What is the ACCA examiner asking?

It is important to understand what the examiner is asking during the ACCA exams. This ensures that you respond to questions in the most relevant way. Giving irrelevant answers does not score you marks and contributes to why students fail most ACCA exams. As most ACCA exams are time pressured, understanding the requirements of the exam questions helps save a lot of time. It is important that students practice a lot of past papers as they will gain exposure of the type of questions they might encounter during the exam, and how to answer them. Here I will highlight the common question verbs used in exams.

Advise

This means offering guidance or some relevant expertise to a recipient, allowing them to make a more informed decision. It requires you to help someone reach a decision through a mixture of facts, opinions, commands and options. Make sure you counsel, inform or notify.

Analyse

This means to break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part. Here you will look closely at the detail, and give reasons why or how something is done and the effect of this. Use Point, Evidence, Explanation (P.E.E) or Point, Evidence, Analysis (P.E.A) paragraphs which help back up your points with evidence and explain your thoughts.

Apply

Here you are required to put into action pertinently and/or relevantly. The question will be asking you to put something to practical use by showing how the theory works in practice. It is vital that you properly apply to the given scenario or case. Lack of application results in failure to pass the exam.

Assess

This involves judging the worth, importance, evaluating or estimating the nature, quality, ability, extent, or significance. This could be in monetary terms or not. Think of it as a higher level discussion. The key tip here is to determine the strengths, weaknesses, importance, significance, and ability to contribute.

Calculate

It is to ascertain by computation, to make an estimate of; evaluate, to perform a mathematical process. Work out, and the marks are usually awarded for both the process and the outcome. You have to do the math. It is key that you provide a description along with numerical calculations.

Comment

It is to remark or express an opinion. This requires you to analyse and evaluate in a balanced way. Give your opinions or point of view, with reasons. Your answer should include an explanation, illustration or criticism.

Conclusion

This is the result or outcome of an act or process or event, final arrangement or settlement.  This means you must end your answer with a clear decision after weighing the different actions.

Criticize

Present the weaknesses/problems; evaluate comparative worth. Don’t explain the situation. Instead, analyse it. Criticism often includes analysis of the underlying scenario or case.

Define

Give the meaning; usually a meaning specific to the course or subject. This mainly tests your memory. Here you need to give the specific meaning of words, terms, etc.; it may be the definition from a textbook or you could use your own words. Explain the exact meaning because usually definitions are short.

Describe

Give a detailed account or key features. List characteristics, qualities and parts. You just need to tell what it is – imagine and give information that paints a complete picture. Think of it as the next step on from ‘list’ or ‘state’. Make a picture with words; identification is not sufficient.

Discuss

Consider and debate/argue about the pros and cons of an issue. Examine in detail by using arguments in favor or against. In order to discuss something, there needs to be an ‘argument’ i.e. you need two or more differing or opposing viewpoints. Also, any discussion should, if possible, end with a conclusion. Write about any conflict, compare and contrast.

Evaluate

Determine the scenario in the light of the arguments for and against. You need to explain your view of facts and ideas and how they relate to one another. In some sense, translating from one form of words to another. Mention evidence, case, point, issue to support evaluation.

Explain

Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reason for an event. Use a paragraph to explain a sentence that makes your point, and then write another to explain why the first sentence is so, or the consequences of the first sentence. Don’t just provide a list of points, add in some explanation of the points you’re discussing.

Illustrate

Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples. Clarify or explain using examples. If there’s a scenario, give a relevant example. Add in some description.

Interpret

Comment on, give examples, describe relationships. ‘Interpret’ is often the second stage of ‘analyze’. Include explanation and evaluation.

List

List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc. No need to go into detail. Do not discuss, just list. Simple remember items and write them in the form of a list.

Outline

Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events. Give the main features. Briefly explain the highlighted points.

Recommend

Advise the appropriate actions to pursue in terms the recipient will understand. It is important to give advice or counsel. This is normally the last requirement in a question because you first need to identify, explain and evaluate before you can recommend or suggest a way forward.

Relate

Show the connections between ideas or events. Relate to real time examples.

State

Explain precisely. Focus on the exact point. Write what you are asked about in a clear, simple and ‘to the point’ way; no need to explain or clarify, unless you think that what you’ve written isn’t clear.

Summarize

Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details. Remember to conclude your explanation. Give the important ideas in brief.

I hope this helps! Also visit the ACCA website for more! Goodluck…

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