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ACCA F7 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 F7 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.   Study the whole syllabus

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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! Examiners commented that students often focused too much on the syllabus topics that had previously been assessed in past exam papers.

Here’s what they had to say on this issue:

“These questions allow each diet [exam sitting] to cover most of the syllabus which means candidates cannot rely on trying to pass just by studying the main syllabus areas.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – March 2016

“The syllabus for this paper is recognised as extensive and candidates need to prepare for the whole syllabus.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – March 2016

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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! The ACCA F7 exam builds upon some of the learning from previous exams, so refresh your memory on those topics that have been brought forward before building your knowledge in the other key areas. Knowing the basics will benefit you in the long run. Don't try to cut corners here or you will just end up with problems!

2.   Make your handwriting legible

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, an issue that crops up in examiners’ reports every sitting is a problem with poor handwriting:

“Other familiar poor examination technique issues were: a lack of understandable workings for some figures and poor handwriting that many markers struggled to read.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – June 2015

“Poor handwriting is still an important concern for many markers (particularly for the written elements); if markers cannot read what a candidate has written, no marks can be awarded.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – December 2013

“Yet again poor handwriting was an important concern for many markers (particularly for the written elements). I have commented on this issue in every one of my recent reports and, if anything, handwriting has got worse. All markers do their best to read what candidates have written. But if markers cannot read what a candidate has written, no marks can be awarded.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2013

This is such an unnecessary way to lose out on marks in this exam! There is little to say here other than take the time to make your handwriting legible. Here are a few quick and easy tips if this is something you really struggle with:

  • Use a good pen – don't let your scratchy old Biro decide your fate in this exam!
  • Slow down – taking the time to write clearly is worth it, if the alternative is no marks for illegible text!
  • Practise at home – if you have a spare 20 minutes then just practice some handwriting.

3.   Answer the requirement

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A large number of comments in the examiner’s 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!

This is what the examiners had to say about it:

“There were other examples of poor examination technique, in particular, not reading the question requirement carefully and not planning the answer (including timing) properly.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2015

“... there were still some areas of poor examination technique, in particular, not reading (or thinking about) the question requirements carefully enough. […] This wasted considerable time and, no matter how accurate the calculations may be and how good their interpretation, this gained no marks.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - December 2014

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Get into the habit of highlighting the key words within a question. Doing this will make it apparent what the questions 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 that read the question slowly and read it through at least twice before answering the question so that you don’t miss a key requirement.

4.   Show your workings

A common issue across most exams is a lack of workings and calculations shown by students. This is particularly significant in ACCA F7, because of 'knock on' errors that may be pervasive throughout your entire answers.

Here’s what they had to say on this issue:

"Future candidates are reminded of the need for an appropriate level of workings to support answers which will allow markers to understand how figures used have been arrived at."  - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – March 2016

“Other issues relating to poor examination technique included […] a lack of cross-referenced understandable workings...” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2014

The conclusion from these examiners’ comments’ is to always show your workings. The point about method marking is very important because you could still get marks even if your final answer is incorrect as long as they can see your workings clearly.

Think of your workings as part of the requirements of the question, so make them clear for the examiner to read.

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5.   Don't waste your time

In such a time-pressured exam, it goes without saying that you cannot afford to waste time on things that don't directly contribute to you getting marks! Yet, the examiner has repeatedly had the following to say:

“Other issues relating to poor examination technique included […] the needless repetition of figures and/or question requirements which resulted in a waste of the candidates’ time.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2014

“A minority of candidates wasted a lot of time; needless repetition of written points, writing out a question's requirement before answering it, providing unnecessary workings (for simple line item calculations) and sometimes even duplicating an answer by writing it out again more neatly.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - Dec 2013

“I have also commented before on the use of excessive workings which only serve to waste candidate's time; the answers published on the ACCA website provide a useful guide to the level of detail required for a successful answer.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2013

So, avoid repetition, don’t simply write out the question again or give details the examiner doesn’t want. All of this will save you time and help you to write a good answer that will maximise your marks.

A tip to prevent repeating yourself is to think of all the points you want to address during the planning stage before you start answering the question. Then use these discussion areas as headings in your answer under which specific points relating to that heading should be made. This will keep you focussed on the main points and avoid repetition.

6.   Attempt all parts of the question

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 some of the examiners’ remarks on this issue:

“The short written element of the consolidation question was either not attempted or, for the few attempts seen, not answered that well.”- ACCA F7 Examiner's Report – March 2016

“Many candidates did not attempt sections (d) (EPS) and (e) (cash flow extracts) of question 3.” - ACCA F7 Examiner's Report - June 2015

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 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 failing the exam. Ensure your revision plan covers all areas of the syllabus.

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