ERB June 2013 | ACCA Global
ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

The Exam Review Board meets after every exam session to look at the most recent exam papers. The Exam Review board comprises ACCA staff and Approved Learning Partners for Student Tuition and Content.

Overall this was considered to be a fair paper.

It was felt that question 3(c) was inconsistent with past papers with regards to content. ACCA explained question 3 was clearly within the study guide and is well covered in the BPP text. There is also an article on the website from December 2009 covering the law of negligence which covers all parts of the question. 

It was felt that question 9 required more thought than some of the other questions but this was due to the subject matter of the question, which is more difficult, than the actual question itself. ACCA confirmed question 9 was a difficult question but the breakdown of the question should have helped candidates, and it is based on standard company law knowledge.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
82%
agreed/strongly agreed
76%
agreed/strongly agreed
71%
about right
67%
about right

The F5 paper was felt to be appropriate and had a consistent level of intellectual demand. It was well balanced across the syllabus with clear requirements except question 1 (a) which was felt to be a bit unclear. Mark allocations were appropriate and the paper was manageable within the time given

It was felt questions 2 and 5 had lots of information which would contribute to time pressure. Additionally question 2 had an unfamiliar business context while question 5 focused on a not for profit organisation and it was suggested that candidates would struggle.  ACCA responded that the syllabus clearly includes not for profit organisations and questions on this have been set in the past.

Question 4 was felt to have unduly lengthy calculations. ACCA responded that the bias towards calculations in question 4 was compensated by the heavily narrative question 2 to balance the overall numerical/narrative weighting of the whole paper.

Some felt that section A of the syllabus was underrepresented. ACCA responded that the question on life cycle was from section A of the syllabus.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
82% agreed/strongly agreed 83%
agreed/strongly agreed
56%
about right
65%
about right

F6 Taxation

close/open

F6 was a good test of different topics.  The exam was well structured and of the required standard for well-prepared candidates.

Question 3(a) required candidates to use a non-standard computational approach to solving a tax planning problem. Many candidates were having difficulty working though how to approach this calculation but the examiner has provided markers with guidance on the common non-standard approaches being taken.

It was felt that the paper was time pressured and that this would be an issue. It was commented that it would be preferred if there were more written parts to questions as most of the questions required calculations.

In general candidates were performing well on the standard income tax and corporation tax computations and in inheritance tax but less well in the capital gains tax computations and the less mainstream areas.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
84%
agreed/strongly agreed
91%
agreed/strongly agreed
62%
about right
72%
about right

The paper was a fair paper overall and whilst lengthy in content - it would have suited well prepared students. There were some challenging elements but overall the level was fair and consistent with previous sittings.

There was some discussion of whether question 1 (b) was within the syllabus. ACCA pointed out that this requirement was not on disclosure but rather tested outcome D2 (b) of the syllabus, on the effect that the related party relationship may have on the financial statements.

It was observed that question 2 seemed to be time pressured. ACCA explained that the question was similar in style and length to those in previous sittings and that candidates appeared to be coping fairly well with it.

Concerns were expressed about whether candidates would be penalised in question 3 (b) if they did not use the same ratio definitions as those used in the examiner's answers. ACCA explained that part of what was being tested was the candidates' ability to select appropriate ratios. Credit is given for any meaningful versions of the ratios.

There was a comment that Q4 gave a lot of marks for discontinued operations. Candidates do need to be prepared for questions on any of the standards within the syllabus and that students seem to be relying too heavily on questions 1 and 2.

In response to a request for more detailed marking guides. ACCA explained that the detailed marking guides used by markers include many alternative layouts for example, the different layouts of consolidation workings. This level of detail would not be generally helpful, and to publish only one detailed version could also be confusing.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
81%
agreed/strongly agreed
86%
agreed/strongly agreed
65%
too little
60%
about right

The paper was overall well received at the meeting. It was felt as fair examination according to all the criteria set and relatively straightforward with many opportunities for a well prepared candidate to score marks. It was also considered to be well balanced across the core syllabus areas and manageable within the time given and consistent with previous sittings.

It was commented that requirement verb on question 2 (b) was unclear. ACCA responded that candidates generally did not experience confusion with the verb used as observed at early marking stage.

