ACCA Professional Level Exam: Is professional marks matter?

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

In all ACCA professional level exams, four professional marks are included at each session except ACCA SBL which has 20 professional skills marks.

In this article, the discussion is on ACCA SBR, AFM, APM, ATX and AAA.

ACCA SBL is discussed in my other article.


ACCA has introduced professional marks in professional level exams for more than 10 years.

However, members of marking team still report few candidates can gain all professional marks in the exams from each paper examiner’s reports.

Statistically, a significant proportion of students score ranging from 45 to 55% while 4 additional marks can make a difference from marginal fail to pass.

In addition, the rule 1.8 minute per mark implies spending 7 minutes for 4 professional marks.

I suggest you to pay sufficient attention on planning how to gain professional marks when answering the questions.

So, what are expected to be seen in exam for professional marks?

How to be awarded for those marks?

I will share with you below with illustration from past papers.

Purpose of Professional Marks

Before going into details, we need to know how can a candidate be awarded for professional marks by looking at the general principle set by ACCA.

ACCA published an article <How to earn professional marks> and it says –

“Professional marks are awarded for the overall quality of answers, and for using or adopting effective professional communication skills as required by the examiner.”

It lists out a number of factors to determine whether the answers meet the requirements:

  • Strength and persuasiveness of arguments made;

  • Effective use of evidence;

  • Presenting logical conclusions and recommendations;

  • Showing sensitivity to the intended target audience;

  • Utilising format, structure and presentation of communication required, using proper tone.

Keep in mind on these requirements and I will share with you later on how to structure the correct answer by meeting these requirements.

What kinds of requirement are asked in exam?

There are 7 different requirements to test on -

  • Speech

  • Statement

  • Report to a committee / board

  • Memo

  • Article or press briefing

  • Justification or argument

  • Ethical dimension to a technical issue

However, understanding which format in answering question is not enough. I list out 6 tips for you to learn in order to gain all professional marks.

1. Plan: Reading the requirement and plan your answer before you start writing

2. Role: What is your role? Who is or are your audience?

3. Format: It is vital for candidate choosing correct format to answer. We read a lot of examiner’s report saying wrong format is adopted. For example, it requires to write a report but a memo is presented.

4. Language: Do remember what the role in question you are and who the audience are. Appropriate tone, short concise sentences, short paragraphs, legible writing, leave space between points are all key elements to earn professional marks.

5. Logical flow: Business reports and proposals are expected to be succinct, professionally written and easy to read with clear headings and conclusions. Well structure with introduction, discussions and conclusions are basic to obtain professional marks.

6. Persuasiveness: Candidates are expected to show convincing points with counter arguments supported.


Here I would like to share the correct way to gain professional marks from various past papers in professional level exams.

You can find it useful in preparation.

1. Speech (P1 June 2008 Q1)

ACCA P1 June 2008 Past Paper Question

Proper beginning to greet audience is good for a speech. Next, introducing what will be shared.

For the tone, speech is written in first person which should put “I” or “We” and pay attention to the audience too.

In each section, linking narratives can help audience to follow.

Don’t forget to use headings to highlight important ideas.

To close a speech, proper ending can help.

ACCA P1 June 2008 Answer

2. Statement (P1 March / June 2017 Q1)

ACCA P1 June 2017 Past Paper Question

Proper salutation in the statement help to address the audience.

Next, introducing the purpose of it.

For the tone, statement to shareholders is written in first person which should put “I” or “We”.

Putting key risk to be discussed first and followed by others.

It helps to improve the logical flow and strength of your arguments.

Using headings is helpful to show different ideas.

Proper complimentary close and the role cannot be forgot.

ACCA P1 June 2017 Past Paper Answer

3. Report (P4 March / June 2017 Q1)

ACCA P4 March / June 2017 Past Paper Question

The report is written to board of directors and the first paragraph addresses what will share to them.

The whole report should be in third person tone by using “It” instead “I” or “We”.

Using headings is helpful to show different ideas.

Putting a recommendation in conclusion can help to stress what will be followed next.

ACCA P4 March / June 2017 Answer

4. Memo (P1 Pilot Paper Q1)

ACCA P1 Pilot Paper Question

Memo format is unique.

First person should be used such as “I” or “We” in the memo.

In the first paragraph, an introduction of what will be shared helps readers to understand.

In addition, headings are used to list out different key ideas for easy reference.

In the conclusion, a short paragraph help to highlight what is important and actions to follow.

ACCA P1 Pilot Paper Answer

5. Article (P1 September / December 2016 Q1)

ACCA P1 September / December 2016 Past Paper Question

In the beginning, you can strictly write down what is corruption and the problems of it as an introduction.

Don’t forget using third person tone, i.e. “It”, in writing an article.

Different reasons should be discussed in separated paragraph so readers can follow easily.

It also helps to improve the logical flow and strength the arguments.

In the conclusion, responding corruption problem and directly replying to Alice’s words in the questions is a good approach.

ACCA P1 September / December 2016 Past Paper Question

6. Briefing Notes (P1 September / December 2017 Q1)

ACCA P1 September / December 2017 Past Paper Question

One of briefing notes features is the length of each paragraph relatively short.

In addition, the beginning is strict to what is being asked.

It is important to use headings in briefing notes as it can help to guide readers to focus.

In the beginning, you can strictly write down what is corruption and the problems of it as an introduction.

Don’t forget using third person tone, i.e. “It”, in writing an article.

ACCA P1 September / December 2017 Answer

7. Email (P7 September / December 2017 Q1)

ACCA P7 September / December 2017 Question

Replying email to audit partner by audit manager should be written on third person, i.e. “It”.

In addition, more technical issues in discussion is needed.

The writing should be strict to what partner is asking, preferred highlighting key issues by underlining and in separate paragraph.

Regarding to the suggested procedures, it is better to list out each step in a new paragraph with spaces between each of them.

It creates a more professional looking answer.

ACCA P7 September / December 2017 Answer

Even the examples showed in different requirements, the core professional skills are more or less the same.

You can only gain professional marks available if you could communicate effectively by supporting your opinion with logical flow of arguments, addressing to the correct audience and referencing to the case or scenario information properly.


In summary, you have to remember the following 6 important things to gain professional marks –

  • Planning of your answer before writing.

  • Crystal clear of your role and your audience and their requirements.

  • Adopting correct format in your answer.

  • Given your role, your audience and the format, choosing proper language and tone.

  • With visual aids such as headings, leaving spaces between paragraph to build a more professional looking answer.

  • Sharing your discussion on important issues first and followed by others can strength your arguments. Counter-arguments is also helpful to persuade your conclusions.

As stated in the beginning, four professional marks are assigned in each professional level ACCA exam to test for the above professional capabilities, you are awarded for a well-structured, organized, concise and precise answer. It is crucial to pass the exam if you take great care of it.

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