AFM professional skills marks

From September 2022, we'll be introducing professional skills marks into the ACCA Strategic Professional Options exams. Find out more about how professional skills will be assessed in the AFM exam.

Communication

Section A questions in AFM always ask for a report to address key financial management matters facing the organisation.

This report should have appropriate report headings, sub-headings and an introduction which explains the content of the report to follow. The candidate response in the body of the report should look professional, use appropriate language and be clear and effective. The calculations should be separated off into an appendix in the spreadsheet response area and make use of the spreadsheet functionality. It is vital that the report content is relevant to the requirements, including adhering to any specific instructions given in the examination question.

Analysis and evaluation

All AFM questions will include this professional skill as it is fundamental to financial management. It is common for AFM questions to include significant amounts of calculation consisting of the use of models or methods to evaluate financial strategy decisions. It is key to remember that in AFM any analysis or evaluation is contextual and must consider the situation in which the organisation in the question operates.

Analysis can be demonstrated by appropriate use of the data/information to determine suitable calculations to support your evaluation. The ability to draw appropriate conclusions from the data/information analysed should be demonstrated, so that appropriate responses can be designed, and advice given. Identifying where data appears to be omitted or where further analysis is needed to make a recommendation is also important, as that means a full evaluation cannot be performed due to the lack of that data. It is key that financial management decision-makers are made aware of this.

An evaluation is a balanced appraisal to determine the impact of a course of action, for example, changing an organisation’s reward system. Part of that is to demonstrate reasoned judgement to consider relevant factors, decide what to prioritise and then come to a suitable and justified conclusion.

Scepticism

Having a questioning approach is key for this skill. That questioning needs to lead to effective challenges of information, of evidence provided and assumptions stated. This includes the ability to identify contradictory evidence and remaining sceptical about information that has been provided in the scenario.

AFM often uses theoretical models which include assumptions and also can include stakeholders in question scenarios making statements about their beliefs and perceptions of a matter and candidates can be required to challenge those statements. These challenges, however, cannot simply be in the abstract. Reasons for issues and problems with any assumptions/statements are needed before challenges can be upheld and deemed appropriate.

All of this means that candidates need to apply professional judgement to draw conclusions and make properly informed decisions which are appropriate to the organisation.

Commercial acumen

All AFM questions are set within a commercial scenario. These will mostly be for-profit organisations, but they can include public sector organisations and also not-for-profit organisations. Whatever context is used, candidates need to understand what does and does not work in such an organisational scenario, therefore any advice or recommendations have to be practical and plausible in the given situation.

To demonstrate this skill effectively candidates will need to use the question scenario information to draw evidence that relates to the organisational context but also take any other practical commercial considerations into account. Organisations do not operate in a vacuum so candidates need to look at external constraints and opportunities where relevant and also consider the validity/reasonableness of any assumption that the organisation may be working under, given the external environment. Awareness of internal constraints within an organisation should also be accounted for.

To ensure that candidates take a considered forward-looking approach recognition is needed of the possible consequences of past and future actions so that the right choices can be exercised.