From December 2014, the F4 exam will move from the current three-hour written paper to a two-hour CBE paper. It will be divided into two sections. Section A will be worth 70 marks and contain a mixture of 20 one-mark and 25 two-mark questions. The examiner stresses that the questions in this section will be randomised. That means students will have to recognise the area of the law they are dealing with if they are to answer the question correctly. The examiner has also emphasised that the whole of the syllabus can be tested in these 45 questions.
F4 sitters will have to select the correct answer from a list of answers. Remember, there can only be one correct answer to each question. Mark allocation will depend on the complexity of the question. The examiner points out that section A lends itself to computer based marking and will help conversion to CB exams when the ACCA move to this phase.
Section B will contain five six-mark multi-task questions (MTQs). In effect, this replicates the three analysis/application questions at the end of the old-style exam paper. The tasks will relate to a scenario provided in the paper.
The ACCA said that the new F4 structure is a major change, but what is examined has changed very little.
The exam itself does not aim to make candidates into lawyers. Accountants must, however, be aware of the legal framework within which their legal professionals operate.
The examiner pointed out recently that the stated aims of the F4 (ENG) syllabus remain:
- Identifying the essential elements of the legal system, including the main sources of law (it is felt that candidates must have a minimum understanding of the legal framework in order to understand the operation of the substantive law. Now that the Human Rights Act 1998 has bedded into English law it has been decided not to examine it as a substantive topic, although it may arise in consideration of specific aspects of law).
- Recognising and applying the appropriate legal rules relating to the law of obligations (both contractual and tortious). These are essential legal relationships that people generally enter into, but accountants in particular must be aware of the issues raised. Negligence is felt essential as it is the basis for understanding professional negligence. It should be noted that in terms of tort law attention will be focused on the essential business-centred torts of passing off and negligence and others, such as personal torts of nuisance and trespass, have been removed from the syllabus.
- Explaining and applying the law relating to employment relationships. This is an important and popular element of the syllabus.
- Distinguishing between alternative forms and constitutions of business organisations.
- Recognising and comparing types of capital and the financing of companies.
- Describing and explaining how companies are managed, administered and regulated.
- Recognising the legal implications relating to insolvency law.
- Demonstrating an understanding of various criminal offences that may arise in the operation of businesses. This latter aspect of the syllabus was enhanced by the necessary introduction of the law relating to bribery but, in recognition of the fact that the syllabus cannot just be allowed to grow, it was decided to remove corporate governance from the F4 syllabus. This subject is now dealt with in F8 and P1.