ACCA Pass Rates March 2019 Exam: Part 1 Tips (Focus on PM, FR, AA & FM)

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

ACCA March 19 attempt results are just released.


First of all, congratulate to 3,600 ACCA students passed their final exam and become ACCA affiliates.


Few observations from this attempt that I would like to highlight –

  • So far 3 attempts on the brand new SBL and SBR, none of any attempt pass rate exceeds 50%;

  • Two audit papers (AA and AAA) are the hardest to pass.


Link to announcement:

https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/news/2019/april/pass-rates-acca-exam-2019.html


In addition, there is rumors saying ACCA will launch Strategic Professional CBE in 2020. We find ACCA wrote a lot about digital skills and knowledge in March 19 pass rate announcement.


Please pay attention on ACCA announcement about Strategic Professional CBE which will reshape the exam.

It is always important to review examiner comments as they are highly regarded as the exam tips directly from the authority. No matter you will attempt June 2019 or any future exam, they are the ‘tips’ to you.


Let’s start the sharing of what examiners tell you need to pay attention in next exam!

Applied Skills Module Pass Rates


Overall pass rates on Applied Skills Module paper are more or less the same as prior session. Higher pass rates papers, such as FR and TX, are a bit disappointed in March session while FM show very strong pass rate in March exam session!


Lower pass rates papers, such as PM and AA, still maintain at the end of the queue and AA is the worst by less than 40% of students passing them in this attempt.


ACCA AA – Most challenging paper in Applied Skills Module

37% of students pass ACCA AA in March 2019 attempt which is still the lowest among all same level papers.


The paper is different from other Applied Skills Module paper while 70% of the total marks are from written questions.


It is the key to explain why its pass rates are usually at the bottom among all papers in the same module.


In Section A, the following areas are highlighted by examiner –

  • Concepts of assurance

  • Professional ethics and application of ACCA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct *

  • Substantive testing * including analytical procedures, revenue, expenses, PPE and estimates

  • Written representations; and

  • Auditor’s reports *


*Areas are seen in December 2018 examiner report.


Examiner usually highlights two questions in his report to show what kind of questions or areas are challenging to students.


In this attempt, ISA 700 Forming an Opinion and Reporting on Financial Statements and ISA 720 The Auditor’s Responsibilities Relating to Other Information are highlighted.


In Section B, five areas are seen which are –

  • Audit framework and regulation

  • Planning and risk assessment

  • Internal control (Mix)

  • Audit evidence (Disappointing)

  • Review and reporting (Disappointing)


In Audit framework and regulation, you are expected to have a scenario-based ethics or corporate governance questions. ‘Hurling Co’ from March/June 2017 is recommended to you.


The most common question in Planning and risk assessment is to identify and explain an entity’s audit risk as well as auditor’s response to each risk identified.


Audit risks and response questions can also be linked with a factual knowledge question.

Two samples are suggested to you to prepare for next exam, “Blackberry Co” from March / June 2018 and “Cupid & Co” from September / December 2017.


Internal control question performance in March 2019 was mixed. The following areas are poorly performed:

  • Were not able to identify key controls, often cheery picking a few words from scenario rather than picking a specific control activity.

  • Did not clearly explain the implication of deficiencies identified.


Good example questions to practice on knowledge requirement are Comet Publishing Co from September/December 2017 and Raspberry Co from March/June 2018.


In addition, if you are looking for good internal control deficiencies and recommendations questions to practice, check out Equestrian Co from March/June 2017 and Camomile Co from September/December 2018.


Audit evidence requires you to describe relevant audit procedures for a particular class of transactions or event. Key issues are:

  • Many students are unable to tailor their knowledge of general substantive procedures to specific issues in the question; examples can be referred to ‘Dashing & Co’ from September/December 2017;

  • Only a generic list of substantive tests known while you can read ‘Gooseberry Co’ from March/June 2018 questions to know what are expected.


Review and reporting requires an understanding of subsequent events and going concern can inform the conclusion from audit work.


The performance is disappointing while you are expected to:

  • Explain whether an amendment to the financial statements was required in relation to a subsequent event;

  • Describe audit procedures to form a conclusion on any required amendment.


