Rob Sowerby, LSBF’s Director of Professional Programmes, reviews the December 2014 ACCA Exams
I am restricting the review to the new paper formats on skills level because this is where the significant changes have taken place. Specifically F4 has moved to a computer based exam (CBE) format of wholly objective testing and F5, F7, F8, F9 have revised the exam format to allow for varying degrees of objective testing. Essentially the syllabuses have been relatively unaffected beyond normal updates.
The move to CBE for F4 has changed the challenge of the task fundamentally. The issue has transferred from interpretation of the question and crafting an answer to a more direct objective testing style. Judging by the pass rates being achieved by LSBF ACCA students it would be fair to say that the change has benefitted the average exam taker. I am not aware of a student who failed, though my analysis is not exhaustive, and we have students regularly scoring over 70% with a best of 84% so far. So from a student perspective I see F4 as less of a challenge than previously and critically for those with English as a second language the hurdle of having to write coherently is now not needed.
Regarding the other papers The general overview I have received is that the papers have become more fragmented as a result of the move to partial objective testing. The multiple choice questions are requiring students to have a wider knowledge of the syllabus and negate the opportunity to question spot. All papers have questions on what my tutors regard as ‘the edges of the syllabus’. This was to be expected. The other issue is that questions have become smaller with lower mark allocations. In my view this immediately put much more emphasis on exam technique as it is all too easy to run out of time. This is because most questions are requiring as much time to assimilate and understand as before in spite of having a slightly lower requirement difficulty and consequently lower marks.
F5 has proven ripe for the new format and the general view of the tutor team is that it presents a similar test of difficulty to that previously. The multiple choice questions were a mixed bunch with many of the discursive questions very simple whilst the computations could be time consuming. The longer questions are consistent with what has been examined previously and will in the immortal phrase be ‘within the capability of the well prepared student’.
F7 is very much the same issue with the discursive MCQs on standards being relatively straightforward providing language is not an issue. The computations really stretched the syllabus to its edges including a highlight of Current Cost Accounting. A feature of the exam that was apparent is that only 55% of the overall exam was on ‘core topics’ and as such a broad syllabus knowledge is a now pre-requisite for exam success if it wasn’t before.
F8 has by all accounts become slightly easier as a result of the objective testing reducing any time limitation issues. The multiple choice questions were a broad mix of topics covering the syllabus as discussed previously. Interesting points of note were the introduction of elements of corporate governance beyond factual knowledge. This meant perversely an F8 candidate would have benefitted substantially in this sitting from having studied P1 at the same sitting.
F9 has become an increased challenge. The comments discussed before are very much repeated for F9 but the issue of time management has increased the challenge for students. The multiple choice questions were tricky and there were few areas of the papers that would lead to easy mark accumulation. The single saving grace will be the restriction of only certain core areas for the largest (15 mark) questions. This allows for students to more easily prepare for the exam and clearly signals the priorities of the paper.
Exam results will be out soon and I wish all our readers and students the best of luck.