Five things to do to pass PM

December 2023

Subject expert Jean-Paul Noel-Cephise explains how you can get a pass in the dreaded Performance Management exam.

Having taught PM for many years I amoften asked, “Why does PM have sucha poor pass rate?” and “How can I passPM first time around?”I used to struggle with the paper too, becauseno matter how many questions I did I struggledto ‘start’ the question. It seemed to me that nomatter how many questions I did, each newquestion seemed to present itself in a way that Ihad never come across before.But I learnt that PM is about developing anexam technique. Developing this technique takestime, and hours of attempting questions andfailing them miserably!

No one likes the ‘F’ word,but that is what it takes to develop this technique.Hours of failing questions at home until you beginto grasp the focus of questions. It’s all about beingable to structure a question with your techniqueand then filling in the blanks in that structure. Yousimply cannot develop that technique properly bylooking at exam answers and working backwards.

There are no short cuts, no matter what anyoneelse tells you.

The current PM pass rate in 2023 is around40%, one of the lowest for the applied skillslevel. Remember that this is a performancemanagement paper not management accounting.There is also a heavy discursive focus on thepaper, not just calculations to do.

So, without further ado, here are my five toptips:

1. The most obvious one first – question practice.You’ve heard this many times, but here’s a tipwith a difference. I would like you to simulatethe exam from the beginning as much aspossible. Take 10 minutes only with a section Cquestion or five minutes only with a section Bquestion and see if you can begin structuringyour answer. If you can’t do it at home undertime pressure, you cannot do it in an exam.

2. Section C technique! It’s absolutely vitalthat you show your workings and state yourassumptions. You also need to be ableto interpret and apply your answer to thecontext given in the question. This is sadlywhere students just do not focus their exampreparation – and it shows. Full follow-onmarks are given for discussion that followsyour own numbers. If you’ve been unable to dothe calculations you will still usually find thatyou can make some valid observations simplyfrom the data given in the question.

3. Cover all topics. Do not miss out anything aseverything will be tested in the PM exam.

4. Time Management – you hear about this allthe time. Do not get stuck on one question.Keep an eye on the clock constantly, andmake sure to attempt all questions. It’s betterto have a fair answer for every question ratherthan having some perfect answers and leavingout the rest because you ran out of time.5. Keep your answers to the point and brief.

One sentence per point will be just fine. Don’t makethem longer as you will take more valuableexam time and still not earn any marks!

• Jean-Paul Noel-Cephise is a tutor at FMELearn Online – see