ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
ACCA FM 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 FM Examiners’ Reports

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1.   Manage your time
Time management appeared to be a major issue with ACCA F9 candidates in recent exams. Examiners commented that students spent too much time on early exam questions and neglected other questions towards the end of the paper. 3 hour 15 minutes to complete the exam will go quickly so making a conscious effort to allocate a time limit for each question will play a key role in passing your exam.

Here are some comments from the examiners:

“A number of candidates left this question until last, perhaps leaving insufficient time for preparing an adequate answer, and perhaps also indicating that they were lacking in preparation in relation to this part of the syllabus.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“It is also good exam technique to manage time carefully in the exam, for example by not writing too much for the marks offered.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

 

ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
Time management appeared to be a major issue with ACCA F9 candidates in recent exams. Examiners commented that students spent too much time on early exam questions and neglected other questions towards the end of the paper. 3 hour 15 minutes to complete the exam will go quickly so making a conscious effort to allocate a time limit for each question will play a key role in passing your exam.

Here are some comments from the examiners:

“A number of candidates left this question until last, perhaps leaving insufficient time for preparing an adequate answer, and perhaps also indicating that they were lacking in preparation in relation to this part of the syllabus.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“It is also good exam technique to manage time carefully in the exam, for example by not writing too much for the marks offered.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

As with all exams, good time management is directly correlated with good performance. Leave yourself too little time and you will either fail to give a question the time it needs, or worse, not answer it at all!

Do not spend too much of your time on early exam questions. This can often result in rushed and incomplete answers towards the end of your exam. Divide up your time 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 then neglecting other questions – move on!

A great way to practice your time management skills is through attempting past exam scripts under exam conditions. It’s recommended that you complete at least three full past exams prior to the real thing.

2. Know your accounting ratios
The examiners were very concerned to see that many students could not calculate basic accounting ratios. At this level of your studies it is expected that you will be able to complete these calculations without any errors and use them appropriately within your answers.

This is what some of the reports said:

“Some students had difficulty calculating materials inventory, work in progress inventory and finished goods inventory, indicating a need for better understanding of working capital ratios.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

“It is essential that candidates have a good knowledge of accounting ratios and so at this level, candidates should not be making errors such as calculating the debt/equity ratio by dividing the value of equity by the value of debt, or thinking that book values are market values.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

 

ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
Do not neglect the basics! It absolutely essential that all students have a good knowledge of all accounting ratios required for this exam. Be careful not to make simple errors – practise makes perfect so build ratios into your revision plan.
3. Answer the requirements
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!

“Read the question carefully in order have a clear understanding of what is required. Candidates who do not do this include irrelevant material in their answers to discussion questions. For example, some candidates wasted valuable time in the exam discussing foreign currency risk when the requirement was to discuss interest rate risk.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

 

ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
“Answers that offered a book value-based debt/equity ratio and answers that calculated debt/debt plus equity were clearly not meeting the question requirement.”

“Some answers only compared a money market hedge with a forward exchange contract, failing therefore to meet the question requirement.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“It is essential to read the question requirement carefully in any examination, in order to understand clearly what you are being asked to do. Some candidates did not do this and as a result included irrelevant material in their answers.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

Get into the habit of highlighting the key words within a question. By doing this it 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 you don’t miss a key requirement.

4. Avoid producing lists
Students producing bullet points and lists of theory in their answers were criticised by examiners in recent reports. By taking this approach, students were not giving full and detailed answers, and it often indicated to examiners that they didn’t have a depth of knowledge. It can also lead to students not discussing issues within their answers or not answering the question that has been asked.

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

“Weaker answers offered a list of various forms of Islamic finance, without explaining any differences compared to other conventional finance.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – March 2016

 

ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
“Some answers also offered bullet-point lists of short phrases rather than discussion, an approach that does not lead to good marks.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“September 2015 – Candidates’ discussion of ways to hedge did often list alternative methods, but could have explained them more fully”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

Bullet points and lists simply do not go into enough depth – avoid them. The only exception to this guidance is if a student is running short of time in the last few minutes of their exam. This may enable them to achieve some quick marks although is not the best approach. So, make sure you apply theory directly to the question that is asked, don’t just simply state the facts.

5. Attempt all questions
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:

“There were many scripts with good attempts at most of the five questions, but some candidates showed their lack of preparation by not attempting some of the questions.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – December 2015

“There were many reasonable attempts at most of the five questions, but there were also too many scripts with whole questions not attempted.”

ACCA F9 Examiner’s Report – September 2015

ACCA FM Free Examiners' Guide
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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