Q. Are the professional marks important?
A. Each P1 paper offers 4-6 marks for displaying professional skills, which can easily be the difference between a pass and a fail. The marks are available for both format and the tone and style of your answer, where you may have to prepare a speech or write a letter on behalf of the Board addressing specific concerns. Take a look at the Article of 24 August 2009 for more guidance and some great hints on style. This can be found on MyKaplan or the ACCA website.
Q. Should I attempt the 50 mark case study first?
A. You can attempt questions in any order and it is a personal preference based on the subject matter in each question. My advice is usually to start off with a question you are confident with. The case study covers most of the main syllabus areas and given that it is 50% of the exam I would recommend that this is the first question you should attempt otherwise you will be thinking about it whilst doing the other questions.
Q. Do I need to understand the detailed provisions of the UK Corporate Governance Code to answer questions?
A. The examiner has stated that the only code that will specifically be mentioned in the exam will be Sarbanes Oxley (SOX). The P1 text has included the knowledge required for SOX . The knowledge of other codes is not specifically examinable. However the P1 text is based on the UK Corporate Governance Code e.g. Board of Director’s, NEDS, committees.
Q. I don’t really understand what the question is asking me to do. I understand the syllabus but when it comes to doing questions I get a bit lost?
A. The examiner has highlighted the importance of the verb hierarchy in P1. If you do not understand what a verb means then it is likely that you will go off down the wrong track when writing their answer. The trick is to first identify the number of verbs in the question. E.g. if the Q states ‘Identify and explain the risks facing X Ltd and evaluate their impact on the company’ then there are 3 things to do in this question: Identify, explain and evaluate. This should be the basic structure for your answer. If all the verbs are not “actioned” then easy marks will be wasted.
Q. What’s the best way to study P1? I read through the text and understand although it is really boring. I then forget what I have read!
A. While we appreciate that it is a relatively dry area, you are advised to “read round the subject”. In class Kaplan tutors attempt to bring the subject alive by using real life examples , such as the failures in internal controls that have caused such disasters as the BP oil spill and the collapse of Barings Bank. You should keep up to date as far as possible with what’s going on in the business world and attempt to relate the syllabus areas to these real life scenarios.
Also, question practice, as ever, is the key to success. Kaplan interim, final assessments and revision mocks are vital revision tools. Reading the examiner’s articles are a must. The fixed tests on MyKaplan are invaluable.
Q. How much do I need to write for a 25 mark question?
A. There is no magic answer here. Again, the key to answering the question is reading the requirement very carefully (REMEMBER RTFQ! – Read the Full Question). If you understand what the verbs are in the question and structure your answers around the verbs, then you will have a higher quality answer. Remember, it’s not how much you write, it’s what you write. In other words it’s quality, not quantity. Make sure that you explain points by referring to the scenario.
Q. How much if at all should I use the scenario in my answers? There seems to be so much to read in the case study.
A. You should always remember that the scenario is there to help, not hinder. Continued question practice prior to the exam will improve your technique in picking the relevant points out the scenario and enhance the quality of your answers. Obviously, knowledge of the syllabus is required. The key to answering the questions is to apply syllabus knowledge to the scenario and (usually) identifying issues in the scenario. e.g. non compliance with good governance requirements.
Q. Is layout important?
A. Yes, layout is vital. P1 is a very wordy paper, and the examiner wants to ensure that you have a good grasp of the theories behind the questions, but also that you can successfully apply the theories to given scenarios. Therefore, it is very easy to get lost within a question if your layout and approach to a question is poor. A good approach is to apply 3 rules in your answer:
Introduction – this should be very short, but can help you get over any ‘writers block’. It might include a read back of the question, or a definition of the subject matter (for example, if the question asks for the roles of NED’s, start by very quickly defining what an NED is).
Theory – this section will show the examiner that you actually understand the issue being questioned, again, as with the introduction, this should really be kept short, it can be a section quote from the code, or a reference to an author (Cadbury or Greenbury et al).
Application – This will be the main bulk of your answer and should relate directly to the scenario. This is often the most difficult section of the answer, but should be made easier by the use of the introduction and theory sections.
In addition remember the golden rules of written questions:
Plenty of white space
Headings as required
Short punchy meaningful paragraphs
Q. I don’t like ethics as a subject. Can I avoid it?
A. In short, no. Ethics makes up around 30% of the exam weighting (although it is difficult to be exact). This is generally split between the optional 25 mark question in part B, with some marks appearing in the compulsory case study. So even if you choose not to attempt an ethics-based question in Part B (which by the way, then makes the entire exam compulsory – so let’s hope the other two questions are OK!) it will still likely form a part of question 1.