What order is best for tackling ACCA papers?
Many students have asked me what order the papers should be attempted in for maximum success.
To answer this, let’s start with the rules.
1. You can take papers from any module (Knowledge F1-F3, Skills F4-F9, Professional P1-P7) in any order you like.
2. The exam must be attempted in previous modules before moving on to a higher module. For example, if you only have F8 left in the Skills module but wish to study P1, then you must also attempt F8 at that sitting.
Secondly, with four sittings a year, you must be looking to gain some momentum by taking a minimum of one paper per sitting. Your focus has to be on your goal of completing your ACCA studies.
Now let’s look at possible strategies.
Papers that follow on from each other
There are a number of streams of papers that you should be aware of, as subsequent papers rely on you having a good knowledge of the earlier exams.
Financial Accounting - F3 to F7 to P2
Management Accounting - F2 to F5 to P5
Tax - F6 to P6
Audit - F8 to P7
Financial Management - F9 to P4
Obviously it is not possible to take all of these papers in quick succession, but if you can study a professional level paper soon after the associated skills paper, it would make sense to do so.
Linking papers by study type
There are some papers that are broadly similar in their manner of content and study.
Discursive papers - F1, F4, F8, P1, P3, P7
These papers require you to write, write, and write some more. There is less to learn and more focus on the exam technique of answering the question as set. Often these papers are assumed to require less time to prepare for - but given the pass rates are broadly the same as others, I suggest that exam question practice is still vital to ensure a pass.
Analytical papers - F2, F5, F9, P4, P5
With these papers, you are applying specific techniques and methodology to a wide range of possible scenarios. The key with this sort of paper is to be able to understand and apply all of these techniques before beginning your answer.
Rules and pro forma based papers - F3, F6, F7, P2, P6
These cover the statutory requirements of accounting and tax. There is a lot of rote learning involved to ensure you remember the details required, so memorising as much as possible is a key part of studying for this exam.
There are a few different ways you can use to approach your studies for the ACCA exams.
1. Choose dissimilar papers
This may help you to distinguish between the papers you are studying more easily and ensure that you remember the right facts.
2. Choose similar papers
Benefit from practising with one paper while doing another. This can work for papers focusing on topics such as analysis or answer writing.
3. Using ACCA paper order
It is a completely valid option to simply use the paper order that ACCA has suggested.
There is no single best way to approach your paper choice; people are different, so what may work for you may not work for someone else.
Instead, what you must do is to ensure that your focus is on the current paper to the exclusion of all else. It is likely that you will be taking a single paper at a time (having four sittings can help here).
So, each time you finish one paper, switch to the next immediately and immerse yourself in the needs of that paper.
Rob Sowerby has taught professional and masters courses for over 20 years, in both London and throughout the world. He has gained an excellent reputation for his accessible, entertaining and motivational tuition. Rob formerly worked in industry as a management accountant and financial analyst, and has been the director of the Professional School for the past four years.