1. Practising past examination questions
Question practice is absolutely vital for exam success, so you should prepare a revision plan which includes key past examination questions on each topic.
You can download an analysis of past P5 exam topics from here>>
For each question you should allow sufficient time to answer the question (90 minutes for a Section A question and 45 minutes for a Section B question) and equivalent time to debrief your answer.
To debrief your answer, use both the solution and the examiner report for that question. Focus on any points that you missed or misunderstood. The examiner report is crucial as it is likely that you made similar mistakes to those referred to in the report and so you can learn how to improve your future reading of requirements and subsequent answers,
Do not rush through this debrief process as it will aid your understanding and technique.
Here are two extracts from past questions, some guidance on how to approach the answer and the associated examiner reports extracts.
Example 1: (Taken from Q1 December 2014)
Q1(ii) Briefly justify appropriate management approaches to each of the stakeholders and, based on this analysis, evaluate the appropriateness of the performance measures suggested in Appendix 1. (14 marks)
The stakeholder analysis has already been done in the scenario and so you are expected to use this analysis to justify a management approach for each. An evaluation of the performance measures requires you then to say what is good and what is bad about those measures in relation to the stakeholder analysis.
What a lot of students actually did was re-do the stakeholder analysis which was not asked for, and instead of evaluating the performance measures in Appendix 1 they produced a list of new ones. Students may have thought that they had answered the question as they had recognised the application of Mendelow’s matrix when in fact they had not. It is only through a detailed and critical analysis of an answer that this incorrect approach would be identified.
Extract from examiner report:
Many candidates chose to rework the analysis of interest and power stating whether or not they agreed with it, which wasted time when the focus of the answer needed to be on suitable management approaches. The discussions of the five performance measures tended to be general rather than specific to the issues at Boltzman and the stakeholder analysis.
Example 2: (Taken from Q1 June 2014)
Q1(i) Evaluate the current performance report in Appendix 1. (15 marks)
This requirement was asking for an evaluation of what was good and what was poor about the performance report. It was not asking for an evaluation of performance. The examiner report identified this issue and also gave other important advice which you would miss if these reports are not used in your examination preparation.
Extract from examiner report:
There were a number of candidates who provided an irrelevant evaluation of the performance of Cantor. Those that attempted the question asked scored most of the marks associated with such reports in general (e.g. data overload, rounding numbers, lack of narrative). However, fewer scored the marks that were present for appreciating the scenario surrounding Cantor. It was especially surprising that despite comments in previous examiner’s reports, candidates still seem reluctant to use the mission/strategy of the business to evaluate the report.
2. Approaching the P5 examination
Think about how to use your reading time.
For the compulsory Section A question read all the requirements first. This will allow you to be more efficient when reading the scenario as you will pick out which elements of the scenario/appendices are needed for the individual requirements.
When reading through the scenario, mark up against the paragraphs/appendices which requirement they relate to.
If the scenario tells you that the CEO/Board etc. has instructed you to do something you should highlight this as these instructions will be the foundation of the requirements.
For Section B read the requirements first. This will give you an indication of the topics being examined in the optional questions and whether they are topics which you are comfortable with. This will help give you an idea of which two questions to pick as there is no point reading through a whole scenario if you don’t understand the requirements or if the requirements are asking about a syllabus area you don’t know well.
When answering the requirements there is no rule that says they must be answered in the order set. Look at the requirements and answer the parts you know well first. If you take this approach to Section A, which will usually require a report format, use headings/sub-headings to structure your response and ensure that your introduction to the report follows the flow of your answer. This is good exam technique.
Manage your time. Try not to overrun on Section A. Look at how you can structure your answers to be more succinct and answer the requirement being asked, instead of including a lot of superfluous information which wastes valuable exam time.
It is definitely worth watching the P5 video from ACCA’s technical adviser to help you in your preparation
3. Reading the examination requirements
Close reading of requirements is an essential skill.
You should aim to identify the verb, which area of the syllabus is being examined (the key theory) and how you are expected to apply the syllabus area.
The structure of the requirement can also help you to identify how you should structure your answer.
Look at the marks available as well as this should give an indication of how much you are expected to write.
Example 3: (Taken from Q1 from the sample questions from September 2016/December 2016)
Q1(ii) For each of the three critical success factors at IC, briefly explain a weakness of the current KPI associated with that CSF and then provide a justified KPI. (6 marks)
Verb – explain/justify
Syllabus area – the relationship between CSFs and KPIs
Application – from the scenario identify IC’s three CSFs and their current KPIs
Structure – there are three CSFs so your answer should have a heading for each one. Under each heading explain a weakness of the current KPI and then justify an alternative KPI.
Example 4: (Taken from Q1 from the sample questions from September 2016/December 2016)
Q1(iii) Explain what the three improvement projects are, how they will help to meet the CSFs at IC and comment on the impact of each project on the existing three KPIs. (15 marks)
Verb – explain/comment
Syllabus area – quality initiatives and their impact on CSFs and KPIs
Application – from the scenario identify the three improvement projects and from part (ii) you should already have identified the current CSFs and KPIs
Structure – there are three improvement projects so your answer should have a main heading for each one. Under each main heading there should be three sub-headings which should explain firstly what the improvement project is, secondly how it will help to meet the CSFs and thirdly its impact on the existing KPIs.
4. Application of a model
Many P5 examination questions require the application of a performance management model. Students are particularly good at learning the theory of the models and are able to explain a model’s purpose and structure very well. Issues arise, however, when the model has to be put into context with the scenario.
If a requirement asks for a model to be used, the examining team are expecting that to be the approach to the answer. It is frustrating to have a student explain a model in detail and then subsequently not use it in the rest of their answer.
Example 5: (Taken from Q1 from December 2014)
Q1(i) Explain the facets of the performance prism and discuss how the three initiatives relate to the facets (9 marks)
The first part of the answer should be the explanation of the model but then you are expected to consider how each of the three initiatives proposed by Boltzman tied into the model. It is this latter part that demonstrates the application and understanding of the prism.
Example 6: (Taken from Q3 from the sample questions from September 2016/December 2016)
Q3(a) Advise the board how the six sigma project at Posie to reduce returns from customers could be implemented using DMAIC methodology (15 marks)
Students were able to explain DMAIC methodology which is an appropriate way to begin answering this requirement. The DMAIC method should then have been used to structure the answer otherwise the methodology is not being used to advise the board.
This application of key theories is a crucial skill to passing P5. It is not enough just to know the theory; you need to be able to practically apply it.
There is a useful short video on exam technique which illustrates these points further:
There are also two articles on improving your answers which are very insightful:
5. Assumed knowledge
P5 draws on knowledge from both F5 and P3.
There are two key articles which should be read.