iii) were considered fair but candidates may have struggled with part (b) since the requirements did not specify which technique to use. ACCA responded that at this level candidates should be in a position to decide which technique to use given the information but also the requirement hints ‘decision making under uncertainty’ giving a lead to use expected values and maximax etc
Question 2 was considered fair although some candidates might struggle due to it being a wholly written question
Question 3 was felt to be challenging as it required some practical experience in the work place ACCA responded that this is the most popular question and candidates are doing generally well.
Question 4 was considered fairly easy and a lot of useful information was provided in the background case. Feedback from the standardisation meeting however reported that most candidates were not performing very well in this question. It was felt that question 5 would prove most popular and ACCA confirmed that candidates are generally performing better with this question.
56% of candidates found the syllabus was covered well and 67% felt time pressured. Many commented that the wording in question 1 lacked clarity.
It was felt that this was a well balanced paper, comparable in style, content and level of difficulty to prior papers, although some felt that it was time pressured. It contained some easy and some difficult marks, and enabled candidates to show off their skills if they had them. Section B was felt to be clear, making the choice of optional question easier.
Questions 1 and 2 were felt to be fair, with helpful guidance within the questions and including enough independent parts for candidates to do well.
It was felt that SAYE share schemes in question 3 may have been unpopular, although part (b) was fairly straightforward including some basic benefit rules from paper F6.
Question 4 was felt to contain some tricky areas, although these areas were covered well in the examiner’s article on trusts, and question 5 was felt to be easier than it looked at first glance.
59% of candidates felt the requirements were clear, and 70% felt there was adequate syllabus coverage, although 69% felt it was too time pressured.
The most balanced paper set for some time with clear requirements.
The examining team should be commended for delivering such a fresh exam.
This was considered to be an excellent and well constructed paper, similar to previous papers. It was felt however that the paper was time pressured, particularly question 1 for 39 marks.
ACCA responded that so far there was no evidence of time pressure from candidates and that question 1 in June was of similar length (worth 37 marks), although appreciated there is a lot to do..
76% of candidates found this paper to be fair and balanced and 65% thought the paper to be set at the right difficulty level.