by Teach Accounting
12 Feb 2010
Think then write
Performance in the December 2009 exam (and previous exams) indicated that some candidates are so busy writing and calculating that they are not spending sufficient time reading and thinking. In particular, encourage your students to:
- Take the time to understand the facts of the situation. For example, Question 1 concerned the purchase of a business as opposed to the shares of a company.
- Read the formal requirement together with the instructions from the 'client' and the 'manager' carefully and identify all of the tasks. It may be helpful to list these tasks out in order to ensure that they are all performed.
- Think when asked to identify issues or list factors in order to identify as many as possible before writing about any of them. Otherwise there can be a tendency to write at length about the first one or two ideas rather than in an appropriate amount of detail about all of the relevant issues.
- Plan an explanation of a complex issue (for example, degrouping charges) so that all of the relevant stages of the explanation are included in a logical manner and repetition is avoided.
- Identify a sensible way to solve a numerical problem. For example, the total tax to be saved if a particular strategy is pursued, rather than simply preparing calculations of tax liabilities in the hope that the problem will solve itself. This may often be as simple as identifying the change in the level of income and multiplying it by 40% or, if NIC is relevant, 41%.
My report highlights the technical areas where candidates demonstrated a lack of knowledge in the December 2009 exam. You should draw your students' attention to these areas and also to the technical articles published on the ACCA website.
It should be emphasised to candidates that they need to know the basics of all of the taxes before they try to acquire the additional technical content of Paper P6. When explaining technical content that is new at Paper P6, it would be helpful to get your students to think about how these new rules fit into the basic structure of the particular tax.
Students need to have a thorough understanding of the basics so that they are able to deal with a particular point accurately. This will enable them to provide an accurate explanation of, for example, the tax treatment of additional income (a common scenario in the exam) without preparing a full computational proforma.
Candidates should practice as many past exam questions as they can. This will give them a good understanding of the style of information that they will need to assimilate, the techniques they will need to apply and the level of detail expected. When marking the December 2009 exam, it was easy to identify those candidates who had prepared well in this way as their answers demonstrated a clear understanding of what was expected of them.
Questions should always be worked to time. Emphasise to your students the need to earn marks at a constant rate throughout the time available. Weaker students simply hope to have finished a question when the time has elapsed and are prone to spending far too long on the early parts of a question; stronger students manage their time from the first minute and produce answers where the length of each part is in proportion to the number of marks available.