This is a summary of the examiner’s reports for papers P1 to P7 in the September 2017 sitting.  For a summary of papers F5 to F9, click here.

“The advice in past examiner’s reports does not seem to have been taken up by many candidates. The team would strongly advise that candidates use these materials to ensure that they have the right overall attitude” P5 examiner’s report

Well, exactly. The examiner’s reports are a massively underused resource – but they really do give invaluable advice to help you pass. They’re also pretty dense: you could be forgiven for not wading through them.

So we’re summarised the most important points here for you. No excuses this time – here’s everything you need to know from the September 2017 Professional papers.

Pass the ACCA with these 10 tips from the examiners

  1.    Learning and copying by rote won’t get you far

The professional papers demand applied understanding. The students who did well on these papers read the case scenarios carefully and applied that knowledge to make their answer relevant.

Students who fail either ignore the case study altogether, or simply copy it out without adding value. As the P3 examiner’s report notes:

“A simple repetition of the scenario is unlikely to gain any marks. If candidates consider why they believe that information to be relevant, it should help to add value”

  1.    Don’t answer the question you wish you saw

This comes up constantly. It’s natural to want to write what you’ve learned but many candidates write what they’ve learned irrespective of what the question asks. The P1 examiner’s report explicitly states:

“No marks will be gained for superfluous information and time is wasted by writing factually correct but irrelevant information”.

Take that to heart.

  1.    Plan your answers.

The best students spend time planning before starting writing, to ensure their answers are logical, fluid, readable and addressed the question.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking more writing means more marks. That’s not a truthful equation, and a few minutes spent planning your answer will pay off far more than a few minutes extra writing.

The P2 examiner’s report highlighted poor structure as a major reason students failed:

“It was difficult to identify in some answers whether candidates were discussing advantages or disadvantages, assumptions or risks”

You can easily fix this by planning your answers upfront.

  1.    Manage your time better

Again, a point that resurfaces again and again. Time-management is a fundamental exam skill, especially once you reach the professional papers.

Better time management comes from knowing the syllabus inside-out, so you can spend less time wondering what the answer is and more time planning and writing.

As the P6 examiner’s report says:

“…candidates produced very comprehensive answers to [some] questions, perhaps scoring a good pass on these, but then [ran] out of time without attempt[ing] their fourth question”

  1.    Align your answer to the number of available marks

This is related to time management. Students often try to answer some questions in too much depth. Once you’ve achieved all available marks, there aren’t any more marks to give. Extra writing is just wasting time.

As the P1 report notes:

“…for 10-mark question candidates should identify five relevant points from the case, explain why they are relevant to the case and then move on”.

  1.    Study multiple sources  

The P2 examiner’s report and the P7 examiner’s report both make a point that students overall do badly on topical knowledge, either referring to out-of-date standards or simply being unware of current developments.

It’s really important, whichever resources you use to study, to read multiple sources. If you’re not interested and aware, you’ll struggle to build the skills you need – not just the pass the ACCA but for your career. 

  1.    Read the question properly

If this sounds like basic advice, that’s because it is. But we’re still saying it because every year students fail because they didn’t read the requirements in the question. You need to know what words like ‘advise’ ‘outline’ or ‘recommend’ are asking you for.

The p2 examiner report gives some guidance:

… “’briefly’ [means] this aspect should be given less emphasis [….] ‘Prepare’ [means] there is no need to provide lengthy explanation beyond the workings [in] the preparation process.

Candidates need to have a better understanding of what is being asked of them”.

Again, this comes back to doing lots of practice questions. You’ll hear us say that often, because it really is the make-or-break of ACCA success.

That’s why practice questions are such a vital component of LearnSignal ACCA revision videos – knowing how to approach the question is half the battle.

  1.    Study the entire syllabus

This really shouldn’t need saying at professional level, and yet every year is the same. Examiners – especially in the P3 examiner’s report – highlighted that many students simply didn’t know enough.

Question spotting Does. Not. Work.

If you do yourself one favour, leave yourself longer than you think you need to study, and go back over the entire syllabus with a fine toothcomb. You simply won’t pass unless you know the entire syllabus.

  1.    Don’t neglect optional questions  

This is one of the cardinal sins that the P4 examiner’s report identifies. Candidates often failed because they didn’t even attempt some optional questions. They might be optional, but making time to address them means you maximise the chances of picking up marks.

  1. Practice your handwriting    

There’s something especially demoralising about seeing students fail, not because they didn’t know the question but because their script was illegible. The P4 report highlights this as one of the major reasons students failed.

The report advises students take more time to practice under exam conditions, to get used to writing by-hand. Also make sure you do the basic things like leave enough space – use two lines, if your handwriting is difficult – and don’t cramp calculations.

Don’t ignore good advice: listen to the examiners

Incorporate these ten tips into your study for your next ACCA professional sitting and you’ll be much more likely to pass. And that’s not coming from us. That’s coming straight from the examiners themselves.  

For more insight like this, check out the LearnSignal ACCA library. Our tutors walk you through questions, exam technique and common mistakes for each paper, so you know how to address the exam more efficiently and effectively. We work closely with ACCA professionals, tutors and examiners to ensure you get the best possible study tool to pass.