ACCA F5 Exam Preparation: How to read the Examiners’ Reports

With two months to go to the ACCA F5 exam, I’m advising my ACCA students to think about consolidating their knowledge and practicing questions in preparation for June’s exam. One area of focus for this are examiners’ reports.

What is the real value of past papers?

You might think questions which have been set in previous examinations are good for spotting what has come up, and guarantee that those specific scenarios/twists won’t come up again. For that reason, many students dismiss them on the basis that there is no point in getting bogged down with them.

I don’t believe that this is the case. Practicing past exam questions is very useful preparation for future examinations. Why? It gives you a chance to see how syllabus areas are combined in a paper, the style of questions set and the way topics are combined. But it should not be used to question spot.

Past exam papers can also be used to practice exam technique – I’ll talk more about this in future blog posts as we get nearer to the exam.

 How to read the ACCA F5 Examiner’s Report

What I want to focus on in this post is how the examiner’s reports can help you at this stage of your studies.

You are not going to get chance to meet Ann Irons the F5 examiner and quiz her about what is going in the exam, but you can find out more about what she thinks about student’s performance from reading the post exam report.

Below I have pulled out the key points from her first three reviews as F5 examiner. The full reports are available on the ACCA Global website.


Here Ann reveals:

“The biggest single reason for failure was definitely the big knowledge gaps that many candidates seem to have. This was obvious from the fact that a significant number of candidates made really good attempts at one or two questions but then, after that, it was obvious that they didn’t know any of the other areas being examined.”

Knowing that students were failing because of lack of knowledge you can make sure that you aim to have a good knowledge of ALL areas of the syllabus. This is something that you have time to work on before you start your revision phase.

“If you want to pass, use all of the resources available to you – past exam papers, Student Accountant articles, past examiner’s reports.”

JUNE 2011:

Advice from Ann here about the best strategies for passing:

“If you want to pass it, put some work in and use all of the resources available to you – past exam papers, Student Accountant articles, past examiner’s reports etc, all of which are available on the ACCA’s website.”

All of these are available from the link above. Looking at them now will give you time to digest this information and make sure that you apply any tips to questions you are practicing.


Here we had confirmation that question spotting is not going to work. This should be evidence enough to stop you from spending time trying to guess what will be tested and focus on ensuring you have a breadth of syllabus knowledge:

“The pass rate on this paper saw a drop from previous recent sessions. I believe that the reason for this is primarily that candidates tried to question spot.

“So, for example, because linear programming came up in June 2010, the belief was that it would not come up again in December 2010. The lesson to be learnt is that you can’t question spot in these exams. You have to make sure that you are comfortable with every area of the syllabus; otherwise you may be caught out.”


Following on from the introductory comments on each paper, Ann then goes on to conduct a detailed review of the specific problems of each question. You will find these more useful when you attempted the questions. Something I would recommend doing later in the revision phase.

Keep an eye out for my next ACCA exam preparation blog post in the Accountancy and Tax category.

This free ACCA F5 guidance is delivered as part of BPP’s 3 Steps approach to preparing for the ACCA exams. If you’d like free support with your ACCA exam preparation, register for our Exam Techniques Webinar on 3 May 2012.

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