At Fundamentals level you need to demonstrate a good understanding of the main areas of financial and management accounting. To do this you must demonstrate to the examiner that you have mastered the technical skills of accountancy.
This guide summarises the key issues that examiners have highlighted in recent reports. In particular, it identifies the areas where students have performed poorly and where future students need to give more focus.
We strongly recommend that you take heed of this information as it comes from the people who will decide whether you pass or fail!
Find the full list of Examiners’ Reports on the ACCA website here: ACCA FR Examiners’ Reports
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The first thing you need to know about ACCA P2 is that it is a real step up in terms of what is expected of the student. This requires students to devote a lot of time to revision in preparation for their exam, including using a wide range of resource such as Study Texts and past exam papers.
Here are some of the key points the examiners have made about preparation:
“A well-prepared candidate would have reviewed relevant websites including those of the standard setters (IASB), the profession, and ACCA to maintain their knowledge and keep up to date with topical issues (it is normal for this exam to contain one question focusing on a topical issue, and this exam was no exception).” – ACCA P2 Examiner’s Report – September 2015
“Practice of past exam questions and exam-standard questions under timed conditions will better prepare candidates for allocating their time in the exam.” – ACCA P2 Examiner’s Report – September 2015
So, as you can see the examiners are expecting you to put in a significant amount of time and effort in preparation for the exam. It is very unlikely that you will be successful through last minute revision. Don’t take short cuts – ensure you have a thorough knowledge of the syllabus, look at external resources and test yourself with past exam papers.
At this stage you are expected to know how to do most of the core accounting techniques, so you are largely tested on your ability to go beyond this and really think like an accountant.
Don’t forget, the examiners also expect candidates to have a wider knowledge and understanding of the business and accounting world. Accounting is a profession that requires more than just book learning – business acumen is needed too.
The key point to be taken from this feedback is that a ‘strategy’ of learning a limited number of core topics and expecting to pass is not going to work! The ACCA F7 exam builds upon some of the learning from previous exams, so refresh your memory on those topics that have been brought forward before building your knowledge in the other key areas. Knowing the basics will benefit you in the long run. Don’t try to cut corners here or you will just end up with problems!
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, an issue that crops up in examiners’ reports every sitting is a problem with poor handwriting:
“Other familiar poor examination technique issues were: a lack of understandable workings for some figures and poor handwriting that many markers struggled to read.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2015
“Poor handwriting is still an important concern for many markers (particularly for the written elements); if markers cannot read what a candidate has written, no marks can be awarded.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – December 2013
“Yet again poor handwriting was an important concern for many markers (particularly for the written elements). I have commented on this issue in every one of my recent reports and, if anything, handwriting has got worse. All markers do their best to read what candidates have written. But if markers cannot read what a candidate has written, no marks can be awarded.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2013
This is such an unnecessary way to lose out on marks in this exam! There is little to say here other than take the time to make your handwriting legible. Here are a few quick and easy tips if this is something you really struggle with:
- Use a good pen – don’t let your scratchy old Biro decide your fate in this exam!
- Slow down – taking the time to write clearly is worth it, if the alternative is no marks for illegible text!
- Practise at home – if you have a spare 20 minutes then just practice some handwriting.
A large number of comments in the examiner’s reports refer to the tendency of some candidates to misinterpret, misread or misunderstand what a question asks. Of course, some of these candidates simply do not know the answer to the question and so, in hope of salvaging some marks, they regurgitate information on a syllabus area they do know.
Other students, however, will not have properly understood the question before they dive into an answer. If you attempt to answer a question which is just slightly different from the one on which the marking guide is based, you can end up scoring no marks at all. Doing that just once in your exam could easily be the difference between passing and failing!
This is what the examiners had to say about it:
“There were other examples of poor examination technique, in particular, not reading the question requirement carefully and not planning the answer (including timing) properly.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2015
“… there were still some areas of poor examination technique, in particular, not reading (or thinking about) the question requirements carefully enough. […] This wasted considerable time and, no matter how accurate the calculations may be and how good their interpretation, this gained no marks.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – December 2014
Get into the habit of highlighting the key words within a question. Doing this will make it apparent what the questions is asking you to do. It’s recommended that you closely look at the verb (E.g. “Explain”, “Discuss” or “Comment”) as this will give you a great indication of what the marker really wants from you.
In addition, make sure you that read the question slowly and read it through at least twice before answering the question so that you don’t miss a key requirement.
A common issue across most exams is a lack of workings and calculations shown by students. This is particularly significant in ACCA FR, because of ‘knock on’ errors that may be pervasive throughout your entire answers.
Here’s what they had to say on this issue:
“Future candidates are reminded of the need for an appropriate level of workings to support answers which will allow markers to understand how figures used have been arrived at.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“Other issues relating to poor examination technique included […] a lack of cross-referenced understandable workings…” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2014
The conclusion from these examiners’ comments’ is to always show your workings. The point about method marking is very important because you could still get marks even if your final answer is incorrect as long as they can see your workings clearly.
Think of your workings as part of the requirements of the question, so make them clear for the examiner to read.
In such a time-pressured exam, it goes without saying that you cannot afford to waste time on things that don’t directly contribute to you getting marks! Yet, the examiner has repeatedly had the following to say:
“Other issues relating to poor examination technique included […] the needless repetition of figures and/or question requirements which resulted in a waste of the candidates’ time.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2014
“A minority of candidates wasted a lot of time; needless repetition of written points, writing out a question’s requirement before answering it, providing unnecessary workings (for simple line item calculations) and sometimes even duplicating an answer by writing it out again more neatly.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report -Dec 2013
“I have also commented before on the use of excessive workings which only serve to waste candidate’s time; the answers published on the ACCA website provide a useful guide to the level of detail required for a successful answer.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2013
So, avoid repetition, don’t simply write out the question again or give details the examiner doesn’t want. All of this will save you time and help you to write a good answer that will maximise your marks.
A tip to prevent repeating yourself is to think of all the points you want to address during the planning stage before you start answering the question. Then use these discussion areas as headings in your answer under which specific points relating to that heading should be made. This will keep you focussed on the main points and avoid repetition.
Another key point raised by examiners is the issue of incomplete answer scripts. Obviously students will not get marks for parts of the questions that are not answered, so this can have a major impact on their performance in the exam.
Here are some of the examiners’ remarks on this issue:
“The short written element of the consolidation question was either not attempted or, for the few attempts seen, not answered that well.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“Many candidates did not attempt sections (d) (EPS) and (e) (cash flow extracts) of question 3.” – ACCA FR Examiner’s Report – June 2015
So, what are the common reasons for incomplete answers scripts?
1. Inability to identify the requirements of the question – to overcome this read the questions slowly at least twice and get into the habit of highlighting key words. This should make it obvious exactly what the question is asking you to do.
2. Poor time management – do not spend too much time on an early exam question resulting in rushed and incomplete answers towards the end. Divide your time up based on the number of marks awarded for each question and then ensure you allow enough time to fully answer every requirement. If it’s a subject you particularly like don’t be tempted to spend too much of your time demonstrating your knowledge in this area and neglecting other questions – move on!
3. Lack of knowledge – many candidates simply do not know the answers to the questions. There is no substitute for knowing the full syllabus in detail. Incomplete answers expose a lack of knowledge and lead to failing the exam. Ensure your revision plan covers all areas of the syllabus.