Dec 17 ACCA Exam Pass Rates: Tips from Examiner

Updated: Aug 19, 2019



This artile is about December 2017 ACCA exam pass rates and examiners’ comments. If you would like to read the latest ACCA attempt examiners’ comments and guidance, please click HERE for details.

Dec 17 ACCA Exam pass rates are just published.

There are 5,548 students passing their final exam and becoming ACCA affiliates.


If you are one of them, I must say congratulations to you as it is really a great milestone to you and your great achievement.

In ACCA announcement, the word "impressive results" are used showing a big improvement in overall exam pass rates, especially P3.


It is true P3 pass rate improved from 55% to 56%.

But I don’t agree on ACCA comments as I see the changes are varied for different papers in both Professional Module and Skills Module.

PQ Magazine also thinks it is not impressive at all.

Read: PQ Magazine on Dec 17 ACCA results

Professional Module – Is it really improved?

Before answering this question, I would like to show you a trend chart on ACCA Professional Module exam pass rates in past 10 attempts.


Date Source: ACCA Website

We can see the chart is divided into two groups of “lines”. P1, P2 and P3 is one group above the other group which includes P4, P5, P6 and P7.

Optional papers pass rates are much lower than those essential papers.

Essential Papers – P1, P2 and P3

P1, P2 and P3 pass rates are now steadily above 50%.

It is amazing to see professional papers having such high pass rates which even higher than any paper from F5 to F9 in Skills Module.

I agree with ACCA comment on P1, P2 and P3 in which the pass rates are very impressive and improved.

Optional Papers – P4, P5, P6 and P7

Optional papers are not as good as essential papers.

P6 pass rates is relatively stable and P7 slightly improved in the period.

But P4 and P5 worries me (or you) a lot!

P4 (Advanced Financial Management) – Falling star

We find 2 years ago, ACCA P4 pass rates was ranged between 35% and 40%.

But recently, it drops and now is between 33% and 35%.

I am sad to see this trend, probably you are also with me if you took P4 or considered to take P4 as your optional paper.

So, what’s wrong with it?

Why ACCA P4 pass rates getting worse?

In his technical article “Stepping up from Paper F9 to Paper P4” shared in ACCA website, William Parrot tells us part of the answer.

Read: Stepping up from Paper F9 to Paper P4


He points out the major difference between F9 and P4, in addition to more in-depth technical understanding, is the application of knowledge in different scenarios.

However, Dec 17 P4 examiner's report highlights the main reasons for not performing well are –

  1. Not answer comprehensively on the question

  2. Poor time management

  3. Not structuring question

  4. Discursive answer with bullet point format, incomplete sentences

  5. Focusing either numerical or discursive question

  6. Not reading requirement

For point 1 and 5, they are relevant to the preparation and others are exam techniques.

Based on the comments, examiner considers If you cannot answer question comprehensively, it maybe because you do not study the whole P4 syllabus.

Or it maybe you are not applying all knowledge studied in answering the questions.

Read: Dec 17 P4 examiner’s report


Tips on P4

Passing ACCA P4 is not only studying the textbook, simply reading pass papers questions and answer that you can make it.

My tips on P4 is you have to plan your study and after finishing 1 section, you can go to do past paper questions to test your knowledge.

It is possible you frequently check the suggested answer initially.

But try not to read answers before you write down something on your note.

The learning process in professional level is to think how to apply your knowledge.

Therefore, studying the textbook twice or even more without thinking on application, you cannot pass P4.

P5 (Advanced Performance Management) – Still in low end

ACCA P5 pass rate is still at low end among all professional module papers.

ACCA P5 pass rate is ranging between 30% and 33%, now is only at 29%.

What’s happened?

Areas of focus in P5

It is not uncommon students are confused between P3 and P5 for their aim and objective.

If you perform well in P3, you may think the same will be in P5 as well.

But it is not correct as they are very different.

ACCA published an article explaining P5 focus is to evaluate the choice of performance management systems and performance measures for an organisation to ensure that they are fit for purpose and if necessary make alternative recommendations.

Read: Guidance for P3 and P5 Studies


Again, application of management accounting theories and concepts in different scenarios are the core of P5 in which P3 focuses on a company strategic position and choices.

How to pass P5

P5 Examiner gives his hints to students on examiner’s comment. He lists out the criteria to pass –

  • Have a good grasp of basic knowledge

  • Answer the question asked

  • Evaluate and analyse the case materials with their technical knowledge

Read: Dec 17 P5 examiner’s report


Tips on P5

Richard Clarke, who has been taught accountancy papers for 20 years and was a director in BPP to train tutors worldwide how to teach, wrote in his blog about how to pass P5.

