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How to approach the advance information for the Case Study exam

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Published: 15 Sep 2021 Update History

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This guide is designed to help you understand how to approach the advance information for your Case Study exam. It will cover what the advance information is, what should you do with the advance information before your exam and tips for success.

Introduction

You can access the advance information six weeks before your Case Study exam here. To help you prepare for this exam, we explore here what the advance information is, the steps you need to take to become familiar with it and tips for success.

What is the advance information?

The advance information is written to give you an insight into your client firm. You are expected to write a report that is tailored to you client's needs, just like you would do in the workplace.

Each advance information is unique, however there are clear themes in how they are structured:

  • About you - who you work for, what tasks you have performed in the past
  • Information about the industry
  • History of the client firm
  • Management accounts for the last three years - Profit or Loss (P/L), Statement of Financial Position (SOFP) and Statement of Cashflows (SOCF) plus notes
  • Financial commentary
  • Information about products, clients and suppliers 
  • Strategic review
  • Media articles 

What should you do with the advance information before your exam?

Your most important task is to become familiar with the advance information and your client. We know the exam is extremely time-pressured, so, the more you know about your client, or, where to find the essential information then that is time saved in the exam.

Consider this quote from the Scour Case Examiners' Report (From the Case Study exam in July 2020):

Successful candidates … had clearly prepared well, making the necessary effort to master the advance information for themselves and to hone their exam technique.

In terms of how to become familiar the following steps are recommended:

STEP 1

A first read-through; with a highlighter pen. Be careful not to highlight too much, if you highlight too much information then the highlighting loses its effectiveness. Whilst reading you may want to make small notes in the margin. The aim here is to get a feel for the industry, the client and the broad themes. This may take an hour or so, and will allow you to set the scene and context for the more detailed analysis that follows.

STEP 2

A second read-through. Have to hand somewhere to make notes (paper or a word document), so that you can begin to create a summary of the advance information, sometimes referred to as a precis. The aim here is to begin to focus on what is really important. 

The advance information will have about 40 pages of dense text. Much of this is background or contextual information, you need to start focusing on what information you may need to refer to in the exam. For instance:

  • Focus on the management accounts. Create a spreadsheet using the data in the profit or loss accounts and associated financial notes. 
  • Identify potential 'wider business issues'.
  • Identify potential ethics and business trust issues.
  • Identifying what each media article tells us.

Once you have done this you can then think about the likely headings and content that may appear in the exam marking key.

This level of analysis will take a least half a day, if not longer.

STEP 3

You should now have enough information to create a condensed summary of the advance information.

Tips for success

The following steps will help you familiarise yourself with the advance information:

  • Casual first read-through with a highlighter making margin notes.
  • Detailed second read-through, creating detailed notes on each exhibit.
  • Transfer the management accounts into a spreadsheet, this allows you to see beyond the basic numbers, highlighting trends and margins. Do the same for any set-piece calculations in the exhibits on products, clients and suppliers.
  • You might find creating  blank mark keys with draft headings and indicative content useful. Put the headings in using pencil in case you need to react to something 'unexpected' in the exam. Remember, you must react to what you see in the exam, not what you want to see in the exam.