The Options papers are the final exam hurdle before you can become an ACCA member. Peter Redfern, ACCA qualifications manager, explains how choosing Options papers that you are most comfortable with will, hopefully, improve your chances of success
To complete the ACCA Qualification exams at the Professional level you must complete three Essentials papers (P1, P2 and P3) and then complete two from four Options papers (P4, P5, P6 and P7).
The Options papers are specialised papers. They cover, in depth, the specialist areas of professional accountancy, namely: financial management, performance management, tax, and audit and assurance.
There are three things which can really help you pass this final hurdle:
Our research proves that if you do well in the underpinning Fundamentals paper, you will have a better chance of passing the Options paper. This is backed up by what students, tutors and examiners tell us: if you have a good grasp of the fundamental knowledge of the Options papers you are taking, then you have a better chance of passing the Options paper.
It is important to remember that the Options papers take the subjects covered in the Fundamental papers to a more advanced level. This is set out below:
When you choose which Options papers to take, think about how well you did in the Fundamentals level papers. If there was a subject you excelled at or felt most comfortable with, then that would be a good choice to take as your option. You may, of course, have been exempted from taking the Fundamentals level paper, or it may have been a long time since you studied these subjects. If this is the case, it is useful to look at the materials available for the Fundamentals level papers to help you refresh your knowledge (see Table 1).
Table 1: The options performance objectives
|Options paper||Relevant Technical performance objectives|
|Paper P4||POs 9 and 11 on financial management|
|Paper P5||POs 12, 13 and 14 on sustainable management accounting
|Paper P6||POs 15, 16 and 17 on taxation
|Paper P7||POs 18, 19 and 20 on audit and assurance|
In the ‘Essential underpinning knowledge for Options papers’ PDF (see ‘Related links’) we have identified the key areas of the Fundamentals level paper syllabuses which relate directly to each Options paper. Looking at this will help you see which areas of the Fundamentals level paper you need to have grasped to be successful in the Options papers. It will also show you that there may be some areas of the Fundamentals papers which are you are not required to demonstrate in the Options paper exam. It is also worth noting that along with the Fundamentals level papers, some of the areas covered in Paper P3 underpin Paper P5. Likewise, some areas of Paper P2 underpin Paper P7.
Materials available from Kaplan Publishing have been designed to help you understand or recall the relevant fundamental knowledge underpinning the Options papers. At half the price of exam entry the materials are a worthwhile investment, particularly while you are waiting for your results and before you begin studying for your Options papers.
The ACCA exams are designed to be achievable even if you have no relevant experience. That said, one of the things most students, tutors and examiners say about the Options papers is that you may perform better if you have gained work experience relevant to the Options papers you are taking.
If you are currently working, remember to look at ACCA’s practical experience requirements. You need to complete these requirements to gain the benefits of ACCA membership. They may also help you focus on gaining experience relevant to your Options papers. Part of the requirements is that you need to achieve nine from 20 performance objectives. Like the ACCA Qualification exams, there are some performance objectives you need to take – known as the Essentials performance objectives – and there are others where you get a choice of which ones to do – known as the Technical performance objectives. The Technical performance objectives cover some of the same areas as the Options papers (see Table 1).
One of the benefits of matching the experience performance requirements to the Options papers you are taking is that it may assist your supervisor in giving you the experience to help your studies. It may also help your practical experience supervisor answer questions you have about particular areas of the Options paper syllabuses which you are struggling with. If you are interested in matching the Options papers and performance objectives to the job you are doing or aspire to do then have a look at the ACCA Competency Framework (see 'Related links').
It is a great idea to be thinking about how your studies can be applied to your future career prospects. However, be careful. If there is an Options paper subject you find particularly hard, but you feel it would be better for your career prospects, you may be wiser to choose a different Options paper subject which better suits your ability. Remember, you can take other Options papers after you have qualified as part of continuing professional development (CPD).
Whether you have gained relevant experience or not, wider reading will also help you relate your studies to real-life situations which will, in turn, help you in the exams. Remember that the case studies used in the exams are often based on situations that have been in the news. Reading both the financial press, the wider press and the corporate reports of multinational companies, and relating the stories to your studies is a good way to prepare for the exams. It will help you understand the challenges real business face such as ethical issues, environmental issues, strategic decisions, risk management and investment decisions. It will also help you familiarise yourself with the type of scenarios you will find in the exam.
There are a number of ways the ACCA Qualification can be studied such as via a taught course or by self-study. Our research has found that if you study with one of our ALPs, you will stand a better chance of passing the Options papers. You can find out more about our ALPs via the ACCA website which includes a searchable tuition provider directory. If there are no ALPs in your area, you may wish to consider distance learning using the materials from an Approved Learning Partner – content (ALP-c).
Remember there are also free sources available from ACCA which could really help you pass your exam. Good communication skills will really improve your chances of passing the options exams. The English and Professional Skills modules available on the ACCA Global website will be a real asset if you are interested in improving your communication skills. Maths modules are also available if you are looking to improve your maths skills before starting your study of the Options exams.
The examiner’s reports will also really help you understand what the examiner is looking for in your answers. Practicing answering the exam using past exam papers in the time required and looking at how your answers compare with the solution given, will also really help your preparation and improve your chances of success.
The Options papers are the final exam hurdle you need to complete to qualify.
It is important you make the right choice of which two Options papers to take. You will have a greater chance of success if you choose the Options papers based on what you feel most comfortable with, whether that is because you did well in the underpinning Fundamentals paper or you took the underpinning Fundamentals paper recently, or because you have gained most work experience in that area. Lastly, you should consider studying with an ALP-st to give yourself the best chance of passing the Options papers.