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ACCA P6 Examiners' Guide

The first thing to remember about ACCA P6 is that it is a Professional exam. What is ultimately being examined is your fitness for a

professional role. You are being asked to put yourself in the position you will one day occupy, so answer not as a student,

but as an accountant reporting to stakeholders.

To be successful in the ACCA P6 exam it’s important to understand what the examiners expect to see written in your exam paper.

This is vital to score high marks as there may be a big difference between what you consider to be a good answer and what the

examiner is looking for.

This guide summarises the key issues that examiners have highlighted in recent reports. In particular it identifies the areas where

students have performed poorly and where future students need to give more focus. We strongly recommend that you don’t ignore

this information as it comes from the people who will decide whether you pass or fail!

Guide to the Examiners' Guide

1.   Structure your answers

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Planning your answers may seem like an obvious piece of advice from the examiner, but it is surprising just how many students launch straight into answering a question without taking time to think about how they are going to approach it. This has resulted in poorly structured answers which make it difficult for the examiner to identify the key points provided in the answer and therefore whether the requirements of the question have been met.

Here are some of the examiners’ remarks on this issue:

“Candidates should pause and think before they start writing. Dealing fully with the implications of one of the loans first, and then the other, tended to provide a much clearer answer than those who adopted something of a random approach, apparently writing points as they occurred to them.”

ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“This was not a difficult requirement, but most candidates did not perform as well as they could have done because they started to write before they had identified the two exemptions.”

ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

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It is therefore recommended that you allocate yourself some planning time at the start of each question to think about the issues and identify the points you intend to address. This is even more important for questions that involve carrying out complex calculations. By taking just a few minutes to think about how you are going to tackle the answer, you will avoid muddled workings which the examiner cannot follow.

Sometimes students are reluctant to do this due to the time pressure in an exam situation, but the feedback from the examiners emphasises that typically the best answers are well structured and show signs of a plan.

2.   Answer the question being asked

A large number of comments in the examiners’ reports refer to the tendency of some candidates to misinterpret, misread or misunderstand what a question asks. Of course, some of these candidates simply do not know the answer to the question and so, in hope of salvaging some marks, they regurgitate information on a syllabus area they do know. Other students however will not have properly understood the question before they dive into an answer. If you attempt to answer a question which is just slightly different from the one on which the marking guide is based, you can end up scoring no marks at all. Doing that just once in your exam could easily be the difference between passing and failing!

Here are a few comments from recent reports:

“It was particularly noted that a considerable number of candidates wasted time providing information that had not been asked for.” -ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“Number of candidates wasted time providing information that had not been asked for. In particular, providing detailed explanations where none were required, or (to a lesser degree), providing calculations when explanations were asked for.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

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Get into the habit of highlighting the key words within a question, by doing this, it will make it apparent what the question is asking you to do. It’s recommended that you closely look at the verb (E.g. “Explain”, “Discuss” or “Comment”) as this will give you a great indication of what the marker really wants from you.

In addition, make sure that you read the question slowly and read it through at least twice before answering the question so that you don’t miss a key requirement.

3.   Avoid repetition

The examiners have highlighted in a number of reports the need for students to avoid repetition in their answers. They indicated that this was often due to poor planning and unstructured answers, as well as a lack of knowledge on the subject area. Examiners emphasised that there are no additional marks for repeating the same point even when students try to present it in a slightly different way!

Here’s what they had to say:

“Produced an unstructured answer which tended to lead to unnecessary repetition.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“Candidates should avoid repetition, including making the same point from different angles. An example in this case would be where a candidate has stated that if the company is acquired by another company, they would form a group for group relief purposes. Stating separately at a later point that if acquired by an individual there will not be a group for group relief purposes, scored no additional marks.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

“A minority of candidates appeared to be making up their answer as they went along, such that they were setting out each thought as it occurred to them. The problem with this approach was that some points were repeated.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – June 2014

To avoid repetition, it is recommended that during the planning stage you think of all the points you want to address within your answer. Then use these discussion areas as headings in your answer under which specific points relating to that heading should be made.  

Headings are an important part of writing a good answer, they help the student to maintain focus on the main points and avoid repetition.

So remember, every point in your answer needs to be new! You won’t get any additional marks for making the same statement over and over again. This will waste time and lead to more problems further down the line. Ensure you have sufficient knowledge of all areas of the syllabus so that you have enough to say for each question.

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4.   Sufficient knowledge of tax rules

It could be argued that this is one of the most common, but also the most important issues consistently included in examiners’ reports. They have commented on a lack of knowledge of the ACCA P6 syllabus by many students. In particular, they were disappointed to see insufficient and imprecise knowledge of tax rules.

We are seeing the same comments from examiners year after year:

“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules within the syllabus, particularly some of the more fundamental rules brought forward from the F6 (UK) syllabus.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules within the syllabus, particularly some of the more fundamental rules contained in the F6 (UK) syllabus.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules required by the syllabus.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

The basic message to take from this is you have to know all parts of the syllabus – there is no escaping the fact that if you don’t know the basics then you’re not going to be successful in your exam.  So, learn the whole syllabus and don’t try to cut corners!

The ACCA P6 exam builds upon much of the content from the ACCA F6 paper, so refresh your memory on the fundamental rules that have been brought forward before building your knowledge in the other key areas.

4.   Full answer scripts please!

Another key point raised by examiners is the issue of incomplete answer scripts. Obviously students will not get marks for parts of the questions that are not answered, so this can have a major impact on their performance in the exam.

Here are their comments:

“They did not attempt every part of four questions.” - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“Most candidates were able to make a start on this but very few made it to the end.”  - ACCA P6 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

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There are plenty of useful hints and tips in addition to other information available on our ACCA Facebook page.

So, what are the common reasons for incomplete answers scripts?

1. Inability to identify the requirements of the question – to overcome this read the questions slowly at least twice and get into the habit of highlighting key words. This should make it obvious exactly what the question is asking you to do.

2. Poor time management – do not spend too much time on an early exam question resulting in rushed and incomplete answers towards the end. Divide your time up based on the number of marks awarded for each question and then ensure you allow enough time to fully answer every requirement. If it’s a subject you particularly like, don’t be tempted to spend too much of your time demonstrating your knowledge in this area and so end up neglecting other questions – move on!

3. Lack of knowledge – many candidates simply do not know the answers to the questions. There is no substitute for knowing the full syllabus in detail. Incomplete answers expose a lack of knowledge and lead to exam failure. Ensure your revision plan covers all areas of the syllabus.