Know your bread and butter

June 2020

Paul Merison deconstructs March’s AAA exam, explaining where the points are to be picked up – and how you can achieve this.

For students who will soon sit Advanced Audit and Assurance in their ACCA exam journey, here are my learning points from the AAA March 2020 paper.

This was a very typical paper:

• 24 marks of audit risk.

• 6 marks audit procedures (tests).

• 8 marks for criticising an audit report.

• 6 marks of pre-acceptance issues.

• 9 more marks for procedures (tests).

• 10 marks on ethical and professional issues.

• 10 marks for commenting on the audit strategy of another audit firm, plus ethics.

That is 73 marks of what should be bread and butter to a well-prepared student, and if you are not scoring at least 45 of those marks there is something very wrong with your exam preparation, or understanding, or both.

Add on the easy professional marks, and you should have passed with 23 marks still left to have a go at.

Those 23 other marks

In Q1, joint audit came up for the first time in years. You had to discuss it in the context of the story, but to be frank stating a few points from your memory would get a pass on this easily.

Of course, if you had no idea what a joint audit is, you would probably kiss goodbye to all six marks.

In Q2, a requirement that always seems to confuse students is – implications for completing the audit. If I said it is raining, what are the implications for you finishing your walk in the park, you would say “I will get wet”.

All you have to say in the exam is what will happen on your audit as a result of a fraud being discovered, which is usually going to be:

• Assessing if more of this fraud could have happened (in which case, tests needed).

• Reporting it to those charged with governance, as with anything important.

• Assessing how material it is to the financial statements.

• Reducing reliance on any evidence provided by any of the suspects.

• Considering the need to report to an external authority.

The above is common sense to those who understand auditing.

But there is a tougher requirement, needing thought. For two accounting issues, how good is the evidence collected so far, and what additional tests are needed? (There are no marks for giving tests that the story says have already been done, or which do not address the issue in hand.)

This is a very important exam question for assessing how prepared you are for AAA, as the answer cannot be memorised in advance. Weaker students cannot hide.

Q2 has 17 tough marks, compared with the rest of the paper.

However, the 23 marks analysed above are not the key to passing AAA. It is the 73 marks listed at the start of this article, plus the professional marks, which are predictable requirements that come up over and over again, where a solid technique from repeated practice (and tutor feedback on your answers) gets you a pass before you even begin the more challenging bits.

Be good at the core questions, which always come up, and you pass.

Some achievable marks in Q1

• Three professional marks for Briefing Notes format, a short introduction, headings and paragraphs.

• Two marks for spotting RPT (from requirement 1b) under-disclosure is a risk, as CEO might hide it.

• Four marks for easy tests on RPT (sales invoice, board approval in board minute, read proposed disclosure note, ask CEO to confirm intention to pay).

• Two marks each for spotting:

– component auditor increases detection risk and explaining why.

– risk of legal case not being accounted for properly (provision, contingency) and why.

– risk goodwill overstated as no impairment being recognised.

– incentive scheme leads to manipulation.

– risk the post y/e acquisition might not be disclosed properly (EARP).

– revenue being recognised early, as the company sells a subscription service so will bill in advance.

• Four marks for materiality calcs on any four of the above risks.

Note that more than two marks are available on most of these risks, but I am showing you what is achievable for you, not the perfect answer.

This is 25 marks and a pass for Q1 – I have not even looked at 16 marks of the question here – and those 25 marks have not involved doing anything at all difficult. If you are not scoring well on these core question types, you are not going to pass AAA, so focus on the bread and butter!

• Paul Merison is Director of ACCA courses at LSBF