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Enterprise management: the examiner for E2 offers a guide to the exam, plus tips on how best to prepare for it.

As the CIMA syllabus overview states, E2 places less emphasis than paper E1 (Enterprise Operations) does on functional knowledge and takes a more holistic view of management across an organisation. It introduces key strategic management concepts, along with tools and techniques for examining the main types of competitive environment. E2 also covers project management skills and tools, plus those needed to work with, manage and develop teams--including the legal aspects of managing people as well as the softer aspects of negotiation and leadership. Its syllabus provides a good base from which to prepare yourself for paper E3.
Section and            Key differences from paper P5

A Strategic            The main topic area that has been removed is
management and         organisational structure, which has made way for
assessing the          material relating to competitive environments,
competitive            (previously covered in paper P6). The specific
environment (30 per    themes included under this heading include
cent).                 competitor analysis, competitive strategies,
                       Porter's diamond and sources of competitor

B Project management   The content for project management is very
(40 per cent).         similar to that of P5, although for some of the
                       learning outcomes there is more emphasis on
                       application. In addition, students need to have
                       an understanding of the roles of support
                       structures for projects.

C Management of        There are some changes to the skills levels
relationships (30 per  indicated by the verbs used in this section. The
cent).                 topic areas of culture and corporate governance
                       now appear here rather than in syllabus area A
                       (as it did with P5). This section covers material
                       relating to conflict management and the
                       relationship between the finance function and
                       stakeholders. It will also now cover areas such
                       as lean operations and contributions to other
                       functions (eg, embedding finance staff in
                       strategic decision-making processes). A new theme
                       is the management of relationships with
                       professional advisers, auditors and financial

E2's syllabus differs little structurally from that of its predecessor, P5 (Integrated Management)--all three sections are retained with the same weightings--but there are some changes in the content (see table). One change in the new 2010 syllabus is that the learning outcomes are shown as overarching "lead outcomes", with several "component outcomes" resulting from each lead. It's advisable to familiarise yourself with both types to guide your study and revision, because examiners use them to determine questions when setting the paper.

While there are changes for some specific outcomes, the general skill levels required by E2 remain the same as for the old P5 paper overall. It mainly tests comprehension, application and analysis using verbs from levels two to four of the hierarchy. You will be expected to use all of the knowledge and skills gained from your E1 studies. You should be able to explain and apply the various concepts you'll have covered in your learning.

The most significant difference between E2 and P5 concerns the exam rubric. While E2, in common with the other management level papers, remains a written three-hour exam with 20 minutes' reading time beforehand, the key changes are as follows:

* All questions are compulsory.

* There are no objective test questions.

* There will be a greater emphasis on application of knowledge.

The exam paper has two sections. Section A carries 50 marks and comprises five medium-answer questions, each worth ten marks. Most or all of these are based on short scenarios and they will be similar in nature to those previously set in section B of P5. Section B contains two scenario-based 25-mark questions. In most cases these will consist of two or more parts. Marks for each part will be clearly indicated. These questions will be comparable to those set in section C of P5. The section B and C questions of past P5 papers should, therefore, provide a useful resource for revision and exam practice.

Each section A question will focus on a specific topic area in depth. Section B questions are likely to assess more than one learning outcome. But the integrative nature of the topic areas for this paper means that there are connections between different areas of the syllabus to draw on. Most questions will be based on scenarios linking to topical management themes and problems.

The fact that all questions are compulsory means that you do need a good grasp of the whole syllabus to stand any chance of passing. The challenge is to gain a breadth and depth of knowledge. It's a dangerous strategy to be selective--you really do need to know the whole subject. If a student can write excellent answers to two or three questions but doesn't know enough to answer the remaining ones well, they're unlikely to pass. But knowledge is not sufficient on its own, of course: you must also be able to relate it to specific scenarios.

Too often students lose valuable marks because of poor exam technique rather than a lack of knowledge. It does upset examiners to see candidates making the following common faults:

* Wasting valuable time rewriting questions in the answer book.

* Failing to read questions carefully enough. This can easily be spotted because the answers don't focus on the correct issue.

* Failing to use the required theoretical concepts, or using theoretical concepts without explaining how they relate to the question.

* Answering the question that they want to see rather than the one actually set, or writing everything they know about the key words in the question but showing no relation to the requirement.

* Waffling--ie, writing anything except material that actually answers the question.

* Providing a brilliant answer to one question while failing to answer other questions properly--or at all.

* Failing to allocate time appropriately.

In the May 2010 E2 paper, one section A question required candidates to discuss the points that should be made in a presentation on social responsibility. The context of the scenario should have signalled that the answer needed to focus on the specific benefits that firms can gain by becoming more socially responsible. But a number of candidates did not take the cue and instead wrote about the disadvantages. This was not required, so they wasted valuable time writing about issues that didn't warrant any marks.

Similarly, a section B question asked students to construct an outline project plan using information from the scenario. Some students wrote everything they knew about the various stages in the project life-cycle, but this was not required. The second part of the question asked for a description of the main skills needed by a manager leading a project team, yet a number of students discussed the role of the project manager, scoring few marks as a result.

I hope that these two illustrations show the consequences of failing to read questions carefully and of not using the 20 minutes of reading time to establish the specifics of the requirement in terms of:

* Topic theme and theory base--to identify the parts of the syllabus being examined.

* Verb level--to indicate how to approach questions. For example, is the question asking for a description/explanation (learning level two) or analysis/discussion (learning level four)?

* Context--if the question is based on a scenario, what can be gleaned from the information and how can this be used to build the answer?

* Planned approach--work out a plan to help you structure your answer clearly and logically.

With regard to how much time you should devote to each question--remembering that the time should be used for thinking and planning as well as writing--I suggest that you spend 18 minutes answering each section A question and about 45 minutes on each section B question.

As I mentioned earlier, a key aim of E2 is to test your ability to apply theory to reality, so most questions will be based on scenarios giving an overview of a management problem linked to a specific area of the syllabus. Your ability to cope with scenario-based questions is, therefore, crucial in this paper.

To do well, candidates must "add value" in their answers instead of repeating material directly from the scenario without any development or ignoring the context of the scenario altogether and describing theories without application. As an example, another question in the May 2010 paper required students to distinguish between the characteristics of a company's culture when it was set up and those it was likely to have in the present day. A scenario was provided as a precursor to the question. Some students simply repeated material from the question without making use of cultural theory to help develop their answers--and they gained no marks as a result.

To illustrate this, here's one answer that added no value: "KCC now has a formal functional structure and has more of a feel of a bureaucratic organisation. Employees feel that they are robots on a production line rather than craft workers."

And here's one that added value: "As the company has grown, it's likely that it has developed a role culture. Within a role culture the company will depend upon various functions, each of which has its own areas of strength and influence, with an emphasis on internal process. This type of culture can be impersonal, as illustrated by the employee who commented that he felt he was a robot rather than a craft worker."

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Title Annotation:study notes
Publication:Financial Management (UK)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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