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studentfocus November 10 17

Many student assignments read more like marketing brochures than academic reports

and frameworks to the scenario information and that some numerical or financial analysis will be required. Students should also understand that there are very few marks available for merely re-writing facts from the scenario or for the basic description of models, concepts or theories.

l Bullet point answers, with little or no explanation, will be awarded very few marks. Therefore, students must remember that each point that they make must be explained in order to be awarded credit. Students must apply their answers to the scenario information; mere description of models or theories will be awarded few marks.

l Candidates must be prepared to make recommendations based upon their analysis and evaluation of a given scenario.

The assignment

For the SBMP assignment, students are required to carry out a critical evaluation and assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) for their own organisation, or an organisation with which they are familiar, in order to establish its condition and position prior to the preparation of the organisation’s long-term plan.

Performance on the SBMP assignment and recommendations for improvement l Some students fail to answer the actual assignment requirement as they do not present a SWOT analysis. Some prepare detailed discussions of syllabus models (including PEST, Value Chain, Porter’s 5 Forces etc.) which have no relevance at all to the assignment requirement. The assignment clearly asks for a SWOT analysis only and therefore there are very few marks available for detailed discussions of other models, unless these are directly linked and related to elements within the SWOT.

l Some assignments presented by students are extremely lengthy, but the actual SWOT analysis is only 1 page of their reports. Therefore, much of the analysis presented is unnecessary and gains little credit.

Students must focus their answers upon the SWOT criteria as much as possible.

l Many students clearly do not understand the SWOT model itself and there is a high degree of confusion of weaknesses and threats, and many cannot correctly identify opportunities. Students must remember that the ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ are internal to the organisation and that ‘threats’ and ‘opportunities’ are external to the organisation. It would appear that some candidates are not aware of this distinction.

l Many student assignments read more like marketing brochures than academic reports. A large number of students have clearly taken large chunks of material from financial reports or websites of the organisation which they are researching, without even attempting to analyse or extract appropriate information to suit the SWOT criteria.

l Many of the assignments are very superficial with no evaluation of each point made. Many reports are merely presented as bullet point lists with no discussion or critical evaluation. The assignment clearly asks you to ‘identify and evaluate’ each element of the SWOT model.

l The presentation of many assignments is very poor. Many clearly are not adequately checked for grammatical or spelling errors before submission. This is not acceptable at this level and students must check their work thoroughly before submission.

Revision advice l Students must practise as many past examination questions as possible, ensuring that they are aware of what is required for each verb (command word) used in each question.

l Students must revise all of the key models and theories within the SBMP syllabus – and, crucially, should ensure that they are confident that they can apply these concepts to a scenario organisation, rather than simply being able to merely describe them.

Personal profile

Stephanie Edwards. Stephanie has worked as a lecturer in accountancy and business strategy since 1996 and is an education consultant. She lectures at ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA, and is currently the technical assessor for the Business Strategy paper for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

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