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Guide to passing e-assessments

An understanding of timing, strategy and question wording is crucial, says Anna Henderson of Kaplan Financial

Question practice is the most important thing when it comes to passing the e-assessments. Even if you have studied subjects such as tax, law, business or finance for your undergraduate degree, examiners have a particular way of posing their questions that you need to tune yourself into.

There is a high recognition rate between the question banks and the exams so, although you may not get exactly the same question in your e-assessment, you will spot certain similarities to the practice questions. 

Timing is everything

Calculating your timings is as crucial as revising the subject matter. Certain modules, such as Assurance, give students time to contemplate their options. Others, such as Management Information, are more time pressured and it’s important that you do not spend more than the allocated time practising each question. It is also advisable to sit a mock exam to time. For sample papers, visit the exam resources area of the ICAEW website.

What am I doing wrong?

When practising your questions, make sure you carefully debrief each question that does not go as planned. Often students make mistakes by misreading or misunderstanding the question. The Principles of Taxation module is one where the question content could generate a number of different answers. For example, an income tax question might be asking for taxable income, income tax liability or income tax payable – read the question carefully to get it right.

Strategy

When it comes to the e-assessments, you can flag questions for review. The navigator screen will show incomplete or flagged questions, allowing you to tackle the exam in a way that makes you feel most confident. No questions should be left incomplete and, even if you run out of time, put something for each question as there will usually be a 25% chance it is right. 

The words

Although you are training to be a chartered accountant and a calculator is a mandatory part of the uniform, you will be surprised by how many written questions appear in the e-assessments. In calculation-heavy modules such as Management Information and Accounting, a significant proportion of the marks will be awarded for conceptual knowledge. In the exam these questions can be answered quickly giving you extra time on trickier calculation questions.

Accounting e-assessment

For many students, the most challenging e-assessment is Accounting. The exam comprises 24 objective test questions worth 60% and a case study-style question worth 40%, which will be either a trial balance to income statement and statement of financial position or a statement of cashflows.

As Accounting is usually the first e-assessment attempted, ICAEW has put together two sample e-assessments. Find them in the Accounting section of the exam resources section at icaew.com/dashboard

If you attempt all the questions on the sample e-assessments, you will receive a result and instant feedback. This is an excellent way of familiarising yourself with completing the exam on a computer screen and also testing your knowledge across the Accounting syllabus. 

The case study-style question

There are a few admin points you may want to consider when completing this question:

  • You may use commas to signify thousands but this is not mandatory
  • Negative numbers must be indicated using brackets or a preceding minus sign
  • Some of the lines on the blank statement may be unnecessary and you should put a zero in the box to show that you recognise this

There is an equal chance of a trial balance or cashflow question being selected as part of your exam so make sure you get lots of practice at both. The examiner is looking for you to use as many numbers provided in the question as possible. Therefore, make sure you go through all the figures and allocate them to the relevant box on the blank statement first. You can use the onscreen highlight or strikethrough functions to help make sure no number is missed.

Always make sure you read the additional information carefully and prioritise easier points. In the trial balance question, many students forget that every time an adjustment is made, it will affect two balances. In other words, it is a double entry.

The key calculation for the statement of cashflows is cash generated from operations using the indirect method, as this is where most of the marks will be located. A good tip to remember is if the depreciation charge for the year is not given and requires a calculation, it is most efficient to wait until you deal with property, plant and equipment for investing activities and then you can calculate everything together. You should also try to focus on the common cashflow items the examiner will often include such as interest/tax paid, repayment of borrowings and proceeds from share issues. Don’t forget, you can get lots of practice of the e-assessments using the study manual and question bank.

Anna Henderson is an ACA tutor at Kaplan Financial.
For information on Kaplan’s ACA courses, visit kaplanfinancial.co.uk/ICAEW

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 edition of VITAL.