Many years ago I was involved as a marker and occasional question setter for the ICAEW Elements of Financial Decisions (final level). There was a lengthy debate about the appropriate standard and it was decided by the examiners that 2nd year undergraduate was about right. Now, most accounting bodies try to convince onlookers that their final level is of masters standard or M level. That is what the ACCA told me was the standard they expected. So the question I put is this. Have the professional papers really advanced that much or have degree standards deflated to the extent that a masters student of 2009 is only the equivalent of a 2nd year undergrad from 1975? So I thought I would do a little research.
Facts are always more interesting than fiction so I took two questions from the P4 June 09 and December 08 papers and reworked them so as to avoid any complaints about copyright. I then administered the questions to students at a 'good' UK university who were in their 2nd year of an accounting and finance degree. Both questions had identical academic 'payload' to those set in the professional examination but each had an additional 'discussion' sections where students were required to reflect on their answers. The two questions were chosen as they were labelled 'unfair' and 'unreasonable' by the many commentators on P4.
The students had all been given some introductory classes in finance in their first year and had completed approximately 6 weeks of their first term in the 2nd year. They had covered in outline the general approach to the solution of the questions but had not attempted a specific question in the area concerned. The result?
Over 80% of the students completed the questions without difficulty in approximately the time set for the questions in the original P4 papers. Their written answers were in the top quartile of performance using the normal professional marking scheme. Over 100 students were involved.
I leave you dear bloggees to come to your own conclusions.