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Study Zone

What ACCA examiners want

We take a look at the December 2015 Examiner’s reports and see what was examined

Our summary of the ACCA Examiner Reports from December 2015

Poor exam technique rather than poor knowledge means student fail, says the F5 examiner.
Q1: A variance question examining mix and yield variances.
Q2: Looked at the theory of constraints and throughput accounting.
Q3: A purely discursive question on budgeting.
Q4: Area of divisional performance.
Q5: Covered limiting factor analysis in a ‘make or buy’ context.

It was good to see almost all candidates attempted all of the questions, said the F6 examiner.
Q1: On capital gains tax and disposal of an investment property.
Q2: Self-employment and accounting dates with trading profit forecasts.
Q3: Inheritance tax, married couples and gifts.
Q4: VAT and the self-employed, mainly narrative.
Q5: Income tax, a married couple, both employees.
Q6: Corporation tax and a company that ceased trading.

Candidate can’t interpret ration questions, explains the F7 examiner. They are also stating the obvious without offering any real interpretation or analysis and this “won’t wash”.
The examiner stressed that an appropriate level of referenced working are essential to allow markers to understand how answers have been arrived at.
Q1: Calculation of consolidated goodwill and preparation of a consolidated statement of profit and loss and other comprehensive income.
Q2: Assessing relevant performance for acquisitions. How to make acquisition decisions.
Q3: Preparation of financial statement for a single entity, with adjustments.

Candidates are getting better at answering the audit report questions, according to the examiner.
For Section B the six written questions were structured around the following topics: Audit framework and regulation; planning and risk assessment; internal control; audit evidence, and finally review and reporting.
The examiner then looked at these areas one-by-one.
For audit framework and regulation candidates must be able to distinguish between internal and external audit. Don’t confuse internal audit and audit committees! You must also have a clear understanding of both corporate governance and professional ethics.
For the area of planning students were examined on their knowledge of engagement letters and the information necessary to aid an understanding of a new audit client.
Audit risk and responses was another area tested.
When it came to audit evidence candidates were asked to explain four factors that influence the reliability of audit evidence. Inventory count procedures also loomed large as did audit procedures in relation to R&D costs.
For review and reporting the examiner looked at going concern indicators and procedures and audit report modification. The December exam included a question on going concern assessment and required five potential indicators present within the scenario. Candidates were then asked to look at going concern procedures.

Candidates need to take more care when presenting the answers to numerical questions in section B, says the F9 examiner. Here, as in F7 the examiner called for candidates to show all their workings, as marks can be applied for applying the correct method.
Q1: PQs needed to calculate a market value-based debt/equity ratio. In part B candidates needed to analyse and discuss the effect of new information being given by an announcement in a semi-strong form efficient stock market.
Q2: Looked at foreign currency risk, comparing a money market hedge, a forward exchange contract and a lead payment as ways to hedge a future payment. Candidates were then asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of currency futures.
Q3: Working capital management, evaluating an early settlement discount. Part B asked candidates to discuss reducing risks associated with foreign accounts receivable.
Q4: Honed in on investment appraisal, requiring a nominal terms NPV analysis of the purchase of a new machine. For part B a discussion was needed on why investment finance might be limited.
Q4: Business finance, looking at estimating the cost of capital and the theoretical approaches to the dividend decision. A chance to use Miller and Modigliani’s dividend irrelevance!

Some candidates are still not completing the whole paper, which seems to worry the examiner! For December there were also limited attempts to respond to the professional marks. This time around you had to write an article – simple surely!
Q1: Looked at two-tier boards and diversity and diversity targets on boards. The roles of risk committee’s and strategies to manage the risked faced were all covered. The ‘comply or explain’ principle was also examined.
Q2: Corporate citizenship appeared (it has been examined before). Part B asked about differing options on integrated reporting. The final part of this question wanted to know the theory behind the integrated reporting initiative and the six capitals in integrated reporting.
Q3: Technology risk and environmental changes. How to control risks, and how to avoid mismanagement were also looked at here.
Q4: An ethical question, including bribery and corruption.

The IASB is spending a lot of time updating and improving all aspects of The Conceptual Framework, so it makes sense to the examiner that you too have good knowledge of it. Hen it comes to the marking credit is given for application of the Framework to the questions asked. The example given is the understanding of the qualitative characteristics.
Candidates also need to have a working knowledge of the fundamental principles of the standards and be able to apply them (the ones set out in examinable documents).
Q1: Preparation of a consolidated statement of financial position of a group with an overseas subsidiary. There was an impairment of goodwill in the subsidiary and an interest free loan, the purchase of property, and a defined pension scheme.
Q2: The practical application of several accounting standards, namely IFRS 5, IAS 36, IFRS 13 and IAS 17.
Q3: Joint arrangements, decommissioning and accounting for irrecoverable gas. IRFS 9 and IAS 16 and IAS 10 all came into play.
Q4: Current issues – IFRS 15.

