Making the most of ACCA's Advanced Performance Management resources

ACCA produces a wealth of resources designed specifically to support candidates sitting the Advanced Performance Management exam. These resources have been developed to address areas that candidates typically find challenging based on a review of previous exam sittings.

In this article, we hope to be able to help you to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes made by candidates in past exams by directing you to specific resources on the ACCA website, explaining how they should be used and what issues they are designed to address.

Examiner's reports

  • Two examiner’s reports are produced each year, one after the March and June exam sessions and the other after the September and December sessions. These reports focus on areas that candidates did well in and where they could have done better. They refer to specific exam questions taken as examples from the two sittings covered and provide guidance on how you can maximise your chances of passing the exam.
  • You should look at the reports noting specific knowledge areas which caused difficulties as well as areas relating to exam technique.
  • Review the examples below for guidance on how the reports link to specific exam questions.

Example 1: (Taken from Q1 Freuchie, September/December 2021)

Extract from Exhibit 2 and embedded requirement

The CEO is concerned that performance towards this mission and its subsidiary objectives are not being usefully discussed at board meetings. He believes that the fault lies in the board’s performance report for annual strategic review, Therefore, he wants you to do an assessment of the current report …The first part of the assessment should consider the quantitative elements of the report and can include some discussion of improved indicators and also, more generally, should take into account what is best practice for reporting performance.

(18 marks)

Extract from examiner’s report:
  This part of the question was generally quite well done. The examining team hoped this would be the case as the area of performance reporting is one which is examined regularly, and normally through the case study 50-mark question in Section A.

Unfortunately, some candidates undertook an analysis of Freuchie’s performance. Thankfully, the number of candidates responding in this way was relatively few, but it is an incorrect reading of the question, which clearly asks for a consideration of the appropriateness of the report itself.

Further comment:  As the report states, this area is often examined and candidates should be on familiar ground with this sort of question. Clearly, some candidates had not reviewed the previous examiner reports or practised questions to learn what is required.

The requirement does not ask for a review of performance anywhere and candidates providing this are not doing what is required of them. This is a common type of question and indeed a common error which should be avoided.

All of the APM examiner’s reports are available on the ACCA website (see 'Related links').

Technical articles (videos and podcasts)

In addition to the example given here, the technical article 'Improving your APM answers – part 1' (see 'Related links') gives a more detailed analysis relating to what not to do in the exam. A second article, 'Improving your APM answers – part 2' (see 'Related links') provides an example of a candidate answer which would pass the same question as that used in part 1, demonstrating the key points needed to gain sufficient marks to pass, along with a model answer.

To assist you with your learning and revision the technical articles are organised in syllabus order. So you can go to the area that you are currently studying and review the articles on those subjects more easily

You should prioritise the following articles/videos during your studies, all are accessible via the ‘Related Links’:

- Reading the mind of the marker

This article looks at Q1 for the specimen exam produced for the September 2022 session and subsequent exams which will include the new professional skills marks. The marking and comments have been prepared by a member of the examining team for APM to give an insight into what is being looked for in order to score marks.

It shows where and why the marks have been awarded for two responses. One is a good answer, the other requires improvement. The summary of the marks given includes advice on how to improve the poor answer to make it better.

- Reading the question requirements

  • Close reading of the scenario exhibits which contain the embedded question 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 embedded requirement can also help you to identify how you should structure your answer.
  • Look at the marks available also as this should give an indication of how much you are expected to write.

The technical article, 'Reading the question requirements of APM' (see 'Related links') gives several more examples of how to read the requirements of APM exam questions – providing valuable insight into what is expected of you in your exam including in relation to:

- Application of models

  • Many APM exam questions require the application of a performance management model. Candidates 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 then the examining team are expecting that to be the approach to the answer. It is frustrating to have a candidate explain a model in detail and then subsequently not use it in the rest of their answer.

This application of key theories is a crucial skill to passing APM. It is not enough just to know the theory; you need to be able to practically apply it within the context of the scenario given. We can see that this issue, describing and explaining models, is often commented on in examiners reports (including in part (ii) of Calavie in the sample questions published in March/June 2022 where the Balanced Scorecard was meant to be applied).

Past exam questions

There are a number of past exam questions available on the ACCA website for you to review and analyse to see what is tested and how. These exam questions, like the examiners reports which match to them are published twice a year, and you can use the examiners’ report to understand how to approach the questions. You should also attempt some questions on the platform detailed below.

CBE Practice Platform

You wouldn’t get into to a car to drive for the first time on the day of your test so make sure you don’t do the same for your exams. Use the practice platform to practise answering questions in the formats and with the software that you will be using in the real exam. (There are some differences on this platform but these are explained in detail). Specimen, sample and past exams can be found on this platform for you to try out your technique ready for the real thing.

All students have access to this platform via their ‘MyACCA’ as is the case with the other resources here.

And finally...

A total of 20 professional marks are now awarded in APM and there are a series of short videos (see ‘Related links’) to give some pointers to ensure you are awarded these crucial marks.

Written and updated by members of the APM examining team