The good, the bad and the ugly – Controls and Systems

What are your final preparations for the AA exam?

An area of focus should be the controls and systems syllabus. We know this will be in Section B at the very least. However, the examiners approach to this question has evolved. We have to be prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly!

The Good

Our more traditional approach has always been to identify and explain deficiencies and recommend controls which address the gap in the scenario.

These are usually well answered questions. Students often find identifying these deficiencies relatively easier than some of the other syllabus areas.

The issue with this area is to remember to explain WHY it is a deficiency. To copy from the scenario is only 1/2 a mark. The other 1/2 will come from explaining the impact this deficiency could have if it is not addressed by the client.

The Bad

There has been a noticeable shift recently in the examiner regularly asking for candidates to identify and explain key controls in a system and then provide a test of control that the auditor would carry out to identify if the control is effective.

This is much less enjoyable. Finding key controls (those controls that significantly reduce the risk of error and fraud) appears to be more challenging, but the bigger problem is designing decent control tests.

Control tests aim to identify whether the controls within a system are effective. Do they work? It is practical. It requires you to be in the auditors shoes. Remember these need to be clear instructions for the task that needs to be carried out by the audit team.

The Ugly

This question is special. The examiner has asked candidates to not only identify deficiencies and recommend controls BUT to also identify key controls and design control tests in the same scenario. A strong coffee is needed!

The approach would be to tackle each requirement one at a time. I personally find that finding the deficiencies first helps. Then, I can go to the key control requirement and run through the scenario again. It is more familiar now so I can see the areas of the system that appear to be effective.

My advice is to be prepared for any of these styles. The most recent papers showcase them all, so preparation from past exam questions is once again critical for success. Make sure you are using this time to reduce the risk of surprises in the exam. Your confidence and score will both benefit from this.

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