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Gareth Owen, ACCA qualification development manager, explains the planned updates to the Foundations level Certificate and Diploma exam syllabuses and structures, and the ACCA Diploma exams (Paper F1, Accountant in Business, Paper F2, Management Accounting and Paper F3, Financial Accounting). These changes are taking place in February 2014 (launch date 26 February 2014) in computer-based exams (CBE) as part of a process of continuous syllabus improvement and as part of ACCA’s strategy on e-assessment. They will be examined in paper exams from June 2014. The article summarises the rationale for the latest qualification developments, indicating which syllabuses are affected and when, outlining specifically which areas are being amended.

Significant changes to the Foundations level exams took place in December 2011 when the Foundations in Accountancy qualifications were introduced. The qualifications were brought up to date and restructured to meet employer, student and learning provider needs at the time and to comply with occupational standards, IFAC international education standards and other regulatory requirements. These changes were introduced to increase the relevance of the qualification in the market and take into account the results of an extensive programme of consultation with ACCA’s key stakeholders.

With effect from 26 February 2014, the Foundations in Accountancy Certificate and Diploma exams and the ACCA Diploma exams will undergo further development and updating. This will include the introduction of new question types to both sets of the Diploma exams and exam structures, ensuring that the qualification continues to evolve and adapt to the latest business and accounting education needs. These latest changes are being introduced to ensure that the Diploma exams continue to remain highly relevant to employers, comply with the appropriate regulatory standards, and reflect the latest developments in assessment technology.


Summary of changes to Certificate and Diploma exams (Foundations in Accountancy and ACCA)

From 26 February 2014 (CBE) and June 2014 (paper):

  • no structural changes to the Introductory and Intermediate Certificate exams
  • new longer form question types will be introduced into the Diploma exams
  • new structure to Diploma exams to support these new question types
  • no structural or significant syllabus changes to the Specialist Foundations exams
  • some syllabus content changes to all Introductory and Intermediate Certificates and ACCA Diploma exams
  • new examinable documents will also apply to the financial accounting exams and this terminology will also be used, where applicable, in other exams.

 

All of these changes will be discussed below. There will, however, be no changes to the rules relating to registration, progression or exemptions for any of the 10 Foundations level Certificate, Diploma or Specialist exams.


Structural changes

From 26 February 2014, amended syllabuses and different exam styles will be introduced for all Diploma in Accounting and Business exams, being Papers F1/FAB, F2/FMA and F3/FFA. A greater variety of longer and short form questions will be introduced into the assessment at this level, which is currently based entirely on a mix of short objective questions of two marks only. The new format applies to both paper-based and CBE. The format will better underpin later exams within the Skills module of the ACCA Qualification, particularly Papers F5 and F7.

The Foundations’ Certificates, Diploma and specialist exams are structured from 26 February 2014 as shown in Table 1 below.


Table 1: Structure of the Foundations Certificates, Diploma and Specialist exams from 26 February 2014

Qualification and examExam structure
Foundations CertificatesNo separate sections

Intro Cert:
Papers FA1 and MA1

Remain with 50 x 2 mark objective test questions

Intro Cert:
Papers FA1 and MA1

Remain with 50 x 2 mark objective test questions


Diploma
(ACCA and Foundations)

Section A

Section B

Paper F1/FAB,
Accounting in Business

16 x 1 mark short objective test questions and 30 x 2 mark short objective test questions

6 x 4 mark multi-task questions (MTQ); with one taken from each of the six sections of the syllabus

Paper F2/FMA,
Management Accounting

35 x 2 mark short objective test questions

3 x 10 mark multi-task questions (MTQ); with one each taken from the budgeting, standard costing and performance measurement sections of the syllabus

Paper F3/FFA,
Financial Accounting

35 x 2 mark short objective test questions

2 x 15 mark or multi-task questions (MTQ) with one question based on preparation of financial statements and the other on  group accounts (which may include an element of interpretation of accounts)



Specialist Foundations
Exams

Section A

Section B

Specialist Foundations
Certificate in Audit

Remains with current structure

Remains with current structure

Specialist Foundations
Certificate in Taxation

Remains with current structure

Remains with current structure

Specialist Foundations Certificate in Financial Management

Remains with current structureRemains with current structure



To support the introduction of the new style exams for the Diploma, a series of associated support initiatives are taking place besides the publication of this article. New specimen exams are available on the ACCA website and technical articles are being provided to explain how the new question types are constructed and how they should be approached in the exam. Also, additional exam practice questions will be provided, as well as an overview of the new question types, which will clearly demonstrate their functionality. 

