Common mistakes students make at AAT Advanced Level #3

This is the third and final article in our three part series to help familiarise you with the AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting units (AKA level 3) as you progress on from level 2.


Common mistakes at AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting


The series is based on the feedback available in the examiner’s reports which are published annually, and available to AAT students within MyAAT study support.

In part 1 we looked at the format of the examiner reports and noted that each one analyses the tasks within its assessment, identifying generic strengths and weaknesses of students. Once you’re armed with this knowledge you can use it to your advantage, because awareness of common pitfalls will enable you to target your revision more effectively.

In part 2 we focused on the graphs that each report contains, as they provide a visual summary of performance across the tasks in the assessment. 

We also noted that the reports outline what’s assessed in each task. This is the same as the unit’s content or syllabus, but presented in a different way. Plus, the unit’s syllabus only tells you what’s covered overall. 

Knowing what will be assessed in each task is really useful as it helps you work out what’s likely to be required from a task, especially if it’s presented in a format that is unfamiliar.

In this last part in the series, I would like to draw your attention to timing.  Each task within every assessment shows you how many marks it’s worth.  These can be used as a general guide to how much time should be spent on each question. 

For example, the AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting synoptic assessment (AVSY) is split into two parts. 

  • Part 1 has three tasks all of which are worth 15 marks. The time allowance is 75 minutes, so roughly 25 minutes should be spent on each task. 
  • Part 2 has a 90 minute time allowance* and two tasks that are worth 55 marks in total. Task 2.1 is worth 25 of the section’s marks, so around 41 minutes should be allocated to it, and the remaining 49 minutes to task 2.2, because it’s worth 30 marks.

The examiner’s reports all refer to the average time it takes learners to complete tasks.

When you compare the times in the reports to those that you can logically work out, and then take account of which tasks the reports identify as having weak performance, you can see which ones it would be a good idea to spend more time on.

Advanced Synoptic Part 1

Task 1.1

This task assesses the understanding of the relevance of the ethical code, of how to act ethically in a given situation, and of reporting unprofessional behaviour.

Students performed well and showed good understanding, with over 87% of students achieving the minimum requirement. On average, students took less than 10 minutes to complete this task.

Recommended reading:

Task 1.2

This task assesses the accounting knowledge of how to prepare accounting records and respond to errors, omissions and other concerns, in accordance with accounting and ethical principles and relevant regulations.

Students performed well, demonstrating a good understanding of the topics. Over 70% of students achieved the minimum requirement. This task was completed in an average of 12 minutes but the notional time allocated to this task is 25 minutes.

It would have been a good use of time for students to read the questions carefully and answer the question asked.

Recommended reading:

Task 1.3

This task assesses the knowledge of the application of ethical and accounting principles when preparing final accounts for different types of organisation, how to develop ethical courses of action, and how to communicate relevant information effectively. This is an open response task and requires students to type in their own responses.

On average, students took approximately 35 minutes to complete this task, which is perhaps an indication that some students found it time-consuming to articulate their answers clearly in order to cover each point. This was reflected in the fact that just over 40% of students achieved the minimum requirement on this task.

Recommended reading:

In summary

It’s interesting that task performance declines as part 1 progresses and that it’s the written task that takes the longest, on average, to complete yet still shows the weakest performance. 

Careful time management and practice of written answers is therefore of key importance. 

The above articles should help your understanding of the concepts you might be asked about but the following articles could help with your actual written work:

Recommended reading:

Advanced Synoptic Assessment part 2

Task 2.1

This task assesses the ability to use relevant spreadsheet skills to analyse, interpret and report management accounting data.

Students take an average of 47 minutes – seven minutes more than the notional time allocated and only 58% of students achieved the minimum requirement.

Task 2.2

This task assesses the ability to prepare financial accounting information, comprising extended trial balances and final accounts for sole traders and partnerships using spreadsheets.

Students seemed to find this task challenging, as only 50% of students achieved the minimum requirement and nearly 20% of students were significantly below the minimum requirement.

Students spent an average of 45 minutes on this task, which would indicate that they would benefit from spending more time on this in relation to Task 2.1.

The issue with part 2 of the Advanced Synoptic (AVSY) appears to be the fact that we have to use spreadsheets to perform accounting tasks and the combination increases the difficulty. 

The pass rate for Management Accounting: Costing is higher than the rates for the financial accounting units, so it’s not surprising that task 2.2 is generally found to be more challenging than 2.1. 

You can use all the links in part 1 and part 2 of this series to help with part 2 of AVSY but the following series was specifically written to support the synoptic assessment:

Please note that the series was initially published when AVSY included elements of indirect tax and had six tasks. You should also be aware that all of the articles cover different spreadsheet skills and include an Excel file that you can download and work through. 

For maximum effectiveness, I suggest you read the examiner’s report alongside the series.

My finally reading recommendations are:

In summary

Good luck with your Advanced level studies, now you are forearmed with information about each assessment, I hope you’ll use that to your advantage!

*  You have 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete section 2 but 15 of those 105 minutes are for uploading your work.

Read more on studying AAT:

Gill Myers is a self-employed accounts consultant. She has taught AAT qualifications since 2005 and written numerous articles and e-learning resources.

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