Advisory hotspots

May 01, 2019
While the content of the Advisory Elective exam remains unknown, candidates can focus their attention on a number of areas. Here are four tips to help you kick-start your studies.

WORDS BY JOHN MUNNELLY

The Advisory Elective Interim Assessment last April introduced students to some of the new material in the revamped advisory elective. In the March issue of Accountancy Ireland Extra, the examiner expressed his desire to test material from new topics in advisory in the examinations. So, what can candidates expect later on this year? Well, that’s unknown at this point. However, a review of the new material might help candidates focus their attention in the weeks ahead.

Strategic models

The examiner has listed a number of strategic models in the competency statement. The task for candidates is to ensure that they are comfortable with the strategic models. Candidates should, therefore, prepare a few sentences to describe each model. In the exam, candidates frequently overlook the fact that case directions usually ask them to identify a model and use it. However, candidates must remember that they are advising the client, so it is always appropriate to describe what the model is and does. There are marks set aside for this and the description will also contribute to students’ professional competence marks.

Mergers and acquisitions

This is an important and complementary topic in the advisory elective. It is important because it is such a mainstream activity and at some stage in an accountant’s professional career, he or she will be involved in a merger or acquisition. The examiner has asked candidates to read The Financial Times at least once a week. The examiner’s style of writing is akin to the reportage of the FT and that is no coincidence – the examiner wrote frequently for this newspaper. More importantly, the FT also covers merger and acquisition activity in some detail so it is a perfect way to stay informed. Mergers and acquisitions are also a complementary topic as they fit well with investment appraisal – a long-standing pillar of the advisory elective syllabus.

Data and analytics

Candidates should try to read as widely as possible around this topic. While it is a vast syllabus area, the examiner has framed the topic around an approach to data analysis. Candidates should therefore consider how data is presented in cases. There might be an appendix to allow candidates extrapolate data, or perhaps the case will ask you for your view as to why an analysis exercise is worthwhile or not worthwhile. Remember, the ‘why’ is important as the examiner can always spot the difference between boiler-plate transcription from his text to the exam papers and there will always be ‘breadcrumbs’ throughout the paper to provide a hook for candidates’ answers.

Leadership 

Kotter has been examined in past examinations as a means of testing candidates’ ability to understand change and the leadership required to lead change in company contexts. The case scenarios candidates face have a tone or culture to them, and the leadership section in the advisory elective is very useful in understanding why this is the case. Giving candidates a wider set of tools will allow candidates to focus on the equally important soft skills required to lead and strategically advise. Candidates should expect to comment on a company’s structure or understand the value of leading change or negotiating strategically.