How to Pass the ACA Corporate Reporting (CR) Exam

Updated: 2 hours ago


This article offers some of our top 5 tips on how to pass the ACA Corporate Reporting (CR) exam. Written by a multiple ICAEW prize-winning ACA tutor, this is a must read for any student preparing for their CR exam.

Tip 1 – When starting your CR preparation, ensure that your FAR and AA knowledge and exam technique is at the same level as when you passed those exams

The ACA Corporate Reporting (CR) paper examines Financial Reporting (FR), Audit and Assurance (AA), Performance Reporting and Ethics, with at least 80% of the marks allocated to FR and AA. The FR aspects of the paper are similar to the Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) exam and the AA aspects similar to the Audit and Assurance (AA) exam. In fact, around 60-70% of the marks in the CR exam are on topics already tested at Professional Level. Furthermore, the style of some of the exam questions are also the same, e.g. ‘explain financial reporting treatment’ and ‘identify audit risks and suggest procedures’.

It is therefore strongly advised that your preparation begins with re-learning the technical accounting content from FAR and the auditing process and reporting from AA, with a particular focus on risks and procedures questions. As we consider this to be such a fundamental part of CR preparation, we provide all of our CR students with access to our FAR and AA tutorials and exam technique masterclasses. Our experience is that students who complete this preparatory work find the advanced CR content much easier to understand and apply. This then enables them to focus on exam technique from an earlier stage which leads them to higher marks.

Tip 2 – Appreciate the differences between each type of CR question and learn the optimal exam technique for each

Each of the questions in the are different from one another and can be summarised as follows:

· Q1: FR and AA (examined in a mini-case study scenario)

· Q2: FR only (with the more technical FR topics examined)

· Q3: FR and AA (with majority of marks for AA)

Performance reporting is nearly always examined in Q1 or Q2. Ethics is nearly always examined in Q1 or Q3.

By nature, FR requirements are technical and require students to explain the correct accounting treatment and then adjust the financial statement extracts prepared by the client. This is similar to Q2 in the FAR exam, albeit with examination of some new standards and more complex adjustments.

Conversely, the AA aspects are more skills based and require students to interpret the scenario to identify auditing issues. Therefore, because the AA questions are scenario based, the questions are less predictable and less repetitive across exam sittings compared with the FR requirements. Having said that, the exam technique you should use does not change because the skills the examiners are testing are the same in each paper despite the scenario being different.

Having studied all the CR past exam papers and mark schemes, we acknowledge and appreciate the substantial differences between each of the three questions. This has enabled us to develop and test the optimal exam technique for each type of CR exam question. As exam technique is best taught via practical application to recent past exam questions, we have included one of our question-specific CR exam masterclass webinars below.

Tip 3 – Practice several of the same question one after another

After using lots of past CR exams to teach our students the optimal exam technique for a particular type of CR exam question, we send our students away to practice lots of similar questions. For example, after being taught the exam technique for Q3, our students then practice several other past paper Q3s one after another. This has the following benefits:

- It enables you to apply the exam technique demonstrated during tuition

- It familiarises you with how the examiners structure questions

- It enables you to identify patterns in how each topic is examined

- It improves your efficiency when using the open book notes

- It enables you to identify weakness areas so that you can focus your technical learning and exam skills

- It familiarises you with the ICAEW CBE software

- It enables you to improve your speed so that you don’t exceed your time allocation

Once you are scoring over 60% on each question you should then start sitting full mock exams so that you can recreate the exam experience in full.

Tip 4 – Structure your open book notes so that they can be used effectively and time-efficiently in the exam

Open book exams present both a golden opportunity and fatal time trap. The CR exam is incredibly time pressured so any time spent looking something up in your notes is time which could have been spent typing a mark scoring point. Therefore, your open book notes need to be concise and structured in a way that you can quickly look up information should you need.

Given the technical nature of FR, we advise that notes include a summary of the key technical points for each topic. As audit ‘risks and procedures’ requirements frequently follow on from an ‘explain the financial reporting’ requirements, it is advised that you also include a list of some common risks and procedures for each topic. The example below demonstrates how to do this, which is taken from our open book notes.

As explained earlier, non- risks and procedures audit questions tend to be scenario-specific so your open book notes are likely to be of limited use when tackling these types of requirement. However, it is a good idea to have a reminder of the types of points to include and how to generate ideas to help steer you in the right direction.

As mentioned above, any time spent looking something up in your notes is time which could have been spent typing a mark scoring point. Therefore, you should aim to build your FR knowledge and AA exam technique skills to the point where you use your notes sparingly, if at all. This will then enable you to secure marks far more easily within the tight time constraints of the exam. Personally, I only use the open book notes if a very technical FR questions comes up, such as share based payments with a choice of settlement.

Tip 5 – Bag the relatively easy ethics marks

Ethics is examined in all the ACA exams and whilst ethics questions do get harder as the ACA progresses, the ethics marks remain comparatively easier to the technical marks. A typical CR paper includes 8 marks for ethics which equates to 16% of the marks needed to secure a 50% passing grade. Therefore, comparatively easy ethics marks offer the opportunity to bag 16% of the marks you need to pass - in what our opinion is - the hardest ACA exam. The most efficient exam strategy is to ensure that you have an exam technique which will ensure that you make the 8 mark scoring points needed to get maximum marks for ethics.

Further guidance

Details for our CR classroom tuition, our CR online tuition, our CR exam masterclass video series, one-to-one tuition and our learning materials can be found here.

About the author

Kieran Doe is a Senior ACA tutor at ACA Masters. Kieran won several prizes for his performance in the ACA exams, including the highest score in the world for Case Study. Kieran has been tutoring ACA subjects for several years and his student pass rate is considerably higher than other tutors. Kieran’s tuition is based around the learning techniques and exam strategies which enabled him to win several ICAEW prizes.

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