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P6: avoiding the traps

Sally Chapman offers some top tips on passing the Advanced Taxation paper

October 2017

As BPP’s P6 Advanced Taxation subject matter expert I can’t actually sit your exam for you, but I can offer you my top tips for ensuring your success.

Strong assumed knowledge:
Sadly, many students’ assumed F6 knowledge is simply not good enough. Perhaps this is down to you sitting your previous paper a while ago, or even having been exempt, but you cannot expect to be successful if your basics are weak. Take time to nail down your fundamentals. Topics often picked up on as poor include application of basis period rules and administration.

Know your P6 material:
While knowing the basics will get you some of the way, you must expect some of the new technical topics will be examined in detail. If this is in a section A question and you don’t have that knowledge you’ve already lost valuable marks. Don’t underestimate the level of technical detail that they like to ask – try to take the time to learn as much as possible! In recent papers examples have included application of the sufficient ties tests, share options, disposal of UK residential property by a non-resident and EIS/SEIS/VCT rules.

Incorporated or unincorporated?
You really must understand the difference between an incorporated and unincorporated business. It may sound silly but this is another point that the Examining Team frequently picks up in their comments. If you misinterpret the type of business being asked about you are fundamentally wrong from the start! Are you being asked about a sole trader (and thus income tax, NIC, capital gains tax and VAT) or is the business incorporated (corporation tax, NIC and VAT)? The word business does not tell you which you have. Similarly, don’t confuse trade loss reliefs for sole traders versus companys.

Follow tips given within the questions:
Take careful note of the words and advice given in the question. The Examining Team have stated that they take great care to present the information in the question as they do and are not trying to trick you! The question often suggests a process you might want to follow – if the Examiner has taken the time to write this it will be useful advice, so follow it! Does the question specifically request calculations or are you told calculations are not required?

Apply to the scenario:
In addition to having the technical knowledge required at this level, you must be able to apply your knowledge to the scenario given in the question. In fact, the Examining Team do not like it when students simply ‘brain dump’ knowledge in their answers. Rather than listing your knowledge apply it directly to the facts in the question.

Exam technique is critical:
Another topic frequently mentioned in the Examining Team’s comments is exam technique. Key points to consider are:

Planning - This is particularly important in your section A questions. Spend approximately 10 minutes at the start of each of these questions locating the specific requirements and absorbing the key information. You may spend this time annotating the question and making notes in the margin or preparing a mind map/written plan in your answer booklet. You need to practise this before your real exam to see what works best for you, but planning means you will write a more concise answer. When you do spend time planning you then need to make sure you practise getting your points down clearly and quickly or you will run out of time before making your points.

Timing - You must keep to time across the paper – 1.95 minutes per mark. Do not let yourself get bogged down in any sub-requirement. If you need to state an assumption and move on!

Answer each part of each question - You must make sure you keep moving through the paper and write something for each sub-requirement.

Answer the question asked -
Always read the requirements twice. Once before you read all the information so that you know what’s been asked before you start to plan, and then once more before you write up your answer. There will be no marks available in a marking guide for something technically correct if you’re not answering the question asked.

Clear, concise writing style -
If you have the knowledge it’s amazing how much you need to get down in a short space of time! So practise using headings and sub-headings to break your answer down into sub-requirements. Also ensure you give adequate explanations of calculations and that you make each point clearly. Try reading some of your answers back the next day. Often when you ‘debrief’ a question you think you made certain points, but when you read back your answer in the cold light of day you may not have explained yourself clearly enough.
• Sally Chapman is a tutor and subject manager expert for ACCA P6 at BPP Professional Education

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