Answer the wordy bits first,provided they don’t depend on calculations you’ve not yet done.This paper awards approx 70% of the marks for discussion,and 30%for calculations.
Watch your time management when doing the calculations.Although they are not technically complicated,they can be time consuming.Lots of practice before the exam means you should be reasonably efficient at these parts in the exam,although you may well take more time than the 1.8 minutes per mark you should theoretically allow.However,if you realise it is taking too long,make up some numbers,move on and use those figures as the basis of your discussion as you’ll get the follow through marks on that basis.
Section A(50 marks)contains one compulsory question.In recent exams,part of question 1 required some data analysis using numerical techniques e.g.KPIs,EVA.Remember,however,that you are aiming to turn data into information,NOT to produce complicated calculations.Nonetheless,the numerical techniques in this paper(e.g.financial ratios,budget variances,EVA,ABC,transfer pricing)need to be mastered in case the come up in the compulsory question.
In recent exams,there have been several questions which have asked candidates to evaluate a performance report.This means:how useful is the report for the people using it.It is vital that candidates appreciate the distinction between evaluating a performance report,and evaluating the underlying performance of the organisation.
Similarly,in several questions,the scenario has identified a request for information from the CEO,and the question requirement has,in effect,then asked candidates to respond to that request.In such a situation,it is crucial to refer back to the original request in the scenario to identify exactly what has been asked for.
In section B(2×25 mark questions from a choice of 3),performance management frameworks(e.g Building Blocks model or the Balanced Scorecard)have been tested quite frequently.It is vital that you understand the purpose and limitations of these models,and that you can practice applying them in a practical way.
There are a number of past exam questions that can be practised to improve your skills and knowledge in this area.
Other popular areas in section B include quality management(e.g.Six Sigma),information for reporting(e.g.CSFs and KPIs,non-financial performance indicators),HR frameworks(e.g.reward&appraisal systems)and performance management in not-for-profit organisations(e.g.league tables).
Many P5 questions also include requirements related to an organisation’s information systems and their implications for performance management;(e.g.do the systems provide management with the information they need;or,how might changes in the information systems help to improve performance in an organisation?)
Keep checking the ACCA website for articles in the lead up to the exam.There is one such article on‘Big data’–a topical issue throughout the business world at the moment–so this might be expected to feature in a question reasonably soon.
Finally,remember that from September 2016 there is no longer any separate reading time in the exam.Nonetheless,it remains very important to read the question scenarios(and requirements)carefully and to plan your answers before beginning to write them.