It was raised that 7 marks for question 1 (d) was high unless the topic tested is core area of the syllabus. ACCA responded that the topic is generally core area and the weighting of the mark on that area is consistent with previous sittings.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
93%
agreed/strongly agreed
95%
agreed/strongly agreed
68%
about right
83%
about right

F9 paper was felt to be appropriate and had a consistent level of intellectual demand. It was well balanced across the syllabus with clear requirements. Mark allocations were appropriate and the paper was manageable within the time given.

All questions were very well received except the following:

It was felt that Question 1 was not clear on recovery of working capital. ACCA responded that full credit would be given whether it is recovered or not.

Members felt that students would struggle with question 4 as it was quite challenging. ACCA confirmed that candidates appeared to struggle most with question 4.

There was a comment that some students might use 5% borrowing rate in question 3 (d) as an opportunity cost and ACCA responded that this will get full credit.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
88%
agreed/strongly agreed
94%
agreed/strongly agreed
61%
about right
78%
about right

It was felt that overall the examination was fair and matched the criteria expected.  Some concern was expressed that this examination was weighted more heavily towards the risk area of the syllabus, which on balance, meant that the corporate governance section was being examined to a lesser extent this time. In response, ACCA reminded the panel that there are two sections on risk, and that there is no prescribed weighting for each section of the syllabus, which can be applied formulaically to every exam 

Otherwise, apart from a general comment about the balance of knowledge requirements to applied requirements being different at the last exam session which was debated, there were just a few specific comments about the length of question 1, about the use of the verb "propose" in question 4b) and about the split between the marks of question 2b) being made more explicit.  Some panel members also felt that the recent examination was more weighted to internal audit and control and there was less emphasis on ethics. Again, ACCA responded by pointing out that each examination is in itself a unique assessment and therefore the relative content of different syllabus areas across the syllabus will not be predictable in each examination at this level.

Feedback about the use of the verb "propose" in question 4b) was fed back to the examiner after the meeting.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
80%
agreed/strongly agreed
83%
agreed/strongly agreed
61%
about right
75%
about right

The paper was generally considered to be fair and balanced and covered a good range of the key standards in the syllabus although some comments were that some of the "typical" P2 topics such as deferred tax, share-based payment and foreign currency did not appear.  Some comments were that the paper was time pressured, partly because of the mix of topics. Question 1 was consistent in level with recent sittings but surprise was expressed to see a fifth consecutive paper featuring a consolidated statement of financial position. ACCA accepted that this was quite an unusual pattern but the examiner had designed this question as a vehicle for testing a wider range of the "typical" P2 standards, particularly pension accounting. The mark allocation for part (b) requiring the alternative permitted calculation of goodwill, as well as an explanation of its effect was considered to be quite generous.

On question 2 some feedback was that part (a) on segments was a 'fringe' area. ACCA's response was that segmental reporting is clearly within the syllabus and at this level candidates should be able to apply the principles of the standard to a scenario. The scenario in part (b) was considered "unusual" by some, but it did explain the transactions clearly and candidates could pass by applying basic principles of revenue recognition.

There was some feedback that question 4 was tricky and unexpected. There were also questions raised about whether part (b) was in line with the examiner's comment at a previous Learning Providers Conference that the detailed disclosure requirements of IFRS 7 would not be examined.

ACCA responded to these points as follows:

  • The style of Q4 does vary. It can be a detailed question about a current ED or DP, including  a numerical part  testing application. Question 4 can also test broader current issues (under syllabus outcome H3(a)).
  • The majority of students were choosing to attempt this question, producing very strong answers to part (a). The general topic of "clutter" in financial statements had been the subject of an article in Student Accountant and is being widely discussed by standard setters and in the accountancy press.
  • Part (b) was not testing detailed disclosure requirements, but rather an understanding of the general principles. The information in the scenarios could be used to generate ideas.

