FAE Core: secrets of the holy grail

Jul 03, 2018
This year marks the first set of FAE main exams that will be adjudicated under the new percentage marking scheme. So, what does that mean for candidates and how can they maximise their chances of success?


From 3 July, there are just eight weeks until the beginning of the FAE exams. 

Spoiler alert! Candidates may actually pass their exams by reading this article! 

Candidates should be familiar with the percentage marking approach to FAE this year. The Executive released the FAE Marking and Adjudication Parameters document in May 2017. Each indicator will now be marked out of two mark elements as opposed to the previous competency-based marking methodology. 

The marking of indicators contains two elements: technical marks awarded for the content of answering the indicator; and professional competency marks, for a number of qualitative factors.

Technical marks

There are three types of indicator styles that is used by examiners:

  • Calculation-based indicators;
  • Narrative-based indicators;
  • Indicators that contain; and 
  • Calculation and narrative. 
Calculation-based indicators mostly contain calculations based on information supplied by the facts of the case. Marks will be awarded to solving the components of the indicator. It is important to note that if a candidate makes a mistake in the calculation, they only lose marks at the point of error. 

Narrative-based indicators require candidates to offer a discussion or write a note. Add value to a narrative-based indicator by ensuring that the requirements of the indicator are fully understood. Candidates need to pay attention to ‘link’ words such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘also’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘furthermore’.

These indicators may form part of a speaking narrative by the character of the case and, as a result, candidates can miss these important nuances. 

“We have advised the external auditors of this, but want to stay on top of these issues ourselves also. To help us do that, we need you to summarise how the auditors may adapt their approach as a result of this suspected misappropriation and also, outline the procedures that should be taken by the auditor for cash transactions as it would be our intention to conduct similar checks internally on a periodic basis.” 

The examiner frequently comments that candidates miss out on the secondary ask in indicators. The above example was clear – candidates were asked to describe what action the auditors would take in light of a misappropriation. While, the ‘and’ part of the requirement asked for the specific procedures that would be expected. Candidates should conclude by stating that the procedures that are expected by the auditors can indeed be carried out by internal staff so as to create good practice. 

Make sure you answer every part of an indicator’s requirement, otherwise you will miss out on of some of the technical marks available. 

Professional competency marks

To quote the FAE Marking and Adjudication Parameters document:
“Professional competency marks are very important and as such, will account for 15-25% of the overall total marks available for each indicator. Candidates’ responses per indicator will be awarded professional competency marks on the basis of overall layout, presentation, clarity of communication, commercial acumen, analysis and evaluation. The focus of the professional competency requirements will be determined by the indicator in question.”

You are simulating the character of the case and writing for your superiors. Candidates must be able to communicate clearly. Ensure the work is laid out in a neat, logical order and that you arrive to a conclusion. 


Handwriting is a problem for at least one third of all candidates attempting FAE. Some scripts are almost illegible and a marker cannot award credit for content he or she cannot read. Practise indicators under exam time conditions and get a colleague to correct your answer to see if they can read it.  

Best of luck in the August exams.