To understand more on auditor report and ISAs, “Airsoft Co” from March / June 2017 and “Jasmine Co” from September / December 2018 are good examples.


Detailed examiner’s report can be found: https://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-students/acca/f8/examinersreports/aa-examreport-m19.pdf



ACCA PM – Improvement in overall performance

ACCA PM pass rate in March 2019 is 42%, higher than December session but within the range of past 10 attempts!

Similar to other Skills Module papers, ACCA PM has 3 sections while Section A is objective test questions, Section B is case based objective test questions and Section C is constructed response questions.


We find some areas seen in Section C pulled down its pass rates in March session.


In March 2019, 2 areas in Section A are found difficult to a lot of students, they are –

  • The calculation of minimum revenue to break even (i.e. cost volume profit analysis).

  • The procedures necessary to ensure the security of highly confidential information.


In Section B, it tests your knowledge on a number of topics in more detail than Section A.


It covers the whole syllabus and you need to read the case scenario and requirements very careful.


In March 2019 exam, the following topics are seen in Section B –

  • Target costing

  • Cost-volume-profit analysis *

  • Variances *

  • Throughput accounting

  • Dealing with risk and uncertainty in decision-making *

  • Rolling budgets


*Topics were found in ACCA PM December 2018 exam.


For Section C, three areas are presented in the questions –

  • Performance measurement in a private sector context and public sector context: It is regularly examined but it is not an area that candidates score highly on. You could check September/December 2018 Question OSC Co on how to answer this topic.

  • Divisional performance and transfer pricing: Transfer pricing is still an area candidates continue to struggle. You can refer to The Portable Garage Co in March/June 2018.

  • Decision-making techniques: There are many different ways to test on this topic and in March 2019, two areas were examined which were relevant cost analysis and limiting factors. 1 example on multiple limiting factor is CSC Co from September 2016 which is worth to practice.


Detailed examiner’s report can be found: https://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-students/acca/f5/examinersreports/pm-examreport-m19.pdf



ACCA FM (was F9) – Good performance!

ACCA FM March 2019 pass rate is 50% which is the highest in the past 10 sittings.


Students are usually doing better in those questions tested regularly such as performing the discounted cash flow appraisal of an investment project, but less prepared to demonstrate knowledge in other areas such as ‘Determining working capital needs and funding strategies” and ‘Estimating the cost of capital’.


It happens in Section C which explains why pass rate is at the lower range.


Two difficult questions are highlighted in Section A which one of them is numerical and tests investment appraisal methods.


Another question is testing knowledge of working capital.


Section B consists of 3 scenarios and 5 objective questions for each scenario.


The following 4 areas are highlighted in the report:


Working capital – Unable to identify what just in time procurement meant;


Business finance – Some issues in questions related to dividend theories, dividend irrelevance assumption and theoretical ex rights price;


Business valuation – Issues on internally generated goodwill in asset-based valuation and forms of market efficiency;


Risk management – Not strong on question about feature derivatives, e.g. characteristics of futures contracts.


Section C consists of 2 constructed response questions requiring students to display deeper knowledge of topics in working capital management, investment appraisal and business finance.


In general, students perform better in calculated-based questions than discursive questions.


Here are the highlights on the questions drawn mainly from the syllabus areas of:

  • Stakeholders and impact on corporate objectives

  • Management of inventories, accounts receivable, accounts payable and cash *

  • Determining working capital needs and funding strategies *

  • Investment appraisal techniques 8

  • Allowing for inflation and taxation in DCF (discounted cash flow) *

  • Adjusting for risk and uncertainty in investment appraisal *

  • Specific investment decisions *

  • Sources of and raising business finance *

  • Estimating the cost of capital

  • Sources of finance and their relative costs *


*Topics were found in ACCA FM December 2018 exam.


There are three areas that would be addressed here as many candidates performances were weak –


Discounted payback (DPB): DPB is useful if a company faces liquidity problems and it can assist in assessing sensitivity to a change in project life.


Estimating the cost of capital: Struggle to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using the CAPM to calculate a project-specific cost of equity.


