Home For AAT student members AQ 2016 Professional Diploma in Accounting Synoptic assessment - Professional
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Synoptic exam help

I have failed the synoptic exam 4 times (first attempt 60%, second 60%, third 57% and fourth 63%). On my last attempt I felt more confident compared to previous attempts but I got mostly borderline results. I have been doing practice papers and have been using Osborne, Kaplan and BPP books. Is there any tips on how to study for this exam? I was thinking of buying the First intuition study pack. Has anyone else used this and found this useful? Any advice will be appreciated.

I have passed my other exams. Synoptic is the last one I need to finish.


  • Pian32Pian32 Registered Posts: 144
    So I'm assuming you'll be familiar with the exam structure. Below is the order I used and any tips. I do feel that the test is split along odd and even tasks. You want to go in feeling very happy with Tasks 1,3 and 5 as they should be fairly quick questions. This will also give you plenty of time for Tasks 2,4 and 6.

    Task 1 is the general accounting concepts with what goes where and ethics. For this I'd go over how the different ledgers interact and what errors you can find with them.

    Task 5: Ratios Learn how they interact and how to reverse the equations this will mean when questions give what if scenarios you should be able to resolve it easier.

    Task 3: Find 5 weaknesses, read the text through and note down if you have the same person doing lots what checks are missing etc. (Don't write anything to start except on scrap) Any little thing that might be missing could count. Once you have read through pick the 5 best and explain why it's bad for the business, fraud, slow receipts or payments etc. If you don't have 5 don't panic Have another read and you might spot something new. Keep in mind the pre release material as it might mean something slightly obscure is a weakness due to the conditions in the business.

    Task 6: 2 Options here make sure you're happy with how to layout a Cost Benefit Analysis as this seems to trip people up. You might also get a SWOT question. In both cases read the question carefully you'll either want to note down the relevant costs for a CBA or the relevant SWOT information. Where possible link any longer answers to the pre release information.

    Task 4: The decision task I think this is the most open task from what I've seen. Again scrap paper is your friend, list all costs and income and then identify which are relevant. If it's an opinion based question then list the assumption raised and the strengths/weaknesses of those assumptions. Again link all things to the pre release. Add any calculations that back up your decision.

    Task 2: Budgets. What type of budget do you have? Is there a better one that could have been used? Have bad assumptions been used? Back up any answer with example calculations.

    I hope some of this helps. This is what was going through my mind when I did this exam, Reference the pre release in the written sections and make use of scrap paper to structure your answers and help avoid missing things.
    AAT Level 4, MAAT
  • libbynewcombexxlibbynewcombexx Registered Posts: 2
    Hi Pian, thank you for your advice and tips. I need to work on referencing the pre release material. I think is one of the areas I need to work on and do more of. I have tried to reference the pre release material when I can but I haven’t referenced it enough. Also I haven’t answered the questions in a particular order, which left me with little to no time to go back through and check my answers.

    Thank you for your help, it is very appreciated.
  • CornishPixieCornishPixie Registered, MAAT, AATQB, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 116
    Hi Libby. Always get the easier questions out of the way first or the difficult ones will eat into your valuable time. I took 4 goes at this one so know how frustrating it can be.

  • Pian32Pian32 Registered Posts: 144
    Doing it as 1-5-3-6-4-2 worked for me it meant the computer marked single answer/fill in the table type questions are done and out of the way and means if you get bogged down on a question you've had time to do get the easier marks without feeling rushed. For the rest set a time limit questions 2+4 will proabably take the longest but stick to your timer to make sure you've had time to properly approach each question.
    AAT Level 4, MAAT
  • Emmalouise18Emmalouise18 Registered Posts: 158
    I am so sorry to hear you are struggling with Synoptic. It is a horrible exam and such a different style of learning.

    I passed this last week (second attempt) with 77% which I never thought id pass. I had visions of me taking 6,7,8 times to pass.

    I had Rubydale as the pre-release material. I have attached some notes below, made on Rubydale about the company, background, SWOT and ratios etc to read through.

    Fashion Business
    Fast-moving environment, heavily influenced on consumer disposable income and economic conditions
    Economic uncertainty in the UK and Europe caused by political events. 42% of sales are generated by the UK (with its economic uncertainty, not good). The fast-growing business also leads to mistakes in the internal control system. May need to review/renew policies.

    The company is committed to corporate and social responsibility, yet an opportunity of outsourcing products overseas was suggested by the FD (Joshua Edeki). The triple bottom line needs to be considered, adverse environmental impact, and maybe the quality of the product. The Directors are also shareholders, so maybe Joshua is thinking more about the profits of the company rather than the commitment to corporate social responsibilities. Maybe a bias SWOT analysis.

    Rolling budget would probably be best for this company because of the fast-paced environment of fashion
    The organisational chart for the employees has ample opportunity for segregation of duties within the accounting and internal control system. (Credit controller, accounts payable, accounts rec, general accs and cashier, payroll) - 5 subdepartments?

    Another problem with the SWOT analysis (sorry I have done a lot on this haha) is the opportunity to float on the stock market. It will dilute the shareholding of Ruby Dale and Jack Carey, meaning loss of voting control. Increase pressure from investors to generate profit. Ruby's morals (of triple bottom line) may go out of the window.

    I have worked out all of the ratios too, and the following is what i gathered
    Gross Profit
    Operating profit
    Profitable company, high GP but lower OP in comparison, due to high costs?

    Current ratio
    Quick ratio
    Inv holding days
    Receivable period
    Payable period
    Working capital cycle
    Sufficient current assets to cover the current liabilities. Even when taking out the inventory, the liabilities are still covered. Current assets are mainly made up of inv and trade receivables. Maybe obsolete inv and credit control issues?
    Payables are quite high if the standard is 30 days. Need to see what terms are offered. Maybe cash flow issues and maybe overtrading?
    Working capital is long for this industry. both long inv time and payable time - can't use suppliers as a form of finance

    Financial risk
    Interest cover
    Lower financial risk. lots of opportunities to take out further long term borrowing as the gearing is low at present. May interest potential share investors. Banks would be happy to loan more out with the good finance cover

    I personally went back to budgeting mocks and practiced the budgeting written questions because this is a large part of the exam. The exam is also heavily based decision and control so I went back and practiced decision and control mocks. I bought a BPP Decision & Control Question Bank and also a BPP Professional Diploma in Synoptic Assessment book which was a great help. There is hundreds of questions all different types to give you variation.

    I revised every night Monday to Friday for 3 hours, all day Saturday (6-7 hours) and all day Sunday (6-7 hours) as well.

    I did little cards with all ratios on and practiced them. I also did cards with each different type of budget (topdown, bottoms up etc) and the pros and cons of each budget.

    Any more help please let me know :) Good luck! You will smash it next time
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