ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

The Examination Review Board (ERB) met on 24 June 2010 to give immediate feedback on the June 2010 ACCA exams.

The terms of reference of the ERB are:

  • To review the questions, answers and marking schemes after each exam session to ensure that the papers are a fair and reasonable test.
  • To recommend changes to the syllabus and format of the papers.

A number of individuals feed into the exam review including platinum publishers, platinum tuition providers, Oxford Brookes, and student survey reports conducted immediately after the examination.

The following is a summary of the papers and areas of concern discussed by the panel.

Paper F4

This paper was found to cover a wide spectrum of the syllabus and the questions were well thought out. Overall it was considered to be straightforward, interesting and a fair paper. It was pleasing to see a reference to the Supreme Court.

The feedback from the markers’ meeting revealed students found Question 10 difficult. The examiner chose not to split the mark allocation in order to allow markers to be flexible in the marking given that this was a more difficult question. A lot of students also struggled with Question 8.

Student feedback

  • 84% of students found this to be a fair paper, set at the correct level
  • 93% of students agreed that the questions were clear
  • 93% found the syllabus was covered adequately.

Paper F5

Paper F5 was found to be a fair paper covering mainstream topics. It was commented that discursive elements could be answered without doing any calculations. Scenarios were positively shorter. The 20 mark structure continues to work well.

Question 3 was considered more mathematical and students may have struggled with this question. The feedback from markers meeting revealed that students were performing very well on this question and there are a lot of own figure marks available in the later parts of the requirements.

Question 5 may have proved difficult. The wording in Part (b) required a higher intellectual level than required at the Paper F5 level. It was felt to be more of Paper P5 level. ACCA reported that so far from the marking process students were not performing well on this question.

Student feedback

  • 85% of students found the syllabus was covered well
  • 63% felt they had enough time to complete the paper

Paper F6 (UK)

Overall this was considered to be a fair paper but more challenging. All questions related to the syllabus, and it should be passable by the average student. This paper examined more small areas of the syllabus and this change in style may have confused students.

It was suggested that the reference to CO2 emissions may be misleading in Question 1, when the old rules applied but both the old and new rules were examined and so the CO2 emissions information was necessary, as students are expected to know when the old rules and the new rules apply.

Regarding Question 3 note 2 – it was asked if the examiner could confirm that he will only examine the deferment of a building rather than the disposal. The examiner has not confirmed this to be the case.

Question 4 was considered to be harsh and unusual. The Study Guide mentions ethics approach but it was felt this question took this further when mentioning money laundering. The level of this question was not that of a Paper P6 question, however some students may have struggled with this being a fully written question with no calculations, although some good answers were received at the time of the markers’ meeting. 

Tutors felt that it was good to see the gap between Paper F6 and P6 being reduced with this more challenging paper.

ACCA reported that it was a conscious decision to make Paper F6 more challenging, therefore better underpinning Paper P6. The smaller question parts enable the examiner to examine a wide range of syllabus sections, which some tuition providers have acknowledged should help to reduce students only doing selective studying and trying to question spot.

Student feedback

  • 60% agreed the exam questions were clear
  • 64% felt the syllabus was covered adequately.

F7

The feedback was that the paper was fair.

Question 1 was as expected however it was felt that some of the adjustments, namely the contingent consideration and intangible were quite difficult. ACCA responded that the standard to which the contingent consideration relates has been in issue for sometime, was covered by various articles and official publisher materials.

The other adjustments are all elements that have featured in combination with each other in many past papers and so candidates would have had the opportunity to practise these areas as part of their revision.

ACCA reported than many candidates were failing to answer the question asked in question 3 parts (b) and (c), instead conducting a standard interpretation of accounts. It is important for candidates to consider what is being requested rather than mechanically approaching questions of this type.

Question 4 on the whole was well received although some felt that the calculations requested in Part (b) were complex. ACCA responded that all figures were given and that the official publisher materials outline the scenario as a standard example of substance over legal form.

At this stage of marking Part (c) on the whole was badly attempted by a significant number of candidates, largely due to candidates wanting to adopt a mechanical approach to interpreting financial statements and hence their results for Part (b).

The ERB panel felt that Question 5 may have surprised students, although also thought that this question was long overdue. ACCA reported that so far within the marking process candidates have answered Part (a) well although a small majority of candidates are struggling with the accounting of the financial instrument in both question 5b and question 2.

As a general point, ACCA stressed the importance of candidates attempting 100% of the paper.

Student feedback

  • 54% of students commented Paper F7 was difficult especially due to the amount required within the time frame.
  • 68% found the questions clear
  • 79% agreed the syllabus was covered adequately

Paper F8

The ERB considered the exam to be a fair paper with excellent coverage of all major topics within the syllabus. It was felt that it was a good quality paper with consistent style.

