ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

Will candidates have to know the organisational configurations proposed by Mintzberg?

Yes, these are in the Study Guide (section C1e). Questions may be set where there is a mismatch between organisational structures, processes and relationships and Mintzberg's stereotypical configurations might be a useful way of structuring an answer.

Mintzberg has diagrams to represent each of his stereotypes. There is no need to learn these diagrams.

Will candidates be asked to apply appropriate models of their choice to their answers or will they be asked to apply particular models specified in the question?

Either type of question is possible but questions which ask candidates to apply an appropriate model of their choice will predominate. Only models and frameworks defined in the Study Guide will be referenced in questions.

Where scenario questions are set and the requirements are quite broad, are markers encouraged to be flexible in their marking to reflect the diversity of approaches taken by candidates?

Every effort is made to avoid scenarios being culture specific. However, there are few truly global scenarios, which have the same relevance to all audiences.

Markers are thus encouraged to be flexible in their marking to take this into account – marks are awarded for the quality of argument and justification and a logical presentation.

Should candidates make reference in their answers to underlying theory?

Most candidates make reference to underlying theory in their answers and credit is given for this.

In some cases there are a number of theories which could be used to explain the approach. In this case, candidates would not be expected to fully expand on each theory but give answers that indicate their breadth of knowledge.

These are not always fully expanded in the model answer, which is intended to be indicative rather than exhaustive. Markers are encouraged to use their professional judgment and take a flexible approach when awarding marks in this context.

How should candidates use real-world examples in their answers?

Candidates need to explain the assumption(s) which they are making about the scenario and then explain why the example they have chosen is a good analogy and helps to support their answer.

Some good candidates who have English as a second language have repeatedly failed P3. Why is this?

P3 poses challenges for some students but not necessarily because English is their second language.

Students with English as a second language should use some of the 15 minutes' reading time making sure they understand the questions. There are also particular exam techniques which could help them, for example producing tables or using bullet points where appropriate.

We have reduced the word counts required in scenario questions to help students with English as a second language. We are also making more use of tables and figures which reduce the need to include quite so much text.

It was disappointing that better use was not made of these tables by students taking P3 in the last few sittings. All numbers and text are supplied for a purpose and candidates should try to use all of them.

Some of the syllabus areas covered in the study texts refer to a number of underlying theories - do candidates have to know them all in detail?

Many of the references in the study texts are useful to provide breadth, to maintain interest and to aid understanding. However, candidates will not have to know or use them all.

The advice is to concentrate on the theories quoted in the study guide as questions requiring detailed knowledge of theories will be based on these.


Some candidates will be sitting P3, not having covered strategy, IT and HR in any earlier papers because of exemptions. Will P3 be difficult for those candidates?

Yes, some candidates may find P3 difficult because they have not covered strategy, IT and HR before. Also, for some candidates, this will be the first three-hour, fully discursive style paper that they have ever written in English.

However, candidates are expected to be able to demonstrate the claimed skills and knowledge which earned them their exemption(s).   

How should candidates use their 15 minutes' reading time?

Candidates should spend their 15 minutes' reading time preparing for Part A (Question 1) because our observations have shown that candidates who do this get more marks for this question. Candidates with English as a second language should also use some of the reading time to make sure they understand all of the questions in the paper.

Are candidates expected to read everything on the reading list?

The extensive reading list is provided for study text producers, tuition providers and candidates.

The primary focus for candidates should be the study guide - only topics included in the study guide will be tested during examinations.

What are professional marks given for in P3?

Marks are given for good layout and presentation and the coherence of the answer. Candidates will also be given marks for using an appropriate format - a memo, letter, report or other document - for using a tone of voice appropriate to the audience, for drawing relevant conclusions and making valid recommendations.

As the P3 syllabus has been changed and some areas such as quality and reward management have been removed, are all questions in the pilot and past papers still relevant?

The pilot paper for June 2011 onwards has been amended to include questions on the new examinable topics including the new cost and management accounting and project management areas.

As far as past paper questions are concerned, any questions which focus on quality areas or on reward management are no longer relevant; candidates and learning providers should be aware of this when preparing for exams.

Are decision-trees assumed knowledge?

Yes, decision-trees are covered in F5, Performance Management and the ability to construct and calculate these is assumed knowledge for P3.

P3 will examine decision-trees in the context of analysing and evaluating business alternatives. The candidate will usually be required to interpret a decision-tree or apply the information given to a business scenario or situation.  

Is the Project Initiation Document (PID) still examinable?

Yes, the PID is still examinable as part of the business case. Project management and the evaluation of a project's viability are areas which are more likely to be examined in the revised syllabus.


If a candidate answers a question describing a real-life situation, rather than applying the facts of the case given in the exam, will they get marks?

No, not unless what they write is strictly relevant to the case or scenario actually presented in the question. Candidates should apply the facts of the case given to their answers, not another case or situation from a past paper or from the media.

Wider reading around the topics covered in P3 is encouraged. Additional reading references related to the syllabus are given, but in addition there are regular articles published in the Student Accountant which are relevant and useful.

Articles in the Student Accountant are reviewed and approved by the examiner so they are valuable support material, not to be ignored.

Will case studies be shorter in the future?

Case studies only contain relevant material so the more information there is in the question, the more material is available for use in the answers. However, the examiner is aware of the time pressure faced by P3 candidates so we hope to reduce the length of case studies gradually over time. 

Last updated: 30 Apr 2014