As the OBU Forum moderator I have answered some of the most frequently asked questions here and an OBU marker for the BSc (Hons) degree in Applied Accounting has added a few relevant comments. We hope that all this will really help students coming to our OBU forums!
How long does it take to complete the RAP?
This depends to a certain extent how much time you have and the grade you want! As a general guideline I suggest 3 months should be sufficient to do a good RAP if you work steadily at it during that time. There is normally a correlation between time spent and quality, so if you want a decent grade, do not try to do it in a hurry! Reviewing your work objectively as you go along and making the necessary revisions if required, is another way of improving your RAP and again this needs to be built into the timetable. Students who do the whole RAP in 4-6 weeks are very unlikely to get more than a C grade. (Trephena)
What evidence must I produce of my ability in English as it is not my first language?
This is administered by ACCA not OBU. Details of the qualifications that meet Oxford Brookes University’s proof of English proficiency can be found in the links below:
Remember that the real proof of proficiency in English will actually be demonstrated in the RAP itself. Although we make great efforts to mark fairly regardless of a student’s first language, we do need to understand the important concepts and ideas in both the report and the SLS. If we can’t then we may have to fail on Communication in the assessment criteria, although we make some allowances for grammar and other mistakes. (OBU Marker)
How do I go about choosing a suitable topic?
I always think that students should choose a topic and organisation that interests them (and as it their work, it should be their choice rather than their mentor’s!). However there are certain principles that MUST be borne in mind right at the beginning so that you do not waste time and then discover that you will not have sufficient information to do a good analysis.
Does your topic require primary data and will you have adequate access to this primary information? Or will you be able to conduct primary research if relevant (which it is normally the case for Topic 6 for example)? (Please also see the FAQs below relating to primary and secondary data for further explanations). Many topics require inside information or access to confidential information – so you must establish and get permission that you may use this information before you start (otherwise you may be in breach of your employment contract).
You must be able to use a model and apply it (to fulfil the assessment criteria) so you should give some thought to an appropriate model for your topic and its application.
Most importantly you should also consider how you may be able to evaluate your information objectively. Unfortunately a significant amount of RAPs on Topic 11, 13 and 16 fail because the student has done some excellent research and described what the situation is, but has not applied any original analysis of their own (see below). Remember you have to use your information not just state it – otherwise you are only demonstrating research skills. (Trephena)
I’ve read that lack of ‘Evaluation and Analysis’ is a very common cause of failure, so how do I avoid this?
Unfortunately, yes this is probably the most frequent reason why students fail. The ‘clever bit’ of the RAP is the evaluation & analysis section (Part 3) – as it demonstrates what you yourself are capable of in terms of using the data and information sources.
This is an extract from the Information pack that I think is useful in this respect:
“In order to produce a successful RAP you have to evaluate and / or analyse information from a range of sources. This means creating some meaning of what you have found, or making a judgement or coming to a conclusion. If you only report the information that you have found or generated, you will not pass the RAP. The ability to evaluate and / or analyse information is a very important graduate attribute and the grade that you are awarded for your RAP will be significantly influenced by ‘how well’ you demonstrate your evaluative and / or analytical skills in your RAP.”
Many students overlook the fact that RAP stands for ‘Research & ANALYSIS Project’ so you need to appreciate BOTH aspects and demonstrate analytical skills. They also forget that someone has to read, follow and mark their work – throwing lots of figures at the marker and reciting the annual report extracts without any meaningful comments is not going to get a pass. Please also see the article by Al Neilson (OBU Senior marker for the BSc degree and Moderator) section (e) p32-35 of the Information Pack as this gives some insight into how to address evaluation correctly. (OBU marker)
I read something in the Information Pack about Primary and Secondary data, what is this?
Primary data is normally data that you yourself have collected specifically for your research (and may include data from a survey, interviewing key personnel and by observation), whereas secondary data has been collected by someone else but you may use it to help you in your research.
There is no requirement to conduct primary research for some topics (see below) although in selecting your topic and organisation and setting your objectives you must consider whether or not you will need some primary information. Primary data in the form of a questionnaire will normally be necessary for Topics 6, 13 & possibly also Topic 12 and Topics 2 and 9 (unfortunately there can be no hard and fast rules on this as it depends on exactly what other information may be available).
