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September ACCA exam changes

LSBF’s Paul Merison outlines the changes to the ACCA exams that kick in for the September exam diet. How will it affect you?

AUGUST 2016

ACCA exam update for the September exam diet.

Papers F5-P7
Overview: As is usual, ACCA has updated its syllabuses after the end of the June 2016 examination session, meaning there are some changes that kick in from the September sitting onwards. In addition, there are also some changes to examination paper structure on some Fundamental level papers, specifically F5 through to F9.
Before I go into the detail, let me make one thing very clear – the core content of each exam paper is not changing very much, and there is no problem at all in students continuing to practise past exam questions from recent sittings. Changes to exam structure are not designed to change the nature of your exam preparation or learning, and practising old questions that are for a different amount of marks, or in slightly different formats, is not going to do you any harm.

Changes affecting every paper from F5 to P7
Reading time: The 15-minute reading time is now simply 15 minutes of additional exam time, to be used however you wish. Students who wish to start writing answers can do so from the start – but any experienced tutor will tell you that 15 minutes (at least!) of planning time remains a very sensible tactic. This helps to ensure longer questions in particular are fully understood in terms of requirements, before getting into the detail of the scenarios.

Papers F5 to F9
Exam paper structure: The amount of MCQs on every paper is increasing. F5, F6, F7, and F9 all move to having 60 MCQ marks, with 30 MCQ questions worth two marks each. Half of the MCQ will be individual questions with the other half centred on scenarios, with five MCQ per scenario.
The F8 paper will also have 30 marks of MCQ centred on these scenario questions, with five two-mark MCQ per scenario, but the rest of the marks on F8 will be traditional long questions requiring written answers.
The increase in MCQ is likely to make the exams feel easier, especially for those students who are not fans of writing lots of sentences, although whether it will help push pass rates up is yet to be seen. The scenario MCQs will of course require students to read rather more than traditional shorter MCQ, and find the relevant information, but it should be possible (in non-computational MCQ) to get to answers more quickly than longer questions where writing is involved.
Another interesting move is that the long questions on papers F5-F9 are now more predictable, with each syllabus spelling out what topics the long questions are likely to be on (see below for more detail on a paper-by-paper basis). This should assist greatly in knowing what exam techniques to practise for each paper, and should also assist the pass rates in each case (as long as you do the necessary practice in advance of course!).
The ACCA has produced a specimen exam paper in the new format for each paper and these can be found in the Exam Support Resources section of the accaglobal website.
Every student should take a look at these to help get familiar with the new style of MCQ questions in particular.

CBE
As you should be aware, ACCA are gradually introducing computer based exams for papers F5 to F9 – but this change is beyond the scope of this article.

F5
The two long questions on F5, totalling 40 marks, will be on the following topics:
• Decision making.
• Budgets and control.
• Performance measurement and control.
The only notable addition to the syllabus is Beyond Budgeting, otherwise no changes to this exam paper.

F6 (UK)
The two 15-mark long questions on F6 will be on the following topics:
• Income tax.
• Corporation tax.
There is also a 10-mark long question, but this can be on any topic.
Naturally with tax, there are changes to the syllabus because of new tax legislation. However, most of the ‘additions’ to the syllabus are additions to excluded items within each type of tax. Any addition to things that do NOT need to be studied will be welcomed by everyone no doubt.
Within corporation tax, topics on franked investment income, and associated companies, have been removed from the syllabus.
Other than that, students should of course remember that the new tax rates from the 2015 Finance Acts kick in from the September sitting, and will continue to apply through the December and March sittings, after which they are due to be updated again.

F7
The two 20-mark long questions on F7 will be on the following topics:
• Interpretation of financial statements.
• Preparation of financial statements (including groups).
There are some additions to F7 that need to be noted, including some with potential for calculations to be needed:
• Foreign exchange translation.
• Functional currency v presentational currency.
• Disposals of subsidiaries (not part disposals, just full disposals of a holding).
There are also clarifications, notably that impairment losses might have to be calculated, and that interpretation of financial statements can be for groups as well as for single companies.

F8
The three long questions totalling 70 marks will, as usual, be centred around three core topics, namely:
• Audit planning (in particular audit risk and response).
• Internal controls.
• Substantive procedures.
With 70 marks of long questions, expect other areas to be included but for smaller numbers of marks.
The F8 syllabus has one main addition, being Quality Control (ISA 220), which is being copied across from the P7 syllabus – but students should not let this worry them, as it has always been one of the easier topics on the advanced paper. Students should also consider the new format audit report. This has been evolving a lot in the past three years and the revised audit standards have finally hit the ACCA syllabus. The examining team have recently added an article on accaglobal.com in Technical Articles, and students should ensure they read it carefully – most of what you learned on F8 in the past (if you are resitting, for example) remains true and relevant, but the report content has been expanded a lot so there are additional elements to know and understand. Also, the Financial Statement assertions have changed a little, and again there is an examiner article covering this which has recently been added to accaglobal.com, which students should read. If anything the changes are going to simplify things, as the assertions covering the St of P or L, and the St of FP, are now almost identical.

F9
The two long questions totalling 40 marks will mostly come from:
• Working capital management.
• Investment appraisal.
• Business finance.
There are no syllabus changes at all for F9.

Papers P1-P3
No changes in exam structure, or in syllabus content – so the only change at all here is the 15 minutes of reading time now being available for writing, if students wish.
Students should make sure they consult the examinable documents list for P2 to ensure they are aware of all existing exposure drafts, etc, and remember that the examiner believes that any matter being discussed in public counts as a current issue even if not specifically mentioned on the syllabus.

Papers P4-P7
There are no changes to exam paper structure for the Options papers. However, there are some syllabus changes.

P4
Most of the syllabus changes to P4 are tidying and reordering the syllabus. However, there are some small changes, such as EVA being removed from the syllabus, and reverse takeovers being added.

P5
The list of changes on the study guide looks scary, but in fact virtually all of the changes are simply moving syllabus content around for clarification. One notable change is the removal of the Performance Prism from the syllabus (as this has been tested more than once in recent sittings), and ‘Big Data’ has been copied across from the P3 syllabus, but apart from that there are no changes of any substance.

P6 (UK)
As with F6, there are always some changes to tax because of the constant changes to tax legislation. Thankfully, this time most of the syllabus changes are highlighting additional items that are excluded from study, which is a relief for students and tutors alike. There are a couple of new areas – the tax of property gains made by non residents, and penalties charged on certain ‘offshore’ matters (the latter being well timed, given recent revelations about Panama!).
Other than that, students should of course remember that the new tax rates from the 2015 Finance Acts kick in from the September sitting, and will continue to apply through the December and March sittings, after which they are due to be updated again.

P7
Changes to P7 are very minor and are mostly clarifying things that were already there.
However, it is worth noting that Quality Control has been added to the F8 syllabus, and therefore might now appear on the P7 paper a little less than it has in the past (I stress ‘might’, since all F8 is assumed knowledge for P7 anyway). The biggest issue to consider for P7 is the new format audit report. This has been evolving a lot in the past three years and the revised audit standards have finally hit the ACCA syllabus (although they have been a current issue for the past five years or so). The examining team have recently added an article on accaglobal.com in Technical Articles, and students should ensure they read it carefully – most of what you learned on F8 in the past remains true and relevant, but the report content has been expanded a lot so there are additional elements to know and understand.

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