The maybe an intriguing and odd title for a blog but you will see what a mean at its conclusion.

The ACCA will not be releasing any sample questions from the ACCA AFM September 2023 exam in line with their standard publishing policy. But, personally I feel that there are some important aspects of the last exam that future exam sitters need to note.

The exams, as there were several iterations, tested in the main the standard topics. Candidates saw advanced investment appraisal, risk management and valuations. These are the usual suspects.

However, this does not tell the whole story. There were three particular aspects that appeared that were unusual or if I may say ‘abnormal”.

1. An APV question with one aspect of the loan finance needing the students to assess two interest rate swaps. Two swaps ! I love writing exam style questions, but this was very clever. Respect to the examiners.

2. A Q1 report not asking candidates to comment on the assumptions made. This is normally good area to score both the technical marks, but more importantly the professional skills marks for scepticism.

3. A pure ratio analysis question with a 10, 10, 5 split. The latter for the PS marks as usual. Ratio questions are part of ACCA AFM and they are included in my online courses for sure. But, they come up on a cyclical basis. Also, they are not too technical, but not easy to get the high marks on the evaluation of the ratios.

So I would say the above were out of the ordinary. Not quite as the past. Abnormal.

How to cope with the above ? Well, I believe there are two key factors.

The first is to adhere to the keys of good exam technique. Answering every part of every question. Picking off the easy marks. When in doubt, assuming a reasonable value and moving on.

The second is related to the above, but more important. Simulating exact exam conditions prior to going into the exam is key to success.

For me, this is ensuring my ACCA AFM students face exact conditions on 10 (ten) occasions before they sit their exam (EOT test, 7x mini mocks, 2 x full mocks). These are not past questions, those are used for practice. The above are new questions written by me. They are marked/corrected & personal feedback given.

This removes the exam fear factor. You get used to dealing with a variety of ACCA AFM exam questions under time pressure. It becomes normal.

Hence, if you face an unusual exam, you can “normalise the abnormal”.