ACCA MA Free Examiners' Guide
ACCA MA 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!

Find the full list of Examiners’ Reports on the ACCA website here: ACCA MA Examiners’ Reports


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1.   Know your calculations

In previous F2 sittings, the examiners were disappointed to see that a high proportion of incorrectly answered questions were calculation based. Areas in which candidates struggled included some basic calculations such as calculating sales volume and sales price variances. Obviously it’s a fundamental requirement in an accountancy exam to demonstrate numerical ability!

This is what the examiners had to say:

“Common problems with section B questions include the inability to calculate and explain sales volume and sales price variances.” – ACCA F2 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“Calculation questions accounted for approximately 46% of section A questions, and as usual were answered worse than the narrative based questions. Seven out of the 10 worst answered section A questions were calculation based in the January to June 2015 diet.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – June 2015

ACCA MA Free Examiners' Guide

“Calculation questions approximate 40% of section A questions, and as usual were answered worse than the narrative based MCQs. Seven out of the 10 worst answered section A questions were calculation based in the period.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – December 2014

So, it goes without saying that it’s really important that you are able to answer calculation questions. If you have any doubts in this area make sure you focus your revision time on perfecting calculations. It will be hard to pass if you don’t master it!

2. Read the question carefully

A large number of comments in the examiners’ reports from previous exam sessions refer to the tendency of some candidates to misinterpret, misread or misunderstand what a question asks.

Many students dive into an answer before they have read the question carefully. If you attempt to answer a question that is different to the one being asked, you can end up scoring no marks at all. Doing that in your exam can easily be the difference between passing and failing!

Examiners have identified this as an ongoing issue across a number of sittings:

“There was a general failure to answer the question set. For example, if candidates are asked to suggest a performance measure to cover the balanced scorecard perspective of process efficiency they should suggest a performance measure, not talk about the processes they think the business needs to be good at” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – December 2014

ACCA MA Free Examiners' Guide

“Future candidates are advised to read questions very carefully in the examination.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – June 2015

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.

Students usually misread questions due to becoming pressured by time constraints. The best way to overcome this issue is through practising past exam questions against the clock.

3. Really know your ratios

In the ACCA F2 exam, students are expected to have a good understanding of the commonly used accounting ratios. However in recent reports, examiners identified that some students were unprepared for ratio related questions. Remember, they are an important part of the syllabus so having a good understanding of ratios will be key to getting that pass!

Here’s how examiners commented on candidates’ knowledge of ratio analysis  in previous reports:

“ROCE is a very important ratio in performance measurement and candidates must know its definition if they want to pass.”  ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“A significant minority of candidates did not know which ratios measured liquidity and which measured gearing.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – June 2014

“Return on capital employed should not be calculated by any profit figure divided any asset figure. Its formal definition is operating profit divided by ordinary shareholder’s funds plus non-current liabilities.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – June 2014

ACCA MA Free Examiners' Guide

If you have any doubt in your ability to calculate ratios, these comments from examiners should be a big warning that you need to brush up! Make sure that you know not only how to calculate ratios, but also what they mean!

4. Answer all questions
Another key point raised by examiners is the issue of students not answering all the questions in the exam. It goes without saying – if you haven’t answered the question, you will not get marks, so this can have a major impact on your performance!

Why are there so many unanswered questions? Well this usually boils down to poor time management!

Here are the examiners’ comments on this subject:

“Future candidate are advised to attempt all questions in the examination (there are no negative marks for incorrect answers).” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – June 2015

“The majority of candidates submitted incomplete section B answers.” – ACCA MA Examiner’s Report – December 2014

ACCA MA Free Examiners' Guide

The way to resolve this issue is to manage your time effectively in the exam. One strategy might be to ‘sweep’ the exam paper and quickly answer all the questions where the answer is known straight away. Candidates can then go back and focus more time on those questions requiring greater thought.

There is no substitute for practise to improve your time management skills. It’s recommended that you attempt at least three exam papers against the clock prior to the exam. Don’t leave it until the real exam to test your time management – a big mistake!

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