The ACCA exam cycle

Ever wondered why ACCA exams cost as much as they do? It’s because each of ACCA’s 112 examination papers undergoes a long and thorough quality check before making it into the exam hall. This process demands input from a large number of individuals, including the Examiner, a panel comprising of an Assessor, an Education Adviser, a Subject Co-ordinator and an Examination Sitter, as well as each member of the marking team.

How does it all start?
Firstly the Examiner drafts the exam paper, the suggested answers and a marking scheme. The paper, marking scheme and proposed answers are then reviewed by the Assessor, who ensures that the paper is balanced and fair.

A copy of the paper is then sent to one of ACCA’s Education Advisers, who makes certain that all questions set are relevant to the syllabus. Each Education Adviser specialises in a particular area of the syllabus, for example Tax, Financial Accounting or Auditing. They work with the Examiners throughout the pre-exam process, co-ordinating and monitoring the papers. They also ensure that the structure and content of each paper sticks to syllabus guidelines.

Who makes sure the paper isn’t too easy or too difiicult?
At the next stage the question paper is examined by the Subject Co-ordinator, who also checks over the suggested answers and the marking scheme. The Subject Co-ordinator makes sure that the paper is set at a level appropriate to candidates’ knowledge. He or she will also check that the paper is consistent with previous exam sessions and avoids overlap with other papers.

When everyone involved has commented on the first draft, their comments are fed back to the Examiner, who composes a second draft with the aid of the Assessor. This second draft is then given to the panel members who discuss any issues or further improvements. In light of any comments made at the panel meeting, the Examiner composes the checked and reviewed version of the exam paper, which is again distributed and reviewed by panel members.

Are papers tested from a candidate’s point of view?
Once the final version of the paper is agreed, the exam is attempted by an Exam Sitter under exam conditions. The Sitter completes a report, detailing any problems or issues with regard to the structure and content of the paper. This report is sent to the relevant Education Adviser, who arranges for any last minute changes he or she feels are necessary.

The paper then goes through no less than four proof readings, which the Education Advisers and other relevant panel members supervise. Only then is the paper finally ready to go to print.

Is the marking scheme reviewed once exams have been sat?
As soon as the last paper of an exam diet has been sat, Markers’ meetings begin. A meeting is held for each paper to allow the Examiner and his or her marking team to discuss any issues they think should be considered when marking the exam scripts. A random selection of anonymous scripts are studied at the Markers’ meeting in order to allow the markers to identify any recurring issues, such as evidence of time pressure or misleading language.

Who is on the exam review board and what do they do?
Immediately after the Markers’ meetings, the Examination Review Board (ERB) is held. The ERB is an invaluable way of obtaining feedback on exam papers from tuition providers. The ERB comprises the following members:

–  Executive Director – Education, Training and Development;
–  Head of Education;
–  Head of Qualifications;
–  Examinations Manager;
–  Education Advisers covering all areas of the syllabus;
–  Representatives from six ACCA tuition providers (three public sector, three private sector).

The ERB go through the papers one by one, pointing out any issues that they have relating to the content of the papers. The Board review the questions, answers and marking schemes for each examination paper to ensure that the papers are a fair and reasonable test of candidates’ knowledge and understanding of the syllabus areas.

Specific areas of the papers that are considered include:

–  appropriateness of the level at which the exam is set;
–  the clarity (or ambiguity) of questions;
–  examinability of topics � are the topics in the syllabus, are they core areas or peripheral topics?
–  coverage of the syllabus;
–  time allocation – was the time allowed for each question appropriate, and could the paper be completed within the allotted time?
–  accuracy and clarity of the model answers;
–  fairness of the marking schemes;
–  structure of the paper;
–  types of questions (for example, case studies).
–  Students’ comments published in Pass Magazine are also taken into consideration. The comments of the ERB are circulated to markers, who take any recurring issues into account when marking scripts.

Who makes sure the markers have got it right?
Scripts are split between the Markers, who mark them at home. Any borderline scripts are re-marked by a different Marker, and more often than not checked by the Examiner. Script Checkers look over each script to ensure that marks have been allocated and added correctly. The Examiner is also required to second mark at least 250 scripts for his or her paper. This means that no matter how marginal a fail may seem, you can be sure that it has been double, if not triple-checked for accuracy.

How can I have my say?
We would like to hear from you when you have sat your exams in December. From 2 to 17 December there will be an exam feedback form on the Students’ homepage of the ACCA website at www.accaglobal.com. The feedback you provide online will be taken into consideration at the Exam Review Board meeting in December and will play an important part in our quality assurance process.

Good luck in the exams!

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