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ACCA F6 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.

To be successful in the ACCA F6 exam it’s important to understand what the examiners expect to see written in your exam paper. This understanding is vital to scoring 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.   Read the question carefully

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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. This led to incorrect choices in multiple choice questions or inappropriate written answers.

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!

This is what the examiners had to say about it:

“Future candidates should take note that they must not only know the relevant tax rules, but they also have to carefully read and appreciate all aspects of the question.” - - ACCA F6 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

“.....the difficulties were largely due to a failure to read the question carefully. Candidates were given the amount of the premium assessed on the landlord's income. However, a lot of candidates misread this figure as being the total premium paid.” - ACCA F6 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

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Look out for hints in the question. For example, If the question mentions death – they died,  so we're talking death estate! If the question says that a certain relief or allowance isn't available, believe it and don't apply them Take time to read the question carefully. Look for the extra details being provided and ask yourself, “why are they telling me this?”

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 you read the question slowly and read it through at least twice before answering the question so you don’t miss a key requirement.

2.   Plan your answer before launching in

Planning your answers may seem like an obvious piece of advice from the examiner, but it is surprising just how many student 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, making it difficult for the examiner to identify the key points that have been provided and whether therefore the requirements of the question have been met.

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

“This is where the 15 minutes of reading time can be well spent in planning out how to approach and layout a slightly more difficult or unusual answer. Although not computationally difficult, the question did require some prior thought.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report - December 2015

“....workings were often badly laid out, hard to follow, and repeated the same points. It is in such situations that the reading time can be put to good use in planning an appropriate layout.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report - September 2015

“....although candidates needed to plan their answers carefully in order to deal with the group losses without having to redo calculations.”  - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report - June 2014

It is recommend 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.

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3.   Know the entire syllabus

In the ACCA F6 exams students are not only required to have a general knowledge about a topic, but need to know it in sufficient detail so that they are able to answer any question that may arise.

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 anything in the exam can be assessed.

Here’s what the examiners had to say:

“This was a fairly challenging question, but should demonstrate to candidates the need to cover the whole syllabus during their studies, including administration.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – March 2016

“Questions aim to provide a broad coverage of the syllabus, and future candidates should aim to revise all areas of the F6 (UK) syllabus, rather than attempting to question spot.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – March 2016

Attempting to predict 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 however, an excellent revision tool to help you get experience of the structure and style of questions and to test your knowledge.

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.

4.   Don't waffle!

It’s important that candidates avoid the temptation to waffle in their answers. Examiners mentioned in a number of reports that they are looking for concise answers that get to the point of the question.

“Candidates often displayed some excellent knowledge by explaining when the annual accounting scheme can be used and the advantages of using the scheme. But unfortunately, they were not answering the requirement which was solely concerned with payments and due dates.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report - December 2015

“All that was required here was a very short statement to the effect that the indexation allowance cannot increase or create a capital loss, but many candidates produced half-page explanations of everything to do with indexation and the use of capital losses.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – June 2015

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Make sure your answers are succinct. Writing loads may help you feel good about your work at the time, but only those points made which actually answer the question will gain you marks.

To avoid waffling, 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 under which you should make specific points relating to that heading.  

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 just waste time.

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5.   Practise, practise, practise

As this exam is a combination of multiple choice style questions and written answers, practise is absolutely vital! This was highlighted by examiners in a number of reports:

“Working through past examination questions would have avoided such problems.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report - December 2015

“This type of question is where revision question practice is essential, since it will mean that the various rules are understood and also that answers can be laid out as efficiently as possible.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – June 2015

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The use of past papers is a great way to ensure you know what to expect in the real exam. It’s good to get used to the types of questions you can expect to see in your exam as well as seeing what a model answer looks like.  It’s worth noting that examiners specifically mentioned on a couple of occasions that this is a useful way to see how workings should be laid out. As always, it’s a great idea to give the examiners exactly what they want!

6.   Dates and filing requirements

Examiners highlighted that there were a number of errors relating to dates and filing requirements.

Here’s what they had to say:

“Very few candidates appreciated here that VAT returns must be filed online, with payments being made electronically.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – September 2015

“This question tested knowledge of when IHT will be payable and by whom.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – June 2015

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Many questions have had a requirement for quoting filing or payment deadlines for the various taxes being tested. Also, questions have asked for details regarding the forms involved, or the wider process such as making amendments to submitted figures, compliance checks etc. These are easy marks to pick up, so spend some time on these areas in your revision plan.

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7.   Look for or learn the short cuts

A great tip from examiners was to use short cuts wherever possible. Here are some of their comments:

“However, half page answers were quite common. Once again, working at the margin (where appropriate) could have saved an enormous amount of time.”  - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – December 2015

“Candidates are advised that the use of marginal tax rates can often be used to answer such requirements and this is good practice for those candidates who are planning to attempt the advanced taxation paper.” - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – September 2015

“The second requirement was not as well answered, and candidates generally did not appreciate that there was a relatively quick way to calculate the tax saving. Instead, candidates wasted time producing full tax computations.”  - ACCA F6 Examiner's Report – December 2013

Look for the quick wins. If you can understand the use of marginal tax rates, employing this method for working out tax savings between two different scenarios will save you a lot of time – otherwise you'll need to do a full computation which may well eat up too much time and stop you trying a question you could have picked a lot of marks up on.