Changes to APM question requirements

From September 2019 onwards, the format of the question requirements in Section A of the Advanced Performance Management (APM) exam will change.

Throughout this brief article, examples from the APM Specimen exam applicable from September 2019 are used.

As can be seen in Figure 1, there will still be a need for candidates to produce a report for the board or chief executive officer (CEO) of the company in the question but it will direct candidates to respond to instructions for work on a number of specific areas. In this illustration the areas of work are the four question parts (denoted by roman numerals), which have a corresponding number of marks allocated to them.

In order to determine what the instructions are for each of these areas, candidates will need to engage with the question scenario. Each question part will relate to one or more headed paragraphs/appendices in the question scenario. It will be clear from the question scenario which paragraphs are relevant to the question part, as the paragraph heading will include corresponding key phrases. In Figure 2 the question scenario is headed up ‘Economic value added (EVA™)’ which clearly relates to question part (i).

Question part (i) asks for a response to the CEO’s instruction for work on ‘the use of economic value added (EVA™) as the key performance metric at IC’. So what are the instructions?

The vital information for this part of the question has been highlighted in Figure 3. In summary, an EVA™ calculation has been done but the CEO wants an evaluation of the accuracy of the calculation and the assumptions it is based upon. The CEO also wants advice on the results with revised calculations as needed. This paragraph of information also refers to Appendix 1 which contains the current EVA™ calculation, so this is also relevant when answering question part (i). This is format is known as embedded requirements.

When identifying these embedded requirements it is important to note how many activities are being asked for. In this example, the following work is required:

  • Evaluation of the accuracy of the calculation with a revised calculation
  • Evaluation of the assumptions which the calculation has been based on
  • Advice on the results of the revised calculation – ie what is the revised EVA™ figure saying about company performance

Taking another example in Figure 4, it is clear that this paragraph headed up ‘Improvement projects’ clearly relates to question part (iii). In this paragraph there is information about three improvement projects and the instructions from the CEO on this area have been highlighted. As in the example before, there are several activities required:

  • Explanation of the three improvement projects
  • Advice on how the three improvement projects will help to meet the CSFs at IC
  • Advice on how the three improvement projects will impact on the existing three KPIs.

When noting these instructions, it can be seen that these three activities need to be done for each of the improvement projects. The first piece of work is a straightforward knowledge request, but the second and third pieces of work require information located in another paragraph titled ‘Critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs), which contains information relevant to question part (ii) also.

What to do now

Practise using the question requirements and question scenario in this way to become familiar with the use of embedded requirements. Ensure that all activities being asked for, by either the board or CEO, are broken down and highlighted. This will ensure that all aspects of the instructions are being addressed by candidates in their report and will maximise the opportunity to score marks.