There were concerns that Question 2(a), the elements of an assurance engagement, had been added into the Study Guide next year and this was not clearly covered by the current Study Guide.

ACCA confirmed that Question 2 on assurance is within the syllabus and is taken directly from the International Framework for Assurance Engagements, an examinable document and that the examiner had indicated that assurance would be examinable going forward. The Study Guide for June 2011 had been updated on this point for clarity.

Question 1(a) on audit risk was proving problematic to students as many do not appear to understand audit risk, an extremely important concept.

ACCA confirmed that the examiner would be lenient on clarity project terms for this session but that going forward students should use the correct terms.

Student feedback

  • 91% of students thought that the syllabus was adequately covered.
  • 71% felt they had adequate time to complete the paper
  • 71% agreed they had enough time to complete the paper.

Paper F9

Paper F9 was found to be a fair but more challenging paper. It had a good mix of simple and complex areas to allow more able candidates to distinguish themselves.

Question 1 Part (a) was considered difficult as the textbooks do not cover probability tables well and could be considered more a Paper F5 syllabus area than Paper F9. The question also combined different areas of the syllabus which would be confusing and marks were unbalanced.

It was reported from the markers’ meeting that many students were performing well especially Parts (a) and (b). I

n Part (a) most students were not producing the joint probability table and found it difficult to get the later marks but would only lose three marks if the table was not used.

Question 4 seemed difficult because it mixed various areas of the syllabus. There was concern that students would also struggle with the 10 marks given to Part (a) of the requirement. Students might also be confused with the concepts of CAPM and ROE. The markers’ meeting reported that students found Part (b) more challenging and were mixing answers between Parts (b) and (c). Markers were advised to give credit to points regardless of any section of the requirement they are answering.

Student feedback

  • 59% of students found the paper difficult
  • 41% of students felt they had too little time. 

Paper P1

Paper P1 was found to be a fair and balanced paper with an appropriate division of theory and practical application. The content was similar to the previous sitting.

Question 4 contained a reference to an auditor of a small business discussing potential financial irregularities with members of the family involved before making their formal report. This was agreed as being something that such a person might do as a professional in this specific family context, although if money laundering had been concerned, such a dialogue might have been classed as ‘tipping off’ and potentially illegal and unprofessional. This was not the case here.

Some panel members commented that the paper might not have been as balanced as previous papers and that CSR was not assessed. However it was pointed out that CSR was assessed in Question 1(d) Part (ii) relating to social and environmental ‘footprint’. It was also stated that ethics was under assessed, however, it was noted that 13 marks in total were allocated to ethics requirements within the paper.

Student feedback

Student feedback reported 78% found the questions clear

  • 83% agreed the syllabus was covered adequately
  • 48% of students felt they had too little time

Paper P2

The general feedback on the paper was that it was challenging, time pressured, tough, but not unfair.

Question 1 contained both a complex group and disposals, which the panel felt was unfair. ACCA stated that

  • This is a Professional level paper and such scenarios could quite easily exist in real life.
  • The syllabus guide does not indicate that these areas would be examined in isolation.
  • Each adjustment was self contained and so should not have been as difficult to attempt as perhaps the initial read of the paper may suggest.
  • The marking does look at the process rather than the actual final answer. So far in the marking process students are doing well.

The acceptability of the net method of accounting for the indirect associate was raised. ACCA responded that this method would be accepted although would not be outlined as part of the June 2010 illustrative answer.
 
Question 2 received fair feedback although one ERB member thought that the areas were rather obscure and theoretical. The examiner has responded that each of the scenarios was based on real company predicaments/events. This is generally the case for many of his exam questions.

The change in style to Question 4 was welcomed however it was felt that Questions 2 and 3 have become more narrative as a result. ACCA responded that it does not see the overall number of marks being awarded for calculation within the paper to significantly change, furthermore candidates tend to perform better overall in questions with reduced numerical calculations as they are forced to explain their proposed treatments (i.e. not hide behind the numbers).

Student feedback

  • 66% of students felt there was too little time to complete the paper
  • 75% felt the paper was too difficult.
  • 50% found the questions lacked clarity and did not relate to the core areas of the syllabus. 

Paper P3

A fair paper which tested wide areas of the syllabus. The paper had a significant emphasis on business processes and competency frameworks, although one of the latter requirements assessed the specific competences required of business analysts and the other assessed the wider concept and purpose of such frameworks.

A Student Accountant article relating to competency frameworks was published in 2009 giving candidates additional support on this area of the syllabus

Question 1 was considered to be a long scenario, however the requirements were fair. The requirement relating to professional marks may have confused international students although guidance on how professional marks are awarded has been comprehensively covered in a student accountant article in the past. It was noted however, that part of the overall length of the scenario in Question 1 was attributable to the process flow chart which took up one whole page.

