The first thing to remember about ACCA ATX is that it is a Professional exam. What is ultimately being examined is your fitness for a professional role. You are being asked to put yourself in the position you will one day occupy, so answer not as a student, but as an accountant reporting to stakeholders.
To be successful in the ACCA ATX exam it’s important to understand what the examiners expect to see included in your answers. This is vital to score high marks as there may be a big difference between what you consider to be a good answer and what the examiner is looking for.
This guide summarises the key issues that examiners have highlighted in recent reports. In particular it identifies the areas where students have performed poorly and where future students need to give more focus. We strongly recommend that you don’t ignore this information as it comes from the people who will decide whether you pass or fail!
Find the full list of Examiners’ Reports on the ACCA website here: ACCA ATX Examiners’ Reports
FREE ACCA STUDY RESOURCESGet all the newest ACCA resources absolutely FREE as soon as they’re released
Poor presentation skills have been an issue frequently addressed by examiners in recent years. They identified the need for students to clearly structure their answers. This can range from the logical flow of the answer through to the simple use of headings and subheadings to signal the progression of the answer and how it relates to the question. A well structured answer allows examiners to identify key points and easily assess whether the student has answered all the requirements of the question.
Here are some of the examiners’ remarks on this issue:
“Candidates should pause and think before they start writing. Dealing fully with the implications of one of the loans first, and then the other, tended to provide a much clearer answer than those who adopted something of a random approach, apparently writing points as they occurred to them.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“This was not a difficult requirement, but most candidates did not perform as well as they could have done because they started to write before they had identified the two exemptions.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – December 2015
The key to ensuring you don’t miss out on marks due to poor presentation is to take a little time after reading each question to think through how you are going to structure your answer – before you start to write! Sometimes students are reluctant to do this due to the time pressure in an exam situation, but the feedback from the examiners emphasises that typically the best answers are well structured and show signs of a plan.
So don’t dive straight into answering before you’ve thought about what you’re going to write – impress your marker by including an introduction, conclusion and headings throughout!
A large number of comments in the examiners’ reports refer to the tendency of some candidates to misinterpret, misread or misunderstand what a question asks. Of course, some of these candidates simply do not know the answer to the question and so, in hope of salvaging some marks, they regurgitate information on a syllabus area they do know. Other students however will not have properly understood the question before they dive into an answer. If you attempt to answer a question which is just slightly different from the one on which the marking guide is based, you can end up scoring no marks at all. Doing that just once in your exam could easily be the difference between passing and failing!
Here are a few comments from recent reports:
“It was particularly noted that a considerable number of candidates wasted time providing information that had not been asked for.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“Number of candidates wasted time providing information that had not been asked for. In particular, providing detailed explanations where none were required, or (to a lesser degree), providing calculations when explanations were asked for.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – March 2016
Get into the habit of highlighting the key words within a question, by doing this, it will make it apparent what the question is asking you to do. It’s recommended that you closely look at the verb (E.g. “Explain”, “Discuss” or “Comment”) as this will give you a great indication of what the marker really wants from you.
In addition, make sure that you read the question slowly and read it through at least twice before answering the question so that you don’t miss a key requirement.
The examiners have highlighted in a number of reports the need for students to avoid repetition in their answers. They indicated that this was often due to poor planning and unstructured answers, as well as a lack of knowledge on the subject area. Examiners emphasised that there are no additional marks for repeating the same point even when students try to present it in a slightly different way!
Here’s what they had to say:
“Produced an unstructured answer which tended to lead to unnecessary repetition.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“Candidates should avoid repetition, including making the same point from different angles. An example in this case would be where a candidate has stated that if the company is acquired by another company, they would form a group for group relief purposes. Stating separately at a later point that if acquired by an individual there will not be a group for group relief purposes, scored no additional marks.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – September 2015
“A minority of candidates appeared to be making up their answer as they went along, such that they were setting out each thought as it occurred to them. The problem with this approach was that some points were repeated.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – June 2014
To avoid repetition, it is recommended that during the planning stage you think of all the points you want to address within your answer. Then use these discussion areas as headings in your answer under which specific points relating to that heading should be made.
Headings are an important part of writing a good answer, they help the student to maintain focus on the main points and avoid repetition.
So remember, every point in your answer needs to be new! You won’t get any additional marks for making the same statement over and over again. This will waste time and lead to more problems further down the line. Ensure you have sufficient knowledge of all areas of the syllabus so that you have enough to say for each question.
It could be argued that this is one of the most common, but also the most important issues consistently included in examiners’ reports. They have commented on a lack of knowledge of the ACCA P6 syllabus by many students. In particular, they were disappointed to see insufficient and imprecise knowledge of tax rules.
We are seeing the same comments from examiners year after year:
“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules within the syllabus, particularly some of the more fundamental rules brought forward from the TX (UK) syllabus.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – March 2016
“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules within the syllabus, particularly some of the more fundamental rules contained in the TX (UK) syllabus.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – September 2015
“They did not have sufficient, precise knowledge of the tax rules required by the syllabus.” – ACCA ATX Examiner’s Report – December 2015
The basic message to take from this is you have to know all parts of the syllabus – there is no escaping the fact that if you don’t know the basics then you’re not going to be successful in your exam. So, learn the whole syllabus and don’t try to cut corners!
The ACCA ATX exam builds upon much of the content from the ACCA TX paper, so refresh your memory on the fundamental rules that have been brought forward before building your knowledge in the other key areas.