What does the examiner say?

Jul 03, 2018
In this article, we examine some of the messages from the APM examiner that are contained in the FAE Committee Interim Assessment report and explore how students can use the examiner’s feedback to their advantage.
Feedback was received from the examiners that the APM Interim Assessment was different to previous papers. From a purely structural point of view, the April interim assessment followed the format of previous interim assessments at APM. The assessment contained a brief scenario containing a single appendix. There were three issues to tackle.  

Investment appraisal

The first three topics of APM are examinable for interim assessment. Investment appraisal is one of the key calculative parts of these topic areas, so it is a safe assumption that they will feature regularly at interim assessment. 

The first indicator was an investment appraisal that made the case for continuing UK expansion. The examiner is keen to point out that investment appraisal is template driven; if candidates objectively look at the template, there are only a few ‘moving‘ parts to it, so marks can be earned very quickly by creating the template created. The examiner has seen many scripts that struggle to construct the investment appraisal template, which demonstrates a knowledge gap or lack of exam technique, or both. 

The examiner will vary the approach to investment appraisal to keep the challenge fresh for candidates. In the April interim assessment, the question informed candidates to use EBITDA as cash flow. This should not have been a shock to candidates, as feedback suggested.

Strategic frameworks

The examiner recognises the need for a more strategic approach to APM. The 2017/2018 Competency Statement for APM contains some changes to the previous year’s statement. The statement makes reference to the additional text by Gallagher, Corporate Strategy for Irish Companies. The syllabus has also name-checked some models. 

This is a deliberate move to build upon candidates’ studies for business leadership on the Core syllabus. Two days of lectures have been specifically dedicated to strategic models. The McGettigan textbook contains a number of useful strategic frameworks and candidates should be familiar with all of them.

The second issue nicely teed up the scenario as to why businesses would wish to expand beyond Ireland. The examiner was looking to see if candidates could work with the clues provided by the scenario and construct arguments. While not specifically name-checked, the examiner wondered if any candidates could reference any strategic frameworks. In answering this issue, Ansoff’s Matrix could be used to describe the strategic choices you could make. The examiner was very pleased to see a number of candidates cite Ansoff and other frameworks. 

Bringing it together for the August APM Elective Examination

Candidates should ensure that they are comfortable with the strategic models that they have studied. Candidates should look at indicator requirements from  the point of view of whether they can apply a model or part of a model to their answers.  

Candidates should bear in mind the order in which they answer the paper. It is perfectly acceptable to answer SIM 2 first if that gives the candidate confidence. Similarly, candidates have freedom to determine the order in which they answer indicators in a SIM. In the FAE APM Interim Assessment April 2018, there is evidence of candidates spending a lot of time on the first issue at the expense of the third issue. If a candidate spots an indicator that plays to their strengths, they should answer that indicator first.

From 3 July, there are approximately eight weeks left until the examination. Good luck with your studies.