Primary data from interviewing and observation may be necessary in some form to do an objective analysis for many other topics. However with Topics 5, 8, 15, 17 and 20, secondary data only will suffice and normally too for Topic 18 (although a questionnaire in the context of marketing objectives can occasionally be relevant depending on what other information is available but most Topic 18 reports do not need one). (Trephena)
If you need to conduct research to obtain primary data then you are recommended to consult section 7 of the Information Pack which discusses Information gathering and in particular, read the extract from an article produced by Phil Clarke (OBU BSc Senior marker and Moderator) on pp 36-38. Many students fail to incorporate the principles of a good design approach in their questionnaires or set out the precise manner in which they have conducted their research. This can lead to failure in both ‘Application’ and ‘Evaluation’ as if the research principles are not adhered to, the reliability of the results may not be valid and allow proper conclusions to be drawn from it. (OBU marker)
I do not work and therefore do not have access to primary information so which topics do not require any primary data at all, and might be suitable for me?
Topics that only need secondary data (in numerical order) are:
8. An analysis and evaluation of the business and financial performance of an organisation over a three year period
15. An analysis and evaluation of the management of an organisation’s working capital over a three year period and its impact on the organisation’s funding strategies
17. An assessment of the quality of the corporate governance within an organisation and the impact on an organisation’s key stakeholders
18. A review of the marketing strategy of an organisation and its effectiveness
20. An assessment of an organisation’s corporate social responsibility policies, including business ethics, and their impact on business practice and key stakeholders
Topic 5 ‘An evaluation of the use of short term and long term Islamic financial instruments and their impact on the financial statements of an organisation’ may also be suitable if you already have some understanding of the principles underlying Islamic banking. (Trephena)
Can I change the topic title slightly?
No, you need to tailor your RAP to the exact topic title because that is how it will be assessed. For example if it is Topic 18 ‘A review of the marketing strategy of an organisation and its effectiveness’ this is precisely what your research and analysis should be uncovering and evaluating. Producing a RAP that is in effect ‘Comparing company X’s marketing strategy with Company Y’s’ is not what you were asked to do (Trephena)
Exam markers often comment that students answer the question that they wish the examiner had set and not the one that was actually set, and trying to change the title falls into the same type of category and will probably fail (OBU Marker)
Why do I need a comparator company for some topics?
If you haven’t already done so, first read section (e) pp34-35 of the P29-30 Information Pack where Al Neilson’s, a senior OBU moderator, explains WHY you need to be able to make comparisons to make your evaluation valid.
Then read my post to a student on the Forum ‘Business Analysis/ OBU Topic 8: Competitor for ratio analysis’ April 26, 2014 where I explain the relevance of this in detail
If comparator analysis is relevant and compulsory for your topic (e.g. Topic 8) and there is insufficient comparator analysis you will fail on the assessment criteria (‘Evaluation of information , analysis and conclusions’ and possibly also ‘Application of accountancy /business models’). In my experience comparator analysis may often enhance evaluation for Topic 15 so is advised. It seems to complement Topics 17 and 20 too so it is also recommended for those topics, so essentially as a general rule – apart from Topic 18 – where you are using secondary data it should be used, as comparator analysis may strengthen the evaluation. (Trephena)
What is included in the current word count limits?
The current word count has been extended from 6,500 to 7,500 words but now includes everything from the Title page to the end of the Conclusions The Reference list should be maintained as a separate file (required for submission anyway) as this then should make it easy for students to check the total word count for themselves.
The SLS word count is 2,000 words and although the answer to Q1 normally warrants more words than the others answers, there should not be a complete imbalance otherwise it may mean that there is insufficient self-reflection elsewhere. (Trephena)
Please note that the word count breakdown between sections is a general guide and you will not be penalised if you allocate your words differently. However you should aim not to exceed the word count of 7,500 as OBU reserves the right to fail on excessive word count (OBU marker)
I’m worried about plagiarism, how can I avoid it?
The short answer on how to avoid it is to do all of your work yourself! Reference well and try not to ‘copy and paste’ too many items into your work – paraphrase and summarise and if you do make citations, keep them short and use quotation marks as well as a reference. (Trephena)
There are two main types of plagiarism – the first tends to be accidental – the student does not appreciate the importance of referencing and forgets to reference fully or so much of their report is taken word for word from a source that it compromises the standard of their work. The second type of plagiarism is deliberate – a student has copied or colluded and they present work that they know is not their own. As experienced markers we can usually discern the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Plagiarism. With the first type of plagiarism we tend to fail the work on Referencing as it constitutes bad academic practice and poor scholarship, however the marking team and the Academic Conduct Office (ACO) take a dim view of the second type as its purpose is to gain the degree by unfair means. We will always refer work for a second opinion if we suspect cheating. The ACO has no hesitation in informing ACCA of cases of cheating as it is a breach of professional ethics and if a mentor has assisted with the cheating and has colluded, we recommend disciplinary action against the mentor too and have the full support of ACCA on this. (OBU marker)
I read there are no right or wrong answers for the SLS – so why has my SLS failed?
