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ACCA F4 Examiners' Guide

At Fundamentals level you need to demonstrate a good understanding of the main areas of financial and management accounting. To do this you must demonstrate to the examiner that you have mastered the technical skills of accountancy.

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

Guide to the Examiners' Guide

1.   Read the question carefully

Being told to revise the entire syllabus may seem an obvious piece of advice from the examiner, but it is astonishing just how many students don’t do this!

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It's not enough to have a general knowledge about a topic, students need to know it in sufficient detail so that they are able to answer any question that may arise in the exam.

Examiners highlighted this as an issue in recent reports. Here’s what they had to say:

“It has to be recognised that the new structure requires candidates to be aware of more detailed information than perhaps was required previously.” - - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Candidates did show some problems in dealing with the more difficult questions in areas of the syllabus in which they have traditionally struggled.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Future candidates are advised to study the whole syllabus, because the paper will cover the full syllabus.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – June 2013

The key point to be taken from this feedback is that a 'strategy' of learning a limited number of core topics and expecting to pass is not going to work! Knowing the syllabus in sufficient detail will benefit you in the long run as this knowledge will be required at higher level exams. Don't try to cut corners here, or you will just end up with problems!

2.   Avoid question spotting

Examiners were disappointed to see that students were attempting to question spot based on past exam papers. Remember this is a very risky strategy and unlikely to work as any part of the syllabus can be assessed in the exam.

Here’s what the examiners had to say:

“Previously candidates engaged in topic, and even worse question spotting now it would appear that they realise that there is nothing to be gained in such an exercise as all aspects of the syllabus can be examined in one exam.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Candidates engaged in topic, and even worse question spotting to no little damage to their results when they got it wrong.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – June 2014

Predicting what is going to appear in your exam is a major mistake that can lead to disastrous results! Remember, past exam papers are not necessarily a good guide for what may appear in your exam. They are an excellent revision tool to help you get experience of the structure and style of questions, to test your knowledge and to practise under exam conditions – don’t use them to predict future questions. Sadly there is no substitute for knowing the full syllabus in detail!

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3.   Don’t be fooled by ‘distractors’

Students should be aware of ‘distractors’ in Objective Test exams. These are answers that are incorrect, but can often fool students as they are in some way related to the question.

Here’s some quotes from examiners:

“Questions are sometimes more subtle than candidates allow for and the alternatives to the correct answers are called ‘distractors’ for the simple reason that they are there to undermine candidates’ certainty as to the correct answer. While candidates may well know the answer to a question, they would be well advised to do a negative check on the other possible answers to confirm their initial response.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Again the distractor worked as although it was the least often selected, a significant number of candidates elected to go for this option.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Distractors (the incorrect answers to objective test questions) are often based upon partially complete calculations. Candidates are advised not to stop thinking as soon as they generate a number that corresponds with one of the options offered. A good way of avoiding this trap is not to look at the answers until you are satisfied that you have fully completed your calculation.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – June 2013

It’s a great piece of advice from the examiner to generate your own answer before looking at the alternatives available. This is the best way to avoid the dangers of “distractors”. If you are unsure then a process of elimination should help you to narrow down the choice. Sometimes you may wish to do a negative check on some of the answers in order to rule them out. This is a useful technique to confirm your initial answer is correct or otherwise.

4.   Read the question carefully

Students must take care to read the question carefully in the exam. Not doing this is the easiest way to lose marks. Examiners have identified this as an ongoing issue across a number of sittings:

“The suspicion continues that candidates may be tempted to skim read questions and answers and simply do not spend sufficient time on thinking about them.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Questions are sometimes more subtle than candidates allow for.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“This question was at the difficult end of the spectrum and it was also structured in a way that required close reading.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Evidence of the June 2015 paper it would appear that candidates are not paying sufficient attention to either the questions or the answers, with many questions being incorrectly answered through simple carelessness.” - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – June 2015

“As has been stated above, time is not an issue and candidates should not rush through questions and should certainly resist the temptation to get into a simple read and click routine.”  - ACCA F4 Examiner’s Report – June 2015

So, as you can see this is vital but obvious issue to consider in your preparations for the exam. Take time to read the question slowly and at least twice. Identify the key words as this will help you to understand what answer the examiner is looking for.

Time pressure is the common reason for students failing to read questions carefully. The best way to overcome this is through practising past exam questions against the clock.

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