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

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

ACCA September 2019 results and pass rates for all papers are published!

First of all, congratulate to 3,646 ACCA students passed their final exam and become ACCA affiliates.

The focus in this attempt is SBR. SBR pass rate is 52% which is the highest since it's started in September 2018.

ACCA executive director strategy and development said: ‘We’re delighted with the September 2019 exam results. It’s very pleasing to have achieved the best results to date for the SBR exam, a year after its first introduction into the ACCA qualification."

Link to announcement:

In addition, ACCA will launch Strategic Professional CBE in 2020. Just check our analysis of the new Strategic Professional CBE for your benefits.

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 December 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 paper, FR, is a bit disappointed in September session while both TX and FM show very strong pass rate in September 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

36% of students pass ACCA AA in September 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 –

· Professional ethics and application of ACCA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct;

· Substantive procedures * including bank and cash, share capital and inventory;

· Audit finalization and review; and

· Auditor’s reports *

*Areas are seen in June 2019 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, audit procedures relevant to bank and cash and audit review and reporting are highlighted.

In Section B, five areas are seen which are –

· Audit framework and regulation

· Planning and risk assessment

· Internal control (Disappointing)

· Audit evidence (Disappointing)

· Review and reporting (Score well)

In Audit framework and regulation, you are expected to have a scenario-based ethics or corporate governance questions. ‘Hurling Co’ from March/June 2017 and ‘Freesia Co’ from Sample March/June 2019 questions are 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.

To explain audit risk, examiner says it is a MUST to state the specific area of the financial statements impacted with an assertion.

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 September 2019 was disappointing. The following areas are poorly performed:

· Failed to score many marks across all questions including knowledge of control objectives, internal audit and internal control limitations.

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 candidates are unable to tailor their knowledge of general substantive procedures to the specific issues in the question requirement;

· Unable to audit exceptions noted in receivables and payables circularisations.

Good examples for reference in this topic are ‘Dashing Co’ from September/December 2017 and ‘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.

Generally, the overall performance in this session is good. Key areas to note are:

· Auditor’s report questions on discussing an accounting issue, assess whether the error is material, consider the type of modification;

· Going concern indicators and procedures.

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:

ACCA PM pass rate in September 2019 is 41%, higher than June 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.

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

· The classification of costs to environment cost categories;

· The calculation of relevant costs for a decision.

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

· Life-cycle costing

· Pricing

· Variance analysis *

· Throughput accounting

· Short-term decisions

*Topics were found in ACCA PM June 2019 exam.

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

· Transfer pricing. It is a very regularly examined topic and candidates scored well this sitting due to good exam technique, that is, picking up easy marks that were available for some relatively straightforward profit calculations. The Portable Garage Company (PG Co) in March/June 2018 sample questions is a good reference on this topic.

· Limiting factor analysis which it centers on decision-making when one or more resources are limited. If only one resource is limited, key factor analysis should be used; if multiple limiting factors exist, which was less well answers, you need to undertake linear programming from start to finish.

· Performance measurement. There are many different subtopics here such as financial/non-financial performance, divisional performance and not-for-profit business performance. However, the general principle to answer is the same which use the scenario information given to assess the performance as required.

· The fourth topic is CVP analysis. Examiner found many candidates can do well in basic calculations, but not in interpretation elements of the requirements.

· Another regularly examined topic is budgeting which is also in this attempt. It’s good to see many good answers showing the ability to explain pros and cons of different budgeting methods. The only area to improve is how to link this knowledge to the scenario in question.

Detailed examiner’s report can be found:

ACCA FM (was F9) – Good performance!

ACCA FM September 2019 pass rate is 50% which is at the top of past 10 sittings.

Two difficult questions are highlighted in Section A which one of them is numerical and tests the dividend growth model.

Another question is testing knowledge of interest rate risk.

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 calculate the cost of accounts receivable factoring or offering early settlement discount;

Business finance – Some issues in questions related to WACC calculations, dividend growth model and calculations of the cost of equity;

Business valuation – Issues on questions related to the uses and limitations of the valuation models, calculations of earnings yield and impact on share prices under various forms of market efficiency;

Risk management – Not strong on question about feature derivatives, e.g. characteristics of options and 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:

· The nature, elements and importance of working capital

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

· Determining working capital needs and funding strategies *

· Investment appraisal techniques *

· 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 *

· Sources of finance and their relative costs

· Capital structure theories and practice considerations

· Finance for small and medium sized entities (SMEs)

*Topics were found in ACCA FM June 2019 exam.

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

Working capital management: Unable to calculate financial effect of each option in managing inventory, too brief in explaining working capital needs and funding strategies.

Specific investment decisions: Incorrectly discounting the borrowing to buy cash flow with before-tax interest rate, mistiming the cash flows.

Sources of finance and their relative costs: The most common errors here were 1) Omitting retained earnings from the equity portion of the denominator for the gearing ratio; 2) Not using the financial gearing ratio as defined in the question.

Detailed examiner’s report can be found:

ACCA FR (was F7) – Stable performance

ACCA FR pass rate was 46% in September 2019 attempt. It is within the range from past 10 attempts history although it is lower than June 2019.

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 September 2019 are shared –

· Discuss what is meant by understandability and verifiability in relation to the provision of financial information;

· Describe and apply the requirements of relevant accounting standards to research and development expenditure.

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

General speaking, it tests your knowledge on a number of IFRS in more depth than in Section A.

In September 2019, the following topics were weak:

· Deferred tax and revaluations of non-current assets

· Accounting policies

· Non-current assets and cash generating units

· Revaluation of non-current assets and government grants

· Leases

· Revenue *

*Topics were found in ACCA FR June 2019 exam.

Section C questions are mainly drawn from the areas of:

· Single entity accounts preparation

· Analysis of single entity financial statements

· Preparation of consolidated financial statements

· Analysis of consolidated financial statements

Single entity accounts preparation is asking students to prepare financial statements from a trial balance and a set of adjustments.

The most technical areas found to be challenging to students are 1) Recognition of a provision from an onerous contract (IFRS 15); and 2) Recognition an impairment loss on reclassification of the manufacturing equipment as a held-for-sale asset.

Examiner suggests three past paper questions in ACCA Financial Reporting are good for reference: Vernon Co from March/June 2019, Duggan Co from September/December 2018, and, Haveford Co from March/June 2018.

Performance in Analysis of single entity financial statements was disappointing compared to previous diets. Financial ratio calculations are generally good but a few number of candidates were unable to calculate the asset turnover ratios.

There are two issues needed to be address on this area 1) Appraisal part of the question were often disappointing; 2) Providing results from ratio calculations without providing the underlying working.

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 –

Difficulty in the adjustment of issue of a share exchange on the acquisition of an associate company;

Incorrectly recording the entire gain on subsidiary investment within group retained earnings, which should be referenced to IFRS 9 Financial Instruments on how to recording.

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 consolidated financial statements. In September 2019, students were either required to calculate the group gain or loss following the disposal of a subsidiary or to calculate non-controlling interests.

Two common errors were found: 1) Not including non-controlling interests in the disposal calculation; 2) The analysis section answers were scant or had little substance.

Four past paper questions are recommended for reference: Pirlo from March/June 2019, Duke Co from September/December 2018, Perkins from March/June 2018 and Gregroy Co from September 2016.

Detailed examiner’s report can be found:


Generally, September 2019 session pass rates in many papers are better than prior attempts, in particular the Strategic Professional level.

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? Link: ACCA Qualification: Guides in planning your exam to qualify faster!

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