The SLS is all about you – the Information Pack tells you what is meant by self-reflection (see pages 46-48 of the Period 29 & 30 Pack). “When you plan your project research work you should also plan to collect evidence to contribute to your Skills and Learning Statement, so that some of your self-reflection will ‘fall out’ of the activities undertaken for your Research Report.” I therefore always recommend that students start their SLS in draft at the beginning rather than trying to remember all of the things that happened at the end. You may use and cite the help you derived from our forums as part of your evidence of how you learned correct approaches etc. (Trephena)
In many cases students list out what they did but do not reflect upon why they took a particular course of action. With Q2 we don’t just want to know what went well, we are also interested in the challenges you met in coping with producing the RAP. When you address all 4 questions try to tell us HOW you feel you learned something from doing your work and how this may help you in future. There are no set answers as everything is dependent on the individual student and their experience however if a student does not do sufficient self-reflection like this as they have not fulfilled the assessment criteria, then we have no alternative but to fail them on Self-reflection. (OBU marker)
How important is it that I include graphs and bar charts in my Report and Presentation?
Very important for a number of reasons. Students often do not appreciate how useful graphs and charts and other graphical depictions are in communicating information effectively (see Top Tops for the RAP at the top of our Forum where Bassanio Broke and I discuss how these can be used to best effect). A picture really does tell a thousand words (well almost!) They are really useful too to save on the word count and break up the text. (Trephena)
It is much easier to see a relationship in the trends and ratios if a student uses graphics such as pie charts, bar charts, diagrams and graphs as they can depict complex situations and relationships far better than a whole paragraph of text. Just about every topic contains some numerical data that can benefit from being presented in this way rather than in written text – and although we have tried to get this message across it still seems to fall on some deaf ears…. There are two relevant assessment criteria that apply here – presentation of the project findings in the report and the PowerPoint Presentation. If a student has not used graphs and charts etc. I am inclined to fail them either on one or both sections as the work usually has not demonstrated effective presentation of the findings. There is nothing more daunting than seeing a RAP that contains hundreds of written figures and knowing there are much better ways the student could have shown this data. (OBU marker)
Why do I need a mentor and how do I find one?
A mentor is required to verify that the work you have done is your own. You are also required to do a PowerPoint presentation to your mentor. For these reasons you MUST have a mentor who is capable of certifying that the work you have submitted is your own.
You are recommended to select a mentor who has done the OBU online mentoring course and is on the OBU mentor list (meaning they have successfully completed the course but does not represent a particular recommendation or endorsement from OBU by the way). See the Information Pack for how to find an OBU trained and listed mentor. (Trephena)
The new online mentoring course was successfully launched in February. Although it had been intended to make having a registered mentor mandatory for P30 this has now been pushed back to P31. Although having an OBU listed Mentor is advised for P30 the old rules will still apply in May and therefore you will still be able to use any mentor who meets the requirements – see our information on Mentoring by accessing our homepage (OBU marker)
What happens if I fail ?
You have 3 attempts to be successful. Unless you change your topic and / or company any sections passed will be carried forward to your next submission. So for example if you pass the SLS and Presentation you will only have to resubmit your RAP report. You will be supplied with a mark-sheet which sets out the elements where you failed to meet the assessment criteria and should also outline any areas where you made errors or omissions. This information should help you to prepare for a successful resubmission. Please see my article on how to use your Resubmission Statement for a successful resubmission (Trephena)
My RAP has been failed, so can I appeal?
“You may not appeal against the academic judgment of an examiner. You may request a review of the decision to award a particular grade to your Research and Analysis Project. However disagreement with the academic judgment of an examiner is not grounds for such a review, which would normally only consider whether the assessment has been conducted in accordance with the RAP regulations. Further details of the regulations can be viewed on the Oxford Brookes University website” OBU Information Pack 2014-2015
OBU has adopted a very robust system of marking. The marking team for the BSc in Applied Accounting RAP is made up of experienced markers most of whom have marked thousands of projects. Every single RAP that is failed is reviewed by a moderator who is a senior marker (with at least 5 years RAP marking experience) who checks all of the assessment criteria. In cases where they consider that the work has been incorrectly assessed, it will be changed and passed to a senior moderator (10+ years RAP experience) for a final decision. Where occasionally a new marker joins the team, their assessment work will be heavily scrutinised by moderators to ensure that they are applying the assessment criteria consistently and fairly. Whilst a student may believe that they have grounds for appeal they are advised to fully familiarise themselves with the appeals process as in view of the rigorous system in place, very few appeals are normally successful. (OBU marker)
We have tried to answer as many important relevant questions here but many other FAQs, particularly relating to administrative procedures are included on the OBU website so please look there. Please read the latest Information Pack for any items which we haven’t covered here.
You can also use OpenTuition forum search facility to search there for answers to more specific queries.