A complete set of paper-based and CBE specimen exams for the Diploma are publicly available on the ACCA website to show how the paper and CBEs will be structured and how they will appear to the candidates. These should help tutors and students prepare for both the paper-based exams scheduled from June 2014 and the CBE exams available from February 2014. There is also a showcase of how these questions work, which is available to all students and tutors.


Syllabus changes

The updated Foundations level Certificate and ACCA Diploma 2014 are available on the ACCA website. These syllabus changes are effective from 26 February 2014 and thereafter will be updated on 1 September each year, from September 2015 onwards. All these amended syllabuses will include appendices that itemise the detailed changes in each syllabus, by way of a short narrative, explaining any structural changes (where applicable) and including a completed table showing what has been added, removed or amended.

Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting

This qualification consists of two exams and the Foundations in Professionalism (FiP) module, which must be successfully completed once for a student to be eligible for any of the Foundations level Certificates or the Diploma in Accounting and Business. The qualification is benchmarked against the 16+ school leaving qualification such as Ordinary level or GCSE equivalent.


Paper FA1, Recording Financial Transactions

Additions to Paper FA1
There have not been any additions to the 2013 Study Guide for 2014. 

Amendments to Paper FA1
There have been minor amendments to the wording of some of the Study Guide outcomes corresponding to changes within examinable documents and these are given in the syllabus itself.

Deletions to Paper FA1
There have not been any deletions to the 2013 Study Guide for 2014. 


Paper MA1, Management Information

There are some changes to the Paper MA1 syllabus to reflect the latest business and educational developments affecting this paper. These are summarised below.

Additions to Paper MA1
There are no areas added.

Amendments to Paper MA1
The sections amended are included below:

  • Syllabus area E: Spreadsheets – this used to be covered in both Papers MA1 and MA2, Managing Costs and Finances and has been combined and rationalised to be covered only in the lower level syllabus to reflect the fact that knowledge of spreadsheet functionality is a basic skill and is often acquired during school education and is best covered at the early stages of the Foundations level suite of qualifications. To support these amendments, please note that the learning materials produced by approved learning providers will be based on Microsoft Excel 2010 version.


The specific amendments are in syllabus sections, as follows:

  • E1: Spreadsheets overview
  • E2: Creating and using spreadsheets
  • E3: Presenting and printing spreadsheet data/information


Please refer to the detailed Syllabus and Study Guide for details (see 'Related links').

Deletions to Paper MA1
One significant area has been deleted. The former Section E has now been removed, including subject areas E1, Information for comparison and E2, Reporting management information. These are now covered in the Paper MA2 syllabus to make room for the additional coverage of spreadsheets at Paper MA1, which has now been completely removed from Paper MA2.

Intermediate Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting

This qualification consists of two exams and the Foundations in Professionalism (FiP) module that must be successfully completed once to be eligible for any of the Foundations level Certificates or the Diploma in Accounting and Business. The qualification is benchmarked against the 18+ school leaving qualification such as Advanced level or equivalent university admission level qualification.


Paper FA2, Recording Financial Transactions

There are few changes to the Paper FA2 syllabus. However, it is worth noting that terminology changes are effective. 'Income statement' is changed to 'Statement of profit or loss' throughout the syllabus to reflect the update made by IAS 1.

Paper FA2 areas added
There were no Paper FA2 areas added.

Paper FA2 areas amended
A1 is amended to reflect the changes made to the conceptual framework in terms of qualitative characteristics of useful financial information.

Learning outcomes in D1, D3, D4 and D5 are amended to replace 'understand' with 'explain or apply' to make nature of the instructional verbs more active than passive.

Paper FA2 areas deleted
There were no Paper FA2 areas deleted.


Paper MA2, Managing Costs and Finances

Paper MA2 areas added
As already mentioned, some management information areas in Paper MA1 have been removed and integrated into the Paper MA2 syllabus. These are as follows:

  • New A4: Information for comparison
  • New A5: Reporting management information


Please refer to the detailed Syllabus and Study Guide for details (see 'Related links').

Paper MA2 areas amended
There were no Paper MA2 areas amended.

Paper MA2 areas deleted
As already referred to in the section on Paper MA1 above, the whole of Section F: Spreadsheets has been removed from Paper MA2.

Diploma in Accounting and Business

This qualification consists of three exams and the Foundations in Professionalism (FiP) module that must be successfully completed once to be eligible for any of the Foundations level Certificates or the Diploma in Accounting and Business. The qualification is benchmarked against the first year or level one of an undergraduate programme.


Paper F1/FAB, Accountant in Business

Paper F1/FAB areas added
The following areas have been added to Paper F1/FAB:
A9(b) Identify the main elements within Porter’s value chain and explain the meaning of a value network.

