This article is based on the examiner’s experience of setting and then reviewing candidates’ attempts to pass Paper F6 (POL) over the past few years. It is aimed to help focus the efforts of new and previously unsuccessful candidates.
What is worrying is that the overall standard of scripts has somewhat deteriorated, and it is clear that knowledge of many important areas of the syllabus is shallow or missing. There is also evidence of poor study approach and weak exam technique.
The paper is designed to test knowledge of a broad range of taxation matters. Focusing, as many students do, on corporate income tax (CIT) is insufficient. The skill required at this level demands that knowledge
is not superficial and confined to computational matters, but candidates are expected to explain and discuss matters intelligently, for example choosing an appropriate tax method where there are options, or explaining VAT to a layman.
The breadth of the syllabus does require a lot of study, since there are no optional questions, and all areas of the syllabus are covered in exams, although of course the examiner will set the minor topics only occasionally. In fact, the relative infrequency of some items seems to have caused candidates to ignore them altogether. There is no hard and fast rule as to when a particular topic will occur, but failing to examine one item for two or three diets may indicate that it is due this time, or it may not. A badly answered topic may reoccur surprisingly soon. Not studying an area is not an option for the serious candidate. I provide below the areas of study that need to be fully grasped, some of which will come up in each paper, some only occasionally. I also mention points frequently done poorly by candidates in those areas.
The following points may be of value. Practise questions! Knowledge is all well and good, but the exam tests it in case study scenarios. Each major topic has been covered, some several times, so a comprehensive grasp of the necessary knowledge will be achieved.
Think about what is required before putting pen to paper, in order not to produce repetitive and confusing, chaotic answers. Requirements are carefully drafted to ensure that the task is clear and logical.
Set out computations of income tax and VAT accounts in two columns, to make life easier for yourself and the marker. If the marker can clearly see what you are trying to set out, it is much easier to award the mark.
Do not blur simple computations with paragraphs of explanation. There is no time and no marks for lengthy wording. Please see the model answers provided for all prior exams.
However, do show necessary, complex workings separately and clearly annotate them.
Allocate time approximately in proportion to the marks available. The marking scheme is deeply analysed and fair. If you are spending excess time on a topic, you are doing something wrong; for example in recent history recomputing 10 years of reducing balance depreciation at 28/14% to prove that an asset was fully depreciated for half a mark.
Written by the Paper F6 (POL) examiner