Four become two

June 2021

Helena Jones reflects on the ACCA’s decision to publish twice-yearly Examiner Reports.

To paraphrase a well-known quotation: “We seek it here, we seek it there, we seek the March exam report everywhere.” As reported here, the ACCA is now producing Examiner Reports twice a year, to coincide with the publication of the composite exam paper, rather than after each of the four exam sittings per year. There will not therefore be a report available following the March 2021 exams.

This decision has not been universally popular, but this is where we are, so let us look at how we can still use this valuable resource both as a study aid and for exam preparation.

Focusing on the AAA Examiner’s Report for September/December 2020, here are some highlights from the examining team’s observations, together with some general comments about this exam.

General approach to AAA

• AAA knowledge builds on AA and SBR, including the accounting standards examinable in SBR.

• Financial reporting standards provide the rules for presenting information in the financial statements, and audit risks may be identified from FR issues.

• The AAA syllabus establishes the high level of understanding required at this level, demonstrated by the question verbs used in the exam, for example: analyse; critically assess; apply knowledge; evaluate.

• Demonstrating knowledge without relevance or purpose in relation to the specific scenario presented in the question is not sufficient.

Two examples are considered where responses can be improved:

Procedures – What is the purpose of this procedure?

Ethics – How does the threat arise?
What is the implication in this specific case?

Helpfully, the report contains links to guidance on structuring answers to these areas of weakness identified by the examining team.

Guidance is available on the ACCA website for five key topics:

• Ethics
• Risk
• Audit procedures
• Accounting issues
• Auditor reporting

Make sure you read these carefully; they demonstrate how to apply knowledge and provide examples of strong and weak answers to sample questions. Technical articles are also essential reading.

Approaching exam questions

Question 1 in section A represents half the marks and has several requirements. There is a lot of information to process here and a number of exhibits to read and analyse, so a structured and planned approach to tackling the question is vital. Questions 2 and 3 in section B can also have more than one requirement and the mark allocation should be used as a guide to time management throughout the exam. Here are some points to consider:

• Client details: is it a group/listed/new client/ more than one client?

• Stage of the audit; Question 1 is typically set at the planning stage, and one of the section B questions is set at the completion stage.

• You are not expected to have detailed knowledge of the specific sector in which the client operates; all the information you need is in the exhibits.

• Consider all the exhibits and note which is relevant to each requirement.

• Focus on the requirements and do not waste time and effort addressing points beyond the scope of what is being asked.

To summarise; obtain a thorough understanding of what you are being asked to do, formulate a plan of action, and get on with it! This is, after all, what you would do at work when asked to produce a well thought-out and relevant piece of work under time pressure, using the information provided and applying your professional knowledge and judgement.

That is what being a good accountant is all about.

• Helena Jones, Sonar Education. See