AAA Exam – Avoiding the rabbit holes in AAA

October 2020

Richard Poole FCCA gives some key tips to avoid the common
pitfalls in ACCA AAA exam.

Key subject areas where students need to be comfortable

• Business Risk versus Audit Risk versus Risk of Material Misstatement: In Q1 of the exam (which focuses on the planning stage of an audit) there is always approximately half of the marks dedicated to explaining one of these three risk areas (or a mix of them). The different types of risk are often confused by students. You must know the difference, as you will not get marks if you talk about the wrong one.

• Audit procedures: This is another key area within Q1. Students often forget to explain why they are doing procedures and don’t explain the procedures in enough detail?

For example, I’ve lost track of how many times I have read ‘review board minutes’ as a procedure. This will get little credit unless you say what you are looking for in the board minutes and relate it back to the question specifics!

• Audit reports: You must know the content and structure of an audit report so that you can critically analyse what has been omitted or put in the wrong place in the audit report.

• Audit opinions: Do you know the difference between:

  • A qualified opinion and an unqualified opinion?
  • An adverse opinion and an except for opinion?

• Do you know:

  • When and why they are issued?
  • Where they are presented in the Audit Report?
  • What they say?

• Accounting standards: How can you comment on how to audit Borrowing Costs (IAS23) unless you know what the accounting standard says? Students often tell me that they are going to re-read their SBR/FR accounting standards. My advice is to do this through Question Practice otherwise it is a cumbersome task.

• Ethics: The approach is the same each time.

a. What is the threat? e.g. intimidation threat.

b. Specifically, why is it a threat? e.g. boss threatening me that I will lose my job if I don’t make adjustments to the financial statements.

c. Safeguards/actions? e.g. talk to someone more senior about your concerns.

What are the key bits of exam technique required to pass?

• Timing: 1.8 minutes per mark is crucial. Try not to overrun.

• Plan: Reading the question and thinking about what the key issues are at the start of every question is key. Work on 1.8 minutes a mark rather than 1.95 minutes a mark, so that you take account of 5 minutes of planning in each of the three questions in the exam.

• Structure: Write in 2 to 4-line paragraphs so as to keep your points short, concise and snappy.

• Presentation marks: In Q1 of the exam there are always 4 presentation marks. If you can set out your answer in a professional way, you are 16% of the way to a pass in this question.
There is:

  • One for format.
  • One for an introduction and conclusion.
  • One for subheadings and structure.
  • One for clarity of explanation.

• Ethics: Practice these questions. This is an easy area to score quickly. See my three-stage approach above to tackle ethics.

What are the key differences between the CBE and the paper exam?

• The CBE exam presents the information in exhibits.

• It is possible to highlight key parts as you go through.

• There is a Word Processor and a Spreadsheet to present your answer.

How is the CBE exam different to the paper exam?

• The CBE exam enables students to copy and paste the requirements into the word processor so that everything is in one place and there is limited risk of missing a part of the requirement.

• The CBE exam enables candidates to present numbers in a spreadsheet. The formula can be used so this reduces the amount of writing of formula required.

• The presenting of the information in exhibits often means that exhibit 1 relates to part (a), exhibit 2 to part (b), etc. This helps students to break the information down into more manageable parts.

Why do my AAA products have such success with students?

I have considered the above four areas and created my products to ensure that students don’t fall foul of these common mistakes. I have done this through:

• WhatsApp support – I always try to respond to students within 24 hours. Students can also benefit from seeing my historic responses to questions.

• Adaptability – By seeing the types of questions being asked on WhatsApp, I can guide students to the best questions appropriate to their needs.

• Recorded products – As the material is pre-recorded students can learn around their work/life commitments.

• Students can submit questions to me regularly which enables me to give advice on exam technique and the technical side.

• Revision product – By working through full past exams in the Test Reach CBE software, students learn by seeing me discuss both the technical side of the question as well as tips on how I use the technology. Students get the opportunity to then submit questions within Test Reach for me to mark and feedback on.

• Mock product – Students get the opportunity to submit a full mock exam in the Test Reach Software, or on paper (PDF) and get my feedback in both a recorded and a written form, plus my exam tips within 24 hours of submission.

• Richard Poole FCCA – Online AAA and ATX specialist tutor at FME Learn Online.