He advised students not to overstudy P5 materials without applying your knowledge.

Read: Richard Clarke's blog

I totally agree on his view.

You should focus on application to the scenario based paper. Check out whether you apply those knowledge correctly.

In addition, read carefully on examiner’s comments on each past paper you can do.

Skills Module – A better world for F6, F7 and F9

ACCA exam pass rates in Skills Module are relatively stable. There is no significant changes in this sitting.


Date Source: ACCA Website

F6, F7 and F9 are performing relatively better than F5 and F8.

F6 and F7 pass rates are round 50%. They are quite stable over our period observed.

We are glad to see F9 pass rates in recent sittings are improved to higher than 45% as comparing to 2 years ago, which pass rates were about 40%.

In the opposite, F5 and F8 pass rates have been in the range around 40% for ages.

It is not surprised to see these two papers pass rates below 40%, e.g. F8 pass rate was 37% in Sep 17.

What are required in F5 (Performance Management)

F5 exam expects you can manipulate numerical information using techniques and know how to interpret those information in different cases or scenarios.

You are required to show your analytical skills as well as information interpretation skills.

Why fail in F5?

Understanding ACCA F5 pass rate is relatively low, ACCA F5 examining team published an article on 19 Jun 2017 explains why students fail –

  • Poor interpretation of data

  • Lack of ability to interpret the calculations performed with reference to the scenario given

  • Poor technical knowledge and failure to closely read the question

  • Not enough practice of the new question

Read: Top Tips for the Performance Management Exam


My view is one of the major reasons for students fail in F5 is they are spending too much time on calculation and theory, but not interpreting the data.

However, this paper requires you to show your knowledge based on the scenarios given.

The good news is you can find the answer from the question itself, subject to how you interpret the data in your own words.

Tips on F5

Probably F5 is your first paper to attempt in ACCA Exam Skills Module, if yes, be reminded that the preparation of it would be a bit different from other Skills Module paper liked F6 or F7.

Reading questions provided and apply your knowledge learnt to interpret your answers relevant to the question is the most important!

Don’t try to put all what you know in textbook in answer without considering what are required in questions asked.

Last but not the least, to remind all of you, I would like to quote F5 examiner comments for Dec 17 attempt as below –

“Throughout this report the importance of reading and interpreting requirements very carefully has been reiterated many times; failure to do this is often the cause of poor scores.”

Read: Dec 17 F5 examiner’s report


The most challenging part of F8 (Audit and Assurance)

To you, perhaps working on calculations are happier than discursive questions. I see a lot of students prefer to calculate and practice past papers on calculation in any ACCA Exam papers.

If it is true, you will find F8 is very challenging since there is very minimal numerical part here.

Even worse, there is 70% of total marks coming from constructed response questions which is different from other papers in Skills Module.

Aim of F8

To pass F8 exam, candidates are expected to

  • Understand theory of auditing,

  • Apply that theory to basic audit situations.

Therefore, F8 examiner emphasis on both knowledge-based questions and scenario-based questions in different areas of the syllabus.

Read: F8 Examiner Approach


How to work out F8 study plan

Given the exam focus on application as well as the understanding of basic knowledge. Preparing your study plan requires the following steps –

  1. Study textbook or joining class to learn basic knowledge

  2. Identify knowledge questions and scenario questions from past exam papers

  3. Read knowledge questions answer and make your own notes, study them

  4. Work on scenario questions after you are confident mastering all basic knowledge

  5. Check the suggested solutions and examiner comments to see which areas have to be improved

Conclusion

In Dec 17, even some ACCA exam pass rates in either Professional or Skills Module papers are really impressive, quite a lot of them are still required improvement.

My advices to those papers with relatively low pass rate are –

P4 – Try to practice past exam paper questions once you finished one section to ensure you really understand how to apply the knowledge

P5 – Don’t mix up with P3 and overstudy it. Do past exam papers by checking whether you correctly applying the knowledge.

F5 – Interpretation of the scenario information given in question is the crucial to pass. Don’t try to put all what you studied in the answer without reading the requirements in questions.

F8 - Work out study plan to follow the steps by learning knowledge first from both study text and past papers, then move to scenario-based questions and see how to improve exam technique.

Hope my words can help you.

Good luck to you ACCA journey!

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