In discussions on P2 there was also a demand for more detailed marking schemes to be produced. This is something that ACCA has been looking into but there are practical difficulties involved, given the wide range of different points that can validly be given credit at this level.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
75%
agreed/strongly agreed
82%
agreed/strongly agreed
51%
too little
56%
about right

The examination was generally felt to be fair and reasonably well balanced although some board members felt that it may have been more difficult on balance. It was commented that there was less  evidence of financial and management accounting in this last examination which had been more prominently emphasised in the past four sittings to which ACCA responded by saying that while management accounting and costing is still a relatively new area, it is not a major part of the syllabus, and coverage of such areas may vary between exams.

Other more specific comments included reference to question 1 being lengthy and about question 4 on strategy and people being an area not featured much before in previous exam sittings. ACCA's response was that the length of question 1 was not significantly different from past exams and that strategy and people is still a key element of the people section of the syllabus under leadership, job analysis and design and competency framework outcomes, which all have a strategic aspect. It was also pointed out by ACCA that Section H from which question 4 was drawn, is directly underpinned by F1, as shown in the syllabus relational diagram. In the next version of the syllabus, the fact that Section H of the P3 syllabus draws directly on F1 knowledge, will be made explicit by way of an explanatory note.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
68%
agreed/strongly agreed
79%
agreed/strongly agreed
56%
too little
60%
about right

The paper was felt to have an appropriate and consistent level of intellectual demand. It was well balanced across the syllabus with clear requirements overall. Mark allocation was appropriate across the topics examined.

The paper was manageable within the time give although some felt that question 1 was quite demanding with a lot of details and could contribute to time pressure but was pleasing to see requirements broken down well.

All the other questions were well received and all members were pleased with the change in format

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
49%
agreed/strongly agreed
64%
agreed/strongly agreed
80%
too little
69%
too difficult

The paper was felt to have an appropriate and consistent level of intellectual demand. It was well balanced across the syllabus with clear requirements overall. Mark allocation was appropriate across the topics examined and the paper was manageable within the time given. Members were pleased with the change in format.

All questions were well received except question 2 which received mixed views. While some members felt it to be too easy to confuse and more of F5 than P5 level, others felt it was clear and an appropriate P5 level question.

There was a comment that question 4 was a little unclear but a good question.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
57%
agreed/strongly agreed
78%
agreed/strongly agreed
65%
too little
54%
about right

The exam covered large portions of the syllabus and learning outcomes were tested well. Questions once again guided the students so they didn't go off in the wrong direction

It was felt there were some quite tricky parts in Q1 and Q2, and may have led to time management issues for students. However, the exam was set such that a well prepared students should pass.

Some reviewers noted that the presentation in the model answer to Q3 did not agree to the presentation in the FA2012 article written by the examiner last year.

ACCA commented that the answer to Q3 was being updated and marks given for both approaches. It was noted at the start of marking that students were doing less well with Q2b than others, but overall there were no issues being raised.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
86%
agreed/strongly agreed
88%
agreed/strongly agreed
61%
about right
76%
about right

Paper P7 was generally considered to be fair and reasonable according to the evaluation criteria set. It was felt that the paper was well balanced covering ranges of topics across the syllabus and with a detailed marking scheme. It was also commented that a lot was required in the time allocated.

The following specific points were raised:

It was commented that the topic of question 2(b), forensic investigations featured several times and the question was raised as to whether there was a specific reason to keep examining this.  ACCA responded that there is no specific reason to feature the topic again but despite being examined several times performance on the topic is still unsatisfactory.

It was commented in respect of question 4(b) that auditor's liability had not been tested in this style before and was unusual. ACCA responded that question 4 was not actually a popular choice by candidates as observed at early marking meeting however examining auditor's liability in relation to fraud is an effective way of testing candidates' understanding about what auditors are liable to. The topic is in the syllabus and anything in the syllabus can be tested.

It was also felt that, except question1, the paper had an F8 feel rather than that of a challenging P7 paper. ACCA responded that the paper was set at an appropriate difficulty level and was consistent with previous sittings. Candidates' responses were observed to be more of an F8 approach as they struggled developing and structuring their answer at the required professional level to maximise marks.

Exam questions clear? Syllabus covered adequately? Enough time? Difficulty level?
85%
agreed/strongly agreed
91%
agreed/strongly agreed
54%
too little
76%
about right

Last updated: 17 Jan 2014