Improving your performance in Advanced Taxation - United Kingdom (ATX-UK) (P6)


This article is relevant for all candidates preparing to sit the ATX-UK (P6) exam. It is one of a series of five short articles on exam technique. The five articles cover:

  • Reading exam questions
  • Satisfying the requirements of a question
  • The importance of thinking
  • Time management
  • The importance of question practice

These articles are likely to be particularly useful to those candidates who are not attending a course with a tuition provider, such that they are not receiving ongoing guidance and advice on exam technique.

Marks are awarded in the exam for satisfying the requirements and not for other information (regardless of how interesting or technically accurate it may be). Accordingly, it is vital to identify the particular requirements and then address them in the correct amount of time.

Addressing all of the requirements

It is very important to attempt to satisfy all of the requirements in the exam. Accordingly, you must answer all four questions: the two in Section A and the two in Section B, and you must answer all of the parts of the four questions.

The reason for this is that there are some easier marks in almost all question parts, such that where, for example, there are 10 marks available for a part of a question, you will find it easier to increase your mark from zero to four marks as opposed to from four marks to eight marks. Accordingly, you will benefit from attempting all parts of all four questions rather than spending extra time on some question parts and less, or no time, on others. You will have time to do this provided you manage your time carefully, and do not allow yourself to be sidetracked.


The structure of the requirements of a Section A question is different from that of a Section B question.

The formal requirements at the end of a Section A question may consist of a broad heading of what needs to be done together with a reference to the document provided in the question where the detailed requirements can be found. However, these broad, formal requirements are important as they indicate the number of marks available (and, thus, the time to be taken) for each of the broad areas of the question. In a Section B question, the formal requirements at the end of the question also contain the detailed tasks to be performed.

The detailed requirements should be seen as a list of tasks, all of which need to be performed. You may find it useful to number these tasks so that you can ensure that you address all of them. Where there is a number of tasks within a particular area of the question, some initial thought will be required to determine the time available for each task. This requires you to identify the relative size of each of the tasks by thinking about what needs to be done to carry them out.

Think about the best way of satisfying the requirements and relate your approach to the time available (by reference to the number of marks). Work your way through the tasks in an organised and consistent manner.


When planning what needs to be done to carry out a task you should take into account any guidance provided by ‘the manager’ in the question and the command words used in the requirement.

The guidance from the manager may suggest a particular approach to take, a good place to start or simply point out matters that do not need to be addressed. This guidance is intended to help you carry out the tasks within the time available.

The command words used in the requirement provide an indication of the level of detail required. For example, ‘state’ requires no explanatory detail, ‘outline’ is asking for something brief, whereas ‘describe in detail’ expects, not unsurprisingly, a detailed description. ‘Calculate’ requires calculations in order to arrive at a figure; it does not require explanations unless they are asked for separately. The command word used in the requirement is another way of providing you with guidance to help you complete the answer in the time available.


You should not think of a question as being about a particular technical area. If you do, there is the possibility that you will answer the question in too narrow or too broad a manner. For example, where a question includes a group of companies, one of which has made a loss, it is not helpful to think of the question as being a ‘group relief’ question. This is because there will be marks available for other technical areas – for example, single company loss relief, inter group transfer of assets, transfer pricing, VAT, and so on.

Also, if a question is thought of as relating to a technical area, there can be a temptation to write about that area in great detail when such detail is not part of the requirement. Your answer should focus on the specific issues and facts of the question and you should avoid generalising.

Accordingly, rather than thinking of a question as being about a technical area you should see it as being about a set of circumstances and a series of requirements that relate to those circumstances. You should take the time necessary to understand the circumstances and to determine how best to satisfy the requirements.


Good exam technique will help you to perform to the best of your abilities in the exam and to maximise the number of marks you earn. As a result, you will be able to earn the marks that all of your hard work prior to the exam deserves.

Accordingly, as you prepare to sit your exams, in addition to adding to and refining your technical knowledge, you should be aiming to continually improve your exam technique.


There are four other non-technical articles that focus on the structure of the exam and exam technique (all of these are accessible on the ATX-UK (P6) technical articles web page).

Although exam technique is important, and can even be the difference between failing and passing the exam, it is clearly not as important as technical knowledge. Excellent exam technique on its own will not be sufficient to achieve exam success. Accordingly, there are technical articles to support you in your studies – access the article 'ATX-UK (P6) – Summary of available articles' for details.

Written by a member of the ATX-UK (P6) examining team