This article offers advice on how students should prepare for the ACA Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) exam. Written by the ICAEW prize-winning ACA tutor who has a 97% student pass rate and personally scored 88% in the FAR exam, this is a must read for any student about to start preparing for their FAR exam.
How to pass the ACA FAR exam
Chartered Accountants are required to possess strong technical and reporting skills making this module fundamental in the training of ACA students. Therefore, the FAR exam is necessarily tough and along with BPT, is probably the exam students find most challenging. Nevertheless, with pass rates normally around 80%, passing the FAR exam with a strong mark is very achievable provided that students deploy an effective strategy to tackling the exam. In our experience, there are some crucial mistakes that students make which can severely impact their performance. These common pitfalls are summarised according the questions in the FAR exam.
Single Entity Financial Statements - poor exam technique
This question is highly time pressured with a lot of adjustments to work through. Students need to use a time efficient and mark effective approach to the question. Many students do not have this and instead start by copying out a whole proforma from IAS1 despite many of the headings being irrelevant to the question. This is a waste of time which could be allocated to working through the notes to score more marks. Our single entity financial statements exam technique which is taught to our classroom students and via our online FAR exam masterclass series ensures that our students optimise their technique to score maximum marks in as little time as possible.
2. Explain the Accounting Treatment- insufficient narrative
Many students incorrectly believe that FAR is a computational exam whereas in reality, the marks for this question are weighted towards explanations rather calculations. Given the wider scope for making valid narrative points, the mark scheme offers considerably more available marks than maximum marks which significantly increases the likelihood of scoring full marks on this question. When we look at scripts from our students who use our exam technique guidance for this question, it is not uncommon for our students to score full marks on this question, paving the way for a strong overall mark.
3. Cash Flow Statements – poor knowledge and understanding
It is quite common for students to go into the exam simply hoping that Cash Flows don’t come up. This is a high-risk strategy as the mixed topic question may allocate as many as eighteen marks to a Cash Flow statement. Students who are competent at double entry and financial statement preparation should have little difficulty when calculating cash movements so we think that much of this ‘fear of Cash Flows’ is misplaced.
4. Group Accounting - rote learning
We are aware that some large class tuition providers encourage students to memorise ‘steps’ when preparing group accounts, without developing an understanding of the principles and concepts of group accounting. Whilst this may get you through a standard ‘prepare the group SFP’ question, you will become exposed if the question requires explanation or only requires certain extracts. It appears as though the examiners are moving towards these less standard group questions and it is our belief this is to catch out students who have rote learned a proforma approach.
Contrary to this approach, we ensure that our students have a deep understanding of the concepts of group accounting so they can explain and calculate any of the group accounting adjustments. This ensures our students go into the exam confident that they can answer any question on groups as well as preparing them for the advanced aspects of groups tested at Corporate Reporting.
5. Ethics, Conceptual framework and UK GAAP/IFRS differences - dropping easy marks
Given the difficulty of some of the other questions, notably the groups and mixed topic question, the marks for Ethics, Conceptual framework and UK GAAP/IFRS differences are relatively easier so students need to ensure that make sufficient points to get the full marks available here. As a rule of thumb, students should assume that a valid point will earn one mark.
Details of our FAR classroom, online and one-to-one tuition can be found at www.acamasters.com
About the author
Kieran Doe is a Senior ACA tutor at ACA Masters. Kieran won multiple prizes for the ACA exams including the ICAEW BBH Professional Stage prize (Financial Accounting and Reporting, Tax, Financial Management, Audit, Business Strategy) and the ICAEW Case Study prize (highest score in the world). Kieran has been tutoring his specialist 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 prizes for all the exams he teaches.