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Introduction to the Business Planning: Banking exam

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Published: 21 Sep 2021 Update History

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In this guide we will introduce you to the Business Planning: Banking exam. We will cover what the Business Planning: Banking exam is, what to expect when sitting the exam, what to look out for and how to prepare for the exam.

Introducing the Business Planning: Banking exam

Business Planning Banking is considered one of the more challenging exams from the Professional Level and is often seen as preparing students for the style of Advanced Level exams - Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management.

The exam covers financial and regulatory reporting for banks, combined with the risks and approaches to audit and assurance services to those banks. It is examined via a 2.5 exam, with a pass mark of 55%. The exam has three questions, with marks split approximately 40/30/30 between them. No mark allocations are given within the individual questions.

The exam is completely open book, which is also the same as Advanced Level, so any material can be taken in. This requires new skills - materials taken in need to be clearly referenced and knowledge of what to find, and where, is fundamental to using these materials to your advantage.

What to expect when sitting the Business Planning: Banking exam

Expect each exam to cover a breadth of the very wide syllabus. Knowledge of what is on the syllabus is useful, particularly when minor areas are tested as information can be found in the open books very quickly.

It is worth noting that in recent sittings the examiner has mixed up the topics across the exams - so expect the unexpected.

This exam is time pressured, therefore improving your time management is a very important exam technique. It is important that you calculate how much time you have for each question, at 1.5 minutes per mark and stick to this per question. If you are getting particularly stuck on a requirement, park it and move on.

What to look out for

Common mistakes for the Business Planning: Banking exam would be assuming that the exam is easy due to the open book nature, not understanding enough of the syllabus, not making your answers scenario-specific and running out of time, so not attempting all the requirements.

The examiner will provide many clues in the scenario and these should be used in your answer. Consider each sentence and what it is trying to tell you or what it relates to. Often requirements will direct you to a specific exhibit(s). The skill is often in spotting the issue, so that answers are specific and not general. This will gain the higher proportion of marks.

There are multiple requirements for each question, however the mark scheme is not split between the individual requirements, so students will need to estimate the allocation for each requirement in order to know how much to write. You can build this skill by practising questions and then comparing your estimated mark allocations to the official mark schemes.

Preparing for the Business Planning: Banking exam

Preparation for this exam will be different to what you are used to doing, as there is less of a need to memorise information. 

A three-step approach works well for this exam:

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the syllabus and content ensuring a clear understanding of each area. Do remember though that for very technical areas, for example VaR, the answer to some of the question could be in the study manual.

Secondly, clearly reference the material you are taking in, with colour coded tabs, overviews that can be referenced for common topics and highlighting key areas in the open books, particularly Practice Note 19 which is very helpful for the auditing part of the exam.

Thirdly, question practise and lots of it. These should be done ‘to time’ with full debriefs, ensuring you understand the areas which were incorrect. Solutions to some parts of questions can be included in your file as useful reference tools in case a similar requirement comes up again. Question practise should also include full mock exams to time - this is invaluable.

ICAEW resources will be central to preparing for the exam and are available at exam resources.