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 which candidates typically find challenging based on a review of previous exam sittings.



Here, we help 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 specifically address

Using the examiner's reports

  • An examiner’s report is produced after every exam sitting and focuses on areas that candidates did well in and where they could have done better.  They refer to specific exam questions and provide guidance on how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
  • Ideally you should look at the last four reports – noting specific knowledge areas which caused difficulties as well as specific areas around exam technique.
  • Review the examples below for guidance on how the reports link to specific exam questions
     

Example 1: (Taken from Q1, December 2014)
 

Q1(ii) Briefly justify appropriate management approaches to each of the stakeholders and, based on this analysis, evaluate the appropriateness of the performance measures suggested in Appendix 1.  (14 marks)


Extract from examiner’s report:
 Many candidates chose to rework the analysis of interest and power stating whether or not they agreed with it, which wasted time when the focus of the answer needed to be on suitable management approaches. The discussions of the five performance measures tended to be general rather than specific to the issues at Boltzman and the stakeholder analysis.


Further comment:
 The stakeholder analysis had already been done in the scenario and so candidates were expected to use this analysis to justify a management approach for each stakeholder. An evaluation of the performance measures required the candidate to then say what was good and what was bad about those measures in relation to the stakeholder analysis.

What a lot of candidates actually did was re-do the stakeholder analysis which was not asked for and instead of evaluating the performance measures in Appendix 1 they produced a list of new ones. Candidates may think that they have answered the question as they have recognised the application of Mendelow’s matrix when in fact they have not. If you had practised this question during your revision and answered the question in this way then without using the examiner report you may not identify that this was the incorrect approach. This illustrates why the examiner reports should be an essential part of your revision
.

Example 2: (Taken from Q1, June 2014)


Q1(i) Evaluate the current performance report in Appendix 1.  (15 marks)

Extract from examiner’s report: There were a number of candidates who provided an irrelevant evaluation of the performance of Cantor. Those that attempted the question asked scored most of the marks associated with such reports in general (e.g. data overload, rounding numbers, lack of narrative). However, fewer scored the marks that were available for appreciating the scenario surrounding Cantor. It was especially surprising that despite comments in previous examiner’s reports, candidates still seem reluctant to use the mission/strategy of the business to evaluate the report.

Further comment: This requirement was asking for an evaluation of what was good and what was poor about the performance report for the company (Cantor) in the question. It was not asking for an evaluation of performance. The examiner’s report identified this issue and also gave other important advice which could be missed if these reports are not used in your examination preparation.

In addition to the examples given here, the technical article 'Improving your Advanced Performance Management answers – part 1' (see 'Related links') gives a more detailed analysis relating to example 2 above, as well as an example of a weak answer to this question, which further illustrates what not to do in the exam.

A second article, 'Improving your Advanced Performance Management answers – part 2' (see 'Related links') provides an example of a candidate answer which would pass this question, demonstrating the key points needed to gain sufficient marks to pass, along with a model answer.

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

READING THE QUESTION REQUIREMENTS

  • Close reading of the exam 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 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
     

Example 3: (Taken from Q1 from the sample questions from September 2015/December 2015)


Q1(ii) For each of the three critical success factors at IC, briefly explain a weakness of the current KPI associated with that CSF and then provide a justified KPI.  (6 marks)


Verb
 – explain/justify
Syllabus area – the relationship between CSFs and KPIs
Application – from the scenario identify IC’s three CSFs and their current KPI
Structure – there are three CSFs so your answer should have a heading for each one. Under each heading explain a weakness the current KPI and then justify an alternative KPI.

Example 4: (Taken from Q3 from the sample questions from September 2017/December 2017)


Q3(b) Justify one performance measure for each of the components of the value for money framework used at TRH and, using that measure evaluate whether TRH is delivering value for money. (10 marks)

Verb – justify/evaluate
Syllabus area – VFM and 3Es
Application – use data in Appendix 1 to justify and calculate a performance measure and then evaluate whether the measure indicates value for money is being delivered.
Structure – there are 3Es so your answer should have a main heading for each one. Under each main heading there should be a justification of a measure, the calculation of said measure and then an evaluation of what the measure is telling you about TRH’s value for money delivery.

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.

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.
     

Example 5: (Taken from Q1 from the sample questions from March 2018/
June 2018)

Q1(iii) Advise on appropriate performance measures and systems for Chiven when
using the value chain approach to simplify the supply chain. (7 marks)
 

Credit was given for a brief description of the purpose of the value chain but then candidates were expected to consider how to use the value chain to simplify the supply chain. Lengthy discussion about every section of the value chain score very little and wasted time, especially as the model diagram had been given in the scenario.

Example 6: (Taken from Q3 from the sample questions from September 2015/December 2015)

Q3(a) Advise the board how the six sigma project at Posie to reduce returns from customers could be implemented using DMAIC methodology.  (15 marks)


Candidates were able to explain the DMAIC methodology which is an appropriate way to begin answering this requirement. The DMAIC method should then have been used to structure the answer otherwise the methodology is not being used to advise the board.

This application of key theories is a crucial skill to passing Advanced Performance Management. It is not enough just to know the theory; you need to be able to practically apply it.

Assumed knowledge

APM draws on knowledge from FM. There is a key article which you should read.

  • 'Moving up from PM to APM’ (see 'Related links') identifies key areas for you to refresh from PM in preparation for APM

AND FINALLY...

Four professional marks are awarded in APM and the short video 'Professional marks – the difference between a pass and a fail' gives some pointers to ensure you are awarded these crucial marks.

It is also recommended that you watch the 'APM effective study and exam technique' video (watch the streaming video if you don't have access to YouTube) all the way through. This covers all of the advice given, as well as further pointers to help you pass APM – for example, in terms of how best to approach this exam.

Written by a member of the Advanced Performance Management examining team