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Chartered Institute of

Management Accountants

Examiners Question Time: F3

Following our CIMAsphere campaign to put students in touch with their examiners,
we can now offer the answers to your burning questions for the F3 examiner...

As there is a single pre-seen for all three papers and candidates
must sit all three papers together at the first attempt, will I be at
a disadvantage for this exam if I dont prepare for the other two
I assume that you are sitting for the first time and therefore have
to enter all three papers but that your intention is to focus only on
passing F3 and want to know if that would be likely to adversely
affect your chances of passing F3 at that sitting.
The simple answer is no. The questions on the pre-seen material in
the three papers are totally independent and so it should not make
any difference to your F3 result whether or not you made a serious
attempt at P3 and/or E3 at the same time. However, performance
in the calculation part of a question should have no impact on
performance in the discussion parts. Candidates are expected to
discuss the answers they have obtained in the calculation part and
full credit is available for discussion of the answer regardless of
whether or not the calculation part is correct.
In addition, as I am sure you are fully aware, you would need to pass
the other two papers at the first attempt at the next sitting to avoid
having to study a new pre-seen. This may not be a risk that is worth

What happens if my calculations go wrong in a F3 question but my
narrative makes sense in terms of the numbers I calculated? Will I
get any marks or not?
Mistakes are only penalised once. This means that you wont be
penalised in the narrative section simply because it is based on
incorrect results from your calculations. Even if you suspect that
your answers are wrong, you can be confident that you still have the
chance to obtain full marks in the narrative section. The narrative
should be based on the answers you have obtained and will be
marked accordingly.
Obviously your answers also need to be reasonable. For example,
if you end up with a cost of capital of 125%, something must have
gone badly wrong in your calculations and you would be best advised
to say so and come up with a more appropriate answer, even if is
a best guess, and use that in your narrative answers. It is usually
difficult to say anything sensible about results that are impossible
in practice.

What is a good exam technique for a F3 exam? Should I go with
section B first or should I start with section A?

gets carried away in Section B, producing two near-perfect answers,

but ends up failing the exam because they are left with insufficient
time to get to grips with Section A.
If time-management is not your strong point, it is much safer to
answer Section A first. It is generally easier to pick up marks in
Section B under time pressure than in Section A.
Section A is inevitably longer and more involved than a question in
Section B and is better tackled when fresh at the beginning of the
It can also be argued that the reading time can be used to greatest
advantage by starting with Section A. Section A generally requires the
longest reading time and it is more efficient to begin the exam with
Section A while this information is still fresh.

I understand that investment appraisal questions carry a number
of calculation marks; it is therefore easy to get the final answer
wrong. What would be the implications of this on my discussion
part of the answer?
In investment appraisal questions, it is quite common for only a
minority of candidates to arrive at precisely the right answer as
there are many different opportunities for making a mistake in the
calculations along the way. However, performance in the calculation
part of a question should have no impact on performance in the
discussion parts. Candidates are expected to discuss the answers they
have obtained in the calculation part and full credit is available for
discussion of the answer regardless of whether or not the calculation
part is correct.
For example, consider a case where the examiners answers include
a recommendation that a particular project should be rejected but
your calculations led to the opposite conclusion, showing that project
should be accepted. You would still have had the potential to attain
full marks on the discussion part of your answer, even if you had
recommended that the project should be accepted since this is what
your calculations indicated.
Very occasionally, the calculations go so badly wrong that the final
answer is obviously invalid. In that case, it is perfectly acceptable to
make an assumption and give a rough estimate of what you think the
correct answer might have been and then base your discussion on
that assumption.

This is a matter of strong debate amongst students whether to

answer Section B first or jump straight into Section A. I, personally,
would always advise candidates to answer Section A first.

I understand candidates are required to bring forward knowledge

from previous papers, can I expect questions on cash flow
statements in F3 which are as tough as those in F1 and F2 on
cash flow statements and/or on investment appraisal which
is as tough as in P1?

Marking experience supports this view. There is nothing more

distressing than marking a paper where a well-prepared candidate

Yes, it is correct that strategic level exams can test knowledge

obtained at lower levels. It is highly unlikely that you would come

across a whole question in F3 that is based on a lower level paper

such as F1, F2 or P1. However, you can expect to find certain
elements from these papers in F3 but only as part of a broader
strategic context.
Indeed, the two topics that you mention, cash forecasting and
investment appraisal, both re-appear prominently in the F3 syllabus,
so lets look at these is more detail.
Firstly, cash forecasts. F1 and F2 test the ability to prepare and
analyse cash forecasts. In F3, candidates may still be required to
produce a complex cash forecast or part of a forecast but the main
focus of the question would be the use of the forecast results in
a strategic context. For example, a cash forecast prepared at the
beginning of a question may form the starting point for modelling the
impact on cash flows of changes in economic or business conditions.
Another example would be the preparation of a cash forecast in order
to make appropriate dividend decisions or determine future financing
Secondly, lets consider investment appraisal. This is a topic that
takes up a large section of the F3 syllabus but has already been
introduced in P1. Potentially, the calculations could be just as tough
in F3 as in P1 but are unlikely to as extensive in order to leave space
to test understanding and application of the results. However, the
interpretation of the results is likely to be given greater emphasis in
F3 than in P1.