ACCA December 2020 exams – all the paper feedback in one place

How did the December exams go? Well, there were more outage problems in the first week on the Monday and thew Friday, but what were the actual papers like? Here’s what you told us!


The MCQs were deemed fine, but people struggled with section C and probability quest, which for some turned into a ‘disaster’

Among the questions were transfer pricing and rolling budgets. The rolling budget question was similar to a past exam question.

There were also questions on variances, ABC, ABB and linear/limiting factors.

Some students seemed to struggle with the information. “It took soo long to collect info from question,” explained one.


Section B was deemed to be particularly hard this time around, and section C time pressured. The VAT scenario in section B cause quite a few sitters problems.

Some students complained about the difficulty of reading the section C questions on the computer screens. Moving back and forth between the question and the excel sheets wasn’t as smooth as they wanted.

On the flip side one PQ said: “It was a straight forward Taxation exam, lots of income tax and IHT, and plenty of time to review. I am confident I have done enough for a pass, so on to the next one.” Another agreed that the December tax exam seemed more straight forward than September’s sitting.

In an Open Tuition post-exam poll over 45% of sitters said the December paper was ‘hard/a disaster’.

A few first-time sitters said they thought it was ‘bad’, so were treating it as a practice and will try again in March!


This one was described as ‘weird’ by some. “I was surprised I didn’t see any lease or financial instrument in my exam,” said one sitter. For them it was mainly contacts revenue, PPE, intangibles and gain in exchange rate. The section C question was calculating NCI for the CSPL. Many sitters describe it as a ‘disaster’. “A lot of questions on really abstract parts of the syllabus, including exemptions to the standards,” said another. That meant if you didn’t know every exception you were picking up any marks.

What upset sitters was the most important chapters for the paper seemed ‘excluded from the exam’. It means lots of revision didn’t come up. The only saving grace for some was that cash flows wasn’t there either!

People who got the Cheese business question were in heaven. One PQ went as far as saying they ‘loved it!’ This question was almost identical to one set in September 201, they said. Proving that going over past papers can really pay off.


Hard and random, according to early feedback. One sitter asked: “Where was deficiencies or the audit report?” Some sitters are reporting they ran out of time towards the end. The MCQs were quite tricky too, but section B was deemed ‘good’.


A difficult one, worse than last time, was one comment from someone who knows. We even saw one comment for a PQ who had sat the paper five times and swore it was no easier then the first time they sat!

Those who got the NPV and WACC questions were happier. “I got the NPV question, but some questions were so difficult!”

Some found the MCQs tough too. “It was all about p/e business valuation and foreign currency…Gutted.” Students also admit to flagging most of section A so they could come back to them.

All in all it made it the ‘hardest’ exam at the applied skills level.


In the Open Tuition post-exam poll over 50% of sitters called this one either ‘hard’ or a ‘disaster’. ‘Weird’ is how one sitter described it. Others complained about the last exhibit as being ‘confusing’.

The exam was all about a newly merged accounting firm Glendon Farr. One sitter broke down the paper: Q1 Change in governance structure (18 marks); Q2 Proposed sale of consultancy firm (17 marks); Email about conduct of audit partner (24 marks); Q4 Automation, internal audit (28 Marks); Q5 Slides about rival firms, opportunities and changing culture (13 marks).

And, all those who studied the models – well they would have been of absolutely no use whatsoever, said one sitter. A fellow student said they had learnt loads of models too, but they did use SAF, Lewin’s change and some of TARA when taking about risks.


“I didn’t enjoy that,” said one PQ after sitting the SBR exam on Thursday. There was a lot of forex, not much groups and a full question on sustainability. Some got cash flows in Q1, but it seems forex dominated most papers. Many sitters said they were already preparing for the March sitting.

Sitters found the exam ‘tough’, ’a nightmare’, and ‘ridiculous’ in equal measure, and some felt none of the ethics questions were like anything set in previous exams. As one candidate said: “Ethics was weird, no conceptual framework.”

Someone sitting the paper for a second time said: “I am shocked you couldn’t have prepared for this paper. It is nothing like other previous exams.” Students said the questions were not like anything in the revision kits.

The Open Tuition poll saw over one in three describing this one as a ‘disaster’ and a further 42% said it was ‘hard’. Just one in five found it OK!


‘Difficult’, ‘quite tough’, and ‘very time pressured’. A normal AFM then? Well, not for those sitting it.

Q2 seems to stick out as the problem question. That’s the one on p/e ratios and cash flow.

Students also wondered if the examiner themselves could write the full answers in the allotted time. “If we can not write what we know then how can they judge our knowledge?”


One in four sitters felt the December was a ‘disaster’ for them, on Open Tuition’s instant post-exam poll. The first comment on the website was just “time management”. A fellow sitter agreed: “It was so time pressure and so difficult to think with so many boxes up on your screen!” Another candidate said they ‘knew everything’, and still couldn’t complete the paper!

So, we are talking a ‘hard’ and ‘challenging’ paper for many. However, others felt it was all fair, with no major or tricky calculations. “Nothing usual came up,” said one sitter. There was even someone who enjoyed it: “Good cases on each question to really get your teeth stuck into.”

One sitter revealed what they were asked: Q1 Kaizen, JIT, Six sigma, ERPS; Q2 ABM; Q3 Benchmarking. But many PQs still don’t understand that not every gets the same exam questions now!

A few PQs also complained about dodgy keyboards.


Why, asked one sitter was the exam mainly losses? That said they felt it was an OK test. Many said they struggled with Q1, which looked at individuals buying a property or company. IHT gifts was also there (a topic covered in the next issue of PQ magazine).


Kind of an OK paper, but just not enough time, is what many PQs said. Students were worried that there was no time to properly think about all the issues.

Subject covered in Q1 included business risk, audit risk, goodwill and advertising, and audit committee responsibility. Q2 was capital expenditure forecast design, and ethics. Q3 covered evidence, revaluation, building instruction, and revenue recognition.