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Are sample papers an Achilles’ heel?

Sunil Bhandari is skeptical about how useful ACCA sample questions are when it comes to students trying to pass the real thing

February 2018

The ACCA’s policy to publish a sample of exam questions from the previous two papers continued with the recent uploading of the Sep/Dec 2017 version. However, after reviewing the F9 and P4 papers I am concerned if they are of any true value.
Let’s take the F9 paper. As is the norm, only two section C questions (40% of the paper) can be seen at the moment. A small sample of the section A and B tests will be within the examiner’s report. However, we have to wait until January to see those. Why do we have to wait? Why not publish these now?
In addition, the two section C questions appear to be taken from the September exam. Would it not be more sensible to publish one from the September and one from December papers? That way March 2018 candidates can see at least one question from the latest exam.
Turning my attention to P4, I am even more concerned. The latest published questions show Q1 and Q3 were taken from the December exam and the remaining two from the September paper. That at least is fair.
However, my primary concern is the balance of topics contained therein. It was 100% correct to publish the Q1 from the December exam as this was far more challenging than its immediate predecessor. I can forecast an global average score below 25 out of 50 for this question.
Q1 included preparing a revised financial forecast of earnings and SOFP, which is becoming a common topic in recent papers. So why publish Q2, which also asked for a forecast SOFP? I can’t see the benefit to students.
I have a stronger view regarding Q4. It was a standard question on interest rate risk hedging, and one that many students would have scored well on, given the number of similar past questions and my ACCA P4 article on this topic.
However, the risk management question on the December paper was on forex risk. By all accounts this was ‘different’ to what we have seen in the past. I accept students’ recollections can be unclear after the event, but I have managed to see the wood from the trees and create this question. If it is different, let’s publish it so future candidates can learn and be ready for the challenge.
I am not criticising the examining teams of both papers. They always have my admiration and full 100% support for the work they do. I just feel the arrow is a little misdirected on this occasion.
• Sunil Bhandari is a freelance accountancy tutor and writer

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