The Exam Review Board meets after every exam session to look at the most recent exam papers. The Exam Review board comprises ACCA staff and Approved Learning Partners for Student Tuition and Content.
Questions were as expected; they were in syllabus and set at an appropriate level.
Question 31 was similar to previous questions on this topic and the question requirements were very clear. There was a query raised about the use of half marks in marking guide. There was also a query raised about the inclusion of two possible answers to Question 31a in the solution.
Question 32a was worth 4 marks but it only appeared that there were 3 points in the suggested solution. It was also raised that the model answer for Question 32b seemed short for 16 marks.
ACCA noted that for F5 half marks are used for calculations but not usually for narrative answers unless the question is asking for identification of issues only and not explanation or discussion. Regarding the inclusion of the two answers in the suggested solution to Q31a ACCA noted that this was done in response to feedback from a previous ERB requesting both possible answers to be included in the future.
Regarding the point about the marks for Question 32a it was noted that it was possible for candidates to get up two marks for each point; one mark for making the general point and a second developmental mark for applying it to the scenario. It was also noted that although the suggested solution to Question 32b might look short in, a lot of points were being made and more marks available than the 16. ACCA said it was a good illustration of what a succinct answer could look like.
The exam was set at an appropriate level, requirements were clear and the exam should have been manageable. Mark allocations were deemed to be fair. The exam provided good coverage of core topics and new topics examined in question 32 were examined in a straightforward way which was appreciated. The continuing trend to examine tax planning was noted.
Question 31 was noted as intellectually demanding but it was recognised that this provided a good bridge to P6. It was suggested that it might have been time pressured but not unreasonable.
ACCA responded that candidates were performing well in questions 32 and 33. There was no indication of time pressure for question 31. Well-prepared candidates were performing well in question 31, but unprepared candidates were not which indicates that the exam is effective.
All of the questions were considered to be within the scope of the syllabus and the requirements were thought to be concise and clear. It was suggested that question 31, based on the interpretation of the financial statements of a single entity, may have surprised some candidates because it included the results of a non-core division which had been disposed of during the year. It was thought that question 32, on preparation of a consolidated statement of financial position, might have been a bit time pressured. However, it was acknowledged that there were a good proportion of easy marks available.
In question 31, the terminology of “a non-core division” was used deliberately so that candidates did not mistakenly believe that the question was testing the disclosures relating to a discontinued operation. The solution makes it clear that the question is testing the numbers behind the disposal and the impact that it has on the ratio analysis and interpretation. The F7 exam is set to prepare candidates for P2 and so they should understand the impact of acquisitions and disposals on the interpretation of both single entities and groups. Consequently, the F7 syllabus states that this exam will always include an interpretation question set in the context of either a group or single entity. Candidates should expect that Section C questions will include several marks for an issue that is considered to be technically challenging. This is a deliberate strategy which is adopted to better prepare candidates for P2.
Overall the exam was considered well balanced and fair with a challenging but fair split of theory and application skills. ACCA commented that OT cases allow for a good range of application questions across the exam but the overall split of knowledge and application marks are maintained at a consistent level between sessions.
Overall the syllabus coverage was deemed appropriate and the difficulty of the questions was set at an appropriate level. There was a comment on the length of scenario attached to Question 16 and that the request for eight audit risks and responses may have proved a challenge in the time available. ACCA commented that the scenarios attached to the 30-mark questions contain more answer points than are required to score the marks available to give candidates the best chance of scoring marks. Good exam technique is to identify and more importantly develop the number of points required. ACCA commented that there was no evidence of real time pressure and most candidates were making a reasonable attempt at the question.
On Question 17 there were comments that the requirement relating to ISA 701 Communicating Key Audit Matters in the Independent Auditor’s Report, and the connection between requirements (a) and (b) were areas candidates may find difficult. Requirements (a) and (b) were connected and asked for tests for trade payables and accruals using both traditional testing methods and audit software. ACCA commented that candidates were struggling to provide audit software techniques but these requirements were being marked together and candidates awarded credit for any relevant procedures.
There was a comment that many candidates may only be able to provide a definition of Key Audit Matters from the new standard ISA 701. ACCA commented that performance on this requirement was disappointing given that this is a new standard and the changes to Auditor Reporting should have been expected. Candidates were being awarded credit for any relevant points.
Comments were made that students may have found question 31(a)(ii) unusual as it used cash flow techniques from F3. ACCA responded that answers using a purely cash-based approach and not factoring in the movement in working capital, would receive some credit.
There were some comments for question 32(c) that sensitivity analysis has in the past been listed under uncertainty rather than risk and this seems to contradict question 32(a).
ACCA responded that the requirement asked for a critical discussion about incorporating risk and that the suggested solution did conclude that sensitivity analysis was not actually a method for incorporating risk into investment appraisal.
