Tough nut to crack

Top tutors from LSBF explain how you can best prepare to pass PM.

The Performance Management exam has been a tough nut to crack since the paper was introduced back in 2007.

This could be due to it often being the first paper PQs see on their ACCA exam path, or that it requires understanding rather than the more rote learnt statutory papers such as FR or TX.

Students find it difficult and the pass rate hovers around 40%.

The question must be why does this paper present such a problem to students?

Here are our views.

Limited Academic Ability

ACCA prides itself as an open access qualification, but this does come at a price.

The papers within the ACCA syllabus are used to determine whether students are sufficiently capable to be able to pass the paper in front of them.

Some students will never pass an exam because, for whatever reason, they find the content too difficult.

Lack of sufficient effort

Many students – with a few exemptions – come to ACCA with this as their first paper.

Simply, the ACCA is a lot more rigorous than many studies a student may have done in the past.

I don’t think we can argue that ACCA is academically demanding; after all, it is only accounting, but there is a lot to learn and you can’t take any ACCA exam lightly.

Poor preparation

ACCA exams are far more applied than most more academic studies.

As such, the student doesn’t just have to be able to understand the content, they will also be required to analyse numbers in some depth.

This means that a greater depth of understanding is necessary, to give you the confidence to throw yourself into a question.

PM is more analytical

This paper requires more ability to understand a concept or theory and apply it in different circumstances.

Trying to rote learn PM is more difficult as a result and the onus is on applying knowledge to relatively complex computations.

It is possible these skills are more difficult to learn and are less widely taught in previous studies.

We have seen all the excuses for a low average pass rate, but this does not apply to you.

Looking at averages is completely pointless when you consider any paper, as the result for you will be binary, pass or fail.

A new approach to studies

When looking at this paper think about your studies in a mature and professional manner; you are most likely working in a professional accounting environment and as such treat your studies as part of that work.

You may separate the study into four elements for each part of the syllabus: learn, practice, review and revise.


The learning may be an online course or in a classroom – it doesn’t matter.

Ensure you learn during the session by being aware of the topic before the event, putting your learning into context.

You will learn about relevant costs in your studies, be aware that relevant costs have three properties – being incurred in the future, a cash flow, and arising as a result of the decision.

This single idea underpins a whole segment of the course, and if you know this it should bring the whole lecture to life.


The lecture should not be a spectator sport, you should be practising yourself, taking the learning and applying it.

This is fundamental to making the learning stick.

In the context of PM you should be practising lots of objective testing questions to anchor the knowledge and, if applicable, you should also be focusing on longer, more complex constructive response questions.

Practice should occupy twice the length of time that the lecture does.

Review and reflect

You should now know something and it is at this point that you should be preparing revision notes where you mind dump what you have learnt onto a single sheet of paper (per chapter).

This is where you create the gold you will spend in the exam.

Add to and annotate ideas as you remember them, and you will create 15 A4 golden pages for the whole paper.


As a result of the good work already done you will be prepared and the revision phase will almost be enjoyable.

You will have knowledge, you can do things, and these combined lead to that underlying confidence necessary to gain a solid pass.


Most of you know that what we are saying makes sense; the issues is that with PM, as with many ACCA papers, there are no shortcuts.

Follow the plan and gain the reward.

Thanks to the LSBF teaching team for this article