FM frequently asked questions (FAQs)

In a computer based exam do I have to structure my NPV appraisal in section C of the exam in a specific way?

The constructed response questions in section C of the exam will be human marked. The marker can see the formulae you have used as well as the numbers you have calculated. There is no need to set out your answer in any particular way, but as always you need to make sure the marker will be able to follow what you are doing. It is therefore important to clearly label any workings.

Do I need to use complex formulae in order to answer spreadsheet questions in section C of a computer based exam?

Exam questions will be answerable using straightforward mathematical functions although formulae from the exam formulae sheet may also be required. It is not necessary to write out the full formula before using it, but any formula should be labelled so that markers know what it is. 

The NPV and IRR functions are available for use in section C of the examination. You can practice using these in the specimen exam of the constructed response workspace.


In a computer based exam will I be expected to add comments to a spreadsheet answer?

A spreadsheet question may require some comments to be added to a calculation.  The specimen exam shows an example of this.

Are candidates expected to use a discount or premium when calculating exchange rates?

Exchange rates will not be quoted with discounts and premiums. The syllabus allows forecasting exchange rates using purchasing-power parity and interest-rate parity.

Will candidates be required to calculate a project-specific weighted average cost of capital?

While candidates need to know about the concept of a project-specific weighted average cost of capital (see articles in Student Accountant on capital asset pricing model) they will only be required to calculate a project-specific cost of equity.

The actual ex-rights price is unlikely to correspond to the theoretical ex-rights price. Why are candidates required to calculate the theoretical ex-rights price?

The theoretical ex-rights price is a benchmark share price that can be used to evaluate the effects of financing by means of a rights issue.

Can methods of hedging exchange-rate risk and interest exchange-rate risk be assessed numerically?

Yes, for example this can be done using forward-rate agreements, forward-exchange contracts and money-market hedges (see syllabus sections G3a and G4a).

Should candidates try to show an awareness of the current climate or is this more suitable for the Advanced Financial Management exam?

Showing awareness of the current economic climate is important to the extent that it allows candidates to demonstrate understanding in particular topic areas.

For example, candidates could refer to the current economic climate if they were asked about factors to consider in relation to  new sources of finance.

Can you explain more about the timing of capital allowances and the tax benefits they generate?

Capital allowances or tax-allowable depreciation gives a company the benefit of tax relief on the cost of buying non-current assets. The profit on which tax is calculated is reduced by the amount of the capital allowance, so the tax liability is reduced by an amount equal to the capital allowance multiplied by the tax rate.

The simplest approach to dealing with capital allowances in investment appraisal is to claim one capital allowance for each year of operation of an investment project.

The first capital allowance is claimed in the first year, reducing the tax liability for that year. If tax is paid in the year in which the liability arises, the tax paid in the first year will be lower. If tax is paid one year in arrears, the tax paid in the second year, which is the tax due on the first year's profits, will be lower.

The exam question will state whether tax is to be paid one year in arrears. This approach assumes that the non-current asset, say a machine, was bought at the start of the first year of operation.

A more complicated approach to dealing with capital allowances in investment appraisal is to assume that the machine is bought before the first year of operation. This assumption is closer to what happens in reality, but it makes investment appraisal more difficult.

The first capital allowance is claimed against company profits (not project profits) in the year before the investment project begins. One capital allowance will also be claimed for each year of operation, so there will be one more capital allowance than in the first method.

If tax is paid in the year in which the liability arises, the first tax payment will be made at the start of the project (Year 0) and there will be one tax payment in each year of the project. If tax is paid one year in arrears, there will be one tax payment in each year of the project and one tax payment after the project has ended.

ACCA recommends students use the first approach when answering examination questions as it is easier to understand and leads to fewer errors.

Can you explain what total shareholder return is?

Many companies pay dividends to their shareholders, so each year shareholders receive cash income from the shares they own. Shareholders also hope that the price of their shares on the stock market will increase during the year.

This increase in share prices is a capital gain. Unless the shares are sold at the end of the year, the capital gain will be an unrealised gain, which is a gain on paper but not in cash terms.

The wealth of a shareholder is increased by both the dividends received and the capital gain. The sum of these, compared to the share price at the start of the year, is called “total shareholder return”. In percentage terms, total shareholder return is the sum of dividend yield and percentage capital gain.

It represents the actual return on shares in contrast to the theoretical return on shares, for example the return predicted by the capital asset pricing model.

What is the difference between the accounting rate of return (ARR) and the internal rate of return (IRR)?

Candidates often confuse the ARR and IRR because they have similar letters in their acronyms. Both methods of investment appraisal give a value in percentage terms, but the similarity ends there.

IRR is the discount rate which gives a net present value of zero for an investment project. The IRR method is a discounted cash flow method that takes into account the time value of money; the calculated IRR is found by linear interpolation.

The ARR method uses average annual accounting profit, not cash flow, and calculates a percentage return on the capital invested in a project. ARR is very similar to return on capital employed (ROCE) and the two terms (ARR and ROCE) are often used interchangeably from an investment appraisal point of view.

Will two-asset portfolio theory be tested in the exam?

Portfolio theory is included in the syllabus and so is examinable. However candidates will not be expected to apply the formula in a question but merely demonstrate understanding of the principles.

Are Islamic terminologies going to be used in the exams?

Yes, therefore it is important that candidates are aware of these terms.

There might be other correct approaches to answering questions that are not included in model answers. Would these be given credit?

Yes.  The marking team is diligent in reviewing the range of possible answers and making sure that candidates are given credit even though their answers may not be fully accord with the model answer.

How is Islamic finance likely to be examined?

Calculations are not expected.  The questions are most likely to be narrative.

To what level of detail are candidates expected to know about Fintech and its impact on financial markets and institutions?

The syllabus learning outcome is at a relatively low level, as indicated by the intellectual level 1.  It is not about a detailed understanding of blockchain technology, but about the impact of Fintech changing markets.  Areas which would come under the new learning outocme would be:

  • Disintermediation
  • Availability of credit
  • Potential source of finance (eg Security token offering)
  • Technology and financial institutions