MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONSRELEVANT TO CAT PAPERS 1 TO 4 AND ACCA QUALIFICATIONPAPERS F1 TO F3
Prepare to pass
As with any assessment, the golden rule forsuccess is to prepare thoroughly. Examiners’reports regularly note that too many candidatesattempt exams for which their preparation hasbeen inadequate. Clear evidence of inadequatepreparation is an attempt to ‘question spot’, asis the reliance on a small number of ‘pet’ topics.These approaches to preparation are extremelyrisky and are always strongly discouraged byexaminers – for good reason.By considering why MCQs are used in anexam, the risk attached to these approachesbecomes clear. Like any other approach toassessment, there are a number of advantages tousing MCQs as an assessment method. Becauseeach MCQ relates to a specific issue within thesyllabus, the exam can achieve broad coverage ofthe syllabus. This means that to maximise yourchances of success you must have studied thewhole syllabus.You may be lucky enough to find an MCQon a topic which was part of your most recentstudies, but the chances of finding a largenumber of questions on one topic in any paperare very low.As well as studying topics right across thesyllabus, it is important to attempt past examsand exam-standard questions. Past paper-basedMCQs can be found for CAT Papers 3 and 4,along with
for all exams on ACCA’swebsite. Go to
for practicecomputer-based exams for all subjects. Threequestions for each of Papers F1, F2, and F3are also published after each exam session,with commentaries from the examiners, onthe student channel of the ACCA website.It is also recommended that you practiselong-form questions, to give a better depth ofunderstanding of issues relating to the subjects. Itis essential that such questions are used carefullyand thoughtfully.Candidates preparing for exams often fail tofollow-up on questions which they have answered.Whether a question was answered correctly orincorrectly during exam preparation, it providesan opportunity to enhance your understandingof the topic. By reflecting on why a specificoption is the correct answer, you can improveyour understanding, just as reflecting on why theother options are wrong can help to overcomemisunderstanding and eliminate confusion. Whenattempting questions as part of your preparation,it is useful to remember that a key purpose of theexercise is to enhance your understanding – notjust to get the question right.When reviewing each option, it is importantto ensure that you understand exactly what theunderlying point is – and to make sure that youreflect on this to enhance your learning.
Read the question
The amount of time, effort, and discussion thatis put into each question before it appears in anexam is likely to surprise most candidates. Everyquestion is subjected to a number of rigorousreviews as it progresses from an idea in thewriter’s mind to the exam paper. These reviewsmean that candidates need to read the questionextremely carefully, as the wording has beenchosen with care. This care is intended to ensurethat the question is unambiguous and does notmislead candidates.An example of the need to read the questioncarefully might be the way in which a questioncommunicates cost information. It is not unusualfor a question to relate to a production period of,say, three months, but for fixed costs to be statedas an annual figure. To get the correct answer,candidates must have recognised this fact. This isnot an attempt to confuse candidates, but ratheran attempt to ensure that candidates can apply thetechnique in a real-life situation, where informationmust be clearly understood and is frequentlycommunicated in this way.A further aspect of the care taken when draftingquestions is that the answer should be based on thedata included in the question. For example, in orderto ensure that questions are not too long, the datamay have been simplified. To some candidates,this may seem to be unrealistic when comparedto a real-life situation. A particular example of thisis the way in which the labour cost is described inmany questions. More often than not, direct labouris described as a variable cost, with no reference tothe cost of laying off staff. For a candidate who hasexperience of staff rationalisation, this assumptionwill be totally unrealistic. While a longer questionmay provide the opportunity to critically examinethe underlying assumptions, this is not possible inan MCQ and the question should be answered onthe basis of the data provided.It is imperative that the prompt is readcarefully. For example, a question may giveinformation on receivables, irrecoverable debts,and required allowances for receivables. Theprompt is often assumed by candidates, butmay be any of the movement on the allowance,the closing allowance, the charge to the incomestatement, or closing receivables, among others.
The paper-based and computer-based exams for Papers 1 to 4 of the CAT Scheme, and PapersF1 to F3 of the ACCA Qualification, include multiple-choice questions (MCQs). A candidate’s abilityto use good exam technique when answering such questions will strongly influence their marks inthese papers. This article provides some practical guidance on how to maximise marks, by settingout some golden rules and emphasising some points that, while not unique to ACCA exams, are keyto understanding how ACCA has decided to use MCQs.