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Q1 Normal appraisal and advice. Perhaps with takeovers and expected values
Q2 Marketing, particularly pricing
Q3 Project – project initiation documents and gateways
Q4 Strategic use of IT
Q5 Strategy and people

Important areas to cover:
Strategy models
Analysis of the environment and/or internal factors has featured in most exams. Key models include PESTEL, Porter’s Five Forces and the value chain. Expect something on forecasting soon.
Evaluation of strategic options is usually tested one way or another (although wasn’t in the last paper).SAF can be a useful framework to generate ideas but don’t feel you need to follow it slavishly.
Strategic action (largely change management and organisational configuration) is often overlooked, but has featured in the last two papers, emphasising the need for good syllabus coverage.
Business Process Change
A popular area, which may be based around models such as Harmon, or completely unstructured, describing a process and asking for improvements. Expect to see some numbers coming in to questions in this area to help with decisions such as automation and outsourcing.
Information Technology
A pervasive theme in many questions. Make sure you are comfortable with some of the more important recent concepts in technology such as cloud computing, viral marketing and new business models.
Project Management
This is a major topic and was not tested in the last sitting so may well be this time. Questions could well focus on analysis and realisation of benefits and again are likely to include a numerical element.
Financial Analysis
Lots of management accounting knowledge from F5 is assumed knowledge here, including budgeting, variance analysis and relevant costing. The lessons from Q1 in the last paper are that, 1) this may be in the compulsory question and 2) you may not be specifically told which techniques to use, but have to work it out from the data given.
This is most likely to be tested in conjunction with one of the other topics, as it was in the last paper.
Most importantly…
Knowledge alone will not get you close to a pass on this paper. You need to be able to apply your knowledge to specific situations. Practice this using past questions and stories in the press or on the web as often as you can and you will be ready for whatever the exam throws at you!
Kaplan tips
Question 1 may be less strategic than we have seen in the past and feature a large element of project management. It should have some element of strategic analysis, possibly a SWOT.
Section B will combine all elements of the syllabus (strategic analysis, choice and implementation) possibly including:
•Project appraisal
•Strategy and people
•Change management
First Intuition
Section A
Environment analysis, people with financial analysis
Section B
Project management
Strategic action
Information technology – pricing strategy
•Project management skills
•Internal resources and competences
•Supply chain management
•Decision tree
•Change management
During the ACCA conference this year, the examiner, Steve Skidmore, confirmed that good coverage of the syllabus will help candidates to succeed in this paper. The key syllabus topics are:
1) Strategic position
2) Strategic choice
3) Strategy in Action
4) Business process change
5) Information technology
6) Project management
7) Financial analysis
8 ) People
The exam consists of two sections. Section A is a compulsory 50-mark question, with up to 4 parts. Candidates must select 2 questions from 3 25-mark questions in Section B. The examiner tries to test as much of the syllabus as possible, often combining several topics within one question. Hence candidates must have solid knowledge of all the subject areas listed above.
The most useful and recent technical articles, in student accountant, written for this paper are by Ken Garrett.
Business strategy and pricing, Feb 2011 considers influences on price and exam questions are likely to ask candidates to explain the process companies should go through to set price in the context of their overall business strategy.
Business forecasting and strategy, Jan 2011 focuses on forecasting techniques. No difficult calculations are expected in this area but candidates will need to pick on a likely scenario where characters have used a technique inappropriately (e.g. linear regression) and explain how the variables really relate to each other.
The Strategic Use of IT, Oct 2010, analyses how technology can be harnessed in the supply chain management and customer relationship management, a highly examinable areas. Some interesting, real-life examples are given.
Position-based and resources-based strategies, Oct 2010, provides insight into the interaction between internal and external elements of strategy formation. Models such as PESTL, Porter’s 5 forces, Porter’s Value Chain and SWOT (corporate appraisal) have come up in almost every exam.
All these articles can be downloaded from the ACCA website.
Exam “Tips”
• Environmental analysis, using PESTEL or Porter’s 5 forces
• How to harness the use of IT in the value chain
• The role of outsourcing in realising business strategies
• Using Johnson, Whittington & Scholes model to evaluate strategic options under the headings Suitability, Acceptability and Feasibility
• Highlighting key business processes for process redesign (through Harmon’s matrix) and setting in place a change management strategy (Lewin’s Forcefield Analysis)
• Project management, focussing on the cost/benefit analysis of the business case for a project, and in particular benefits management.
Exam Preparation
• Ensure that you cover and revise the whole syllabus. Many of the questions integrate a number of Study Guide learning outcomes.
• Practice scenario questions under realistic time constraints; this will help your time management in the exam. Always read the question requirement before reading the scenario. A scenario without context is meaningless.
• Make sure you use the quantitative data when it is provided in the scenario and apply your answers to the context of the question scenario. Re-read the scenario and ask yourself – “have I used all the information provided?” If you have not, consider where this information might be relevant.
• Project management
• Environmental analysis such as PESTELand Porter’s 5 forces
• Value Chain Analysis
• Ansoff’sMatrix
• Strategy Evaluation
• Business Process Change / Reengineering –possibly including IT aspects and “new technology” such as cloud computing
• International expansion or some form of business relationship between companies in different countries.