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Want to pass F9? Then call a CAB!

Sunil Bhandari explains why being out of order can help get you a pass mark

March 2017

The exclamation ‘call for a cab’ is a rather odd one to make in relation to passing an exam and especially the ACCA F9 paper, which has always been a challenging test. Let me explain my thought process.
The ACCA F9 paper has gone through the metamorphosis process several times over its history. The latest paper-based exam format consists of:
• Section A: 15 x multiple choice questions (MCQs) – 30% of the marks.
• Section B: three case studies, with five MCQ per case study (30%).
• Section C: two long questions (40%).
With the exam now consisting of 60% MCQs, the conventional line of thinking is that the paper should be ‘easier’ to pass. Candidates believe that because MCQs have far less data to digest they can be attempted quickly (sometimes too quickly).
Added to that, in the worst case scenario a student can always have a guess – after all, there’s a one in four chance of getting the right answer.
So it is not a surprise that many candidates attempt ACCA F9 in the order the paper is printed – A, B, C. They believe that they can realistically secure the majority of marks that they need to pass from the first two sections. The long questions have been perceived to be more challenging. Best to leave them until the end of the exam.
However, I don’t believe this is the best order of attack. From looking at the two papers published by the ACCA to date (Specimen Exam and September 2016 paper) and from discussions with candidates who attempted the September and December 2016 exams, the A, B, C order may not be the recipe for success.
The MCQs are not as easy as they first appear. They have to be read carefully to ensure all their subtleties are understood, otherwise the wrong choice can be made and that is two marks gone. Some of the theory/non-numeric questions are particularly challenging. The case study MCQs that make up Section B are a new exam style question for ACCA F9 paper. From the feedback I received from the December 2016 candidates, the regular comment was that “I had to guess more answers than I expected to”.
It’s not all doom and gloom – there is a ray of sunshine. Section C is easy. Yes, I said easy! The two long questions in each of the Specimen and September 2016 exam papers were more than fair. They tested the predictable syllabus areas. Candidates had time to finish the required computations and complete the written/theory elements. The December 2016 paper has not been published, but the student feedback confirmed that the two long questions were ‘very doable’.
You have to prepare thoroughly (tuition, revision and mocks) prior to going into the ACCA F9 exam. You would expect me to say this as a F9 tutor. But when you are in the exam room don’t forget to ‘call for a CAB’. Attempt the paper in the order C, A, B and you will be on the road to success.
• Sunil Bhandari is a freelance ACCA F9 and P4 tutor

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