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16 November 10 studentfocus

four questions based upon a case study organisation. In most Section A scenarios there will be some financial information provided, which students will be expected to analyse and evaluate. Section B contains four 25 mark questions; the student must answer only two of these questions. These Section B questions are based on shorter case studies drawn from a variety of organisational contexts, and students are expected to apply their syllabus knowledge to these scenarios. The key word for both sections of the examination paper is application. Students will not obtain a pass mark in this examination if they are unable to demonstrate a sound ability to apply their syllabus knowledge to the scenarios. Mere re-writing of models, theories and concepts is not acceptable at this level of the qualification.

Past student examination performance Student performance on the SBMP examinations has been largely disappointing. Many students appear to be under-prepared and fail to appreciate the nature of the examination and the depth of response required to pass. Many answers lack the required depth of analysis and discussion to pass the examination and many students clearly lack an understanding of the verbs used at this level. It has been disappointing to see how few students demonstrate the ability to analyse the material presented in each scenario, and most present superficial and often poorly structured answers.

The following are some common problem with students’ answers: l There is a lack of theoretical underpinning and knowledge of appropriate strategic planning models. In particular, concepts such as the value chain, stakeholder analysis and mission statements have been poorly applied and analysed in previous examinations.

l Many answers lack sufficient depth. Some answers are superficial and poorly explained, containing too few points to merit pass marks. Many answers are presented in note format or contain mere lists of unexplained points. This approach to answering the questions gains very few marks.

l Many answers fail to answer the question that was set by the examiner. Students must make sure that they answer the question that has been set and not merely answer the question they wish had been set. Students must also make sure that they answer all parts of every question that they attempt.

l Many students use bullet points and lists to answer questions. It is not possible to ‘evaluate’ or ‘discuss’ a concept or a model using bullet points or lists. Students must understand that very few marks will be awarded for answers presented in bullet point or list format (unless this is clearly specified in the question requirement, which is most unlikely).

Recommended improvements for examination performance l Students must read the question requirements much more carefully; these will provide direction and guidance as to what the examiner is looking for. The command word used in the question will help students understand the depth of response that is expected, and the mark allocation should assist in planning the amount of time that should be spent on answering each question. For example, a question requirement that asks you to ‘explain’ for 5 marks should indicate that it is a straightforward requirement asking for an explanation of a syllabus area or concept and that, if it is worth 5 marks, it should require at least 3 or 4 well made points (not bullet points) or sentences, which should take no longer 8 or 9 minutes to complete. A question which asks you to ‘evaluate’ for 15 marks, will require a much more detailed, comprehensive and justified answer, in which students should discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of a particular concept or model, and then undertake a final conclusion of its relevance or benefit to an organisation. For 15 marks, a much more detailed answer is required, one which is likely to take up to 25 minutes to complete.

l The Section A compulsory case study is likely to contain some financial information, which students will be required to analyse and evaluate. In previous examinations, this has been done very badly by students. Most either ignored the requirement completely or merely re- wrote the numbers already presented in the scenario. In this part of the Section A question, the examiners expect an analysis of the financial information presented and a discussion of the results of this analysis. Students are reminded that in future sittings, if financial or numerical information is given, they will be expected to undertake some form of analysis and evaluation of this information. Therefore students must be prepared to undertake some financial analysis in Question 1. This will require more than mere number-crunching. Students will be required to discuss their findings in the context of the scenario given.

l Questions on this paper may often contain more than one sub- question and, in order to pass the requirement, students must attempt to answer all parts of the question. Therefore, it is very important to read each question requirement very carefully in order to identify all aspects of the requirement.

l In many cases, students’ answers have been superficial and lack sufficient level of application and evaluation. Students must be aware that they are required to apply their knowledge of strategic models

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