A significant part of the high-level ACCA papers comprise discursive elements and candidates need to develop skills in answering discursive questions. The following paragraphs include suggestions that may be helpful to candidates when they are attempting discursive questions.
The examiners’ feedback from the October 2006 issue of student accountant stated that: ‘Many candidates wasted valuable time by writing out all parts of the question at the beginning of their answers when they doing essay writing questions.’ This is not necessary and should be avoided as simply repeating the facts of the question without any elaboration does not gain any marks.
The article went on to say that: ‘Many other candidates answered essay questions in a very brief form, or simply produced lists. Neither approach is acceptable, because candidates are expected to display appropriate written communication skills.’ As students, we must appreciate that the volume of writing does not necessarily equate to obtaining a pass standard for an essay writing question – it is better to stick to the point rather than wasting time in writing irrelevant content.
When attempting an essay writing question, the first part of the answer should be an introduction of the background, followed by the main body which is the solution to the question. Concise headings and sub-headings can be used to structure and focus answers. When the solution part is finished, students need to write a conclusion to make a summary. And, as students, we should be professional when answering a high-level essay writing question, because these questions always contain professional marks. Sometimes we are required to write a report, so we need to memorise the format of a report as there are always marks allocated to the format of the report.
When the time allocated to an essay question is over, it’s better to move on and start a new question even if we haven’t finished the question we are working on, leaving sufficient space to come back and finish that question if time allows.
Sometimes a discursive question is much more difficult for non-English speakers, so good exam skills for essay writing questions become especially important.