A new exam format will be introduced for Paper F3/FFA from 26 February in computer-based exams and from June 2014 for the paper-based exam. Both versions of the exam will comprise two sections: Section A containing 35 objective questions for two marks each and Section B containing two multi-task questions for 15 marks each. As stated in the syllabus the multi-task questions will test consolidations and accounts preparation. Whilst any change can seem unnerving you should be reassured that if you are well prepared and understand the key areas of the syllabus you will be able to tackle these questions with confidence.
As with any exam, however, it is important that you understand how this style of question works and any particular techniques which you need to use in answering them. Due to the nature of the topics examinable in the Paper F3/FFA multi-task questions it is likely that these will involve producing financial statements (for example a statement of profit or loss, a statement of financial position or statement of cash flows) either in full or extracts. You should bear in mind the following points when attempting this style of question.
Own figure rule
Whether you are sitting the paper-based or the CBE version you will only be penalised once for making a mistake, even though this mistake may have knock-on consequences for other responses in your answer. The paper-based multi-task questions will be marked by hand and the marking guides will make it clear that the ‘own figure rule’ should be applied. This means that if you make a mistake you will lose the mark at the point that the error is originally made but from that point onwards the marker will follow through your figure throughout the rest of your answer.
The CBE multi-task questions are computer marked so a different approach has been adopted to deal with this issue. The questions are designed so that each response is independent – ie it is not reliant on your answer to an earlier part of the question.
This is demonstrated in this example from the sample paper, where candidates are asked to produce a consolidated statement of profit or loss. The calculation of profit attributable to the owners of the parent company is examined by asking candidates to select the correct formula from a drop-down box. The answer to this is not dependent on any of the other number entry responses included in the consolidated statement.
For candidates sitting the CBE exam proformas will be provided as necessary. You should be aware of a number of conventions involved when completing these.
The proformas will include the terms ‘less’ and ‘add’ as illustrated in this proforma statement of profit or loss.
This means that you do not need to show any minus figures in the number entry boxes (for example for cost of sales).
Candidates sitting the paper-based exam will need to draw up their own proformas. It is recognised that this process takes time and therefore credit will be given for this in the marking guide. You may distinguish between revenue and expenses by using either the terms ‘add’ or ‘less’ or by using positive and negative figures however it would be helpful to adopt a consistent approach.
- The basis on which numerical information is expressed will be made clear.
Make sure that you have noted the terms in which the information is expressed. In the illustration above the answer column is headed up with $000. This means for example that $200,000 would simply be entered as 200. If the answer was expressed in $ (rather than $000) $200,000 would be entered as 200000. (Notice that the full figure is entered but a comma is not required.)
Candidates sitting the paper-based exam should also note the basis on which information is given in the question – ie $ or $000. It would be sensible to produce your answer on the same basis as the question, however if you choose not to, you should make it clear that this is the case.
- Use of positive and negative responses.
Care must be taken when entering positive and negative responses. This issue is particularly relevant to CBE multi-task questions on the statement of cash flows where the requirement extends to a two-step process. An illustration is given here.
As you can see the calculation of cash from operating activities involves a series of number entry responses followed by the selection from a drop-down box which indicates whether the balance would be added or subtracted. As the requirement has been extended to include this second step there is no need to show balances which would be subtracted as negatives. The same principle would also apply where the question asks candidates to differentiate between cash inflows and cash outflows.
Candidates taking the paper-based exam must make the distinction between balances added/subtracted and cash inflows/outflows for themselves. A sensible approach would be to show amounts subtracted and cash outflows as negative balances.
A sample paper and additional multi-task questions for Paper F3/FFA are available on the ACCA website (see 'Related links'). It is strongly recommended that you should work through these questions as part of your preparation for the June 2014 exam.