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What should I sit?
With syllabus changes imminent for some ACCA papers, Rebecca Evans outlines the best route for you to take
March results are out and irrespective of whether you sat exams or not, now is the time to be thinking about what subjects to attempt both in June and for the remainder of 2017.
Many of my students ask what subjects they should sit together and in what order they should sit the papers. The answer I always give is that there is no single answer that will work for everyone. The course combinations that are right for you will depend on your role, often your employer’s wishes, the availability of courses offered by your tuition provider and any exemptions you may have.
Assuming you have already completed F1–F4, you need to plan the order you will attempt F5–F9. If you are working in a financial accounting or audit role it is advisable to do F7 and F8 first. You could choose to sit them together or consecutively, depending on how many subjects you chose to study at one time. Often employers in practice request their students sit these papers first as it gives them the essential skills and knowledge they need to operate effectively in the workplace. If working in tax, start with F6, alongside F5 or F8 if you are sitting two subjects per sitting, and if you are in management accounting start with F5.
You also need to factor in when to attempt various subjects. With the exception of Tax subjects, the syllabus changes for the September exams, so some students are choosing to avoid sitting F7 in June – if you are unsuccessful in your exam you will need to resit the exam under potentially updated accounting standards.
It is also helpful to sit F7 and P2 under the same syllabus version, so you may look to sit F7 in September as one of your final skills level papers and then P2 no later than the following June. This would be the same for tax subjects and sitting under the same Finance Act, although be aware the syllabus change dates are different for the tax subjects (F6 and P6). Textbooks and other material are valid for exams June to March, so look to sit F6 in June, September or December and P6 (if you opt to do it) before the following March. Remember, you can now sit the exams at the professional level in any order.
F5, F8 and F9 are generally less affected by syllabus changes, unless there is a major one (2017 isn’t a major update), so it isn’t so important to worry about the point in the year you attempt it. But depending on your choice of options you may choose to sit the underpinning subject a sitting or so before the option i.e. sit F9 close to P4, or F8 immediately before P7.
Many of the Options papers have a low pass rate and students are rightly concerned about making the best selection for them. The general advice is, if working in management accounting, do P4 and P5; if in practice or tax, P6 & P7.
The P7 examiner has said that that paper is significantly harder for those students not in an audit or accounting role with little practical experience, and it is advisable that those students choose another option. However, be sensible – think about your long-term career ambitions and your performance at the preceding examination. For example, if you struggled at F9, attempting P4 may not be the wisest decision.
Future syllabus changes
One further consideration arises as a result of changes to the Professional Level that will come into force for the September 2018 exams. You have five exam sessions remaining before Strategic Business Leader (SBL) replaces P1 and P3 and Strategic Business Reporting (SBR) replaces P2, so it is essential to plan ahead to ensure you do not get caught in transition.
Firstly, think about the number of exam sessions you want to study for and plan how many subjects you will attempt at each sitting. In order to receive an exemption (converted pass) in the SBL paper you must have passed both P1 and P3. If you have passed just one, unfortunately you will lose this pass. It is therefore important to plan your studies so you will have passed both subjects by September 2018. You could look to attempt both subjects before the June 2018 sitting. Alternatively, you may choose to sit P2 and some of your Options papers first and attempt the SBL exam at (or after) the September 2018 session. If you have passed P2 by September 2018 you will automatically receive a converted pass in the SBR exam.
• Rebecca Evans is National ACCA and CIMA Product Manager at Kaplan Financial
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