There was a further comment that adjusted payback is not a method for dealing with risk. ACCA responded that it does consider this to be a method of dealing with risk in investment appraisal and indeed that it is listed in the syllabus and study guide as such.
A question was raised about whether the balance of the exam would be 50% calculation and 50% narrative in the future. ACCA responded that in line with guidance previously given the calculation element would make up between 40 and 50% of the exam.
For question 32(b) it was suggested that students may not have known how much was expected in terms of the comment relating to variable costs. ACCA responded that a comment should be a fairly brief statement, but that a significant number of candidates had not addressed this part of the requirement.
General points on F5-F9
The Chair referred to the published CBE versions of the sample questions and asked if any Board members had reviewed them. No members had any specific comments on the CBE versions. The Chair encouraged Board members to emphasise the importance of using the ACCA support resources for the CBEs, and quoted the statistic from the March exam feedback survey, which indicated that 25% of students attempting the CBEs had not used the specimen on the website.
Board members asked about the rationale for picking the questions to be published in the sample exams? – The Chair explained that the overarching principle is to select the questions that will be most useful to future candidates. It is not a random selection, and the examining teams use a range of criteria, including considerations about whether a subject area is new to a syllabus, or is one that candidates are clearly struggling with. The chair also confirmed that the constructed response questions published in the sample exams are withdrawn from the question bank.
In response to queries about examiners reports for F5-F9 now that these exams are now delivered by CBE and candidates will not all sit the same questions, the Chair explained the new style of examiner report. In addition, after the June and December sessions, the marking team will provide an additional detailed commentary on candidate performance in the published sample constructed response questions.
The Exam review board considered that the P1 examination was an appropriate composite examination with a good range of topics. The requirements were clear and the style and breadth of coverage was consistent with previous exams and that there was a practical feel to the exam.
It was suggested that Question 4c) Risk assessment – assessing candidates about what RMBE might do – may be confusing. However, the requirement actually asked ‘Assess how RMBE ‘uses risk management techniques’ and there was plenty of evidence in the case to suggest to a candidate how they could assess this and these were referred to in the answers.
Another comment was that in Question 1d (ii), reference to ‘going concern’ may have thrown candidates. ACCA responded that outcomes relating to obligations around relevance and reliability of reporting, the purpose of external audit and the assessment of strategic and liquidity risk, should mean that a candidate would be expected to understand that risk of company failure and assuring shareholders about solvency/’going concern’ would be relevant, particularly in the context of the scenario.
There was also a comment about audit tender and whether this was in the syllabus, but ACCA responded by saying that this was related to increasing audit independence, so is clearly in the P1 syllabus.
One query was whether there were too many parts in Question 1 and whether this would cause difficulties for candidates. ACCA responded by stating that smaller ‘bite-sized’ requirements offer better opportunities for candidates to score well, as long as they manage their time effectively.
Other comments were related to solutions being too detailed and there being fewer questions on core topics. ACCA responded that the answers given in the published version are deliberately detailed to offer learning support for future exams, and that this detail would not be expected from candidates and that they disagreed that the exam didn’t contain enough core areas.
Question 1(a) was considered to be time-pressured as there were a lot of adjustments required. The style and content of questions 2 and 4 were considered to be more written than calculation-based. It was felt that question 3(b) lacked some clarity on the additional storage facility and there were too many references to costs. Overall it was felt that the solutions are too detailed and specific mark allocations would be more informative. It was queried in question 3(c), that penalties would be considered to be variable consideration but the solution makes no reference to this. Finally, a comment was made about the large volume of P2 articles available to candidates; possibly too many and it was not clear which ones candidates should read.
ACCA responded that question 1(a) always requires an in-depth understanding of numerical adjustments in the context of a group. As a result, candidates do find it to be time-pressured, however, they should be reassured that there are a lot of marks available for these adjustments; providing candidates show their workings, they can pick up some easy marks. In relation to the balance of written and calculation material, ACCA noted that the published sample questions do not represent a single exam. With regards to question 3, it is important that, whilst these questions are not overly long, they do include the information needed to allow candidates to answer. As the requirement tested the treatment of “ …the penalties, counter claim and additional costs in accordance with IFRS 15…” the examining team considered the provision of cost information in the question to be appropriate. Regarding solutions, at this level of exam, there is unlikely to be a single solution. The examining team provides a suggested solution but marks will be awarded for any sensible points made by candidates. Where candidates are unable to make reference to specific IFRS, marks will also be awarded for references to relevant accounting principles and the conceptual framework. This point is also relevant to the volume of P2 articles available to candidates. Candidates are expected to be well-read and the examining team has often suggested that candidates’ reading should go beyond study texts and ACCA website resources. All of the P2 articles are relevant to P2 candidates. The Chair again referred to the learning support material that is currently being developed to show how marks are allocated.
The questions were appropriate and consistent with past exams with clear and straightforward requirements.
