Comments on the Papers Overall
The feedback from the ERB on the June 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 fair with good syllabus coverage and in line with previous sittings. It was commented that 10 mark analysis questions may be interpreted in many ways. The law of Tort has always been a separate question but this time it was combined. ACCA response was that Tort was deliberately placed into the company names question this sitting as it is an area students struggle with. All capabilities of the syllabus were covered except insolvency. Contract is an important area and will feature on more questions than other areas, along with company law, as has been the case in the past.
Paper F5 was the first one of a new format this session. This paper was considered overall to be fair and well balanced. It tested basic knowledge and understanding. Well prepared students will have performed well. Question 4 seems a very general question which does not fit well in the syllabus. ACCA explained that marking scheme was changed to allow for maximum mark allocation. Additionally, markers were instructed to give credit for any reasonable discursive answers.
Paper F6 proved to be a fair and reasonable paper. The questions were set at the right level with appropriate syllabus coverage. Question 3 was seen to be challenging as it covered a lot of aspects of Capital Gains Tax, however the new Capital Gains Tax rules are more straightforward and so students performed well in this question. In question 4 a) it was unclear that the discount needed to be removed from the bad debts, but this element was only worth half a mark, so it was seen as a good discriminator. Question 4 c) was also challenging.
The scenario style was welcomed for question 5; this may help progression through to paper P6. The markers’ meeting feedback revealed that students were doing well in all questions, and surprisingly well in question 5.
The F7 paper was seen to be a straightforward paper with wide syllabus coverage.The paper was somewhat demanding with time pressure being an issue. Question 1 included goodwill under the IFRS3(revised). The approach used in the exam was different to the approach used within the official publisher materials but in line with the articles published by ACCA. ACCA responded by stating that markers have been given the official publisher approach to assist in the marking process and equal credit would be given.
The August 2008 article was not aimed at providing strict guidance on format but to clearly highlight the issues raised with the new standard and the difference between old and new standard, later articles provide many more illustrations and hence more guidance on how ACCA suggested solutions would be formatted.. Question 5 required a lot of detailed workings although candidates could still perform well as a result of the own figure rule.
It was felt that F8 was a firm but fair and covered the syllabus well. There was more emphasis on internal audit than expected. ACCA confirmed that internal audit will not be examined at every sitting although it does remain an important area of the syllabus.
The feedback from the Markers’ Meeting revealed the answer to question 3(a) (ii) was expanded to include the problems encountered in the audit rather than just the problems of using audit software. With regard to question 5(b) (ii) the article on fraud should have helped students
Paper F9 contained a good balance of discursive and computational questions. A firm but fair paper. The paper was considered to be a paper of two halves. The first two questions being relatively easy while the remaining two were found to be rather difficult. Markers were advised to mark the first 2 questions carefully as this area would determine whether a candidate would pass.
The presentation of financial information for question 1 was not formally presented as was the case with the December 2008 paper which was set in UK GAAP format; It was agreed that in future it should be presented in IFRS format since it is an international paper and also to be consistent .
Paper P1 was found to be a fair paper with a good balance across the syllabus, with emphasis on governance and ethics. Some concerns were voiced around the policy on publication of articles production and whether the contents of such articles were always examined and when were tested.
It was explained that students are advised to look at a suite of articles rather than the most recently produced article. They should also note that articles written by individuals other than the examiner are also relevant. Question 4c) – It was pointed out that this was quite an unexpected question. Although risk is a large area of the P1 syllabus, entrepreneurial risks are not specifically mentioned in the study guide so it was argued to be a concept tested which students are not aware of. However, it was worth only four marks, so not a major issue and students are answering well.
Paper P2 was found to be a difficult but fair paper. There seemed to more emphasis on ethical discussion as in previous papers. Question 1 was found to be rather complex. ACCA commented that IFRS3 (revised) basic calculations were already being tested at F7 and hence something more demanding was required at the professional level.
ACCA furthermore stated that only complex groups would not be tested within the first couple of sittings following the issue of the revised standard. It is vital the both candidates and tuition providers review the FAQs within ACCA website from time to time. Question 4 contained numerical content which was found to be unusual and hence there was little scope for discursive answers. ACCA stated that the examiner at the February conference and within the examiners presentation on ACCA website indicated that the style of question 4 would change to include some numerical aspects to encourage candidates to choose this question.
Feedback was that many candidates would have missed the applicability of IFRIC 4 in question 3. However, the examiner has stated that IFRICs were a syllabus area that he would examine and expected candidates to have knowledge of them, credit would be given to candidates sensibly applying the framework and other related standards.
Paper P3 was fair with some long scenarios, especially question 1 and students found the paper very time pressured. There were concerns around question 1b) being difficult to justify a single strategic solution or option for this question. However, it was reported that the examiner had instructed markers to exercise flexibility to award marks when other options had been justified and where the arguments used were reasonable and supported by evidence from the case.
Students felt that the examiner did not specify which models to use. However, the examiner has stated at the teachers’ conference that specification of models will be made in some requirements where there is only one which he wants to assess.
Paper P4 was felt to be a difficult and technically poor paper allowing students little chance to prove their P4 knowledge. Questions did not relate to core P4 material. The poor syllabus coverage makes it difficult for students to prepare for this paper. For example questions 1 and 5 were more of F9 content, with a twist, rather than core P4 topics.
ACCA explained that the examiner has stated and emphasised in his examiner approach article, examiner approach interview and also recently reiterated in the examiner analysis interview that students taking this paper should have a thorough understanding of the F9 syllabus.
Question 3 was considered strange in that there has not been similar questions in the past and both official texts do not discuss this well. It was explained that the difficulty with this question was to bring together knowledge from different topics. Again the examiner said in his approach and interviews that students should obtain a broad understanding of the syllabus and how the different financial topics interrelate.
However the markers were advised to give credit for any sensible attempt to answer the question. Question 4 was common sense and should not have posed many problems. Q2 was considered reasonable.
Paper P5 was a fair but demanding paper found to be highly numerical but less strategic. There was concern that some requirements were considered more of F5 such as question 2 part d. It was explained that the fact that F5 is a foundation for P5, questions in P5 are expected to contain a significant proportion of F5 technical material and the examiner has clearly stated this in both the examiner approach article and interviews. Question 3 on Expectancy theory and Question 5 on Six sigma would more likely to be found in a P3 paper rather than P5. ACCA said that it is inevitable there will be a P3 overlap in this paper and this is highlighted in the study guide.
The P6 paper was a fair but challenging paper with rigorous coverage of the syllabus. Overall, an improvement from the previous paper, and a well prepared student should be able to pass. Students struggled with question 5, however some good attempts were made, and credit was given for these attempts.
It was felt that corporation tax had less emphasis than personal tax. VAT on land & buildings and capital goods scheme did not feature, despite the examiner emphasising this as an important area, however there are many important areas in this syllabus. Most students felt the requirements were clear and there was adequate syllabus coverage, although a lot felt it was too time pressured, and some struggled with the level of difficulty.
Tutors found paper P7 to be a well-balanced paper with good syllabus coverage. The paper continues to follow a familiar pattern. Students should be able to cope with the paper if they are adequately prepared. The examiner has provided adequate notice of the inclusion of complex FR issues. Question 3 was found to be very demanding and required a strong pool of knowledge, and there was a narrow focus on an ISRE. Students generally found this paper to be fair and balanced but there were negative comments in relation to time pressure.