This has been added to make more explicit that the value chain model and the value network is examined in the Paper F1/FAB, although this area has been examined regularly and is well covered in all the text books. The order of the outcomes in A9 has been amended to allow this addition.

B2(a) now includes a sub-outcome on boundaryless organisations including hollow, virtual and modular structures. 

B2(b) now includes sub-outcomes on outsourcing and offshoring and the shared services approach, to reflect alternative ways of organising business functions.

Paper F1/FAB areas amended
B5(a) has been amended to refer to agency:           
Explain the agency concept in relation to corporate governance

B5(b)(i) amended to take into account executive directors:
Briefly explain the main recommendations of best practice in effective corporate governance.

(i) Executive and non-executive directors
C4(a) amended to update IAS 1 terminology and to include sustainability and integrated reports as a new area to introduce this form of reporting in more depth to those progressing into the ACCA Qualification:           

Explain the various business purposes for which the following financial information is required.

(i) The statement of profit or loss
(ii) The statement of financial position          
(iii) The statement of cash flows
(iv) Sustainability and integrated reports

Paper F1/FAB areas deleted
There are a few areas which have either been merged or deleted. These include the following:

Former D2(f) and (g) merged and old (g) deleted:
Explain the purposes and benefits of diversity and equal opportunities policies within the human resources plan

Former E4(c) and (d) on conflict management have been merged and old (c) deleted:          
Identify ways in which conflict can be managed

Former E5(a) deleted:
Define communications


Paper F2/FMA, Management Accounting

There are no changes, other than the structural changes, to the exam of Paper F2/FMA taking place with effect from February 2014.


Paper F3/FFA, Financial Accounting

Paper F3/FFA areas added
There are no explicit additions to Paper F3/FFA syllabus.

Paper F3/FFA areas amended
B1 a) amended to refer only to the qualitative characteristics as defined in the IASB Conceptual Framework as follows:

Define, understand and apply qualitative characteristics:
(i) Relevance
(ii) Faithful representation          
(iii) Comparability
(iv) Verifiability
(v) Timeliness
(vi) Understandability

Throughout the Study Guide, outcomes have been reworded to reflect the updated titles of financial statements per IAS 1, Presentation of Financial Statements. ‘Income statement’ has been replaced with ‘statement of profit or loss’.

‘Statement of comprehensive income’ has been replaced with ‘Statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income’.

This has specifically affected the following outcomes:
C4(g), C8(g) and (i); E2(d); F2 and outcomes F2(a), (d), (e), (f), and 9(g), and G1(e).

Paper F3/FFA areas deleted
Old B1(b) has been removed and replaced with a new outcome covering other accounting concepts.

Define, understand and apply accounting concepts:
(i) Materiality
(ii) Substance over form
(iii) Going concern
(iv) Business entity concept
(v) Accruals
(vi) Fair presentation

Specialist Foundations papers

There are no planned changes to the structure of exams or to the syllabuses of any of the three Specialist Foundation Paper FAU, Foundations in Audit, Paper FTX, Foundations in Taxation and Paper FFM, Foundations in Financial Management. For Papers FAU and FFM the current exam structures and syllabuses will apply for June 2014.  

For Paper FTX variants, although there are no structural or assessment changes to report, students must be aware of any potential syllabus and tax law changes which may apply in any given exam session. To find out about these changes please refer to the relevant documentation published on the website that relate to the exam session you are concerned with.


Summary

The Foundations level suite of qualifications (except for the Specialist Foundations exams) and the Diploma in Accounting and Business are being updated with effect from February 2014.

These changes include both structural assessment changes to Diploma exams and some syllabus content changes made in the curriculum.

The main points to note are as follows:

  • There are no changes to the structure of any of the Introductory or Intermediate Certificates in Financial and Management Accounting, or to the Specialist Foundations Certificates in Audit, Tax or the Financial Management exams. They continue to be examined using the current structures.
  • There are structural changes to all three Diploma exams. These were summarised in Table 1, but essentially all three syllabuses are to be split into two sections – A and B.
    Section A will comprise a number of short one or two-mark objective test questions to examine students’ knowledge and comprehension of topics across the breadth of each syllabus.
    Section B will contain longer type questions, known as multi-task questions (MTQ), to test more application and to examine knowledge in more depth.
  • A range of resources will be available to support the changes summarised in this article. These include specimen exams and comprehensive articles that explain these new question types, including an overview of what the new question types look like and how they should be approached in your exams.
  • There are a number of syllabus additions, amendments and deletions, all outlined in detail in the appendices to the individual subject syllabuses, which are summarised and highlighted under the 'Syllabus changes' heading above. These changes apply for the period 26 February 2014 to August 2015.

Last updated: 26 Jan 2014