Candidates are reminded there are only a few marks available for theoretical answers, the bulk of the marks are for interpretation of the information provided, said the P3 examiner.
Q1: Acquisition of a company (this has been a theme of many P3 questions). Many candidates used the SAF framework in their answers, which the examiner said was perfectly acceptable. Among the models discussed ware Balogun and Hope Hailey’s contextual model, the culture web and Mintzberg’s organisational configurations.
Q2: Investment appraisal was tested here. A cost-benefit analysis was needed. The second part of the question covered project planning.
Q3: Organisational change and the analysis and redesign of processes.
Q4: Environment threats using a SWOT analysis. The second part looked at corporate charitable donations – ethics and corporate governance.

Candidates are spending too much time carrying out relatively simple calculation tasks, says the P4 examiner. There also appears to be evidence, even at this late stage of many PQs inability to perform arithmetic calculations.
Q1: Distinguish between unbundling through a sell-off and through a management buy-in. A report to the board about the valuation of the unbundling through a sell-off using the P/E ratio multiplier and an acquisition using free cashflows, where a cost of capital had to be estimated initially. Candidates also had to discuss asset disposal by a target firm and explain three takeover regulatory conditions.
Q2: determine the net present value of a project with a discussion of concerns. Candidates then had to formulate a maximisation function based on funding limits in four years. A re-formulation was then required.
Q3: Derivative instruments, a content of guidelines on the management of risk, and setting up a treasury department.
Q4: Securitisation and Sukuk and Mudaraba contracts as alternative means of financing an investment.

Candidates who come to this exam expecting to repeat memorised material will probably score only between 20% and 30%, stressed the examiner.
Q1: Candidates were required to evaluate the accuracy of an EVA calculation and the assumptions made, advising on the results. They were then asked to explain the weaknesses in KPIs relating to the organisations CSFs and suggest alternative KPIs. Three improvement projects needed to be explained and an assessment of the impact of a proposal was asked for.
Q2: International transfer pricing within a manufacturing company. Candidates were required to evaluate the change in profit after tax and how current proposals would affect performance management.
Q3: Application and usefulness of the balanced scorecard within a service industry, with consideration of the problems in assessing and interpreting performance measures. Capacity levels and overcrowding also came up.
Q4: Porter’s 5 Forces assessment and evaluation of a new IT system. Candidates needed to look at the benefits and organisations strategy changes.

If you are preparing to resit the exam, think about the number of additional marks you need and identify a strategy to earn them, says the P6 examiner. When identifying areas of the syllabus where you are weakest make sure you include any technical areas brought forward from F6.
Q1: Tax implications of purchasing tax-efficient shares. The second part of the question concerned the provision of a car to a shareholder in a close company. The third part concerned the transfer of assets to a discretionary trust and the final part concerned the failure of a client to declare interest income on his tax return.
Q2: Tax payable of a business continues to trade as a company compared to the amount payable following a disincorporation. Candidates were asked to look at the tax implications and the rules of disincorporation relief. The final part covered VAT and the transfer of a going concern.
Q3: Rollover relief in respect to intangible assets. The second part of this question looked at the operation of a business outside the UK, we are talking UK corporation tax implications here. Finally, candidates were asked about the implications of selling assets of an overseas company.
Q4: Provision of employee assistance with home to work travel costs, the corporate tax implications of the purchase of a short lease and VAT implications of the sale of a warehouse.
Q5: Personal pension scheme tax implications, the receipt of a payment from a pension scheme and the inheritance tax implications of making a lifetime gift.

Some students are failing this paper because they are writing too little for the marks available, says the examiner of P7. Candidates are failing to develop points beyond the simple identification of facts given in the question.
Q1: Set at the planning stage of the audit/assurance cycle this question covered risks, audit procedures and the other information required.
Q2: Candidates needed to identify indicators to going concern issues and state procedures for the audit. The second part of this exam in the UK was set around alternatives to insolvency of a company in financial distress.
Q3: matters arising and evidence expects on three financial reporting issues. Candidates were faced with a sale of assets, redundancies due to a move, a share purchase and segmental reporting.
Q4: Ethics and practice management. The first part of the question looked at advertising and the second at overdue fees with an intimation threat.
Q5: Audit reporting and corporate governance issues.

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