Sources of finance and their relative costs: Few candidates showed an understanding of how to calculate the project-specific cost of equity, especially calculating the cost of equity using the CAPM, the equity beta used was often incorrect.


Detailed examiner’s report can be found:

https://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-students/acca/f9/examinersreports/fm-examreport-m19.pdf



ACCA FR (was F7) – Stable performance

ACCA FR pass rate was 47% in March 2019 attempt. It is within the range from past 10 attempts history although it is lower than December 2018.


Section A consists of 15 objective questions while an approach suggested by examiner is where answer options are available, you should resist looking at these until you have fully worked the question.


Here 2 specific questions that caused difficulty in March 2019 are shared –

  • Test candidates understanding of the nature of an intangible asset and how to treat a government grant that is awarded to off-set revenue expenditure;

  • Test an understanding of IFRS 13: Fair Value measurement.


Section B consists of three scenarios and 5 objective questions each are based.

General speaking, the test on certain topic is in some depth as compared to Section A.

In March 2019, the following topics were weak:

  • Leases – IFRS 16 *

  • Research and development *

  • Revenue recognition *


*Topics were found in ACCA FR December 2018 exam.


Section C questions are mainly drawn from the areas of:

  • Preparation single entity financial statements

  • Analysis of consolidated financial statements

  • Preparation of consolidated financial statements

  • Analysis of single entity financial statements


Preparation single entity financial statements is asking students to produce financial statements from a trial balance incorporating a series of adjustments.


The most technical areas found to be challenging to students are 1) Bank overdraft classification in the financial statements; and 2) Concept of adjusting a draft profit figure.


Examiner suggests two past paper questions in ACCA Financial Reporting are good for reference: Duggan Co from September/December 2018, and, Haveford Co from March/June 2018.


Performance in Analysis of consolidated financial statements was not as good as in previous diets. Financial ratio calculations are generally good but a few number of candidates were unable to calculate the inventory and receivable day’s ratios.


There are two issues needed to be address on this area 1) Many candidates cannot apply their knowledge of IAS 16 to adjust one of the entity’s financial statements; 2) Some basic errors were made, e.g. land was depreciated.


Good examples for practice from past paper are Mowair Co from September/December 2017 and Funject Co from March/June 2017.


In Preparation of consolidated financial statements, the following areas are needed to take note –

  • Struggled with contingent liability *;

  • Mistakes arose around the acquisition of the subsidiary in a share-for-share exchange;

  • Unable to make adjustment relating to cash-in-transit;

  • Some candidates continue to use proportionate consolidation in relation to the subsidiary. *


*Errors were found in ACCA FR December 2018 exam.


Examiner suggests three past paper questions good for reference in this area: Party Co from September/December 2017, Dargent Co from March/June 2017, and, Bycomb Co from June 2015.


The last part is Analysis of single entity financial statements. In March 2019, students were asked to calculate the gain or loss on the disposal of a subsidiary and they generally performed well especially in preparing ratios.


Two common errors were found: 1) Calculation of an increase in goodwill; 2) Produced vague, general answers or even no commentary to the analysis section.


Three past paper questions are recommended for reference: Duke Co from September/December 2018, Perkins from March/June 2018 and Gregroy Co from September 2016.


Detailed examiner’s report can be found:

https://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-students/acca/f7/examinersreports/fr-examreport=m19.pdf



Conclusion

March 2019 session is the third exam on new ACCA professional qualification exam, especially in strategic professional module.


In Applied Skills Module, ACCA PM (Performance Management) and AA (Audit & Assurance) are still two challenging papers for pass.


It is suggested to have an understanding of the relation between each papers so that you can prepare better in your next exam. For example, what are the required basic knowledge assumed before taking ACCA PM?


In Strategic Professional Module, both SBL and SBR performance is stable and AAA is still the most difficult paper to pass.


Given the focus in Strategic Professional Module is to apply your knowledge (both in this module or the basic knowledge from Applied Skills Module), you are suggested to better plan your schedule to take exam right after what you did in prior module.


It helps to improve your chance to pass.


If you have any questions or comments, just send me email at info@gotitpass.com and I will answer you shortly.


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