The results have just been out and I happen to receive a lot of emails from students asking for tips to crack my paper (Advanced Management Accounting). Also, a lot of students faced issues completing the paper. Based on my experience, this is what I have felt :-
Students have been complaining that they haven’t been able to complete papers. The papers are never such which cannot be completed. Obviously, it’s not something that can be completed at ease, but not something which isn’t achievable. Let’s just say, the paper is manageable. But what happens is, a student reads a question, and if the size of the question goes past a page, it is a common tendency for someone to feel it’s a difficult question and waste the time reading it and not thinking over it. In fact, even before a question is approached, it is first checked for length, and the general notion is, if the length is short it’s manageable or else not. This strategy might work, but in most cases it doesn’t.
Also, the time allotted for each question vis-a-vis the marks is never thought of. In a 180 minute paper, which holds 100 marks, the time allotted per mark cannot go over 1.8 minutes. If that happens, paper will never be completed and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. Another thing that has commonly stood out from the answer sheets that I have read and analyzed is the fact that if a student feels that he/she knows a particular answer, they try to attempt them in the best of their capability and end up writing something more than required. Let me assure you something, adding matter to more than what is required never fetches extra marks. Writing extra to an 8 marker problem can never fetch you 12 marks. So attempt only something that has been asked for.
The above is what I feel students end up doing. Now let’s talk about the solutions to the above problems.
It’s a well-known fact that questions in AMA can cross a page and might contain too many details. To overcome this issue one has to study the art of summarizing the problems on the go. How can one do that? Let’s understand with a small example: -
This is just one random question from Nov 2001 paper
P Ltd. manufactures plastic cans of a standard size. The variable cost per can is Rs.4 and the selling price is Rs.10 each. The factory of the company has eight machines of identical size. Any individual machine can produce 30 cans per hour. The factory works on 300 days per annum basic and the actual available hour per machine per day is 7.5. The company has an order of 4, 20,000 cans from an oil company, to supply. The yearly fixed cost of the company is Rs.20 lakhs. P Ltd has received an order from another firm for supplying 60,000 nos. of plastic molded toys. The price of the toys is Rs.60 each and the variable cost is Rs.50 each. While this order would be acceptable for supplying for total quantities only, on acceptance, a special mould costing Rs.2, 25,000 would require to be acquired to manufacture the toys. The time study exercise has revealed that 15 nos. of toys can be produced per hour by any of the machines;
A question of this size might typically go for around a page, considering the size of the question paper and the font, other aspects etc. If someone wants to summarize this question, this is one the ways, one can do it.
1: The first statement talks of Selling Price and Variable Cost, which means I can find contribution which is 6/- per can.
2: The second line talks about the capacity, which comprises of no. of hours in a day, no. of machines, units one can manufacture and working days available in the year.
Point 1 & 2 helps understand what is currently happening, what I can do and how much can I manufacture.
3: Now the question is moving towards the required areas. So the firm is currently manufacturing cans and now wants to see if they can manufacture toys or not, and its cost structure is given.
So, as and when you read the question, start talking to yourself and calculate the details which are generally required. This helps save time ahead. Go absolutely slow with the question. Much of your queries would be automatically solved if you read slowly. Read with the intent of understanding and not with for the sake of reading. Try and make sure that you won’t have to look back the data again. If a minute is spent more over reading, I can assure you it will save more than a minute at the time of execution.
To achieve this, while practicing, you will have to make sure you talk to yourself, frame up a story in your mind as your move ahead with the question. This technique might take a little time to develop but trust me on this, after it starts gripping, you can save a lot of time here.
Now that we understand the data, let’s try and deal with another problem students generally face. I have heard a lot of students saying that they start the question, but then as they move ahead they get confused as to what to do next, whack their brains off and then leave that question. Now what happens with this is that, you spent the time over the question but didn’t do anything substantial with it. So it’s basically no incomes but only expenses (Being an AMA professor, cost – benefit analysis just pops up anytime :)). What should one be doing to overcome this? I like to call this, MY PIZZA THEORY.
We all know what we love in our pizza. You can literally imagine how it would look, long before it gets ready. For me, my pizza would be thin crust, with tomato and basil sauce, with peppers, onions, black olives & lots of cheese.
I already know the elements that I want in my pizza. You would get the cheese from the market and also the sauce. You will have to chop the toppings and assemble all together in an oven and let it bake. So, basically we know what needs to be done.
Now my dear friends, the cheese and the sauce are the materials directly sourced from the market and used directly too. These are your details which are directly provided to you in the question. The toppings are also sourced from the market but are further worked upon to make them usable in the pizza. These toppings are your working notes. These are the details you will require in your final answer. Their source is obviously the question but you work them up so you get some data. The final stage, is you assembling all the things you got and bake it up. This is your final answer that needs to be presented.
So basically, in a question, you will have to identify the given details, your working notes and your final answer. But all this can be done, only if you know what kind of pizza you are going to bake.
The whole point is, you start reading the question from the first statement, but when it comes to putting up an answer, you will have to make sure you can think of the final answer in your mind (Pizza), and then check what elements go into it (onions, peppers, olives) and check what elements are already provided and be used directly (cheese and sauce).
So what if you don’t know how the pizza looks like, i.e. you encounter a situation which you haven’t seen earlier. For times like these, make sure you keep gathering elements as and when they appear in the question, and if not asked for pizza, make sure you have all the elements for the Pasta ready ;).
Try working with this theory for a few questions. After a certain practice, it will all become involuntary and you do it automatically. This will help you work on data which is actually required. Let’s for example say, that I don’t like Jalapenos in my pizza. So I won’t even work for it. You will find that you have started working logically, i.e. do what is required and leave what is not and you will be able to figure out what you need, once you have the picture of the pizza in your mind already. This theory WILL take some time to settle in, but once it’s done, I can assure you, you will complete your paper in time & will help you get confident in my paper, because at the end of the day, you are sure that you can make a Pizza.
I hope this theory helps for you guys. Do let me know what you feel about it.
The author can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org