P4 is a technical paper with some complex calculations sometimes but DO NOT think of the exam as numbers-only.There are plenty of discursive parts which are usually easier than the calculations and easy marks can be picked up by applying commercial awareness and common sense.
Analyse the individual requirements of the question.If you can do the wordy bits first then do so as you will not get bogged down in them like you will with the calculation elements.
Do not expect to finish a question.You must stick to time,especially on the calculations which are very easy to over-run on.The exam is extremely time pressured and the secret to passing is to have a go at every part of every question,not to try and get 100%on every question–to do that you would need about 7 hours!
If you are not sure what to do with a particular figure in a question,ignore it and move on–state assumptions,you haven’t got time to worry about it!
If you get a Black-Scholes question,always list out the input variables as your first stage and assign the relevant values to them–there will be about 2-3 marks usually for doing this.
Practice as many questions as possible but do as many as possible to time.You must get used to doing the questions in the time available and not spending too long on them.
Practice as many questions as possible across the syllabus,and don’t only concentrate on what you consider to be the core areas.
Choose carefully on section B of the paper–it is very limited choice but nonetheless it will be critical.
Do not put down unnecessary workings;because as it will cost you heavily in lost time.
If there is a calculation that you are unable to complete–for e.g.a WACC which prevents you from going on to do the NPV,then just make a reasonable assumption and estimate a WACC which you have been unable to calculate,this will then allow you to progress the calculation and get on to the often more generously rewarded discursive parts of the question.
Look out for examinable articles–two in particular for June 2011:
24 August–The new examiner Shishir Malde gives his approach for the P4 paper
23 September–Another article by the new examiner Shishir Malde on Risk Management January/February article
Two key topics are always NPV appraisal and capital structure,particularly CAPM and Betas.You will not pass if that is all you know but you will struggle to pass if you do not know them!
Important areas to cover include:
We would expect section A questions to be mainly based on core syllabus areas such as:project appraisal(domestic or overseas)and business valuations;both of these areas are likely to include cost of capital calculations.Risk management may also feature as an aspect of this question in a number of different ways e.g.VaR,real options,hedging.
Risk management(currency or interest rate)
The 50 mark compulsory question will,inevitably,draw from a number of different syllabus areas.The examiner has said that he does not plan exams by referring to past exams(i.e.checking that the whole syllabus is being tested over the course of a number of exam sittings).These factors mean that question spotting extremely difficult for this paper.However we would expect section A questions to test core syllabus areas as listed above.
In section B one of the questions may be entirely discussion based(but this is not guaranteed from June 2013),and often involves ethical issues and general financing issues(e.g.dividend policy).
Remember that this paper is not a maths exam–in all exam questions the examiner is interested in your ability to communicate well and to give good management advice that relates to the scenario in the question.
Keep checking the ACCA website for articles written by the P4 examiner in the lead up to the exam,these are often tested.