ACCA Applied Skills exam advice

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Expert tutor, Jen Woodhams, shares tips and advice on how to tackle the ACCA Applied Skills exams.

There are six exams for the ACCA Applied Skills level. These are Corporate and Business Law (LW), Performance Management (PM), Taxation (TX), Financial Reporting (FR), Audit and Assurance (AA), and Financial Management (FM).

Five of these exams* include both objective test-style questions and longer questions, known as Constructive Response questions.

Before the exam it is beneficial to practise questions on the ACCA Practice Platform found on the ACCA website. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the style of question and the software that the exam is hosted on, so there should be no unexpected surprises

During the exam, it is crucial that you manage your time across the sections so that you attempt, but not necessarily finish, all requirements. Taking a watch to the exam and noting down time limits for each section can aid this.

Objective test questions (OTQ)

You will receive questions of the following type:

Multiple choice. Choose one answer from a number of given options

Multiple responses. Select more than one answer from a number of given options (you will be told how many to choose)

Fill in the blank. Type a number into a box (you will be guided on rounding requirements if applicable)

Drag and drop. This involves dragging an answer and dropping it into place (e.g. matching a definition to a word)

Drop down list. Select an answer from a drop-down list or multiple drop-down lists

Hot spot. Select a specific area in an image

Hot area. Select one or more areas in an image (e.g. choose from True or False).

OTQs are automatically marked by the computer and are worth two marks (no partial marks). During the exam, you should give an answer to all of these questions, even if it is just an educated guess.

Distractors (incorrect answers) are often answers that you would get if you made a common error, so you need to be careful. When revising before your exam, you should consider why each wrong answer isn’t correct. This will help you understand the common distractors and ensure you are better prepared for the exam.

When attempting OTQs, it is essential to read the information and answer options, where applicable, carefully. During the exam, a good strategy is to work through the more straightforward OTQs first, and flag the more difficult questions so that you can revisit these later. The navigator tool allows you to see which questions are complete, which are not, and which have been flagged.

Whilst your calculations won’t be marked, it is still important to do these to give yourself a better chance of getting the right answer. This can be done in the online scratch pad and using a calculator (on-screen or your own if permitted). However, during the exam, you should only do the necessary amount of work to answer the question. You will not always have to follow every step in a method. Therefore, you should keep this in mind when you practise the OTQs before the exam to get into good habits.

Objective test case questions (OT Case)

Each OT case includes one scenario. You will need to answer five objective test questions based on this case study. The OTQs will be structured as any of the aforementioned question types.
During the exam, you should attempt to answer the objective test questions in the same order as the information in the scenario, as this tends to be structured in a logical order.

Constructed response questions

You will be provided with either a word processing or spreadsheet space to answer the constructed response questions. These questions are marked by an expert.
It is very important to read the scenario carefully in full before answering the question. Whilst doing this, you are able to highlight or strikethrough words in the scenario or copy and paste them into the answer space. You are also able to type in the answer space to create a plan.

Narrative questions
For narrative questions, you should answer by using bold or underlined headings, clear paragraphs, and concise sentences while developing your points by using linking words. Avoid repetition but, when appropriate, include a conclusion to your answer. You are able to add tables and may already be provided with one.

For these questions, ensure that you answer the question set and not what you would prefer the question to be. The aim is to use your existing knowledge of the syllabus, plus the extra information from the scenario, which will help you to answer the question directly and in full. You should not quote from the scenario, instead, you’ll need to put yourself in the shoes of the company mentioned, or the specific situation, using the information that you have been provided.

Calculation questions
For constructed response calculation questions, you may need to do small calculations in the word processing space, in which you can use your calculator and show your workings in brackets after the answer.

For longer calculation questions, you are likely to be provided with a spreadsheet space instead. This only has one worksheet, and you are not able to add or delete rows or columns. It is therefore recommended that you leave blank rows and columns between your completed rows so that you can easily add in anything that is required. You can also copy and paste all of your cells into one row down, or in one column across, which will create a blank row and column.

You should include words around the numbers in the cells. For example, at the top of the column, add a label showing ‘dollars $,’ and on the relevant row, label this as ‘profit’. But don’t write a long narrative in a cell, as this is difficult for the markers to read.

You should also only type a number directly into the cell if it has come from the scenario. Therefore, you can create a small table of data from the question at the start of your answer. You should also use formulae in cells rather than a calculator, as this doubles up as the working out that the marker will assess. The ‘Sum’ function is the most useful, but other functions are available. Useful functions include average, square root, power, count, round, log, NPV and IRR. You can link cells with data by using the equals (=) button, and then clicking on the relevant cell.

Aim to make your answers clear by widening columns, formatting cells appropriately, and putting the final answers in bold when applicable.

At the end of the exam, if you have time, have a quick reread of your answers to ensure they are clear and easy to understand.

Exam day

On the day, stay calm, have confidence that you are well prepared, and give the exam your best shot. Good luck!

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* This blog includes advice and tips for the PM, TX, FM, FR, and AA exam papers. The Corporate and Business Law exam will have a different structure.

This article was written by Jen Woodhams, Tutor for Kaplan UK.