Passing the Fundamentals ACCA exams

Here’s what you need to know to pass the first three ACCA exams.

Last week we wrote about the must-know exam techniques to pass the professional papers… so it’s time to look at the first three ACCA exams, F1, F2 and F3.

First let’s consider the format and structure of each paper, and then we’ll look at how you should study for these papers to maximise your chances of a pass.

ACCA Exams: PBE or CBE?

The first three ACCA exams can be taken as a paper-based exam (PBE) or as a computer-based exam (CBE).

For computer based ACCA exams, an individual paper is automatically generated – so each student will face a different set of questions. Paper-based exams are pre-written for each exam cycle.

The format of the exam you take will differ slightly depending on whether you are sitting it as a PBE or CBE. Although they might seem small, it’s important to understand the differences so you know what to expect from your paper.

ACCA Exam Format F1, F2, F3

The first three ACCA exams follow the same format. You have two hours to complete each paper, and can earn a total maximum of 100 marks on each. Each exam has a pass mark of 50%.

The pass rates vary considerably, according to the ACCA global website. It’s dangerous to extrapolate too much from these figures as everyone is unique: you might find a paper easy that a colleague found simple, and vice versa.

ACCA Exams Pass Rates(Source)

However, these do give an interesting indication of which ACCA exams, on average, students tend to do better with.

Until 2014, the first three ACCA exams were made up of 50 objective test questions worth two-marks each. Now, each paper contains two sections:

    • Section A – objective test questions (OTs)
    • Section B – multi-task questions (MTQs)

Section A is made up of a mixture of one-mark and two-mark questions. The exact combination depends on which paper you’re taking.

  • Paper F1 contains 16 one-mark & 30 two-mark questions (76)
  • Paper F2 contains 35 two-mark questions (70)
  • Paper F3 contains 35 two-mark questions (70)

Objective test questions are the traditional short questions, centring on a single scenario each.
Section B is made up of questions worth between 4 and 15 marks each depending on which paper.

  • Paper F1 contains 6 four-mark questions (24)
  • Paper F2 contains 3 ten-mark questions (30)
  • Paper F3 contains 2 fifteen-mark questions (30)

Multi-task questions are made up of a number of tasks relating to potentially multiple scenarios.

Types of Questions on F1, F2 and F3

There are various types of questions you might encounter on the F1, F2 and F3 ACCA exams. This is where is can get a little confusing… ACCA are pretty keen on their acronyms.

  • Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
  • Multiple Response Questions (MR)
  • Multiple-Response Matching (MRM)

On the paper-based exams, Section A will only include multiple-choice questions, while computer-based exams will call on a variety.

Here are examples of each type, taken from the specimen F1 paper-based exam and specimen F1 computer-based exam provided by the ACCA.



Paper-based MCQ.


Computer-based MCQ.



Paper-based MR.
ACCA Exams CBE MRComputer-based MR.



Paper-based MRM.


Computer-based MRM.

You might also occasionally encounter a number entry question, where you are required to calculate and enter a number, either on your answer paper or on screen.

How to Study For Papers F1, F2 and F3

The biggest mistake you can make is not to prepare adequately for the ACCA exams, because you think the F1, F2 and F3 papers are ‘easy’. MCQs definitively do not mean you should guess, and if you don’t know the material well the questions will likely catch you out.

Bear in mind that the examiner has chosen the incorrect options on the basis of the most common mistakes that ACCA students make, so you should use your knowledge of the topic to work out each answer for yourself.

The only situation in which guessing is (dare we say it) a good option is when you don’t know the answer. You don’t get marked down for wrong answers on the ACCA exams, so if you really don’t know there is nothing to lose by taking an educated guess.

The F1 – F3 syllabuses might not be as deep as later papers, but they are incredibly wide. They’re designed to give you a broad overview and foundation to continue your studies.

To reflect this breadth, the questions will cover as much of the syllabus as possible. Although ‘question spotting’ is never really advisable, it’s especially ill advised in these early ACCA exams, as the entire syllabus is likely to come up.

As with all the ACCA exams, you need to read each question very carefully. The amount of variation means this is particularly true on these early papers, to be sure you know what you should do. Losing marks because you thought you had to choose one answer but you needed to choose two is silly, and completely avoidable.

There you have it! That’s everything you need to know to put your best foot forwards for the ACCA exams papers F1, F2 and F3. Except the technical course content, obviously…

ACCA Exams Success | Unser Quote

Are you preparing for the ACCA exams F1, F2 and F3? Have you taken the exams before? Share any tips or questions below.

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