Student feedback

  • Students gave very good feedback in their responses to this paper around syllabus coverage (79%), difficulty level (62%) and time management.
  • Some concerns were raised regarding the length of the Question 1 scenario.

Paper P4

A challenging but not unreasonable paper. It was felt that Paper P4 still heavily relies on Paper F9 syllabus knowledge, for example Question 1 (iii). ACCA reported that sensitivity analysis is clearly in the Paper P4 syllabus but also that students should be well aware that Paper F9 is the underpinning paper.

Question 4 was considered to be too general and did not allow a well-prepared student to differentiate themselves from a less well-prepared student. Some ERB members felt it was more business strategy related (Paper P3) than financial strategy. ACCA reported that overlap with other papers is stated clearly in the syllabus and there were still some practical points that the more able students would pick up and distinguish themselves with.

Question 5 was not as expected by students. The examiner could have examined more risk stream knowledge. ACCA reported that this was only an option question.

ACCA revealed that the current new examiner did not write but only reviewed the June 2010 paper. His first paper will be in December 2010.

Student feedback

  • 58% of students found the questions unclear
  • 73% found the difficulty level too hard.
  • 60% agreed the paper did not cover the syllabus well

Many felt the exam content was not being reflected in the study material.

Paper P5

Paper P5 was a fair and well-presented paper containing many familiar areas examined before. However some thought it time pressured due to the many calculations required in Section A.

Question 1 was considered unbalanced in terms of calculations vs. theory and also the balanced score card in Part (i) would have proved difficult to students. Feedback from the markers’ meetings reported that the marking scheme allows flexibility in that it gives credit to valid points and so far candidates were performing reasonably.

It was reported that time pressure was evident in some candidates’ scripts but mainly due to poor time management. Most students found Section A easier than Section B and spent too much time on section A

Question 4, in particular Part (a) was considered vague leading to many different answers and some of the terminology used in Part (b) was not used in some texts. It was reported that other alternative possible answers were given full credit in Part (a).

Student feedback

  • 66% of students found the syllabus was covered well
  • 66% of students felt the exam was time pressured.

Paper P6

A well-balanced paper with a fair assessment of the syllabus, set at an appropriate level for a Professional level paper. It was demanding and challenging and covered mainstream areas.

Question 1 (ii) on controlled foreign companies (CFCs) was felt to have high marks for a peripheral area. The examiner does not consider CFCs a peripheral area.

Question 1(iii) for the capital goods scheme, it was felt that it may have helped candidates if the percentage after the purchase had been provided.

Question 2 (ii) on the responsibilities of a senior accounting office (SAO) was felt to have high marks for a peripheral area.

Question 2 (iii) 12 inheritance tax (IHT) situations were felt to be too much.

It was asked whether the change in style to clearly state at the start of the question what it is about would continue. It was felt that this was not a change in style, as this was always intended to be clear, therefore, this will continue.

It was suggested that there was a trap in Question 5 in that it was expected that entrepreneurs’ relief would apply. This was not intended as a trap, as the calculations are much more difficult when combining incorporation relief with entrepreneurs’ relief.

The sale was clearly within a year of starting the company, such that entrepreneurs’ relief would not apply, however it was also hoped that students would pick up on this as a potential way to minimise the tax by delaying the sale.

Hiding requirements within a question was felt to be confusing, however it has been clearly stated that the requirement style will not change.

This is because the examiner provides guidance within the real life scenarios to help direct candidates, and it was previously felt that it was confusing to repeat this direction within the requirement.

As such, the requirement itself is more of an indication of the format of the answer and a breakdown of the marks.

The new SAO rules are an important new change which has been very topical, and although described by some as peripheral, the examiner had indicated that this important area was examinable. 

Student feedback

  • 52% of students felt the requirements were clear
  • 64% felt there was adequate syllabus coverage
  • 74% felt the paper was too time pressured

Paper P7

This was a tough but not unfair paper. The syllabus coverage and content was as expected.

It was also felt that some of the questions were set at a lower level, for example, Question 2 was on the benefits of outsourcing, which is examinable at Paper F8. ACCA commented that although Question 2 was based on Paper F8 knowledge students had to use knowledge related to the scenario to achieve the marks and this differentiated the question from a Paper F8 question.

It was felt that Question 3 was difficult. ACCA responded that it was based on an examinable document that was examinable for the first time. Not many students had answered this question.

Question 5 (INT) was considered to be disappointing as it was rote knowledge learning. ACCA responded that Question 5 was deliberately knowledge based as it was based on new standards which were examinable for the first time.

Student feedback

  • 91% of students found this paper to be fair and balanced
  • 82% felt it was set at the right difficulty level

Last updated: 21 Feb 2012