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T4 part B questions and answers in ask a tutor session November 2014 held on Facebook with Adrian Sims

Q :  Based on the the preseen and August examination, what do you think are highly likely examinable topics?

A : The pre-seen has a number of issues embedded in it. Some are external challenges (the  7 bold headings pages 7 to 12) and some are internal issues headed structure, strategy and leadership (pages 2 to 7). In August the examiner set issues around several of these: industrial relations, centralisation, and strategy for marketing+production+R&D+ finance. That seems to leave the tips are (drum roll)

Tips are: relocation to a new country (again - it was a small issue in August), improving supplier relations (not in August), investment in new environmental technologies (minor element in August), IT security and investment, flotation with impacts for corporate governance and strategy. Possible an acquisition of someone (they have a lot of cash lying about). BUT...the only sound approach to this exam is to practice refining your approach and then you are ready for what ever comes up

Q : Information from august's unseen is valid in this November exam?

A : The August issues never happened as far as November exam is concerned. So decentralisation may not be seen as a good thing by November. However, in relation to the Board composition I do think that the organisation chart on page 13, with that box of 8 functions on the left, is now explained as being a load of central functions with 8 Directors on the Board and then a select group of 4 of these on the Advisory Committee'

 The August unseen helped clarify the structure of EL a bit. That's all. The other parts of August such as the issues it faces did not happen as far as November is concerned.I'm not even convinced that we can rely on EL having a problem with excessive centralization as the August exam implied.

Q :  What is the best way to prepare for the calculations and what is the best technique/structure in dealing with the ethics section?

A : The easy question is the structure for Ethics. Its three subheadings per issue: 'Issue', 'Ethical Aspects', 'Recommendations' The mark allocation is out of 1/2/3 respectively (total available = 6). Most people will get the 1 for mentioning the issue. But where candidates struggle is in stating the ethical aspect...they just use general words like 'unethical' or 'wrong' which gets no marks. Its best to try to use some power words here like 'unfair' 'breach of duty' and 'irresponsible'. Also recommendations can be a bit thin, and that's 3 marks missing. I wrote an article in this, buried in the E3 section of the website for some reason see -

Q - what's the best approach to passing this paper. I'm finding it very difficult to follow with no real syllabus. Any help greatly appreciated. 

A : Yes, its like the difference between the part 1 and part 2 of your driving test. All the previous papers have been learn and churn, and now you have to drive the business for T4. The answer is...mock practice and feedback. . There are courses in UK and Ireland for this, as well as online. If you can't manage them then second best is looking at past exams and solutions from the CIMA T4 website. You could try the August exam and then compare your answer with the comments in the PEG on the CIMA website (no solution until after November I'm afraid.

Q : Since its the last session of old syllabus, Will exam be easy?

A :   No - sorry. I don't think that CIMA will change the quailty of its members in order to end the present syllabus on a high note. In fact T4 is one of the assessments that changes the least under the 2015 syllabus. Its becomes the Strategic Integrated Case and it has a different assessment approach but the skills are the same.

Q : Please can you share how best we can prioritise the issues in the unseen material when we right the report ?

A : Prioritisation is not the big deal that camdidates think it is. In terms of marks...its only a handful of marks. Lots of guys pass with a very different prioritisation from the examiner but...the rules of thumb are...whatever is the subject of (b) will also be one of the two key issues under put it first. The other is a bit of a wild choice. Usually its something MAJOR (money or organisational/strategic impact) and its usually something the FD has explicitly asked for. But even so I was surprised to read that Decentralisation was one of the key two issues in August. But my key point is...don't get hung up on it. It is not that important in terms of marks.

Q : EL organisational structure is based on a global product structure which means their focus on local customer needs can be difficult. However, each of the product divisions are further broken down into geographical regions such as Europe, Asia and North America. My question is with each of the product divisions are broken down into geographical regions, is it a problem for EL Car Company to focus on local customer needs as compared to regional based organisational structure?

A : Division A-F 'product' divisions or regional/country divisions? Its not at all clear. The products overlap so I think they are factory based regional divisions. So saying these 'break down' into bigger Geographical territories seems to me to be a case of the writer of the exam using the wrong words...they are 'consolidated' into Geographic territories (Asia, North America, Europe). The point you raise is still interesting. Page 5 refers to regional centres conducting R&D that is overruled by centre - this does suggest that corporate objectives may get in the way of local customization. In the August exam the number 2 issue was the need for greater decentralisation in EL 

Q : what recommendations would you give to address the poor leadership issues by Mr Tan the son for example what leadership styles etc as its clear he is not a born leader like his father?

A : It may be that EL should avoid having another autocratic leader like A Tan. Its a grown up company now and it needs a leadership team. This is why the limited board at EL is a concern. They are all 'insiders' as the case says. It also need a more formal control system than the gimlet eye of the CEO. Thats where Divisional Performance Evaluation is needed. So my main answer is that they need an active Board and better systems. The August exam said they needed more decentralisation - which of course may not be a relevant assumption for November- certainly they need to decide who sets strategy. As for B Tan - he needs an executive mentor such as an independent Chair

Q : I completed F3 in August having completed the other strategy papers earlier in the year. Would you recommend going on a revision class if there is one before the exam next month as I haven't been to any classes for this or do you think looking at as many past papers as possible is ok to understand the structure that the examiners are looking for?

A : es...but there is no such thing as a Revision Class for T4. Its all about skills development. But if you can find a course that will offer you marked mock exams then you should take advantage of it

Q : Are there any guidlines you can follow when writing the justification section of a recommendation?

A : Take a look at the PEG for August. The examiner refers to 'the suggested structure' of Recommendation, Justification, and Actions for section 6. So something is needed to justify your recommendations. I teach my students to make at least 2 recommendations and then two sentences with each one justifying one recommendation. I do think that most of the marks in this section are for the Actions part. To avoid repeating Section 4 just choose the strongest arguments in favour of your recommendation and repeat those

Q : "CIMA Incidentally the August exam referred to a list of Directors - so now we know who is on the Board" -I was under the impression that the August exam had no relevance to the November exam - is this true?

A : 'The August issues never happened as far as November exam is concerned. So decentralisation may not be seen as a good thing by November. However, in relation to the Board composition I do think that the organisation chart on page 13, with that box of 8 functions on the left, is now explained as being a load of central functions with 8 Directors on the Board and then a select group of 4 of these on the Advisory Committee'

Q : Where is the best place to include industry examples?

A:  Really anywhere in the report. If its an ethical example, then in the Ethics section. Commerical examples should go in the sections (4 or 6) that are dealing with the EL issue to which you want to relate them. Some candidates get 2 diversity points into the Introduction by saying, for August exam, EL is a global car maker like Toyota and VW (1 mark for name dropping) and then that Toyota/GM/Honda have all suffered recall issues like EL faces with the brakes issue in the unseen.

Q : What crucial pieces of corporate governance are missing from EL and how might this be relevant to the exam in November?

A : Well...the issue with EL is that its Board seems to comprise totally of the 8 Executive Directors plus the new CEO. No NEDs therefore no independent judgement, checks and balances and so on. There is no Nomination Committee either. Now..we don't know if EL is listed or not. But if a flotation/IPO turns up as an issue in November you would need to make these points and suggest how to resolve them. Otherwise it may be difficult for EL to be admitted to an investment exchange.

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