One of the biggest challenges students face, is understanding what the question wants. This week I therefore want to focus attention on the longer form, constructed response questions that we see in the Applied Skills and Strategic Professional exams.
In particular, the ACCA examiner has a list of verbs that they use to set the requirement e.g. advise, discuss, evaluate, etc and whilst some may be quite obvious as to what is expected, others may be confusing. Failing to answer the question set means missing out on valuable marks.
Let’s look at a few of the common ones used by the ACCA examiners as seen in the specimen exams to ensure you are answer the question that was set:
- “Assess the financial performance … using the information given above” (Performance Management).
The dictionary definition of “assess” means - to decide the quality or importance of something.
The ACCA wants you to determine the strengths, weaknesses, importance and significance of the information provided.
In the PM exam for example, you can expect to see a scenario with some financial and non-financial data surrounding an issue in the business. It’s important to be able to decide on the relative importance of the data provided; also some may be more reliable than others. Some may add more weight to evidence in favour of or against a certain course of action.
My tip is to review the facts and comment on each one. Make sure you state whether it is a strength or weakness and relate your comment to other relevant information.
- “Explain the options available … regarding the production of accounts and tax computations …” (Taxation).
The dictionary definition of “explain” means to make (an idea or situation) clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts.
The ACCA wants you to provide more than a list of points, but to add in some reasons or causes of the points you’re discussing.
In the TX exam, for example, you can expect to see a scenario with a problem or challenge facing the business or an individual needing advice on what they should do. It may be that they have a concern so be sure to address that in your answer.
My tip is to start with a definition where relevant. Quote any relevant rules or regulations and state how they relate to the business.
- “Discuss how the … model can assist … in making a better … decision …” (Financial Management).
The dictionary definition of “discuss” means to talk about something.
The ACCA wants you to write about any conflict, or to compare and contrast alternative courses of action.
In the FM exam, for example, you can expect to see a scenario with a business considering making changes but being unsure of the best course of action. It wants advice on whether and how to take a different approach.
My tip is to state what the new method would mean to the business, including providing a definition where necessary, before giving the advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you give answers for and against the proposal.
Practise answering exam standard questions with different verbs and review the answers carefully to ensure you have answered in the way the examiner wanted. Plus, after each exam sitting, the examiner gives feedback in the “Examiners’ comments” report and which gives guidance on what was expected.
If you’d like to know more advice on the verbs used by the ACCA examining team, visit the Technique Tips article on “Intellectual Level and Question Verbs” by clicking here.