ACCA P1: Exam Tips

There is only one person who can say for certain what is going to come up in the next sitting of the ACCA P1 exam and that is the examiner, David Campbell. At the last ACCA tutors’ conference the examiners were all keen to discourage “question spotting” and exam tipping, so any exam tips should be taken with a large pinch of salt. The P1 examiner could test absolutely anything from across the syllabus.

Core Corporate Governance topic always likely to feature

What you must think about when you are preparing for your exam is that the P1 exams have been consistent in being designed to ensure that there was no way to avoid the core corporate governance topic.

In most sittings corporate governance has formed the basis of the compulsory question and when the examiner departs from this pattern he has based two of the optional questions around corporate governance. To make sure that you can answer questions on this you should make sure you are prepared to talk about rules versus principles, the roles of non-executives and the roles fulfilled by the various committees they sit on.

The examiner has looked at roles much more often than he has tested qualities, however you should have been reading the articles published in Student Accountant (which are all available on the ACCA website) and be aware of the fact that the examiner wrote an article covering the topic of independence in some detail.

The articles are a good way of seeing what sorts of issues are on the examiner’s mind. David Campbell has written more than one article about stakeholders so I think it’s safe to assume that this is also an important topic.

Topics from previous exams can still feature

You shouldn’t assume that a topic which was tested in the previous exam won’t be revisited in the next exam. You’ll see important issues being examined more than once so for instance, I think we can expect to see questions on remuneration coming up because although it has been examined before, it is not an issue that has been resolved and gone away out in the world beyond the exam hall.

Keep abreast of business news

Speaking from personal experience, finding the inspiration for exam questions is quite a challenge. The examiner has been living through the same economic times as the rest of us and perhaps we’ll see some of these themes coming through in his scenarios. Business ethics have been in the news a lot in the UK, not just in the banking industry but in the newspaper industry as well. Perhaps the examiner will have been inspired by events at Olympus, the Japanese camera manufacturer. If you keep abreast of the business news you will have a feeling for the themes which are current in the world of governance, risk and ethics.

Don’t forget about easily glossed-over subjects – think about how they can be applied

My final tip is really some general advice about the exam. Some bits of knowledge are easy to gloss over – Higgs roles for non-executives, Turnbull’s objectives of internal control, Kohlberg’s levels of moral development for example. It’s easy to think of these as dry book learning that is only useful to be regurgitated with thought in the exam if the question demands it. However, as you revise these topics I would try and think about how you can use them. If I had to answer a question on training for NEDs then a good way to give my answer a framework might be to use Higgs. If I had to talk about why a company should carry out a particular action, Kohlberg gives me at least three reasons for doing things. If I have to talk about why a company needs internal auditors, then perhaps I could use the Turnbull objectives for internal controls.

So that’s my big tip for this exam – be prepared to be creative in how you use what you know to answer the question set.

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