Board members were pleased to see a shorter case study in question 1, but it was felt to be more academic than professional, more in line with F1. ACCA responded that this formed part of the introduction explaining the value and purpose of the theories used in the analysis and only carried very few marks. It was also pointed out that the answer was not in the report format. ACCA agreed to amend the format of the published answer.
The split of marks in the mark allocation guidance in Question 4 part b) was queried. ACCA explained that when this type of mark split “guidance” is given, it is intended only as an indication to candidates on how to weight their time across the requirements. The actual marks available for sub-parts (1) and (ii) would not be capped. If part i) was better answered than part ii), for example, a score as high as 9 marks could be given for part i) only.
It was also commented that there was an imbalance with more questions on public sector than usual. ACCA referred to the criteria used to select questions for publishing and that it was useful to publish more public sector questions will allow candidates get a feel of them.
Overall the paper was felt to be fair and consistent with previous exams. There were some topics which may have appeared unusual to students but it was noted and appreciated that these areas had been covered by recent technical articles from the examining team. ACCA noted that all of the technical articles available on the website are relevant and it is not just the most recent ones which students should be reading.
There was a comment that a fully discursive question may have surprised some students.
ACCA responded that fully discursive questions will appear in some, but not all exams for P4.
It was felt that question 3(b)(i) was a lot of work for the marks available. ACCA responded that the published answer was a long hand version and the majority of students produced a simpler response which could still attract all of the marks.
There were some comments made on the amount of content in some of the questions and whether the questions could be completed within the time allowance.
ACCA responded that there are processes in place to ensure the amount of information in the question is not excessive and as part of the quality assurance work it is checked whether the questions can be completed within the time allowed.
General feedback was that the questions were achievable and consistent in style. It was noted that it was surprising to see 6 marks in Question 2a for cost gap calculations as this seems more like F5 and that Question 3c asked about the 5Ss which may have been a surprise. The publication of Question 2 and Question 3 was welcomed as there are not many questions on these areas available.
ACCA replied that the 6 marks for target costing calculations in Question 2a were thought to have been easy marks for candidates, however it candidate performance showed that assumed knowledge from F5 was lacking. ACCA also explained that although Question 3c examined the 5Ss these were actually given in the question so they were only required to apply them to the scenario. In relation to Question 3 ACCA also commented that candidates often avoid questions on systems which is disappointing as when those questions are attempted they are often done well. As an additional point ACCA also stressed the need for candidates to develop their answers better as they provide a lot of theory but not enough application to the scenario. Candidates need to explain why their points are relevant to the company in the context given to obtain more marks.
Overall it was felt that the P6 exam was fair and set at the appropriate level. Topics examined were within syllabus. The exam was found to be generally consistent with other P6 exams.
It was noted that the exam was time-pressured. Many commented that question 1 in particular would have been found very challenging and time-pressured. It was felt that part (i) needed to be clearer in terms of what needed to be done and that candidates may have missed the Class 4 national insurance contribution (NIC) rebate on the opening year loss carry back. It was also noted that candidates would have welcomed the proforma. ACCA responded that of the two compulsory questions, question 1 was actually done better than question 2. Most candidates were able to complete the proforma to a decent standard and although many did miss the Class 4 NIC rebate, it was only worth one mark and so did not have much of an impact overall.
It was felt that question 1 part (ii) lacked clarity that it was intended to be a deed of variation. ACCA responded that this was taken into account when marking as most students were not treating the gift as a deed of variation but rather that the gift had been made direct from the grandfather’s estate. Appropriate credit was given to candidates who made that assumption and stated that the inheritance tax would have already been paid.
Questions 3 and 4 seemed easier than question 5 as they seemed to have more brought forward knowledge from F6. ACCA responded that technically all three questions were equally challenging but did accept that candidates may have also perceived question 5 to be the harder question as many did not select it. This is likely to be because the first part of the question was on intangibles which are generally not answered well, even though there were a number of easier elements later on in the question.
For question 4 part (a) (i) a question was raised as to whether candidates would have been given credit for writing much more on the car benefit part of the redundancy package. ACCA responded that most candidates either left it out altogether or simply stated that it was taxable as a normal benefit in kind. The requirement specifically states that calculations are not required and so there were no marks available for calculating the car benefit itself.
Overall the feedback for P7 was positive, in terms of the fairness, consistency, appropriate coverage and difficulty of the exam. The interesting and practical scenarios were also praised. The panel also commented on the usefulness of the model answers and marking guide for learning purposes.
There was a comment that the selection of published questions did perhaps have a slight weighting towards assurance based topics. ACCA referred to the criteria used to select questions to publish, to provide the best practice for future candidates. Questions on non-audit engagements are an area candidates struggle with as they find it difficult to apply their existing knowledge of areas, such as testing techniques, to non-audit contexts.