Examiner approach

This article considers the examiner’s approach to the F8 exam and aims to recognise a change in the exam format with effect from the December 2014 exam

The aim of F8, Audit and Assurance is to develop knowledge and understanding of the process of carrying out the assurance engagement and its application in the context of the professional regulatory framework. The exam continues to be practical in application, as well as aiming to ensure that candidates who pass this exam understand the basics of an audit.

The exam strikes a balance of technical knowledge as well as a practical application of this knowledge.

This syllabus builds on the knowledge gained in F3, Financial Accounting and then prepares candidates for P1, Governance, Risk and Ethics, and P7, Advanced Audit and Assurance.

The accounting standards examined in F3 form the basis of questions on how to apply auditing procedures in respect of those standards, and candidates must not be afraid to bring their accounting knowledge into this exam.

The exam will continue to contain questions set in as practical an application as possible. I recognise that it has become more common that candidates have not been involved in, or had exposure to, a real audit.

That aside, this exam is like any other, and the basic principles must
be understood. Therefore, application questions will continue to feature heavily in the exam as they demonstrate whether candidates have understood a topic or just rote learnt it.

It is crucial that candidates practise the skills required for application questions by working through past questions to time and reviewing the solutions to identify areas for improvement. A specimen exam is available (see 'Related links') and ACCA's Approved Learning Partners – content providers’ revision question banks contain a large number of questions taken from past exams which have been adapted to the question styles currently used in the exam, as well as being technically updated. Rote learning of technical material alone will not result in exam success; however, practising questions, reading examiner reports and relevant technical articles on the ACCA website will improve the chances of passing the exam.

Explanation of capabilities

F8 focuses on five capabilities. Table 1 shows how I expect each of these capabilities to be examined, and details comments on the type of questions that could be asked.

Format of the exam

The exam format will change with effect from the December 2014 exam. All questions are compulsory and the exam is divided into two sections – Section A of the exam comprises eight two-mark questions and four one-mark multiple-choice questions giving a total of 20 marks for that section.

Section B contains written questions; there are four 10-mark questions and two longer 20-mark questions. All questions in Section B require some form of written response. However, a few questions will also require the calculation and interpretation of some basic ratios in the context of audit planning or review or calculation of materiality.

Questions 1–4
These questions for 10 marks will be a shorter factual or scenario-based questions. These questions may cover any area of the syllabus.

Questions may be single issue especially if based on a scenario or there could be two or three requirements including some knowledge of technical areas. Elements of questions may test knowledge of ISAs and candidates should not worry about learning ISA numbers, as there is no credit available for listing the ISA numbers. In addition, answers will obtain credit if valid points are made. I am not expecting rote learning of ISAs; rather, an understanding of the key principles underlying auditing.

It is particularly important that candidates focus on the requirements in this question, as if they are required to ‘list’ then their answer should contain brief points, it should not stretch to pages of text. Many candidates may write far too much and this would be at the expense of other 20-mark questions.

Questions 5 and 6
These questions, each worth 20 marks, will usually be based around

a scenario, and will predominantly test the areas of planning and risk assessment or internal controls or audit evidence. In addition other syllabus areas may feature in these questions. The format will be similar to past scenario-based exam questions.

Candidates will need to analyse the scenario to identify the appropriate points to make in their answers. Candidates are provided with 15 minutes of reading time, and I would encourage them to use some of this time reading the scenarios and thinking about the requirements.

Candidates are encouraged to spend time analysing the requirement in detail, noting whether the requirement is to list/state/identify/define/explain/describe or discuss as these all require differing levels of detail. In addition, it is important to identify whether the question requires general knowledge or the application of this knowledge to the scenario. These questions will aim to mainly test an application of technical knowledge to the given scenario.

These scenarios could be based on either profit or non‐profit marking organisations such as Question 4 from the December 2010 exam, which was based on a hospital. It is to be assumed that all entities will use computer‐based systems.


My aim is that F8 can be passed by a candidate who understands the underlying theory of auditing and can apply that theory to relatively basic audit situations – knowledge itself is not sufficient to pass this exam. My advice, therefore, is to study the basics of auditing, read the examiner’s reports on past exams, read relevant technical articles and then practise applying their audit knowledge to scenarios, as this is the key to being successful in this exam. 

Table 1

Explain the concept of audit and assurance and the functions of audit, corporate governance, including ethics and professional conduct, describing the scope and distinguishing between the functions of internal and external audit.This area will generally be tested in multiple-choice questions as well as written 10-mark questions. Elements of this area could also feature as part of a 20-mark written question. Questions may focus on the factual areas of the legal aspects, they may cover the ethical framework in a scenario‐based question. Assurance could feature in any question in the exam. The work of internal audit could feature in any question in the exam. However, there may not always be an internal audit question.
Demonstrate how the auditor obtains and accepts audit engagements obtains an understanding of the entity and its environment, assesses the risk of material misstatement (whether arising from fraud or other irregularities) and plans an audit of financial statements.Questions in this area will relate to the planning of the audit. They will normally feature aspects of audit risk, audit planning process, fraud and error as well as analytical procedures. These areas are more likely to appear as scenario‐based questions – however, knowledge-based elements could appear in multiple-choice questions or as part of a Section B written question.
Describe and evaluate internal controls, techniques and audit tests, including IT systems to identify and communicate control risks and their potential consequences, making appropriate recommendations.This capability, and the next, will relate to the testing of controls, and the collection of audit evidence using compliance and substantive testing as appropriate. It is important that candidates understand the difference between these two types of procedures. Reporting of recommendations regarding deficiencies in internal controls, or other issues found in an audit, will continue to be examined including the production of management reports. 

Identify and describe the work and evidence obtained by the auditor and others required to meet the objectives of audit engagements and the application of the International Standards on Auditing.

Questions for this capability are likely to focus on the application of substantive procedures to either profit or loss or statement of financial position areas (refer to the Study Guide). This will often feature in the 20-mark written questions.

Explain how consideration of subsequent events and the going concern principle can inform the conclusions from audit work and are reflected in different types of audit report, written representations and the final review and report.

This area will generally be tested in multiple-choice questions as well as written 10-mark questions. Elements of this area could also feature as part of a 20-mark written question. With regards to audit reports, candidates will not be required to draft an entire audit report. Questions in this area will focus on explaining audit reports. Candidates are also likely to be required to review a scenario and explain the implications for the audit report including relevant modifications. Knowledge of the content of ISAs in the 700 series will be expected (where relevant to this exam). Questions will potentially provide extracts of audit reports, and require candidates to identify where ISA guidance has not been followed, such as Question 5 December 2013.

Written by a member of the F8 examining team