A breakdown of the upcoming FAE e-assessments

Jun 30, 2020
John Munnelly, Exams and Syllabus Development Executive at Chartered Accountants Ireland, provides some practical guidance for the new e-assessments and an overview of the suite of articles developed in conjunction with leading educators and examiners at FAE to provide a helpful package of resources for FAE candidates. 

Much has changed in the last four months. Some things haven't gone so well (haircuts, home DIY projects) and other things have shown how brilliantly people can adapt to new situations, and how resilient we all are. That includes the Chartered Accountants Ireland FAE candidates. And, while there are some changes ahead of you when it comes to your exams, it's nothing some adjustments and planning can't solve. Here is some advice on preparation and further article to assist you in your studies.

Typing versus writing

I did my leaving certificate 30 years ago. In my final year at school, the nuns on the teaching staff called all students to a meeting and insisted that we learn to type. To their credit, they asserted that typing would be the medium of written communication in the future. We undertook the Pitman Typing Exams and, when going to college, I could touch type at a certified speed of 60 words per minute. 

I will admit that, back then, I did not appreciate this incredible skill as my fingers ached from typing on old heavy carriage typewriters! Fast forward to today, and I hardly write at all. I keep a notebook, but that is to sketch words, ideas, and phrases but rarely anything longer than a few sentences. 

Let us have a moment of honesty: nobody writes too much of anything anymore, with the exception of written examinations.

If I can share one insight from being in the RDS examination hall on FAE examination days: on day three, candidates walk out looking like they have gone through a defence forces ultimate hell week challenge. The physical toll that pressured, highspeed writing causes is incredible. Not to mention that handwriting is reduced to barely legible scrawl. 

As employees, you type reports, memos, emails and instant messages. We all have smart devices and some of us can type faster on that than we can speak. Then, as candidates, you must go back to the pen. The physiology of building up muscles in our fingers to hold a pen for up to four hours a time is not something that is natural to candidates. 

Over the course of the publication of Accountancy Ireland Extra, we have spoken at length about practising exam indicators under exam conditions. Aside from trying to get candidates to think at the speed they need to operate in order process thought and structure responses and develop the brevity required to successfully answer indicators at FAE, the secondary purpose is to exercise the hand so candidates are actually match fit – able to write with a pen at that sustained intensity for four hours and 30 minutes.  

The move to online assessment has created a great opportunity for candidates and here is why: the vast majority of candidates can type faster than they can write. The slowest typists among you can type at least 20% faster than the fastest hand writers in the room. With no impact on the exam duration this summer, this move can only work in candidates’ favour, allowing them to frame their responses. I would still advise candidates to sketch with a pen, capturing those initial instincts as they read through the papers. 

Let’s do a quick test: set a timer to one minute and type the pangram  “the quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” repeatedly until the timer expires. Then repeat the process using pen and paper. 

The difference (and there will be one) is your time advantage. 

Candidates can exploit this time advantage by practising indicators under present exam conditions of 30 minute per indicator (or 22 – 24 minutes once you have planned out your response). You will get appreciably faster at typing and structuring your thoughts as you practice. This will result in less of the backspace or delete button on exam day.  Do not forget about formatting, though!

Programme of contents 

With all the change that we have endured over the past few months, the executive thought it might be useful to put together a number of articles across the entire FAE syllabus. The avengers assembled! Every utterance by examiners was transcribed and is documented here, some within this magazine and some easily found online. It is hoped that you will find this series useful to your studies. 

Final Admitting Examination

Paul Monahan, Lead Educator at FAE, spoke with the FAE examiner about topic areas one, two and three of the new FAE Core Syllabus. These articles are as follows: 

FAE Core Topic Area 1: 
Avoiding the pitfalls in your financial reporting indicators
FAE Core Topic Area 2: 
Words of wisdom from the FAE core examiner – strategic management and leadership 
FAE Core Topic Area 3: 
What you need to know about DAAIET

John Munnelly spoke to Derek Guilfoyle, DHL Supply Chain IT Director for Ireland, about how DHL has used technology as part of their digital acceleration strategy. This article can be found here: The real world adoption of Topic Area 3

Yvonne McCafferty, Risk Management Educator for Topic Area 4, provides some final thoughts on the syllabus and offers some useful approaches for candidates. You can read here: The business impact of Covid-19.

FAE electives

For the electives, we facilitated conversations between lead educators, examiners and examining teams and have documented the output of these conversations. There is always something to be learned from an examiner who has seen thousands of FAE candidate scripts. 

The full list of articles for the FAE electives are as follows:

FAE advisory elective: 
A conversation with the FAE elective advisory examiners
FAE audit elective: 
Achieving the ISA mindset
FAE financial services module – business lending: 
Elective overview part one: business lending credit risk assessment
FAE financial services: 
Crucial insights from the FAE financial services examiner
FAE public sector:
The impact of COVID-19 on the public sector
FAE tax ROI and NI: 
Tax exam and prep: advice from the tax examiners
FAE tax NI elective:
International taxation: Northern Ireland perspective
FAE tax ROI elective:
International taxation: Republic of Ireland perspective

Finally, to borrow a mantra from Sean Arthur, FAE Tax Educator, to his students:

“Read the indicator and reread the indicator. What question or questions do I have to answer for the indicator?

As they progress through their answer, I advise them to ask themselves:

Am I answering the question, am I answering the question, am I answering the question?
Am I using the facts, am I using the facts, am I using the facts?
Am I using the figures, am I using the figures, am I using the figures?”

It has all the hallmarks of a club classic!

Enjoy the series of articles and every success in your subsequent preparations.